Faced with the seizure of private property orchestrated by the Town of Carefree and Mayor Les Peterson, a group of concerned Carefree citizens plans to head to the ballot with two government reform measures for Carefree voters to decide.
Members of Carefree Citizens For Responsible Government have been collecting petition signatures around Carefree over the past few weeks. The campaign will need slightly more than 200 valid signatures to get on the ballot.
The first of the group’s two measures, the “Good Government Act,” will curtail the Town’s use of eminent
domain to seize private property. Should the measure pass at the polls, such seizures would require a two-thirds vote of Town Council members and force the town to secure the approval of registered Carefree voters.
The Town of Carefree has filed an eminent domain lawsuit against The Boulders Homeowners Association and its residents seeking to seize pristine desert land and use it as the site of a massive 300,000-gallon industrial water tank to be built yards from residents’ homes.
“We’ve had a huge swell of support,” said Maureen “Mo” Benedetto, the chairperson of Carefree Citizens For Responsible Government and a homeowner in The Boulders. “Our neighbors are horrified at what the Town is doing here – suing residents to seize their property – and trying to destroy the desert to jam in an enormous water tank beside homes where it doesn’t belong.
“Clearly, the Town is out of control,” Benedetto added. “If the people we elected won’t act responsibly, then the voters who are their bosses need to reform the process and make them act responsibly.”
The second initiative measure seeks to amend the Town of Carefree’s municipal code, invoking term limits for Council members and the Mayor.
Carefree previously had enacted term limits, but that measure was shot down in court. The new initiative follows the Arizona Legislature’s action to grant towns the legal authority to implement term limits. Members of the Town Council and the Mayor would be limited to two two-year terms in office.
“Being a politician at the Town level shouldn’t be a career, it should be a form of public service that many people have the opportunity to perform,” said Benedetto. “Four years is a long time, as we have seen with this Council. This will allow our Town to vote for new vision and to ensure that no politician develops his own little kingdom.”
Mayor Peterson, in a recent article he authored for a community newspaper, noted that the site, one of 32 evaluated by the Town, would be just “160 feet from the closest residence.” Peterson, who in addition to serving as Mayor doubles as Board Chairman of the Carefree Water Company, called the site – opposed by scores of neighbors – “the best solution for the Carefree community.”