The attacks on the Goldwater Institute continue unabated.

As I’ve written about before (here and here), the Goldwater Institute has gone hammer and tongs after what they characterize as a bad deal for taxpayers, Arizona, Glendale residents, and all the best values as we know them. Their fight is in regard to Glendale’s efforts to keep the Phoenix Coyotes hockey team in that city.

Goldwater smells quite a bit of the giving-away-the-farm odor, all to benefit a private entity. That would be a violation of the Arizona Constitution’s Gift Clause, the Institute claims.

But to mix sports metaphors, hockey supporters have mounted a full-court press—against the Goldwater Institute.

(Today’s Arizona Republic has a story about the Coyotes’ travails. Read it here.)

I wondered last week about the strange melding and churning of self-interest that leads someone to support one side in the battle.

On the one hand, you might very well enjoy hockey. Or at least you may like having hockey as a dynamic part of a vibrant package that keeps Glendale hopping.

But on the other hand, you may want your city officials to get the best possible deal when they’re waving your tax dollars around. And here and across the country, city councils have a poor record of that; they are known to give away far too much to private entities that threaten to pull up stakes, even when it’s unlikely they will.

So in a “don’t waste-my-tax-dollars” sense, I’d expect the Institute’s position to be a bit more popular than it has been. But in the PR war over the Coyotes, rank-and-file residents have been rallied pretty effectively to mount the barricades in support of the team’s owner (or maybe it’s more accurate to say they’ve been rallied to keep the team in the city).

What I have not heard (and what I think I expected) is a groundswell of thanks or support to the Institute for looking out for how public money is spent.

And maybe that says something about residents of any city. No one wants money wasted. But they do want development to occur. And if a little gifting occurs along the way, perhaps residents are OK with that.

Yesterday, I was driving in what I think is northern Glendale (we were on Happy Valley Road west of the I-17—you tell me). There, I spotted an SUV with its windows chalked with a message: “Keep the Coyotes in Glendale.” Next to that was the imprecation “Say no to Goldwater.”

On the passenger side of the car, the owner had drawn the universal symbol for “No,” a circle with diagonal line, with the word “Goldwater” in the center.

Pretty inside-hockey, if you ask me. I’m not sure how many drivers will understand the news items drawn on the car. But if I’m right, more and more will understand it as the media blitz comes to a head.

This morning, I wrote about an Arizona Republic editorial. So let me round out the afternoon by writing about another.

Earlier this week, the Republic op-ed folks penned an editorial titled “Goldwater, come down from Mount Olympus.” It took the Goldwater Institute to task for raising questions about Glendale’s potential deal with the Coyotes hockey team. According to the newspaper, all those persistent questions—and the threat of a lawsuit—may endanger the deal—and then the Coyotes would head north to Winnipeg.

I wrote before about the strange world we occupy right now, in trying to keep a hockey team in the desert. And now we see a joint effort by cities and the hometown newspaper to keep the complaining to a minimum.

But I kept expecting to read something else in the Republic editorial. Something like, maybe, “Thank you, Goldwater Institute.”

That’s not to say the GI doesn’t have a bull-in-a-china-shop tendency. They do. But asking how public money is spent, or demanding answers about how public resources will be safeguarded? That used to be considered praiseworthy. In fact, that used to be the job of the newspaper.

I am no expert on whether the Coyotes deal is a good one for the City of Glendale or for the Valley (though I’m pretty sure it’s a good deal for the Coyotes owners). But requiring clear answers to questions before plunging in is a valuable role.

After all, look at the concessions the Institute wrought with a little saber-rattling: tens of millions of dollars of additional guarantees.

Is that enough? Should the Institute say uncle? I don’t know. But imagine where we’d be in this Valley if municipalities—and our booster-ish newspaper—stepped up and asked hard questions when private entities have their hand out.

They should try it—there’s room aplenty up on Olympus.

Read the complete editorial here.

The past week has seen a skirmish turn into an outright battle between the City of Glendale and the Goldwater Institute. The War of the Gs is over a deal involving public monies and a hockey team. The desert has never been more lively.

Most recently, both entities have threatened to sue each other: the Goldwater Institute over what it claims may be a violation of the state Constitution’s Gift Clause, and Glendale over what it claims is the institute’s tortious interference and unlawful interference with the City’s business affairs.

Not unexpectedly, Goldwater lashed back, saying any City lawsuit would be “frivolous and unsuccessful.”

Commentary has sprung up musing on whether Glendale has a hockey stick to stand on, or whether it is inappropriately attempting to squelch open debate. And that got me wondering about SLAPP suits.

As you likely know, that is the acronym for a “strategic lawsuit against public participation,” “a lawsuit that is intended to censor, intimidate and silence critics by burdening them with the cost of a legal defense until they abandon their criticism or opposition.”

Are the days of slap shots in the desert numbered? Zbynek Michalek of the Phoenix Coyotes breaks his stick on a slap shot against the Los Angeles Kings, Feb. 18, 2008 (Harry How/Getty Images North America)

I have never run a city, and I’d have to admit that the Goldwater Institute can have the tendency to rankle; in fact, that may part of its signature. But would it be appropriate for a municipality to sue another entity—or even a person—for demanding answers about how public money will be spent?

Are there are any SLAPP experts out there who could explain if the Arizona version applies in this kind of case? Here is the law (A.R.S. §§ 12-751–12-752 (2006)).

I suppose the question would be whether the Institute’s actions crossed into territory that is unprotected by the statute. For example, is threatening to sue over a proposed deal protected? And is contacting bond-rating agencies and underwriters protected?

Inquiring minds want to know. Especially before any of us start to mouth off to our elected officials on some future item with which we disagree.