Arizona: The Most Corrupt State in America

Matthew Hendley covered  this topic in his recent Phoenix New Times article, “Arizona’s the Most Corrupt State in America, According to Survey.”

The survey of reporters was conducted by researchers Oguzhan Dincer and Michael Johnston working under the mantle of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University.

What Hendley fails to mention is that years’ worth of cutbacks at Arizona’s newspaper of record, the Arizona Republic, have gutted coverage of most local corruption issues. So however bad the surveyed reporters THINK the corruption is, it’s actually far worse.

Among those issues in Scottsdale:

  • $4 million annual taxpayer-funded subsidy for the Scottsdale Cultural Council, a private “non-profit” business which enjoys a 20-year, no-bid management services contract; free rent for SMoCA, SCPA, and the Civic Center Mall; AND the ability to leverage their relationship with the city to solicit millions more in private contributions. It wasn’t too long ago that Charity Navigator rated them as “do not donate.” In addition, the Cultural Council contract spells out not a single objective performance metric.
  • Mayor Lane pulled the plug on Scottsdale’s “Code Cares” program, took it away from administrative staff, began running it out of his own office as “Operation Fix It” with a political appointee in charge, and soliciting corporate donations? I’ve never seen a balance sheet on THAT enterprise.
  • The City of Scottsdale is about $1.2 BILLION in debt, essentially the same as Glendale and the highest per-capita of any major city in the Valley.
  • Running budget deficits (balanced only by transfers from reserves) every year in recent memory.
  • Shorting the Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) fund during the same period so as to build up a billion-dollar backlog of infrastructure maintenance.
  • Relieving the PGA and Phil Mickelson of millions of dollars of capital maintenance and improvement obligations at the TPC and McDowell Mountain Golf facilities, now paid for by bonding (aka borrowing) upon which the taxpayers are obligated to service the debt.
  • Giving away hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds for polo matches and rugby (paid to Mayor Lane’s campaign consultant, Jason Rose).
  • Selling the old Civic Center Neighborhood Center to Scottsdale Healthcare in a no-bid deal for about a quarter of assessed value.
  • A million dollars’ worth of taxpayer-funded subsidies to the Super Bowl ‘host committee’ to have a big party and to encourage Super Bowl Attendees to stay in Scottsdale hotels…which are already bursting at the seams in January and February.

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  1. As cynical as I am, I don’t think that AZ is the most corrupt state in America. I figure that NJ and Louisiana are worse. On the other hand, I do believe that we are the worst in “legal” corruption, where the legislature passes a law to approve whatever certain lobbyists want.

    As for Scottsdale, a lot of what you list may best be described at “cultural” corruption and the best way to change that is to change the people occupying City Hall.

  2. Scottsdale is the most corrupt city next to Mesa…No one has ever challenged Scottsdale corruption…The mayor is a criminal along with the majority of the judge’s…It won’t stop until a relentless mob puts some light on it…

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