Randy Bailey is a bear of a guy. The hard-working family man owns Bailey's Brake Service at the corner of Main and Country Club in Mesa, Arizona, where scores of customers have had their brakes expertly serviced and repaired for more than 20 years. Randy bought the business from his father and hopes to pass it down to his son someday. He is honest, takes care of his property, pays taxes, pro- vides employment to other men, and bothers nobody.
All of which, of course, makes him a juicy target for voracious city bureaucrats.
In the 1990s, Ken Lenhart, who owns an Ace Hardware store, decided he wanted to expand. The location he coveted was at the corner of Country Club and Main, one of Mesa's prime intersections. The property was occupied by several homes and small businesses, including Bailey's Brake Service.
Lenhart began purchasing some of the property, which he allowed to deteriorate. But instead of trying to purchase the rest, he went to the city, demanding that Mesa obtain the remaining parcels and transfer ownership to him. Driving an all-too-familiar bargain, Mesa officials agreed to do exactly that, but only if Lenhart would accept a $2 million subsidy as well.
Mesa added the property to a preexisting redevelopment zone, where the planners wanted a “gateway” to the city. What better gateway than a hardware store? The city crafted development speci- fications that, remarkably, called for a project precisely along the lines that Lenhart wanted to build. Equally remarkable, Lenhart won the bid.
Randy Bailey had no objection to the project, as long as he could be a part of it. He contacted Lenhart and offered to move his building to another location on the same corner if it would be more conve- nient. Lenhart told him to talk to the city. When Randy called city