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Sunday, March 30, 2014

DOUBLE, DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE...







What is it? Campaign boiler room or a Borough government that serves the interests of its citizens?  

Assembly Ordinance 14-050 comes before the Assembly this Tuesday, April 1, 2014 for public hearing followed by Assembly action to approve or deny.  This hastily drafted and pathetically ill-conceived ordinance would allow the expenditure of public funds…. our taxpayer funds… to influence statewide ballot propositions.  No requirement for accurate representation of the issue; no cap on the amount of funds that may be expended; no limit of Borough staff time to work on the Assembly’s narrow, extreme agenda; no prohibition on using borough facilities.

If Assemblyman Arvin and company have their way this Tuesday (which happens to be April Fool’s Day, or is it make fools of the public day?), the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will go a long way towards becoming nothing more than a political platform to further an extreme ideology of at least one assemblyman at the expense of the public interest.

Instead of dealing with a heaping plateful of serious underfunded road projects, classrooms becoming more crowded, emergency services beaming with litigation and liabilities, and dry docked ferries hemorrhaging taxpayer money just to name a few, furthering political agendas instead of meeting the real everyday needs of our citizens gets thrown in the already ugly political polarized stewpot and given a place on the assembly agenda?  Really?  How exactly to you square that up with a bunch of elected officials that were elected under the banner of “fiscally conservative”. 

Is Mr. Arvin so emboldened by the toss of his own hat in the ring for a state level house seat that he wants to show his political party just how big a bucket of water he can carry? It’s hard to think of anything smacking more of political partisanship unless of course you count of the Wasilla assemblyman’s influence in the states redistricting fiasco. All of this while pointing a finger at the size of government and demonizing public workers with one sweeping ordinance, this would let a tango line of foxes in the peoples hen house and use borough property tax money to pay for the privilege of the raid.

Cities across the country are starting to realize that the “big project” approach the ceremonial mayor and the spending hound majority member assembly love takes up too much staff time, wastes too much political energy and distracts too much from the basic needs of existing neighborhoods. But that memo hasn’t seemed to reach some members of this assembly. Despite the election of two even handed assembly members (Beck and Sykes) who have put the brakes on a few bad ideas and started asking questions that clearly annoy those on the assembly that are only used to telling us what to do and not answering our questions, they are swimming against the same powerful tide. Toxic brew supplied by cronyism!

Assemblyman Jim Sykes who is walking his talk of protecting the borough checkbook and property taxpayer monies wrote an excellent piece in today's Frontiersman that makes it clear this is one elected official that thinks passing Ordnance 14-050  is a terrible idea. We encourage you to read it and other sane men on the assembly to protect our public funds from this nonsense and vote NO. 


We also suggest contacting your Assembly person (and while you are at it… cc the entire Assembly and the Ceremonial Mayor) and say DON’T MAKE FOOLS OF US…. VOTE NO ON ASSEMBLY ORDINANCE 14-050!  If you want to see the sparks fly on this you are encouraged to come to Tuesday's assembly meeting at the borough building at 6pm or listen to the live stream at www.radiofreepalmer.org

Even if Mr. Arvin pulls this terrible ordinance off the agenda before the meeting his introduction of this idea and the smell of it is so bad it should serve as a reminder of what nefarious things lay ahead if we aren't paying attention and hand power of representation to the wrong people. And yes we are looking at you if you fail to vote. 




Monday, January 13, 2014

WAIT..IS THERE A CRACK IN THE CEREMONIAL MAYOR'S MEN?





After watching the last borough assembly meeting it’s beginning to look like the “lockstep dance” might not be trending this year.

In the last couple of years the mayor and some members of the assembly have done a lot of gerrymandering with boards and commissions. 

In 2011 saying it was time to go on a “board and commission diet” assemblyman Arvin led the charge to successfully eliminate the “Real Property Asset Management” Board on the grounds it was “redundant”. No actual financial analysis was done to see if it would save money but with the votes lined up on the assembly (Arvin, Colver, Colligan, Woods, Salmon) and no threat of a mayoral veto, like magic it was gone. As Garfield the cat said “diet” is “die” with a “t”.

The board’s job WAS to “act in an advisory capacity to the assembly and administration, on all matters affecting real property and natural resource development.” With that ball kicked through the goal post no time was wasted in unhinging the subdivision code, passing handfuls of resolutions  in support of coal mining everywhere and anywhere, eliminating the existing tall towers regulation (and by looking at the cell towers that have popped up like chickweed with no notice that worked out well), watered down  the gravel ordinance thus allowing for gravel mining in the water table, lifted the cap off the noise ordinance and dropped  taxes for business all in the name of “opening the borough for business”. Draining the nice reserve balance the borough HAD including the emergency fund was the cherry on the top of the less oversight of government diet sundae. Opening a door to business that was never closed was just a pesky detail.

Like most dieters only one food group was eliminated (oversight of borough asset management) and more calories were packed onto boards like the port commission.This commission had the limit on appointment terms raised from two 3 year terms to three 3 year terms. The port commission has always functioned with a revolving door not uncommon in skyscrapers but rarely good for government.  In fact, that revolving door is likely to get another spin soon as defeated Assemblyman Noel Woods is up for mayoral confirmation to warm a seat that he not so long ago occupied on the port commission. This ensures no disruption in the total agreement that everything and anything that has “port" in the title gets a nod.

The assembly binging has continued with dozens of people appointed by the mayor and confirmed by a majority of the assembly to a various array of real and invented boards and commissions.  And then there are the “working groups” which by the way cost money because they require staff time. Important items like economic development are once again being taken up by a working group that includes a laundry list of cronies and political supporters of mostly yes men (and few women). The membership seat count was even raised for the ethics board but with the soggy mess the assembly has made of that ordinance it’s doubtful they will be called to meet anytime soon.


  • No other board or commission other than the “Real Property Asset Management Board” was ever eliminated ! Go figure.
  • No reason when the gatekeeper to protect the public and taxpayer interest was the only real target.
  • No reason when the borough buffet table is full of members serving up some big oversize helpings of special interest to their buddies in business to benefit with their own personal interests sprinkled on top. And with hardly anyone paying attention by evidence of the pitiful voter turnout why not, right? Only thing standing in their way is office holder ethics. And oh wait once again Assemblymen Arvin and Colver took care of that.
  • No reason when the whole goal of the assembly spending hounds (see earlier post) is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs and losses of local government.


SOMEONE IS PAYING ATTENTION 

Last week the assembly asked for a special meeting with the Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and chances are they got more than what they bargained for. In what's become the accepted dog and pony show was well, without its dog or it's pony. Instead it was presented and documented by the well-spoken and very knowledgeable acting chair of the commission former state fish and wildlife biologist Larry Engel. His presentation made it pretty clear that he and the others on the commission take their duties and purpose to  “represent the interests of the borough in the conservation and allocations of fish, wildlife, and habitat” pretty darn seriously. Serious enough to take issue with HB77 a hotly debated bill that has some serious implication to water rights and gutting the public process that will most likely involve much arm twisting and teeth gnashing during the upcoming legislative session. You should again pay attention or you may not have any say on what happens on Alaska’s public lands and waters.

RUT-RO! 


Somehow in the storm of giddy cronyism appointments to the Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, it appears to have much of what the real property asset management had before it ended up in the sacrificial stew, people with expertise who care about where they live and are not afraid to speak up. It has appointees that are subject authorities that seem to understand the difference between “public service” and “lip service”. So much so it has found itself in the middle of a tug a war between the mayor and some assembly members over a couple of letters sent to the governor speaking on behalf of the borough. The Frontiersman sums up the serial over-stepping of the mayor here http://www.frontiersman.com/opinions/editorials. So off base were the mayor’s actions it brought out former assemblyman Warren Keogh to speak up as a private citizen during audience participation. Often the lone wolf protecting the public and pointing out the ceremonial mayors political partisan actions and wrong-headed opinions, Keogh didn’t hold back and for good reason. That testimony is required reading and can be found here http://www.frontiersman.com/opinions/letters_to_editor/house-bill-is-an-extraordinarily-bad-piece-of-legislation/article_fd2f8610-79bf-11e3-8b73-001a4bcf887a.html

And to make matters worse, in the process of carrying his political water, the mayor splashed some on the shiny new assembly members.


FALLING MORE IN LINE WITH THE PUBLIC 

Assemblyman Jim Sykes has seen years of political hi-jinks. Last fall voters selected him over another of the good ole boys in part because they knew he would use is wisdom and experience to make sure there would be more transparency and a robust public process in the borough. He was the first to step up to take issue with the dueling letters and the inconsistent message it sent to the state.  For that his assembly brethren instructed him to work with fellow Assemblyman Colligan who is always at the front of the pack to demonize those that don’t agree with his narrow ideology. Colligan’s mastery in obstruction of measures to protect the public is only second to his skills in pushing the borough nearer to the radical conservative cliff. Finding that common ground might be harder than finding water in the Mojave Desert. Colligan has repeatedly claimed he hasn’t had time to read the 24 page bill. Perhaps Sykes should consider the Ted Cruz approach by reading it out loud Dr. Seuss style to his fellow assemblyman. 

On the other hand Assemblyman Matt Beck is a fresh face on the scene and is proving tout suite that he is nobody’s consort.  We are going to go out on a limb here and forecast that he will be the kind of assembly representative that does his homework on the packet and builds coalitions of balanced thinkers just as he is for a valuable resource. That can be a big threat to those filling chairs for the political purpose of their party or own political futures. The chance that he cannot be counted on "to go along to get along" poses some hurdles to the lockstep dance recitals. According to his comments he is making it clear that he understands that borough code says that NO ONE speaks for the position of the borough or the assembly other than the manager.  He also made it clear that he doesn’t like to be accused of being closed minded on issues before he has made up his mind. This may be tough for the mayor and lock steppers on the assembly to take in. To say deciding the merit of issues on the facts and not political parties and personal dogma hasn’t been the spending hounds strong point might be the biggest understatement so far this year.

So it’s looking like there will be a few more dance steps on the assembly. That even perhaps the “lockstep” will turn into a “knee lock” that brings down those that are only fiscally responsible in their own minds. We have some hope that the changes will shine some needed light on who on the assembly is working for the public and who is working for their buddies or their own political futures and that the October election will cull out some that don’t seem to understand that public service shouldn’t be confused with private entitlement.

But then there is that old saying.”If wishes were horses we’d all ride”.  The public can take the reins and lead they just have to show up and want to. 




Tuesday, October 8, 2013

CANVASING BOARD AND MORE OH MY!




These days’ elections often aren't over until they're over.

While we were hoping the next post would be about the borough wide results of last Tuesday's election (insert eye roll for those that didn't know there was an election)  the official count is still in the hands of the hardworking borough canvassing board.

So who is the Canvassing Board you ask? 


The Canvassing Board falls under the purview of the Clerk's Office. This in itself is a huge relief. Our head almost explodes at the thought of the this process falling under the micro managing finger of the assembly that if what to do with a ferry is any gauge of their abilities to make decisions would make the results of this election be available about the fall of 2020.

But the borough clerk and her department are on it. This is not their first trip to the election rodeo. There is a process that is embedded in borough code. Their job is to certify the validity of the absentee, questioned, and poll votes cast. The Clerk knows the value of picking a seasoned group of election officials from the pool that are hired to run the election. It's pretty clear the group she has selected knows this process completely.

They have been meeting daily in the old assembly chambers which are presently set up for this activity. One member of the public designated by a candidate is able to attend after taking a oath of confidentiality (sometimes personal information is discussed while debating the eligibility of a vote or voter) to view the work of the board.

Watching this process to see what happens to our vote after they are mailed, cast early in person or fed into the Diebold voting machines (which we are not alone in having concerns about) the day of the election has been enlightening.


The first thing that is striking the difference in watching the canvassing board operate in the old assembly chambers in contrast to how the assembly operated before they relocated to the school district to await their new fancy chambers (thank you property taxpayers) which will host it's first assembly meeting and hopefully swearing of new members next Tuesday, October 15th. 


When the assembly spending hounds filled the room: 


  • Made up by a majority of members of the good ol' boy network that are interested in mostly their own self-interest. 
  • Always busy scatter shooting, waffling, punting issues like costs and consequences down the road or assigning blame to whoever wasn't there to defend themselves or some "liberal or environmental" boogeyman. 
  • Few attempts made to really follow or improve procedures or hold each other accountable. Abundance of decision making done out of the public purview. 


On the other hand the Canvassing Board:


  • Is made up of a spirited public team of WOMEN with a public interest goal. 
  • Scheduled and deadline orientated their process is very black and white. 
  • With laser like attention they make efficient use of the public resources letting a set of procedures of checks and balances guide them.  
  • The board is observable and document decisions only after consulting written references and considering the clerk's expertise. 
  • There is no one on the canvas board texting or receiving a text to tell them what to do. 
  • There is no one standing in the hall trying to influence their decisions.
  • There is no one complaining about smaller government, federal government over-reach or the evil EPA.


The canvassing board isn't about egos, special interest, or future political careers. They are there to do a serious job thoroughly and thoughtfully. The whole process is reflective of the borough clerk as one of her most important duties of her job. She and her staff are watchful over the process but not imposing and do their jobs without running any interference or influence. They are professional. They are just public citizens doing a task they have been hired and trusted to do the best of their abilities.

Meanwhile in the rest of election land...

Election night results than what was reported for the cities didn't change a whole lot. The final tallies can be found on each city website which you will find a link to on the side of the blog. In another phenomenally low voter turnout election, voters cherry picked candidates in most cases and there wasn't any huge surprises.

A ballot measure that passed in WASILLA  allows funding to move forward on a new public library even though it was closer than the hair on a hedgehog on election night. The mail in and absentee votes pushed it safely over the goal posts.This is a huge step forward to the reality of a new library that many in the city has been pining for with a small increase in sales tax paving the way. 

What wasn't close was the race between Councilman Brandon Wall and desperately seeking redemption retread candidate Vic Kohring who thanks to a 306 vote loss will have much more time to write his long, rambling "Oh the injustice of it all" letters to the editor. Vic's voters can put their tin hats and bibles back on their side table by the lazy boy and go back to watching Glenn Beck cry crocodile tears.

HOUSTON had no surprises. Voters declined to roll back sales tax on the sales on fireworks by a safe margin. The city runs on diet plan that would make the founders of Weigh Watchers envious. It makes us wonder if even the owners of the 1/4 mile of firework stands know without bringing revenue to the table in the City of Houston there would leave little reason to host such business. Pretty sure folks that have spare cash in their pockets for fireworks and are on a mission to see things blow up care little about a few pennies that find their way in the city coffers.

PALMER'S largely civilized race for mayor resulted in no changes with voters re-electing  DeLena Johnson their city leader by even a larger margin than her first term.  City Council candidate Steve Carrington with a minimal campaign effort did upset long-time council woman Katherine Vanover who has spent the last 12 years on the council. 

We were hopeful this would bring a much needed change to the City of Palmer City Council but after watching the same political gymnastics that has plagued the council for the last year at a simple swearing in we are less hopeful. A ordinary request from the mayor to appoint seasoned councilman Ken Erby (often the voice of reason and one who keeps his distance from political jousting) Deputy Mayor was met with objection from the council. Instead newly elected Councilman Steve Carrington was given the nod for no good reason that we could see besides it wasn't the mayor's choice. We have great hopes for Carrington who has some past experience on the council but we find it unfair and unnecessary to bring him into the fray when he barely was able to get his feet under the chair that he was just elected too. Was it done in the better interest of the people of Palmer? Seems unlikely.  Was Erby the councilman nominated by the mayor more versed in current Palmer issues? We think so. 

Hats off to Representative Shelly Hughes attending the swearing in and invited to speak that gave some very good advice to the council about making a better effort for the council to get along for the sake of the people of Palmer. .We hope the council listened. Hughes should know a thing or two about getting along with a variety of elected officials. 

This shouldn't be hard to understand. 

Several Palmer Council members need to put down their spears and future office aspirations in their wing of a political party (we're looking at you Council members Best and DeVries) and get on with doing what is best for the people they are elected to represent in Palmer. There may be members on the council that don't like the outcome of the voters wish but that's the way city democracy rolls. As for the other council members participating in this nonsense by their votes, you don't have to be the one with the spear in your hand to be just as culpable as those throwing it. So far your feeble attempts to resist being part of the problem aren't very convincing.  Just stop it and try using the example of the borough canvassing board listed above. 

We will sort out the borough election results when that work is done. We need to spend a little time on the fainting couch first.  



Sunday, September 29, 2013

ARE MATSU VOTERS SMARTER THAN A 5TH GRADER?

  


The answer to that question will be Tuesday when the polls close and the ballots are counted in the borough-wide election and we see if they show up to vote. Reportedly absentee and early voting has been more robust this time around. It wouldn't take much to improve the 18.5% turnout from the last borough wide election.

The result of that miserable election played out more painfully than anyone could have predicted. Thanks to that small percentage of people that live in the valley that embraced the campaign rhetoric about the need to elect a "conservative businessman" things have as grandma would say "gone to hell in a handbag".

That small majority of registered voters elected a pack of assembly spending hounds that don’t know who they are, don’t know what they want, don’t know how to ask or save to get it, suffer from an attention span of a gnat, have become masters of manipulation for their own or their business buddies monetary gain, exhibit few manners, and don’t follow rules unless reminded and then only on a limited basis.

How's that working for us so far?


      We have watched while the "conservative businessmen" put speculation before services and savings. They have played fast and loose with the people’s pocketbook spending untold money on a dock-less ferry, a bridge that is on life support (KABATA), a ship less port, and a ghost rider railroad. Gambling with the public's money is seen as good stewardship by these assembly spending hounds.

These "conservative businessmen" voters have used crystal balls and wild ass guesses to estimate bonds and other expenditures. They have started but left unfinished borough projects that have been tossed in the air like the juggler dancing on hot coals. Pretty much every bid awarded these days can be traced back to a process laced with a heavy dose of cronyism.

The assembly bully hounds embrace the love of micro-managing staff and projects. They have successfully chased employee moral down the drain faster than a can of Drano. Manager Moosey the most frequently "performance reviewed" manager in history has been placed in the assembly slingshot on a regular basis. He is tasked to herd up a revolving door of department heads, insufficient numbers of qualified staff who continue to be bogged down with assembly members hanging on their backs breathing down their necks with conflicting directives and layoff threats of position eliminations.

What once were well rounded publicly accessible advisory bodies that added expertise to save personnel costs have now been reduced to a theater production of appointed puppets pushing personal agendas or those of the business buddy assembly. No more evidence is needed than witnessing their much beloved tower commission appointee, Mr. Aaron Downing who is doing his best to convince everyone that will listen that Cell Towers should be able to pop up anywhere and the borough shouldn't be shy about using imminent domain on private property to make sure it happens. We’re pretty sure that is NOT what the defenders of "private property rights" have in mind. The people of the borough don’t want corporate America to take, rent, buy or grab what belongs to them.


Let’s face it the last couple of elections have resulted in a tea party temper tantrum delivered up by a few voters that got out of their easy chair and took time out of their busy agenda to take off their foxgoggles to vote.  They have had their way with the rest of us by electing candidates that don't want to govern just destroy things. They have elected people that truly believe that praying and paying is the best strategy. By not voting borough residents have become their hostages.

If we are ever going to rid our elected bodies of crime syndicates we have to SHOW up and exercise our ability to vote. When we let things get in the way of showing up at the polls our politics immune system is stressed and up pops another self serving "conservative business man" who becomes the political equivalent of herpes, or a yeast infection and among other things is too immature or ideology wrapped for the responsibilities they’ve been given.

Complain all you want. That's fine. But don't limit it to complaining.


We’ve put up too long already – we can’t afford what’s happening any longer. Many of those who are elected in these low voter turnout elections say one thing and do another, they waste our public money and grab for more, they afford us no explanation or justification, and they put us at risk by increasing our liability for litigation and physical harm. We gave them our votes and our trust, and they give us worse than no respect.

The people of the borough CAN be smarter than a 5th grader.

They can cast a vote NO to more "conservative business men" that want that allow partisan politics to decide our borough financial future instead of electing those of character of conviction to protect the public checkbook, our quality of life and personal investments in our homes, public schools and community spaces.

 It's an easy choice for us. 


On the borough ballot for District 1 it means casting a vote for JIM SYKES who will be a worthy replacement for Warren Keogh who has been too many times the lone voice of common sense on the assembly these last 3 years. Keogh really became the assembly man for ALL borough residents but first and foremost District 1 and did an outstanding and tireless job representing constituents. He walked into the dragons den on more than one occasion and changed the hearts and minds of many that had drank the kool-aid served up by the good ol boys club of what he believed and stood for. The whole valley owes him big thanks for a job done better than anyone in recent memory. Those will be big shoes to fill but we know JIM SYKES has the ability, time, diplomacy to do the job well. The last minute character slams Aaron Downing and his hate filled cronies are serving up only serves to reinforce what they fear most. That is the balanced, smart and ETHICAL governing SYKES will bring to the table.

If you live in District 2 that means a vote for MATHEW BECK. There is not a sliver of doubt he should replace Noel Woods who is well pass his freshness date. Voters in District 2 (Palmer area) should run not walk to the polls to elect Beck to fill the seat. He brings in baggage that is small enough fit in an airplane overhead bin which is nothing much. He is NOT wrapped in a political party flag. He is a fierce defender of farmers which really is about food security something this assembly has not given the time of day. He believes in our public schools system and knows the value of listening to all sides of issues but standing up for what is right for people and neighborhoods. Although conservative by his own admission the other self processed "conservative business men" on this assembly will not find him a push over for their own ideology or agenda. BECK is the kind of fresh leadership we pine for.

There are two seats for school board voters will decide.


It is without ANY reservation for seat "G" we will cast our vote for sitting school board member DAVID CHEEZEM. There is no doubt that Cheezem's agenda is doing what is best for kids. He can actually think outside the box for solutions. Cheezem knows that there are times you've got to go along to get along. But there are also times when the principled stance is also the smart one. A vote for DAVID CHEEZEM is a smart one. Both the teachers (MSEA) and certified employees (CEA) unions have endorsed CHEEZEM along with candidate NEIL LACY. Having the voice of the people that work for the district is a strong endorsement which gets our agreement and even though Lacy can be rough around the edges he has provided some valuable input. There will be another open seat on the school board in November when Cordero steps down and we are hoping Donna Dearman will get the nod for that. She will be a good addition to the board at that time but a vote for her now could make a 3 way split go to the other candidate Jacobson who would bring a very partisan element back into the board.


The two bond issues have their pro's and cons. One measure gives the borough more tax dollars and the other sends tax dollars out the door to address infrastructure needs.

Ballot measure B-1 is a areawide alcohol tax of 5%.
Ballot measure B-2 is a 50% borough match for borough transportation system bonds.

The cities have their own ballots and a buffet of candidates to choose from.


Staying on course in Palmer


There doesn't seem to be much reason to change horses in Palmer. The City of Palmer is without term limits so it's not complicated. There is a choice in the race for mayor but little reason to change. Palmer Mayor DeLena Johnson has grown nicely into her position as mayor and has used her vision for moving Palmer forward leaving a pretty darn satisfied city of people and an even more vibrant business community under her leadership. If the yard sign didn't give it away, Johnson will get our vote for re-election and deserves yours if you live in the city of Palmer.

 Wasilla, Wasilla...


We are hoping the voters of Wasilla give the green flag to an increase in sales tax for financing a new library even though most of those that pay it will not live in Wasilla. As much as some elected officials would like you to believe that libraries are not a worthy investment we disagree. They serve a huge purpose particularly to those on the bottom of the financial pole. Wasilla struggle for a new facility to serve its bulging population and those from outside the city limits is well documented and supported by convincing data.  What isn't convincing is giving a second chance to disgraced former legislator Vic Koring. If Wasilla voters give him the nod to sit at their council table they might as well mount big damn cameras everywhere and call their city a full time reality show. Get a hold of yourself Wasilla voter and vote for Brandon Wall. 

SO.....


Electing the right people should not be about holding a liberal or conservative ideology, it's about facts that are based on truth and data and not some build it and they will come strategy.

There is simply no excuse for not voting and we have had our fill about hearing about those who don't. Bothered enough to consider once this election is over to publish the list of your friends and neighbors that couldn't be bothered to take a couple minutes out of their day to put a few marks on a piece of paper. A voters list is public information and it may be time to engage in some good ol fashion public shaming for those voting deadbeats. If you are a teacher or employee of the district or borough the fate of your own job may be in this election. Being "too busy" to vote could make your next project finding a new job. 


So don't make us call in the flying monkeys. But do call your friends, neighbors, co-workers and relatives and get them to the polls Tuesday. Corporations are NOT people and the borough is NOT open for funny business, corruption, or exploitation. Let's get to the polls and prove it. 



Friday, July 26, 2013

BEGINNING OR THE END???



 

The deadline for having a selection of sane candidates to choose from for borough assembly as well as on city councils in Palmer, Wasilla and Houston THIS October is looming today at 5pm . So unless you want to make borough history of your own and launch a write in campaign to beat back the crazy it's time to step up. Almost past time.

Here are a few Citizen Lobbyist rules to guide those throwing their hat in the ring of fire:

Walk your talk: Spare us and don't flood us with literature that says to vote for you because you are "fiscally conservative" because that means nothing these days. Zero. In fact it has become a laughable claim in so many ways. We currently have a elected tables full of those people and they are spending money faster than any time in history. Valley residents deserve at least as much good from valley taxes as private enterprise and big business gets. They don't want to give up more services from their local government to finance your pipe dream or new mega project or even an old one that chances are will never pay back.
 
Show up: Those holding elected seats should actually sit in them and not depend on the closest cell tower although they are popping up faster than the fireweed to count as their participation. Living in a foreign country or a snow bird location for most of the year and then acting like you were fully engaged earning a public servant salary and perks doesn't cut it. Not even a little bit. Don't even bother if that's your game plan. We all deserve better.

Remember who you work for: It's not your political party. It's not your campaign donors no matter how many hundred dollar bills they are stuffing in your pockets. It's not your business cronies. It's not your church. It's not the imaginary voice in your head. You work for the people of the borough that elected you and that pay your salary and or benefits. The salary and or benefits that no one asks you to punch a time clock for.  A salary that doesn't even measure your effectiveness or success in what you say that your going to really do.

Read your packet of information BEFORE you take your seat; Don't try to fake it. We know when your faking it. Public documentation is messy and necessary. We know you won't read it all. Hardly anyone does but you should at least have a vague idea what your voting on. And quit comparing it to the way private business works. Read the memo. It's not private money, it's public

Thumb through a copy of Robert's Rules of Order; The clerk isn't your mother and the attorney isn't your father. It's awkward when you force them to have to be because you don't know the damn rules or how a meeting is suppose to roll and when you are allowed to speak. If in doubt always grab the "be quiet" lifeline.

Know the difference between: The interest of the people of the borough, personal interest and special interest. We aren't interested in your personal agenda and ideology. Save that for the sermon Sunday.

Public offices belong to the people:You aren't elected to carry on your family name or dynasty. You aren't elected to build your own empire. Leave the monarchy's to the people across the pond looking for the baby wipes. Term limits are rare. Invoke your own and come up for air once in awhile. It's a win win for everyone.

Don't plan to be a serial office holder; If you have had your official picture taken to hang on a public building wall more than a couple times its time to move on and find a new hobby. Don't confuse your experience with your obsession.  It's not healthy for any of us. Term limits are rare. Invoke your own and come up for air once in awhile. It's a win win for everyone.


Be accessible and accountable; but turn your cell phone off when your at the decision table. Doing the people's business is way more important than your own when your on the public's dime. Reading a text or the latest facebook post can wait. Those people in the audience have been waiting too. At least sit up, look up and act like you care they are there and are interested in what they have to say. By the way if your already seated we're looking at you and expect to start reading about your actions here.

Treat the public employees with respect; The herd has been thinned down about as much as it can be without killing the species off which we recognize may be your goal but you have some great talent under the public roof who have taken a ride on these political roller coasters more than once. Those heads won't hold anymore hats. If employees aren't doing their best work it's a management problem not an employee problem. Wiping your feet on employee moral doesn't make anybody want to do better.

Don't micromanage; We realize this is a tall order for some of you. It may make you feel important in the short term storming in offices or demanding action behind the scenes but it serves no one in the long term. Government is a team sport. The coach stays on the sideline and lets the players do their job. They will let you know when they want you to pick the sod out of their helmet.

It's not that hard to do the job of an elected official if you follow at least some of the above suggestions. It can even be enjoyable. Okay maybe not that enjoyable but fulfilling in many ways once you learn how to weed out the nonsense that comes with it.

We have been hearing loud and clear the complaints and teeth gnashing and anguish about the deep disappointment in not only the lack of real leadership but accountability, transparency, diversity, you name it.  We want many more people  to consider serving the people of the borough. That's a tall order these days.  We get that. We have to work with the tools in the tool box. We hope laying out a few rules will help.  Now if only they read it. 

We will be making some noise ourselves on Radio Free Palmer today. Starting at 4:45pm today tune in for a live broadcast you can find at KVRF 89.5FM or www.radiofreepalmer.org announcing the final list of those that have filed to run for office in the borough and city elections. That will be followed by a live broadcast of the "Valley Edition" hosted by Michael Chmielewski with panelists Mark Kelsey, Frontiersman publisher and your own Citizen Lobbyist as we discuss the final slate of candidates. Who wants to miss that right? 

Oh and one more rule. 
The public bites.  They will break that chain and jump the fence faster than you can run if you abuse your given power. In fact we are happy to open the gate for them.


   

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

WASILLA HAS ITS OWN BUDGET SAGA...






Turns out the Mat Su Assembly Hounds aren't the only ones throwing money around and stuffing their own special interest trunk while crafting a budget.
We are pleased to pass on the following account provided to us by a CIty of Wasilla Watcher.
Get a cold one and enjoy the ride. And try to remember. We all live here.




The Wasilla City Council Budget Menu

Is Bloated and Retaining Water
. . .but lacks pizza and cake thanks to Council Member Dianne Woodruff who noted that if the people have to skip dinner to be at City Council meetings, the Council Members shouldn’t be eating dinner in front of them on the peoples’ dime. So, Woodruff moved to delete from the budget the money for pizza and cake for the Council. It passed unanimously.

In a similar vein, Council Member Woodruff proposed deleting over $2,000 for bottled water. She pointed out that City Hall is on City Water, and if City Water is good enough to charge city residents over $40/month (minimum) to drink it, why shouldn’t the City Council and employees drink it, too? After bragging about the City’s prize-winning water, the Council rejected Woodruff’s amendment and decided to retain the $2,000+ for bottled water. Voting to retain water were Council Members Steve Lovell and Clark Buswell.

Council Member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard wanted the rest of the Council to share in an attack on Troy (Tankersley, Finance Director) by inflating the estimate of sales tax revenue into an Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse; it would have “given” the Council more money to spend. But the chocolate horse was too high in fat, and Wall, Buswell, Woodruff and Lovell defeated Sullivan-Leonard’s attack on the budget of Troy, who had done an excellent job of presenting a defense.

Mr. Clark Buswell, who looks to the Mayor before casting his vote, told the Council that everyone should just order everything on the budget menu that the Mayor was ordering.

Council Member Leone Harris’ drank Online Absen Tea during 3 of the last 5 City Council meetings. When she was present, she tried to get the Council to take dessert off the budget menu by dramatically reducing department budgets for staff overtime. After attempting to take the overtime dessert off the menu of many departments, the other Council Members and the public started to realize that Harris was right, and that skipping dessert is generally quite do-able for people who manage well, so voted for all or part of many of her proposed reductions of departmental overtime dessert.

The City Business Plan: Sell Winners and Keep Losers

The City Council bought Meta Rose Square because it was on prime real estate at the center of the City, thinking that it might be a good building for a new library. When the building was determined not to be of suitable size or structure for a library, some Council Members hoped that income from Meta Rose Square could help fund a new library. According to the FY14 budget, Meta Rose Square is making money for the City: about $100,000 a year. But heaven forbid that the City take any of the burden off its taxpaying residents and develop an additional source of revenue besides sales tax! So, a couple members of the City Council are pushing the Mayor to get rid of this money-maker ASAP.

Discussion of the City budget had begun with an hour-long presentation by the Director for Recreational and Cultural Services, Mr. John Combs. All who heard this presentation by the Champion of Non-stop Talkers were left hoping that he made better use of the peoples’ dime than he did of the peoples’ time, however, given that the Menard Sports Center is losing close to $1 million a year under his management, that seems unlikely. It also seems unlikely that this millstone will be removed any time soon from around the necks of Wasilla’s taxpayers. It may be a big loser, but it’s a real GEM of a money-loser and we're not going to let anyone have it!

Running the City like a Featherbedding Business

The glowing report Mr. Combs gave the Council about his most recent hire at the Menard Sports Center, Ms. Joan Klapperich, left many wondering why the City needed him on the payroll, too, so he was asked to bring back to the Council in 90 days a plan for achieving certain objectives. Apparently, the Mayor has never defined any goals and objectives for Mr. Combs, nor requested any work plans from him: that would be something only a good business manager would do.
Mayor Rupright was asked by Council Member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard why Bert Cottle, Deputy Administrator, was the City’s Designated Meeting Attender, suggesting that this was a part of the Mayor’s job. The Mayor’s answer to this question didn’t erase the widely held perception that the main purpose for Mr. Cottle’s attendance at so many meetings is to promote Mr. Cottle’s ambition to be Mr. Rupright’s successor. How this benefits the City remains obscure, as does whatever else Mr. Cottle keeps himself busy doing on the taxpayer's dollar.

Council Members Brandon Wall and Dianne Woodruff asked Mr. Cottle what his Administrative Assistant did all day while he was away from City Hall at meetings. Mr. Cottle answered by reporting the number of times this employee answered the phone and interacted with the public. This observer was amazed that the employee was able to stretch out so little work to fill 40 hrs a week, but was not surprised that Council Member Buswell was impressed with how busy she was, because the employee is a very nice person. (Of course, none of this was personal, all the City Council Members said.) Could it be that Mr. Cottle doesn't know what the one person he supervises actually does?

Council Members Wall & Woodruff continued to point out that there just wasn’t enough work to justify so many full-time Administrative Assistants upstairs at City Hall, so proposed amending the budget to reduce funding for staff. Suggesting that the City should be run like a business, Council Members Lovell and Buswell insisted that all staff must be kept at 40 hrs/wk just in case there is something for them all to do some day. Voting to keep the City in the Featherbedding Business was Council Members Buswell, Lovell, Harris and Sullivan-Leonard. No self-respecting Union Rep would ever make the pathetic arguments in support of Featherbedding that Council Members Buswell and Lovell made.

The Chamber and Seniors

The fastest growing sector of the Wasilla economy is senior citizens and services to seniors, adding millions annually to the City’s economy, but the funding request of Wasilla Area Seniors, Inc. for matching funds for grants and to install energy-efficient lighting was defeated 5 to 1, in part, Council Members said, because of the cost of Featherbedding.

(Lecturing the longest-lived members of our community about sustainability, the Council did, however, vote to approve a one-time appropriation to the seniors in this fiscal year out of the City’s fund balance.)

Naturally, the cost of Featherbedding didn’t interfere with the Council approving $10,000 tax dollars for the Chamber of Commerce, which didn’t persuade Three Bears to locate in the City, costing the city mega-bucks in lost sales tax revenue. The Council likes to support those who are not paying any taxes. No one from the Chamber ever testified during the budget hearings as to what the Chamber does for the City or would do with this ten grand, so this observer is wondering if this is one of those FOMs (Friends Of Mayor) thingees.


Businesses pay no taxes to the City (they just turn over to the City the sales tax they collect from customers), but senior residents do pay taxes to the City: another reason why the senior service sector of the economy doesn't deserve any support from the Council, apparently. The Council Members expressed so much love for the Seniors, it is frightening to think what they would have done had they not loved seniors so dearly.

Henny Penny, Deficit Budgets and that Trojan Horse Again

Having failed to convince the rest of the Council to give her the Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse of inflated budget revenue estimates to attack Troy, Council Member Sullivan-Leonard started to sing Henny Penny’s song, “The Sky is Falling! The Sky is Falling! This is a Deficit Budget! ” as her rallying cry against Troy. Council Member Harris responded to this cry, but the other Council Members were wisely unresponsive.

Troy’s defense was that the budget was balanced--as anyone who paid attention to his budget presentation could see--by spending down some of the City’s fund balances (savings). Proposing to spend some from the fund balances, according to Sullivan-Leonard, meant to her that Troy was proposing a deficit budget. Apparently, there's 2 definitions of a deficit budget: the one professionals use and Sullivan-Leonard's.

Since Sullivan-Leonard is on the record stating that all fund balances (savings) should be reduced to zero, it was unclear to this observer why she was upset about Troy balancing the budget by reducing some fund balances a bit. Could it be that because the Council wouldn’t let her have her Ultra-rich Chocolate Trojan Horse, she was determined to cast the budget as a disaster? Of course not! Why would anyone think that?

Could it be they thought that because they have observed Council Members feasting on sour grapes and, like Council Member Wall, they observed that a pencil was thrown down and eyes were rolled by someone opposite him in the cushy tilt-a-whirl seats?

The Invitation and the Dis

If you are invited to make a presentation to the Wasilla City Council, you might want to keep your coat on until after the agenda is approved, because you may be dissed (as in dis-invited and dismissed). MEA was invited to make a presentation at the last City Council meeting and then basically told by 4 Members of the Council that we don't want to hear from you, please go home. The City Council has listened to both sides of the debate on all sorts of issues, including Wishbone Hill/Usibelli Coal mining, and KGB and Parks Hwy upgrade projectls even when the greater part of those projects were outside the city limits. For as far back as anyone can remember--decades--Council Members have been able to invite an entity to give a presentation at a City Council Meeting, but when Council Member Woodruff invited MEA to come to the City Council and present their proposed routing for an 80-100 ft high transmission line to the Herning Substation near the heart of the City, oh, the uproar! Experience leads this observer to note that the degree of the passionate anger expressed by elected officials is directly proportional to the amount of politics involved (as opposed to facts, reason and considerations of the common good). In a shameful and embarrassing display of politics that left everyone wondering what the Council Members were afraid the Council and public might hear, MEA was dis-invited and dismissed, dropped from the agenda. Voting to keep MEA from spreading light on the issue were Council Members Buswell, Lovell, Sullivan-Leonard and Harris.


Not Ready to go to Press

The budget has yet to be voted on as a whole. So, if you think that there’s more changes that need to be made to the budget, come to the meeting on June 10th at 6pm, or send your comments to the City Clerk for distribution to the Members of the Council.