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Monday, December 31, 2012

IT'S A 2012 WRAP...



While the country is tied in the middle of a political knot waiting to find out what its like to go off the fiscal cliff  borough residents already took a little ride off their own cliff in 2012  

Let's just take a little peek at just some of the actions the borough assembly took. 


IT'S ONLY TAXPAYER MONEY


The assembly in order to stick to a majority held ideology that the only good government is a starving one, took out their samurai swords at budget time and set about spending a big chunk of spare change sitting in the taxpayer savings drawer . Reserves went from about $14 million dollars to sit hovering at last check around $4 million left in the ever shrinking piggy bank. That included a big fist full of greenbacks moved out of the emergency fund reserve because we all know there are never any emergencies in the valley and when there is we can always take it out of petty cash or rely on it to be just bad enough so that either the state of feds will pony up for the costs right? Eye roll here, followed by palm slapping forehead.. 

Along with changing the "revenue cap" to a presto chango "tax cap" things could get pretty interesting this next year when the same troop sits down with a much smaller savings and a borough with growing needs that are staring them in the face.  One has to wonder with an assembly that is always vowing not to raise property taxes just which services will get the ax and be 2013 sacrificial lamb? 


FERRY DUST CLOUD....


There was a nearly year long kabuki dance with administration on what to do with now borough owned M/V Susitna Ferry that by all accounts still sits in its expensive berth in Southeast Alaska.  Lots of talk about the ferry and it's $60-$80,000 monthly costs to taxpayers.  That is  right up to after the borough election where it promptly dropped of list of things to point fingers around the table about.  Has it found a home in some tropical paradise or should taxpayers be visualizing the teflon manager searching the borough building for hidden shoe boxes of money to continue to pay the monthly bills?  Have some port insiders been silently working away at their plan to beach it at Pt Mac?  Will some valley folks get that floating casino some have been talking about or will it end up becoming a certain construction companies glorified "work boat" to get the borough off the hook for the monthly gushing of taxpayer money? Can the fed's who will be calling for a refund from the borough on their investment for the ferry if it isn't put into service be tamed?


JUST CAN'T LEAVE IT ALONE...


The ceremonial mayor whose job it is mainly preside at assembly meetings and act as the ceremonial head of the borough continues to take full advantage of the position particularly with the agenda and what goes on it and where and when. That pesky public. Our carrot farmer mayor couldn't find much love for opening up community councils to non residents or eliminating the part on the agenda for "Person's to be heard" but he did manage to issue a handful veto's (however not very successful) and a few tie breaker votes.  That along with some real zinger comments now and again that lifted the scalp on more than a few audience members and the borough attorney a time or two. 

TOWERING PROBLEMS...

Tall Towers spent over a year to the joy of industry having no regulation by the borough.  The persistence of one assembly member (Keogh) resulted finally on a new ordinance being adopted just last month. Meanwhile grandfathered in are the 50 or so that have already sprouted up around the valley in the free for all blocking views, enraging neighbors and costing big taxpayer dollars in an ugly process that may continue if the mayor (who we must give credit to for casting the tie breaker vote for passage of the ordinance) has his self appointed new tower board likely to be weighted heavily by industry and likely to come up with some suggestions for change. 


PUTTING ON THE POUNDS...


And while were at it we continue to wonder how that "board diet" your assembly ordered up when they successfully removed from the list the Real Property Asset Management Board going?  Like most dieters does it goes away when the dessert tray gets passed around? Actually the borough will have to loosen its belt loop after this year as they expanded one board from 5 to 15 members, changed the requirements for expertise and extended the terms of members on a couple of others.  What was that saying about lipstick on a pig? 


BUCKETS OF COLD WATER...


Then there was the great watering down period.  The first bucket hit the borough ethics code striking "personal interest" out of code and making "financial interest" rise from $200.00 to $1,000.  Impossible to go into all the consequences of these and other changes made to the code but it sure made it smoother sailing for some people sitting in positions of power. We'll leave it at that for the moment. 

The next bucket got a hefty lift from the MatSu Buisness Alliance and some developers in a painful revamp of the borough subdivision code. It turns out, for a segment of the assembly open for "business" means setting up a system to amass fortunes for some supporters regardless of consequences on others. Short term gains that could serve up some long term consequences and not unlike the tower mess the borough found themselves in. Unfortunately when the blame game begins on this one many of the ringleaders of this on the assembly will be termed out.  Yes, we're looking at you Assemblyman Colver, Arvin and a couple others.  


SPEAKING OF WATER..

Assembly members got a quick lesson on how important mapping of the flood plain can be as a fall storm gushed through a fairly new subdivision in Wasilla.  Pretty much all corners of the borough were effected as emergency services, public works and other departments at the borough dropped everything to respond. Besides the importance of flood plains, river management took on a whole new significance and not just in Butte area who has had houses sliding in the Matanuska River like hot chocolate hitting ice cream for years.  Turns out "your problem" is "our problem" after all. 

Plenty of water and personnel was needed to stop a what could have been a catastrophic fire in one subdivision a hair away from the downtown area of Palmer. Fast action by borough (much of them volunteers) and city crews responded to fight the flames and curb what could have been life changing for the valley. 



PLENTY OF RESOLUTIONS TO GO AROUND..


There were resolutions a plenty many of them fulfilling what we have described here as memos to themselves. It was easy to loose count on how many in support of KABATA, coal, gas exploration and even one for Sharia law. A resolution presented several times for support for a full health impact statement on the effects of open pit coal mining  never could find anything but the bottom of a recycling bin thanks to this develop at any cost majority at the table. Endless passionate pleas from borough residents time and time again got the mute button. 

Sandwiched in between were ordinances for a long list of gas improvement districts, removal of easements, several new gravel pits (which now allow for drilling in the water table) lowering the decibels for noise which when you think about it for a borough that blesses fireworks for all anywhere any time kinda fits in. It sure seemed much of the time common sense was in short supply much of the time. You could however find plenty of politics and special interest laying around. It was as if not only the train left the station but no one was allowed to ask where it was going or who was driving it. 


THE TEENIEST, TINIEST OF HIGH NOTES


There was some good news for Hatcher Pass Nordic Skiers as the Government Peak Area was able to hold on to its traditional non motorized designation and pass a plan. Assemblyman Colver got to pull out his cape that he keeps tucked away for other projects in his district especially if they are related to a certain charter school and led the successful charge on this one. Although we tire of the messy process Assembly member Colver continues to cling to in doing even credible things at least the ball got over the line on this phase of a very worthwhile project. In addition a knowledgeable contractor writing the plan and diligence of a slew of volunteers who had put the trails in, groomed them for years and other borough wide supporters who testified were the right ingredient for passage. 

For those that recreate in Jim Creek without a throttle although the final verdict is still out, things aren't looking so good. Some members of this assembly seems to be determined to find a home for icky and punish this area of the borough and personal property values no matter what the cost.  

The timing couldn't have been better for the excellent coverage in the Frontiersman about the relocation of Felony Flats and possible threats of a move to some nicer neighborhoods in Willow or Big Lake. That hot mess on the Parks Hwy was just fine with people that were just driving it but the thought of it becoming one of their real neighbors sparked a whole new set of concerns and people with petitions showing up at Assembly meetings.  Assembly member Salmon who had passed off  the multi-family ordinance that currently is on the books off to the planning commission hoping to kicking it all to the curb, felt the heat on his collar and settled for a re-write still making its way through the process offered up by fellow Assembly member Halter.  

Hey people in nice neighborhoods....your not out of the woods yet on this one. We know you haven't had much experience at what goes on at assembly meetings but be forewarned things can go badly very quickly when the boys at the horseshoe get together to pass legislation.  Just ask the people of the Butte who are stuck with "Motorized" master plan in the works when they thought they could preserve at least some part of that area from a cloud of exhaust.  

The other good news is a very ugly longggggggggggg election is over and even though we can see the engines warming up for the next one in the fall there is a small respite. Keeping in mind that if one thing re-elected assembly members (including Mr. Arvin who is setting a whole new standard for "calling it in" and has continued to do so since the election) its not actually what is true that matters, it's what you can convince the right amount of people that vote is what counts. Remember that when you go to the voters booth next time or if you are an assembly member that complains about this blog.  


Were working on warming up own engines for the first assembly meeting on January 15th but meanwhile you can get your fill by wandering over to Radio Free Palmer and listening to the Citizen Lobbyist year end wrap up. A bit more detail there.  

Trust us talking about 2012 was painful enough but writing about it here was like hot pokers to the eyes. And while you are at the Radio Free Palmer site peel off a few green backs for a end of the year donation and don't forget to put them at the top of your "Pick, Click and Give" list when you doing all that hard work filling out your PDF form for that free state money.  We know you will...

Let's hope for a better New Year with more people paying attention and that moderation with triumph over extremism.  And yes we do know that is kinda like teaching a mule to tap dance..  



  

Sunday, November 11, 2012

OFF THE ISLAND....



The borough assembly met last week and voted some important stuff off the island again.

One of them was a chance to establish a tall towers ordinance. But it was quickly set adrift. The usual suspects of the assembly gave it a shove remaining steadfast in refusing to let local government be in the business of protecting people that live in the valley. Clearly, the roar of the public about the absence of ANY tall tower ordinance in previous meetings is long forgotten. 

This compromise ordinance wasn't even allowed to be introduced for a vote at the next meeting. 

Was the mute button "on" when resident after resident testified outraged pleading for protection when without notice sky high transmitters started appearing all over the valley next door to them or in some cases robbing homeowner's pristine views which assuredly will devalue their investment? Did all the emails assembly members reportedly received insisting immediate intervention get caught in the assembly spam filter? 

Can't have anything to do with the election being over. Can it?

Unlikely you will actually see District 3 Assemblyman Arvin back from his perch in China to thank him in person but maybe you will see assembly members Colligan,Woods and Salmon who voted with him to send the tall tower ordinance to the killing fields. They tried to gloss it over by pledging their faith in the ceremonials mayors still waiting to be  appointed new committee of five to do the work that other stakeholders and professionals took years to go through. That's the way a dictatorship works right?

To keep the tall towers ordinance company in the discard heap was a resolution that would establish a policy and minimum for an emergency response reserve fund for the borough which is currently sitting on EMPTY after the budget setting raid and fall flood. Turns out there is no appetite for the self professed "Conservative" members of this assembly for saving funds for an emergency. Who could imagine that the borough could have a disaster that might require emergency funding huh? Can you really trust the science that says we live in a earthquake zone? Besides there is never enough wind to blow roofs off public buildings.  No rain that swallows houses and roads right?

Can you blame this assembly for voting down common sense legislation while they are busy, busy draining what's left of reserve coffers of local government or micro-managing staff? After all isn't time better spent instructing the teflon manager to write monthly $60,000 plus denial checks for a borough owned ferry or for even a bigger check for right of way the borough doesn't need but does fatten the checkbook of the largest private land owner in the borough? If you do. Just go tell Alice and her 10 foot tall rabbit.

But you know what there is plenty of time for?  JESUS.

The first 20 minutes of the borough assembly meeting was filled with a invocation from the mayor's own church pastor. That checked off the agenda the ceremonial mayor then read a rambling proclamation of recognition delivered to another fellow church member for his work since he moved to Alaska way back in 2006.  He even allowed the gentleman to deliver his own personal story about salvation that we are guessing was to remind all the heathens in the audience what they were missing.

The ceremonial mayor will also make time to take up an ordinance to do away with "PERSONS TO BE HEARD" at the next regular meeting. We are guessing that won't include people the mayor wants YOU to hear. 

If that wasn't enough fun before any real business of the people was taken up the ceremonial mayor announced his appointment of Assembly member Arvin as deputy mayor. With a perfect attendance record of only teleconferencing
his participation so far this term from his home away from home in China, Arvin was glad to accept the title and extra taxpayer paid salary that comes with it. A question asking if it was even legal to appoint a consistently physically absent deputy mayor or and if it was Mr. Arvin's intent to spend his entire term of 3 years participating via teleconferencing were scoffed at. After all didn't voters of District  3 know what they were getting when they re-elected him last month? Clearly back up deputy Salmon manages to get to nearly all meetings and will handle the gavel since there hasn't been a way found to do that over the phone. Yet. Silly public. Look at all the money that is being saved. Why it doesn't appear that the borough has even had to spend the money to print a  name plate to place in front of Arvin's empty chair at the assembly table.

Next up for your assembly a planning session November 17th. We are guessing the ego's of some of the members of this group have gotten so big they have found the need to have the meeting at the Menard Center in Wasilla. It starts at noon and although the public is allowed to watch they aren't invited for lunch.  

Oh and the ceremonial mayor won't be there.  He let everyone know he is butchering a cow that day.  

After we're sure he has baptized and blessed it of course. Can a resolution of recognition be far behind?





Monday, November 5, 2012

VOTE OR FOREVER HOLD YOUR PEACE...




You better check your pulse if you don't know there is an election TOMORROW! 

Seems people can't agree on much these days but we should agree life can be uncertain. If you don't believe us ask 20 million people on the east coast about an unwelcome visitor by the name of "Sandy" that came calling and has put voting probably pretty near the bottom of their list.  You can find out the details where and how here. There is also information at the link on where your polling place is which after the hairball of redistricting can be confusing. You should always be able to cast a question ballot at any polling place if things get desperate! 

VOTERS SHOULD HEED THIS OCTOBER SURPRISE

Turns out the valley is no stranger to a little October election season surprise. A well written article and editorial in the Friday's edition of the Frontiersman concerning a candidate running for office in a new Wasilla house district has raised more than a few eyebrows and again should make us ask about the ethics and character of candidates that are bidding to represent us. This one concerns a big bunch of public money from the borough taxpayer that ended up in private hands one of which is a candidate Gattis. Her challenger Merrifield asked during a candidate forum about this and was told more details would be released AFTER the election.  Say what? Actions should speak to us about just whose interest elected officials would be acting for once they are in office. Because remember once they are elected it takes more than a crowbar and sometimes a new wardrobe of vertical stripes to get them out. Worth a read for sure before you vote especially if you are from the greater Wasilla area. 


WE CAN'T HEAR YOU!!!


Another reminder that Tuesday is also the night for the borough assembly to meet. Our email has been busy with folks weighing in on the ceremonial mayor's introduction of legislation to eliminate the part of the agenda for PERSONS TO BE HEARD.  The reaction has been what you might expect by civilized informed people.  But here is one we can print from a reader that pretty much hit the nail on the head:

"How is it that the Assembly can justify new Assembly chambers when they are taking the “public” out of public view, public testimony and public opportunity? Shouldn't they need less room for Assembly meetings since that pesky public is being be shut out? Without the public there to comment or oversee,  Assembly meetings could be held in a large walk-in closet thereby saving taxpayers lots of money. Oh wait…they already operate in a closet. Quick…somebody turn on the lights and watch them scamper like cockroaches"
There is still time to speak out on this and other subjects in the packet by showing up or emailing members of the assembly.  Saying nothing about this and other issues seems to give some members of the assembly the false impression that we all just agree with their actions. And you thought Halloween was over. Scary but true...   

FINALLY OUR OWN VALLEY EDITION!

Another source (besides the blog of course) of good current local information launched Friday on Radio Free Palmer.  The "Valley Edition" is a panel discussion of Valley news and events much like "Alaska Edition" on KSKA. The program will be broadcast on 89.5FM Friday's at 5pm and repeats every Monday at 8:30am. The panel this week was Frontiersman publisher Mark Kelsey, independent journalist Zaz Hollander, and the Citizen Lobbyist. Mike Chmielewski  moderated. There will be other guest journalists from time to time. The recording of Friday's show can be found on the RF website. While you are there check out "Another vote done gone" by a couple of local Palmerites that is true fun. 

There are your walking orders for the next couple of days. Important stuff.  Not paying attention will only get you more of the same frustration.  

This time we wont be telling you how we're voting.  After all that is what that cute little curtain in the voting booth is for right? 




Thursday, November 1, 2012

HANDS OVER YOUR EYES BAD....




Remember our harping about elections having consequences? Nothing drives this point home harder than a re-elected assemblyman "phoning in" his oath of office.  Apparently the mayor of Anchorage set the bar for swearing in from afar but at least he was on Skype so voters could all SEE him dressed in his aloha shirt taking the oath. All valley voters got was the same disembodied voice from China as Assembly member Arvin back in his pre-election perch in China reportedly raised an invisible hand.  That worked out well.  At least for him.  For District 3 voters well not so much.  They face another three years not having their elected voice in the same time zone let alone in person to hear their concerns. 

POUCHES AREN'T JUST FOR KANGAROOS..

The packet for the Nov 6th (yes the night of the election)  is finally out. It should be no shock to see one of the items scheduled for introduction comes from the hand of the ceremonial mayor. Not wasting any time, he will be introducing legislation to gerrymander the agenda once again. This time he is taking a knife to the part that concerns PERSONS TO BE HEARD. That pesky public again! His reasoning is "low usage of this agenda item". Not used it seems means not needed. Clearly in the mayor's parallel dictator universe people being heard and people that aren't in lock step with he and his majority held brethren are a big bother. Should be no surprise to those that have followed the gavel in the hand of this carrot farmer. But it should make us wonder if AUDIENCE PARTICIPATION will be an amendment also eliminated during the meeting. That would be perfect for completion of this assembly that is increasingly operating as a Kangaroo Court. 


BOW YOUR HEADS....

While we are on the subject of the agenda it should be noted that starting the meeting with a prayer is back on the roster. No added shocker that it is the pastor of the ceremonial mayors home church that will be delivering it. Not sure if that will be a added feature taking the place of the time normally allotted for that pesky persons to be heard or not. But if so does it mean that the mayor will be rotating different religious affiliations other than his own to give the invocation? We know some really nice Baptist, Catholic, Jewish, Russian Orthodox, Protestant, Lutheran, Buddhists, Hindu, Muslim. Sikh, Wicca and other religious affiliations that would like a turn. Seems only fair to us.


THE INVISIBLE CEREMONIAL DEPUTY...

Oh and for good measure the ceremonial mayor will be re-appointing the invisible assembly member Arvin as deputy mayor again, begging the question if he will be appointing another back up to the back up like he did last year since Mr. Arvin wasn't there physically to run the meeting?  Or will they just amend that part of borough code to allow a voice from afar to hold the invisible gavel or some other steaming cup of nonsense.  


MORE GAS,VIEW SHED-MOO SHED, LOCKIN SOME FUNDS IN PIGGY...

There is all other kinds of fun on the slate but most of it is being introduced to be taken up the following meeting. There are a couple of pages of the 674 page packet requesting approval for limited gas improvement districts.  So many you would think the borough is laying it's own natural gas line.


The tall tower ordinance that has been successfully defeated at every turn by  the ceremonial mayor and assembly opting for a NO ORDINANCE approach concerning towers but it will be back for discussion. The mayor was successful in creating his own self appointed five person board that is in the works and you can pretty much count on that resulting in one or two suggestions that give the whole topic lip service. 


There is legislation to beef up the reserve for the emergency response fund after the the assembly has whittled it down to chump change during the last budget dance. Coming on the heals of the borough's own flood and in view of the damage "Sandy" has caused it would only seem prudent to have some extra money in the till for what is becoming increasingly likely emergencies down the road.  But for a group that doesn't believe in climate change or planning for future generations it has a good chance to slide off the table in the un-recycled trash like most plans for the future.    


IN THE END ITS ABOUT THE VOTE...YOUR VOTE!

Seems that voters (particularly those that don't inform themselves or don't vote) are their own worst enemies. At least that is what we thought until a string of articles have hit. Vote rigging is something that many folks in the valley have been concerned about for a long time. One lazy mountain resident sent along this link with the following commentary:
"A thoroughly chilling historical view of vote rigging.  Ms. Collier indicts the media as well as the politicians on this issue.  Those who question the authenticity of the system get smeared with ‘conspiracy theorist’.  Funny, it’s just fine if we’re sitting in history class or watching a PBS documentary on Huey Long or Boss Tweed’s vote rigging, but, to talk about the possibility of it occurring in our time is considered unthinkable.  You’re wearing too much tinfoil on your head.  You’re a nut-ball   After the mess in the Anchorage election, the national 2000 and 2004 presidential debacle, you’d think we’d have a decent soul-searching on the issue.  It is notable that the Irish have just tossed the computerized voting system in the trash bin and gone back to a completely transparent, publicly verifiable method…paper and pencil.
A public discussion of vote-rigging with computers should not stop the voter from participating.  It should make us all more vigilant.  The mainstream media should bring the discussion into the light and forget about being smeared as conspiracy nuts.   If computers can be used successfully in bank fraud, white collar crimes, etc., they can be used to sway an election.  And the scientists at U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory have determined that any junior high kid could do it without actually needed sophisticated hacking methods…just 26 bucks and some hardware.  Their team leader called it a national security issue and, apparently, no one is listening.  Will you?"


So now we are facing another nationwide/statewide election on November 6th.  We are suspicious of the new slipped in method of voting via the internet the Lt. Governor has introduced with little fan fair.  We like knowing the information on who we vote for is our own. After all isn't that is why they have those little curtains on the voting booth? You can cast your vote now or wait and test fate that something will come up to give you an excuse not to.

We do know that the noise in the room is making our ears bleed listening to those that race to mislead the public as they are chased down by those that think truth in politics and policy should still rule the day. Truth in advertising just doesn't exist in politics and it seems to be getting weaker by the day in business even though there still does exist a federal law. As an advertiser, violating federal laws regarding truth in advertising carries stiff penalties.  The law says that as a consumer you should have recourse if your a victim of a violation. Not so much in politics especially after elected. 

As a voter you do have recourse. But it means doing your own homework and not leaving your fate in the hands of soundbites. We need to consider the personal motivation of those that would try to persuade us to vote one way or the other. Voting against our better interest because our boss, clergy or someone else suggests it will rarely serve us well. We must know the issues, profiles, voting history or dogma of those seeking our vote.  Letting peer pressure or fear rule the day instead of hope keeps us tethered to the post forever. 


This election season has inflicted pain beyond what we have discovered. It has left us feeling like we have been rolled in acid and trapped in a bottle of hospital ether that has kept us in a fog of finger pointing but for the most part it will be over next week.  We hope. Nationally if the outcome goes the way it certainly looks it will go you will be able to count on four more years of talk about federal over-reach, bogie men breaking into our house to take all the guns in the middle of the night and how better off we all would have been if we would have just elected that white guy who believes in free markets or free for all markets. 


Alaska doesn't have a big clout nationally in electoral votes but we do in our local vote. That right wasn't exercised very well locally in October. 
With what is on the agenda of this upcoming assembly meeting you can see the outcome of that October election in the rear-view mirror and it is here to haunt us. The hollow talk of transparency and listening to everyone's viewpoint is just as dead as the leaves on the trees. Don't expect the register of the borough check book online or the public to be invited as a welcome participant in the process. 

Tuesday it will be time to put on your hat and coat and see what your tax dollars are being spent on by attending the borough assembly meeting. If you can't make it tune in to Radio Free Palmer who will do you a favor and spare you the hard chair by streaming it live or downloading the podcast later. 

Let's be clear though, if we are forced to go through the gates of hell by this assembly it better be on pay for view.  

Oy vey...
  










Sunday, October 14, 2012

NOT VOTIN? HOPE THAT WORKS OUT FOR YOU..




After the next person complains to you about some borough injustice or that pesky property tax bill, ask them if they voted.  Then go check the list of voters that voted in our local election (which is public information that we are considering posting) and see if they did. Odds favor they DIDN'T   


It appears we would have to look back to somewhere around 1997 to find as dismal a voter turnout as we did here a couple weeks ago in our borough wide election. That will mean loosely that 4 out of 5 people didn't bother to show up to vote on “how” or “who” is guiding the spending being done in the MatSu Borough with their hard earned tax dollars. Just giving the assembly that was seated the go ahead to get all their direction from the Magic 8 ball they clearly have been using. 


We need to remember this when the inevitable bloviating will come from the re-elected ceremonial mayor and assembly members about voter mandates and confidence in what they are doing. Because this pitiful percentage of voters gave the keys to the government car to the crash test dummies once again.

Be sure and think about this dismal turnout when the next $60-$80,000 borough check is authorized to be written for a borough owned ferry floatin in southeast Alaskan waters, the snow is piling up on your road, the ambulance you need is up on jacks waiting for a part for repair because your local emergency service area is out of money and you get another answering machine at code compliance.

Here is some more of what this voter turn should tell you:

   Outsourcing your own job to China and phoning in participation as an elected assembly member is a completely acceptable form of representation in the borough.

   Cutting off public testimony on a stance you don't agree with can be par for the course if you’re the ceremonial mayor. In fact public comment at all is a pesky inconvenience.


   Letting a special interest business group ( like the Matsu Business Alliance) write or rewrite local code and  legislation is what you agree is good public policy.  

   Your elected officials watering down the ethics code so that "personal gain" is a laughable condition of serving the public was a stroke of genius.


   If you go to certain churches in the borough you don't need to pay attention to what is happening around you because your pastor will tell you how to vote and even give you a copy of the church's voter pamphlet, written on property tax exempt paper or provide you with a bus to get to the polls.

   If you don't have a tall tower, motorized trail, mineral extraction project or your water table hasn't been compromised by the development next door, waiting to care until you do have one of these situations is sufficient. 

   Claiming a candidate is anti-development or lying about their positions or record is what you always believe without checking the facts because talk radio is so reliably true.

   Right to life organizations, the Lt. Governor, and sitting state senators can fill your message machines and interrupt your dinner hour to tell who to vote for with their outside of Alaska recorded robo calls.

   Big signs and big business donors will decide who your "citizen government" will be to serve them and not you. 

Enough for you?  Well apparently it is because the same assembly that we have been telling you about and has been sending you out of the room with your hair on fire will be in the same seats (or on the telephone calling it in) serving only those that paid dearly to put them there. It will be another year of shame for the residents of the borough which should already have died of shame.

This Tuesday/Oct 17th @5pm a band of elected by the minority officials will be sworn into office to continue to not serve your best interest.  That will be followed with session of kicking another 1100 page plus packet that only one maybe two of them has read around for several hours and making decisions that will affect not only your bottom line but the quality of life for all of us not just today but for years to come. 

So strap on your tinfoil hats folks and keep your arms and legs in the vessel at all times. With the election in the rear-view mirror we will continue on our trip through crazy town and earning that “Mad Zoo”, “Valley Trash” and “Land of the Rule-less” moniker. For now all you can do is scratch your head and ask why people in a country that claim to care so much about the right to vote just DON’T.



 
















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Tuesday, October 2, 2012

JUST VOTE TODAY...




"Nobody will ever deprive the American people of their right to vote but themselves and the only way they could do this is by not voting"  

Well said Franklin D Roosevelt. Well said..


  • If you have already cast a ballot in the borough wide election today by voting early or by absentee vote...GREAT! 
  • If you are planning on voting before the polls close at 8pm tonight either on your way home from work or from your afternoon errands...GREAT!  Make sure you do. 
  • If you are for some god forsaken reason not going to vote or leave it to fate by not paying attention..well quit complaining and wasting our time RIGHT NOW! BIG FAT SHAME ON YOU! 


Here we will make it easy..once again our recommendation for your vote to put the valley on a better road for all of us.


  • Borough Mayor-MARK MASTELLER
  • Assembly District 3-MICHELLE CHURCH
  • School Board-DEBBY RETHERFORD. SARAH WELTON
  • Borough Ballot Prop 2-NO


City of Palmer Voters-Prop 3- YES!!!

You can read about other city races and the reason for the above endorsements on the last post. 

One more time..VOTE TODAY!!!  It's been said here before and we will say it again.  Elections have consequences. We have outlined them pretty well in this blog. In many peoples opinion borough residents have been suffering from those consequences since the last election. TODAY is the day to make a big step forward to correct that!

Just do it...





 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ROCK THE BOROUGH VOTE!






We just can't put it better than this fellow blogger...

"Every year in Happy Gumdrop Fairy-Tale Land all of the sprites and elves and woodland creatures gather together to pick the Rainbow Sunshine Queen. Everyone is there: the Lollipop Guild, the Star-Twinkle Toddlers, the Sparkly Unicorns, the Cookie Baking Apple-cheeked Grandmothers, the Fluffy Bunny Bund, the Rumbly-Tumbly Pupperoos, the Snowflake Princesses, the Baby Duckies All-In-A-Row, the Laughing Babies, and the Dykes on Bikes. They have a big picnic with cupcakes and gumdrops and pudding pops, stopping only to cast their votes by throwing Magic Wishing Rocks into the Well of Laughter, Comity, and Good Intentions. Afterward they spend the rest of the night dancing and singing and waving glow sticks until dawn when they tumble sleepy-eyed into beds made of the purest and whitest goose down where they dream of angels and clouds of spun sugar".



You dont live there, you live right here in the valley!

It’s time to lift the rock off and get out and vote in the borough wide election THIS Tuesday, October 2nd.  It's well documented in the 50 plus previous posts right here on the blog why. We've spent months taking you down the troubled trail. 

Let's cut to the chase and give you our suggestions for making your vote count by casting your ballot for candidates that will work for YOU if elected and not the extremist far right fractions that think calling all the shots in the valley has become their entitlement.

BOROUGH MAYOR:  MARK MASTELLER


We just can't give you any better reason than this from astute reader and Lazy Mountain resident and small business owner Brooke Heppenstall:

“I’ve known Larry DeVilbiss for many years - back in the 1980’s when we were on our local community council together and in the ensuing years when our community split apart over the Clark-Wolverine Rd. upgrade.  I’ve learned  firsthand what some folks think is acceptable behavior in the local political arena.  Pandering to emotion and ignoring factual and verifiable information is not a sound basis for decision making.  Our current mayor uses these techniques he’s learned well over the years.  If the assembly chambers are packed with citizens who overwhelmingly favor a position, yet, the mayor subtly makes it appear as though there is balance in the room over an issue, that is NOT a factual representation of citizen interest http://www.masteller4mayor.com/2012/09/24/a-fair-and-respectful-process/ .  Mayor DeVilbiss would prefer to be a different kind of mayor than the position warrants…something other than a mere referee with a gavel and veto power.  Yet, that is enough power to control the direction of the borough’s future. 
-        We have no enforceable ethics code for the borough’s elected officials.
-        Being ‘open for business’ as the main credo without proper ethical boundaries and rule of law is not a good way to run our borough.
-        The Borough is a major user of MEA’s utility services.  Our mayor does not see a conflict of interest with his borough office and his position as a board member of the local electric utility MEA.
It all boils down to behavior doesn’t it?  What is ethical and appropriate for good governance?  A wide open approach assumes all players have good scruples and will play fair.  This is a foolish position to take as we’ve all been taken in at least once in life and know better.  Grandma said ‘Rules are for fools.’  Yes, because there’s always some fool that is selfish and unscrupulous and will take us for a ride.  Some fool will pollute the neighborhood’s wells, build a substandard road that washes out or falls apart, slips a piece of the action to a foolish assembly member, and so on.  We don’t have a good set of rules in our borough and the current assembly and mayor like it that way.
Property taxes!  Yes, that’s a hot button that will get folks going in a heartbeat.   Last year many of us were shocked to receive our appraisals and see an increase of 60 to 90 percent!  Even those of us who are not ‘anti-tax’ had palpitations.  The borough’s assessor’s explanation was that they hadn’t done an assessment in over four years on these areas.  I asked why not and it turned out to be a manpower issue.  Larry smiled at me and asked “Do you think we should spend more tax money to hire more people, Brooke?” 
When we starve department budgets so that they cannot do a competent job we are only shooting ourselves in the foot.  It is more cost-efficient to do a job right the first time than to spend more tax dollars in assembly hearings, filing appeals and having more hearings, calling on borough employees to be at hearings, and so on down the line.  We run our borough on part time employees who have little solid history with the management of our community.  Good people, but, an inefficient way to manage our community.  And, it’s hard on our property taxes!
-        Current emergency funds are currently so low they would be wiped out by an emergency.  Like flooding.  Larry didn’t veto the cuts to those funds when he had the chance.  There’s a reason for that levee on the Old Glenn Hwy….
-    Cell phone towers without public hearings?
“ Actually, communications companies and interested citizens spent over two years working out a plan for expansion of the cell network, that would allow for community input and notification to nearby landowners. It was remarkable that the companies came together to share information in this competitive industry. The Assembly did not pass the proposal developed by the working group, and at the same time eliminated the existing requirements for notification.
The current Mayor has publicly stated that he “…could not veto a proposal that didn’t pass.” This is not true. The new plan for cell tower expansion, that allowed the public to comment, also repealed the existing rules that required notification to a community. So the action to repeal the existing regulations could have been vetoed and the Assembly members would have been forced to more carefully consider a matter of public importance. “  http://www.masteller4mayor.com/2012/09/27/faq/
You get the picture.   Larry’s a nice guy with a different view of how we should run our community.  He’s spent decades involved in our local politics.  Our community needs a breath of fresh air and a change of direction now.  Mark Masteller wants to see the public’s checkbook online, our borough’s spending made transparent, our ethics code adopted, and a more inclusive community voice in our assembly chambers.  A former Gateway Community Council president, chairman of the Borough Planning Commission, volunteer and founding member at the Community Recycling Center, hockey nut and player, wildlife biologist, and currently an energy efficiency consultant in the building trades, Mark’s broad professional background hits on so many key areas that are important to this community and its future.  He’s non-partisan, a listener, and takes a thoughtful, fact-based approach to decision making.  It’s time for a change and I hope you will join me on Tuesday to vote for our new Mayor Mark Masteller!  http://www.masteller4mayor.com


We've been shockingly entertained by some of the jaw dropping statements (ie: ceremonial mayor cough followed by “I must have coal dust in my throat”) of the carrot mayor but its way past time to take away his gavel and head seat at the table.  This budding valley is ready for a grown up mayor that doesn't suffer from a Napoleon complex.  We need a steady hand at the helm that doesn't freely admit he likes to spend his time discussing things with his cows instead of his constituents. We need a borough mayor that brings ideas and people together instead of cutting off public testimony, gerrymandering agendas, and calling for an all out assault on FSA’s,RSA's and Community Councils.  That should cover it.  VOTE MASTELLER MAYOR! .  Mark our words you will be glad you did.



 BOROUGH ASSEMBLY..Say AMEN to sanity and gender balance:


Of the three assembly seats on the ballot it’s a disappointment to see that only one incumbent member has an opponent.  Just because there is no opposition for two of the three seats we are hoping that voters and incumbents aren't lulled into thinking it is because their representation of their districts is just peachy.

While we have no particular bones to pick with District 7's Vern Halter who’s record shows he represents his constituents pretty well its disappointing that no one is getting their feet wet as a candidate, if for nothing more than for name recognition.  We do hope this being Halter's last term it will allow him the freedom to put away the waffle iron on matters and be a little more bold in his decisions.  As for District 6, Jim Colver's lack of opponent speaks way less about the satisfaction of his constituents but more of his true talents in building empires ("as long as he gets me mine" mentality) and being a professional politician with too many years jumping from one elected body to the next feeding just enough voter blocks to not give rise to a challenger. His lack of respect for the public process (stay tuned for an upcoming post on the latest on that) and deadly tango with ethics is bound to catch this roadrunner politician but not this election. Even though voters have seemingly ignored he spent the first half of his term in Juneau trying to raise his star there and “calling it in”. We do hope they list somewhere results of the write in candidates names because we hear there is a huge surge of “anyone but Colver” ballots planning to be cast.  


That leaves one very important assembly seat.  The reasons to toss out the incumbent and to vote for MICHELLE CHURCH for assembly district 3 could not be clearer.
 
The MatSu Business Alliance debate, a bad afternoon staged performance moderated by right wing has been extremist talking head Dan Fagan, there was an empty chair as a prop. Mr. Arvin,sat next to the ironically empty chair.  Much like the empty Arvin Assembly chair most of his last term. Thats right NOT THERE.  He was too busy tending to his own job in CHINA to care about creating more jobs in the valley for his own constituents.  But thats just part of the problem. What Mr. Arvin was available to do via his perch in China was:
·       Vote to reduce by $1,188,752 in borough reserves for major repairs and renovations.
·       Vote to reduce by $250,000 in borough reserves for Capital Projects.
·       Vote to reduce by $250,000 in borough reserves for emergency response.  
·       Vote to reduced the tax burden to big business while directing cost of development to small property owners
·       Vote to watering down the meaning of “personal interest” in the borough ethics code” allowing for personal activities of assembly members to proceed unimpeded while they “serve” the people.
·       Vote to refused to allow for health impact studies to protect the people of the borough from the effects of resource extracting.
·       Vote to eliminate the ordinance for tall towers in the borough
·       Delayed action on legislation to solve the ferry issue in fact make it worse.
·       Sponsored legislation to include “motorized” in the Jim Creek Management Plan an area not even in his district.

All while owning an environmental company but relentlessly wails against environmental organizations of any kind. You get the picture.  Mr. Arvin’s long arms from China only speak for his own interests or himself. If you would like to see who some of them are here is a link to his latest APOC filing. Many of the same players in the ceremonial mayors APOC report

Bottom line voters need to take this opportunity to return MICHELLE CHURCH to the assembly.  Church’s no nonsense, no personal gain, no good ol’boy approach will serve her district and the borough well. She will hit the ground running on the issues. Even the members of the borough public workers union that work with members of the assembly closer than any of us would like to have endorsed Church.  They should know. 

 


SCHOOL BOARD SEATS-Its not all fun and games and an apple for the teacher 

The school board is serious business. Our vote goes to DEBBY RETHERFORD AND SARAH WELTON who both clearly care about kids, parents, community and public education. They are both reasonable and inclusive. All school board candidates have filed exempt (not spending more than $5,000 on campaigning) but two of their opponents Fussell and Kopp have let the far right extremist groups mainly the tea party Conservative Patriots do their advertising for them.  Which screams loudly about their views. The CPG is no friend of UNIONS or PUBLIC education. We find them and some or all of the candidates that they pander for neither conservative nor patriots. If the people of the valley want a good education system they need a good, well balanced and reasonable school board.  VOTE RETHERFORD and WELTON.

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATES..try being a fan of the write in candidate..


City of Palmer: 2 Council Seats-
3 candidates with top the two top vote winners the victors. No candidates are actively campaigning unless you consider a letter to the editor in today’s frontiersman from Richard Best putting on his tea party hat to oppose Palmer becoming the first smoke free community. Mr. Best’s adversarial manner towards the mayor and issues not of his ideology is tiresome and un-productive and passive aggressive something we find unseemly in elected officials. We have no information on challenger Elden Tritch who might be a swell guy but voters don’t seem to know if that’s the case. Our vote does go to KEN ERBEY an incumbent with a steady hand and respectful manner and maybe this will be the year the “write in candidate” surprises us all.  Or maybe it’s time Palmer considers a charter change for term limits for council members.  We tire of seeing the same names time and time again.


City of Wasilla:3 Council Seats-
Seat A-TAFFINA KATKUS is an independent thinker and her quirky ways entertaining and  community interests at heart. Her latest suggestion of a trade of the borough ferry to the state of Wisconsin (no not for cheese we asked) is defiantly out of the box but hey we haven’t heard anything better from this assembly.
Seat B-We urge a write in vote for JOHN LUBERGER- Reportedly he regularly attends city council meetings and preformed well when he was once appointed to fill in for the job.
Seat C-We urge a write in for PAT JOHNSON who narrowly lost a run for assembly and is thoughtful and well respected by the people of Wasilla opposed to the incumbent who by all reports is lacking of knowledge of city code and has a disdain for planning and public process.

City of Houston-Two Council Seats up for grab. With no reader feedback to rely on we will let the fine people of Houston figure this one out.  We will say since a female mayor was elected it sure seems the City of Houston has stayed on the rails and the “they did what?” newspaper headlines fewer.  For us another shameless shout out for gender balance in government!



PROPOSITIONS MATTER TOO…


Not a lot for you to figure out here. 

Borough Ballots-
Proposition 1-Proposed increase in the mill levy for Willow Fire Service Area residents-to us this proposition is poorly worded and confusing. There are many needs for an increased emergency presence no doubt. We are hoping the folks attending the Willow Area Community Organization scheduled for Monday Oct 1st at 7pm will give some guidance.

Proposition 2-
Is a question to voters if borough should provide an additional $20,000 tax exemption on real property value for seniors and SOME veterans. While we support any equitable, well thought out property tax containment this is neither. Seniors (over 65 years) and eligible veterans already are protected by not paying property tax in the borough on the first $150.000 of residential property. This law courtesy of the state who conveniently fails to reimburse local governments for the discount. This proposition is a pared down piece of failed legislation originally brought forward by the ceremonial mayor.  The majority held members of this assembly in their zealot behavior of being “open for business” have reduced revenues left and right without addressing how to absorb the hits or what the exact impact or cost of implementation will be. We fear this one will be felt by passing the impact to other landowners without holistically looking at the property tax issue.  Our vote is NO on Prop 2 in hopes of a better more responsible plan will come forth.

City of Palmer-

Prop 1-Clean up language in the city charter regarding magistrate court the city no longer has.
Prop 2-Clean up language in the city charter regarding mandates of a time-frame in which a person can file a notice for damages resulting from an injury.

We like cleaning up the City Charter that hardly anyone reads but needs to be kept current. The Palmer City Clerk does her homework.  We urge a YES vote on both.

Prop 3-Prohibits smoking in public and places of employment. There is no disputing the clear scientific dangers of second hand smoke and simply passing this proposition will make the City of Palmer the first Smoke Free Community in the valley.  Quite a jewel in the crown of an already forward thinking, family friendly, community orientated place to live and visit. There are the normal howlers of “rights” but the voter initiative ground roots Smoke Free Palmer campaign has done a good job getting information out to voters.  There is wide ranging support by both smokers and non smokers for this proposition to pass. Personally we can’t wait to go to the Palmer Bar for one of the best burgers around and not have to think about running through a fire hose afterwards.
An enthusiastic VOTE YES on PROP 3!


Phew…so that’s what you have to look forward to on your ballot WHEN YOU GET OUT TO VOTE THIS TUESDAY OCT 2nd.  If there is any question about where you vote and admittedly there have been some changes you can go check with the state or for at the borough website for more information.  And you don’t have to wait until Tuesday.  You can vote early Monday at the borough, cities, or state and public libraries in Talkeetna and Trapper Creek. Again info on the borough website.



Not voting is full of painful expensive lessons and many of them fully realized by past low voter turn out in local elections where arguably you can make the most difference. We think the candidates we have endorsed here are the best chance for a balanced and sane change for communities and really believe not only in people over politics but will walk the talk of transparency in government and guard your right to a public process.  They believe all people-not just some people should have a voice.

If you’re planning on being part of the group that complains but doesn't do something to effect positive change like voting be aware that your participation in the voting process is public record and we’ll be watching.  Make the system work for you instead of complaining about it. If you don’t want to be a candidate we respect that but respect the work that thoughtful candidates have done and don’t let the ones that think blowing into town a month before to glad-hand, get their big name political hacks to do robo calls, or have big signs littering the roadways for months have their way with the future of the place you live and pay taxes. When you don’t vote things CAN and will get worse. To be effective we have to change who is driving the elected official car and making decisions.  Time to get it out of the ditch and on the road to recovery. 

In short suck it up and GO VOTE TUESDAY!