Mesa Arizona

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Heard on the
Wide Streets

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MESA, ARIZONA:
THE GRIM REPUTATION
IT SO RICHLY DESERVES.


Justice and Equity are words that are not in the vocabulary of an autocracy or a theocracy. They are not in the vocabulary of the operatives of the City of Mesa.

  • Ruthlessness
  • Vengeance
  • Abuse of Power
  • Lawlessness
  • Cunning

These are the terms that have long been synonymous with the City of Mesa and the methods it employs to achieve its unholy ends.

Upon occasion a citizen or group of citizens has successfully challenged an unlawful action by the City of Mesa. How dare a "sovereign power" have any of its ruthless actions challenged! What have been the resulting effects? Following are but a few examples that have helped gain for Mesa the grim reputation it so richly deserves.

...A ROSE BY ANY ANOTHER NAME IS STILL A ROSE, AND A SALES TAX BY ANY OTHER NAME IS STILL A SALES TAX

The City of Mesa imposed an additional sales tax on all Mesa restaurants and eating establishments in defiance of the Mesa City Charter, which requires a vote of the people for any sales tax increase. Thinking it clever, Mesa concocted some other name for this sales tax or transaction privilege tax increase that was imposed only upon restaurants.

After private well-reasoned pleas by one or more restaurateurs fell on deaf ears of the mayor and city manager, a number of restaurant owners banded together and, at great legal expense to themselves, sued the City of Mesa. The sales tax increase was instituted without a vote of the people as required by the City Charter. Thus, the tax increase was illegal. Mesa's attempt to call the sales tax by another name was not persuasive; and, not surprisingly, the Maricopa County Superior Court judge had no other choice but to rule in favor of the restaurant owners. Sorry, a rose by any other name is still a rose, and a sales tax by any other name is still a sales tax.

Case closed??? Nope.

Unable to graciously take defeat, the headstrong City of Mesa, at yet more taxpayer expense, appealed the lower court's ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court. When the case was heard, the Supreme Court justices severely blistered the City of Mesa for its stupid and transparent name-game argument, and the restaurant owners again prevailed. The tax increase for the restaurants was repealed, and after much confusion the monies that had been collected and deposited by the City of Mesa were refunded. (All or most of the restaurants had not passed the tax increase on to their patrons.)

Did Mesa genuinely believe the increased sales tax for restaurants to be justified? No. Did Mesa then abide by the City Charter and take the matter to the voters? No. What then was the City of Mesa's motive for appealing the case to the higher court, for again presenting its absurd and meritless name-game argument?

The answer is simple. Vengeance. Restaurants operate at a low profit margin, and owners dared challenge an illegal decision by Mesa's autocracy. They therefore needed to be punished: to be bled financially, to be distracted from operating their businesses, to be shown that Mesa city government had unlimited financial resources of taxpayer dollars at its disposal to waste on a frivolous appeal. The challenge by the restaurant owners was viewed as treasonous. To to cause a substantial increase in legal fees for its irreverent opponents was the least the City of Mesa could do to retaliate against these productive Mesa businessmen.

JUST BECAUSE YOU HAPPEN TO OWN AND OPERATE A CEMETERY OR A BARBER SHOP OR A RESTAURANT OR A HABERDASHERY DOES NOT GIVE YOU THE RIGHT TO MISUSE THE MUNICIPAL POWER OF EMINENT DOMAIN AGAINST A PROPERTY OWNER TO EXPAND YOUR BUSINESS

The City of Mesa has become notorious for abusing the power of eminent domain to gain title to real property. This is in addition to Mesa's habitual practice of purchasing private property from unwilling or threatened sellers, taking it off the tax rolls, with no stated reason for any intended public purpose.

The practice of using devious tactics to quench an insatiable lust and greed for property is deeply rooted in Mormon history. Although 85 percent of Mesa's population is not Mormon, those at the helm of operating the City Mesa are of that political persuasion. Lawlessness and cunning to gain title to real property are the rule rather than the exception in Mesa. Consider the experience of one man, the responsible owner of three adjacent parcels that had been in his family for decades.

The man was approached by a City of Mesa property agent and told that the City of Mesa would be interested in purchasing his properties for future expansion of the Mesa City Cemetery situated east of the man's properties. Few municipalities are in the business of owning and operating a cemetery, but Mesa is.

The reasonable man suggested that the city make him an offer for his properties. However, he did not hear from the City of Mesa again to negotiate any price, and no offer was made or discussed.

Many months later he received an official notice from the City of Mesa that Mesa would be acquiring his properties by means of the power of eminent domain, commonly referred to as condemnation.

The City of Mesa pushed the man into court, forcing him to hire a lawyer, in an attempt to illegitimately gain title to his properties by the municipal power of eminent domain.

Arizona state law clearly specifies the public purposes for which the last-resort power of eminent domain may be utilized, and cemeteries is not among them. Hence, the bullying City of Mesa lost its case in court, and the man kept his properties.

Case closed??? Again, no.

In its time honored tradition of misusing more Mesa taxpayer dollars, despite the clearly stated laws of the State of Arizona, the City of Mesa appealed the case against the man to the Arizona Court of Appeals, thereby bleeding the man further of his own financial resources, forcing him to lay out even more in legal fees.

The appellate court ruled in the man's favor and reiterated the lower court's ruling. Sorry, Mesa. Just because you happen to own and operate a cemetery -- or a barber shop or a restaurant or a haberdashery -- does not give you the right to misuse the municipal power of eminent domain against a property owner to expand your business.

End of story??? Not quite. It gets worse.

So incensed was the tyrannical City of Mesa over its losses in the courts that it enlisted the aid of two Mesa state legislators, Lela Steffey and Pat Blake, to further its "cause" of retaliation and illegitimate property acquisition. Sister Steffey and Sister Blake were good local soldiers and, at the behest of the City of Mesa, dutifully introduced a bill in the legislature to make it lawful for cities to acquire private property by the power of eminent domain for the expressed purpose of the expansion of cemeteries!! The state house of representatives actually passed the bill by a wide margin.

It wasn't until the "cemetery bill" was introduced in the state senate that the owner of the three Mesa properties got wind of it, cried foul, and the wicked special bill targeting this one man for his three properties was stopped dead in its tracks.

The horror stories of predatory abuse by the City of Mesa abound. This is but one.

Written by: Marilynn Wennerstrom


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