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Mesa, Ariz., Where Life Is Good, Is Most Conservative City in US

Image: Mesa, Ariz., Where Life Is Good, Is Most Conservative City in US
Aerial view of historic district and downtown Mesa, Arizona. (Timrobertsaerial | Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Thursday, 18 Sep 2014 03:22 PM

Hands down, Mesa, Arizona, is the most conservative city in America, one of the last great holdouts in conservatism among American big cities, and life there is pretty good.

Across the nation, conservative Republican cities are often beating Democrats at their own big-city game, finding innovative ways of funding public development projects and creating great places to live.

A study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California at Los Angeles named Mesa the most conservative large city in America, followed by Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Virginia Beach, Virginia; Colorado Springs, Colorado; Jacksonville, Florida; Arlington, Texas; Anaheim, California; Omaha, Nebraska; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Aurora, Colorado; and Anchorage, Alaska.

The study found that many liberal-leaning cities "spend over twice as much per capita as the most conservative cities." Liberal cities also tend to have higher taxes, the study stated.

And, most liberal cities have "less regressive tax systems," according to the study, which means "the share of sales revenues that comes from sales taxes is lower in liberal cities and higher in conservative cities."

Mesa, a city of 450,000 located 20 miles east of Phoenix, is on a growth trend, according to the Weekly Standard's Ethan Epstein, who writes of Mesa and other conservative-leaning cities:

"Across the country, Republican cities are building new infrastructure and even embracing trendy liberal ideas like 'new urbanism,' all while managing to keep costs in line and municipal workforces small and cost-effective," Epstein said.

And while the big cities that have been run by Democrats, such as Chicago, Detroit, and Los Angeles, are having major money problems, "America's conservative cities are showing that there's another way."

Boasting a new Arts Center, the largest in Arizona; a light rail system connecting Mesa to Phoenix and Tempe; a new Chicago Cubs spring training center, and new parks and improvements to its downtown area, Mesa has avoided heavy debt by paying for these projects not with classic Democratic property tax increases as the city has no primary property tax.

Rather, the improvements are being paid with project-specific bond issues — $100 million in 1998 for the Arts Center, $170 million for infrastructure repairs, $70 million for parks, and $130 million for public safety and streets.

These measures leave Mesa with an enviable Aa2 credit rating from Moody's. The city has only a $1.5 billion debt, compared to Detroit's $18 billion and Portland's $7 billion, Politico notes.

Mesa City Council members work part-time, making about half the salaries Fresno or Phoenix city council members make.

City Councilman Dave Richins told Politico, "People are OK with investing in their communities. People don't trust programs. They trust tangible results. We look to the voters to say what they would like to see done in the city."

Oklahoma City went on a crash diet in 2007 after being ranked as one of the least-fit cities, and thanks to new bike lanes, walking paths, and an Olympic rowing complex, 47,700 people dropped more than 1 million pounds, with Republican Mick Cornett ranked by Newsweek as one of the country's most innovative mayors.

Colorado Springs, ranked fourth most conservative in the study, rejected $42 million in federal funds "on principal" and instead shut down one third of its streetlights and cut trash collection, turning instead to citizen volunteers to pick up trash and pay directly for street lighting.

"Across the country, innovative mayors are showing that Republicans can govern urban areas effectively and innovatively — and indeed, that oftentimes they can execute traditionally 'liberal' policies with greater discipline and efficacy than Democratic-run cities can manage," Epstein wrote.


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Hands down, Mesa, Arizona, is the most conservative city in America, one of the last great holdouts in conservatism among American big cities, and life there is pretty good. Across the nation, conservative Republican cities are often beating Democrats at their own big-city...
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