Glendale ‘Cash for Coyotes’ program is clunker

August 21, 2009

Glendale seems to be taking a page from President Barack Obama’s playbook by offering a “Cash for Coyotes” stimulus plan through which rich sports team owners can trade in their losing team for a winner by getting the city to pay money and offer up juicy concessions.

In order to assist a new owner of the Phoenix Coyotes, city negotiators considered forming a special taxing district that would impose a tax of up to 11.5 percent on businesses at the arena, Westgate, the unbuilt Main Street Commons and who knows where else? This, on top of the city and state taxes affected businesses already pay.

Can anyone explain why a business would locate in these areas if such a tax were to be enacted?

Funneling taxpayer money to business, any business, is not only wrong but it also is illegal. Phoenix tried doing that with a nearly $100 million economic development agreement on the CityNorth project, and the Arizona Court of Appeals rightfully struck it down. (The Arizona Supreme Court will hear arguments in this case on Sept. 30.)

Glendale’s apparent desire to funnel tens of millions of your taxpayer dollars to the Coyotes’ new owner to mitigate losses is even more egregious.

After investing $180 million to build a hockey arena, Glendale leaders now apparently believe the city must protect its investment by throwing tens of millions more at it. They are wrong. Annual debt service on Arena is approximately $8 million per year. So why would soaking businesses and taxpayers for three times that amount prevent them from leaving?

This ridiculous and illegal proposal comes at a time when Glendale firefighters took a $500,000-plus cut/deferment in compensation, and I understand Glendale police officers have done similarly. It seems unconscionable to contemplate giving taxpayer money to a sports mogul while the people who protect our residents give up compensation.

I have long been active in Glendale affairs. I and others warned at the time that spending taxpayer dollars on facilities such as these was a house of cards and that investors would have lined up to give them money if it had been a great deal. It wasn’t a great deal, there weren’t investors lined up and so the city gave them our money instead.

This is why I and others have signed onto a lawsuit with the Goldwater Institute to hold irresponsible city leaders responsible and rein in those who support this preposterous plan. (U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Redfield T. Baum last week denied the group’s request to weigh in on the case.)

I do not hate sports. I hate taxpayer money going to sports teams.

It would seem apparent — with the scores of taxpayer tea parties that decried the federal bailouts — that citizens are growing tired of having their hard-earned dollars siphoned off for sweetheart deals for rich business owners. Bad at the best of times, it’s mind-boggling to think Glendale would even consider more taxes, subsidies and concessions and, reportedly, a proposal to pay the new owners in the event of future losses.

Perhaps we need our own tea party in Glendale. Just remember that in Glendale, though, the tea is taxable.

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Tim Weaver has lived in Glendale since 1993 and is a former Glendale mayoral candidate. This appeared in the West Valley Section of the Arizona Republic on 21 August, 2009: