MESA’s REPUBLIC FACT CHECK  

If we are to rate the Republic article “Mesa Clears Legal Hurdle on Future Light Rail” through the same prism as the Republic does for AZ Fact Check the best we could give it is a “Not Supported Rating.”  The article is misleading and factually wrong in several respects.

With regard to the requirement for a public vote, the article reports Superior Court Judge “Udall found no such requirement.”   That is not correct.  Judge Udall found that the statutory requirement for voter approval was only an “incidental” requirement. A.R.S. 9 §§ 514 and 521 (5) (b) specifically require a public vote for funding a public utility such as public off street parking. We were denied our right to vote! This is not an ambiguous statutory requirement. It comes as news to us that our right to vote is only an “incidental” right. When has an Arizona judge ruled our right to vote is only an incidental right?

 The Republic article correctly states the “proposed funding mechanism is similar to one Mesa used to accelerate freeway work.”   What the Republic does NOT report is that this “similar” type of funding is specifically prohibited by statute from being used for rail projects (ARS 48 §5121(D) (2) and (3)).  Even if the funding were not prohibited, the City did not comply with the minimum requirement for Transportation Authority Notes (TPAN’s; ARS 28§7691-7697). Mesa is required to have entered into a binding contractual commitment to receive the funding before it can qualify for TPAN funding and issuing bonds. Not only did Mesa not enter into the mandatory commitment but it admitted in court that those funds are not likely to be received since the road projects (for “repurposed” funds) have been completed or deemed unnecessary. No federal grant funding was ever committed.  Therefore the road funds we were told would be used and “repurposed” for the rail project never existed and will never be available.

Without any of the required funding from alternative sources, the only source of payment for the rail bonds is the sales tax. This was admitted in court as the only available source of funding. Case law defines bonds (that are not general obligation bonds), as (1) bonds that are paid by revenues from the project (“Revenue Bonds”) or (2) bonds that are to be paid from alternative sources of funding. Neither of these situations exists in this case. The City would have to pledge its full faith and credit, and our sales taxes, to qualify for the sale of securities. That debt is by definition a City general obligation. If you pay sales taxes, you are on the hook.

The Republic article also failed to point out that the Plaintiff informed the Appellate Courts that, pursuant to Prop 400 and the Republic analysis of Prop 400 (“Here’s What You’ll be Voting On” Prop 400 items voted on http://www.azcentral.com/news/pics/prop_400_main.PDF ), the voters have not authorize any rail projects in the East Valley.  This project was never approved by the voters and is illegal without voter approval.

Other than considering our right to vote as being an “incidental” right, the court system offered no opinion on any of these other laws or issues. Therefore these laws prohibiting the Mesa rail extension still remain ripe for litigation. 

Mesa’s City Attorney Debbie Spinner may be premature on her belief that there should be “no further impediments with regard to the project.” That is unless you consider the people, the law and lack of funding to be an impediment for the protection of our rights.  Did your council member vote for this illegal conduct?

Bill Sandry

Mesa, Arizona

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