Email Address

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

YOU JUST CAN’T MAKE THIS STUFF UP, UNLESS…



Seems like last week the swinging door of public meetings hardly stayed shut. There was a Joint Assembly School Board Meeting, the Special City of Palmer Meeting, Regular School Board Meeting and the not so regular Assembly Meeting. Phew! No time to take an antacid for good digestion let alone post it here.

We’ll say it again, who needs reality TV really?

March 20th Regular Assembly Meeting or frosting on the public cake.


There are so many subjects that were bounced around the room at the last assembly meeting that need pages of airing it’s really hard to choose where to start. Your borough assembly gave some things a big bow, a kick down the road or in some cases just pushed them off the cliff. But let's give a couple of passes out of the gate. 

First pass goes to the City of Palmer that although committed to having a voice at all assembly meetings wasn’t present when it was their turn to speak.  The city had some heavy lifting in their work session scheduled at the same time. Poor timing. So, City of Palmer here's your pass.  Work on your schedule. 

The other pass goes to the Assemblyman that was texting during the last assembly meeting after railing earlier in the year that we don’t need no stinkin rules against cell phones at the table.  We find this in particularly bad form during assembly discussion commencing at the table, not to mention in an election year dude. Mr. Assemblyman your pass comes with a big ole piece of advice.  Clean up your act.


New Shiny Board Report

There was a report from the Wastewater and Septage Advisory Board.  Yep we have one.  The newly appointed board is in what we like to call the “honeymoon period” all boards go through, but with a topic like this it could get interesting. Nothing sexy talking about where the sewage that leaves the valley goes, but suffice it to say, those big tanker trucks that head to Anchortown with, (fill in the name) “Septic Pumping” signs on the trucks aren’t full of fresh fluffy ice cream.


What good is history?

We have to hand it to the ex-assembly member that unfailingly has come to recent meetings to rally support from his friends on the assembly to kill the Willow Area Historic Preservation Plan that made it back on the agenda as unfinished business.  By gum, he owns a big chunk of land in the heart of Willow and he wants to make sure the cowboys in the corral pull the reins back with any Historical Plan, at least until the rules are changed on subdividing giving him a few more options. It’s almost shameless.  Even though there is no evidence of any other community resistance to adopting the plan the kicking shoe came out again to postpone until June 5th.  Hopefully someone with an ounce of sense will wake up in the Willow area and bring some other voices to the table for support at least to give the plan a fighting chance.



 No tree lovers to be found here..

Support for Senate Bill 159 making its way through the legislature establishing a Susitna State Forrest was a piece of unfinished business that got a swan song off the cliff.  From the discussion it was pretty clear the majority that voted against it (Woods, Colver, Colligan, Salmon) really didn’t understand it or had some other more nefarious reason to vote to chainsaw it to the ground.  Even Mr. Arvin, voting in an unusual move (from his teleconferencing perch in China of course) argued that the way the state manages the area today is under rules written 20 years ago and that it would help the state and people of Alaska manage those forest uses in a better way.  Not a good enough argument for the anti-any plan type (especially one from the state) and those voting with them for the evening. File this one in your postponed indefinitely file. Doesn't mean it won’t come to be.  It may just come to be without any love from your veto proof borough assembly.


Agenda change Number ???????

The ceremonial mayor got his way as he normally does these days with changing up the way the assembly agenda works.  Carrots just aren’t enough to keep this guy busy.  For the umpteenth time the agenda will work just a little bit different from now on allowing for assembly comments before any executive session which will make it more of a challenge to ferret out any action taken unless the people want to sit around in the hugging  hall until the session is over for allowable comment when its over.  If you were keeping track how many times the ceremonial mayor has succeeded in changing the way the assembly does business you might want to turn over your score card and use the back.  Yes, it’s more times than you can count on one hand.


Teachers Pet.

The big discussion of the night nearly set the hair of the Borough Attorney on fire.  A seemingly routine action memorandum turned out to be not so, well routine.  A direct grant from the legislature in the last state budget was to award a bid of $1,360,335 for the expansion of Academy Charter School. Assemblyman Arvin with those long arms from China orchestrated an attempt that quickly turned into a push and pull of what was legally defensible in order to add "just a little bit more" to the bid for a bigger expansion. If you recall, the last assembly, with some help by a couple of current assembly members opened the cash register currently holding school site selection money. Yep, the savings for accumulated school district lapsed funds. They authorized spending $905,000 to purchase the adjacent land to the school to replace portable classrooms and add 4 new classrooms in the future just last year. Unlike the other 5 schools the bond that was passed by voters in October authorized.

Much like an infomercial from the home shopping network, Mr. Arvin, with some help from Mr. Colver pitched amending the current resolution that was described as “another bargain to the borough”, (oddly the same way that the ferry the borough now owns with nowhere to dock was portrayed) and the assembly found itself back into that must act now, with Mr. Arvin’s "hopes to put a bow on it" position. If only they could find the way to get past those pesky legal hoops. Since no lifelines were offered by the borough legal department the original resolution for $1,350,335 for the bid was passed unanimously by the assembly for now with instruction for staff to sharpen their pencils to find a legal way to add $200,000-$300,000 depending on whose math you follow.  The manager suggested that the principal of Academy was confident of finding $50,000 in the yearly operating budget of the school (charters manage their own operating budgets) to pay back the advance of funds if the borough only gave it a 6 year payment coupon book to do so. The borough attorney warned about the legalities of “loans” between public entities i.e.: charter schools, part of the public school district and not a legal entity and there is no prior precedence of a “loan” to a school or district.  The ceremonial mayor queried if perhaps a gift would work, perhaps why assemblyman Arvin had requested the bow.  The borough finance manager who found it flung to her feet, voiced concerns about the inability of the borough to award funds not yet identified.  This is a hairball of enormous proportions deserving a post all to itself with some tough questions needing to be asked along with a dialog encouraged about fair funding for charters, ALL CHARTERS, public schools in general and eliminating disparity as a part of the PUBLIC SCHOOL SYSTEM. 


Hold on to the boat rail and watch your step

There were several starts and stops to the debate and calls for the question in an overall hurkey jerkey at the last assembly meeting.  It left your citizen lobbyist a bit sea sick.  You can get your own ride on the assembly boat next Tuesday, April 3rd when they meet again.  It’s advisable you take your Dramamine.  Headed back to the table will be the ceremonial mayor’s legislation to give communities the choice to implement for unequal voting rights by allowing non-resident landowners to vote in community council matters. Stay tuned for a big fat post headed your way on that piece of skulduggery


Sunday, March 25, 2012

SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE


at the special meeting...

The Palmer City Council special meeting last week opened with audience participation and two citizens stepped up to be heard.  The first was a not so surprising statement about the city keeping organizations and individuals informed of issues that pertain to their interests.  We hear this all the time at local, state and federal levels of government.  You know, the “we didn’t know about this until last week, or yesterday” or you can fill in the blank.  It boggles the mind that concerned citizens think it is the government’s duty to let them know when something that will affect them shows up on the council’s agenda.  Never mind the fact that Palmer has a fairly user friendly and comprehensive website with agendas, council minutes and upcoming and adopted legislation.  Agendas are also posted in the local papers and the city has a friendly, helpful clerk and staff available to give out information.  Eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty.  So the lesson here is pay attention, get informed or live in a bubble of the unknown.   Next up was a citizen with ideas for traffic calming measures and additional parking.  It was suggested that there be heaves or dips which was a bit amusing.  Isn’t that what frost in the ground does to roads?  As for parking, just allow driveways to be wider.  Hmmm… less lawn to mow?

Aren’t there always bumps in the road?
Resolution 12-019 adopting recommendations from a traffic survey report concerning traffic calming measures in the south Felton Street area and directing the city manager to develop a traffic calming plan for the council’s consideration hit a bump or should we say a hump in the road.  Much discussion ensued about the wording of the resolution and in particular the title of the resolution.  Some council members didn’t want to be limited to traffic humps but wanted more options.  In the end, the resolution was amended to ask the city manager to come back to the council with a traffic-calming plan that contained more choices and alternatives for them to consider.  Hopefully they will get over the hump the next time this comes up.

Let’s roll up our sleeves & get to work!
The council then entered into a committee of the whole, otherwise fondly known in other government circles as work session mode to take up several important and all consuming issues.  During these sessions no action can be taken until they return to the regular meeting mode.  The Mayor ran a pretty good meeting except for perhaps too many lengthy breaks.  That being said, the Mayor is to be commended for a truly open public process during the work session and allowed for any and all audience members to participate throughout the session.  This is an unheard of and a foreign concept for borough residents at assembly work sessions unless you are a business or industry.
First item of interest was a discussion about boards & commissions. Three were up for consideration, the planning commission, the aviation advisory board and the economic development board.  Right off the bat the city attorney informed the council that the planning commission is a necessary entity mandated by the state and so a done deal.  Apparently the aviation advisory board and the economic development board have vacancies and difficulty in getting quorums for meetings. 

It’s the Economy stupid
The economic development board was formed to develop a plan for Palmer and they spent 4 years drafting one that was on this meetings agenda for the council to adopt.  A board member was asked to the table to give thoughts and ideas of the future of this board.  Thoughts about the value of community forums to assist with the process and that the board could help with implementation of the plan, you know, the hard part, were shared with the council.  One council member stated that they were not in favor of the board initially but was fairly happy with the product delivered and thought the board should continue for a while longer.  Another council member advocated for disbanding the board and hiring a marketing specialist to go out into the big wide world and entice businesses to locate in Palmer.  Not a bad idea really if the goal is to attract and keep new economic development. The council decided to retain the board for now, ask the board to weigh in soon on changes proposed to the plan and consider reducing the number of members so a quorum would be met.  So, for now the Economic Development Plan is on hold to be taken up sometime in June.  Let’s hope this isn’t just another plan that becomes a shelf decoration.

Come fly with me or fly away
The aviation advisory board also has vacancies and hasn’t met for a while.  It is made up of airport users. Looks like it will continue, and there was speculation that a board is necessary for the city to be eligible for FAA grants.  This has not been confirmed yet but is being researched by the city.  Mayor Johnson stated she had members she wanted to appoint but wanted to wait until the council decided on the fate of both boards.

And now for some real fun
Oh where to begin?  How about with a list and then some very brief summarizations of all things important to Palmer residents and businesses?
  • Sidewalk & Roving (hmmm roving where?) Vendors
  • Sales Tax code clarification and adaptation (Who gets the money?)
  • Palmer Business License code (Who’s the enforcer? What are we enforcing?)
Needless to say, the above items are important, somewhat contentious and quite complicated.
The city clerk advised the council that the sidewalk vendor code should be repealed due to way too many hoops to jump through (clown license?) and only 1 vendor has accomplished this.  It seems that most vendors really like to locate at the Palmer Depot which is not city property but owned by the Alaska railroad and that adds another hoop to the process.  Questions and discussion concerning downtown merchants moving onto sidewalks in front of their shops, acquiring an encroachment permit if you locate in the right of way, how wide is your part of the sidewalk and other items complicate and create an unfriendly business environment.  Should there be special event license options?  The city manager stated he wants to see a business friendly ordinance that is easier for staff.  Simplify, simplify, simplify was his mantra.
And now for roving vendors working the Palmer downtown area.  Yes, it was confirmed there are some but is it necessary to set size standards for carts or cars or trucks or require insurance? Is auto insurance enough?  Okay, just a brief observation about size of carts etc. How about a roving vendor pulling a semi-sized tractor-trailer around town with items to sell?  Seems some thought needs to be given to this.

Who gets the money?
Sales tax revenue accounts for over half of total general fund revenues in Palmer.  Services such as City Hall, the Police & Fire Dept, the library, public works, snow removal, road maintenance, summer flowers & gardens, MTA Event center, building & code compliance dept. and the Visitor Information Center & Museum are supported and funded by the sales tax.  The current code leaves too much to interpretation and is difficult for staff to work with not to mention the issue of fairness and equitability to all parties.  So, this can of worms is now open and will be the topic of work and discussion throughout 2012 by the council in upcoming meetings along with streamlining the filing requirements for businesses when they hand over the sales tax they collect.  When will Palmer join the 21st century and have online payments for most things and for sales tax collection?  Sounds like the Finance Dept. needs to upgrade their financial software.   A council member asked staff to do some homework and bring back numbers on businesses and what categories they fall under for gross revenue before determining categories for easier filing.  And then there is the requirement to fill out paperwork each month when a business collects no revenue and did you know that if you don’t it is a $25 fine?  Whoa, better pay attention.  Council and audience discussion centered on way too many options.


Remember, you get what you pay for! 
It would be nice to have snow removed from sidewalks again, especially after experiencing a long and snowy winter.

License to operate in the only walkable city in the borough
Yes, you have to have a Palmer Business license to operate in the city.  But…do you really need to have the city determine if you have a business license from the State of Alaska, the Mat Su Borough, Wasilla or Houston?  Yes, even Houston AK requires one.    Items like State Fair vendors using another vendor’s license, is the fee too much or too little, penalties for failure to apply and should there be a biennial business license option?  The council will definitely need to work on this one for a while.

Whew!  No way to tell you everything that was discussed.  You would be dizzy with the possibilities, the ramblings and noise from everyone’s head.  It was a refreshing though long meeting.  Everyone was civil, friendly, thoughtful and respectful and had some good ideas.  Do yourself a favor and get over to Palmer’s council meetings.  Participate and get to know the council and residents that engage in their local government business.  If you don’t pay attention, you may become one of the great uninformed and miss an opportunity to weigh in on important issues.  The Sales Tax, licensing and permitting discussions will be on the docket for the next year.  So, be there, and if you don’t care you’ve got nothing to complain about.


*above submitted by citizen lobbyist correspondent..



Friday, March 23, 2012

YA' ALL HOLD HANDS NOW..



Some academy award winning fights are over the family check book.  

This week the funding checkbook was front and center for the joint meeting of your School Board and Assembly and after the traditional kumbaya’s the district presented a comprehensive 30+slide presentation rolling out their preliminary budget. You know, the budget that by law they have to present to our borough by April 1st each year. That budget is without knowing how much money they have coming down the pike because the school district is at the bottom of the food money chain and all.  They are asked to get out the crystal ball every year and work with approximates of how much the State (76%), the Fed’s (1%) and the Borough (last year 23%) will contribute this coming year so that they can make magic with numbers. The presentation the district gave was pretty clear with important historical facts along with some timely comparisons to other school districts and the reality of what will be the outcome if the bubbling brew of formula funding they end up with isn’t the correct recipe. Think of it as sitting down at your own kitchen table to make your household budget for the upcoming year with big blanks in the information. Blanks like your yearly income.  The district struggles with this every year spending untold amount of staff time and money drafting ever-changing spreadsheets with different scenarios. They use base information they collect from the local and state level enabling them to meet with a stream of stakeholders including the school board, the public, teachers, and support personnel. The school district must have the best used erasers in the world to deal with legislation changes on the state level, (bills that pass during the session), watch out for the governor veto pen and more information that requires a gumby like flexibility to incorporate and paint the new financial picture. It’s a challenge and no matter how transparent they try to be it creates skeptics in the process. The district has asked both the state and local government to establish a more consistent funding pattern in a multi-year funding mechanism so they can plan better, take advantage of increased bulk buying for supplies, reduce the staff time worked on this yearly project, and in short, be better stewards of the people’s money. Another big bone of contention is the lapsed fund. The amount of money left at the end of the year that in a normal person’s budget they save for a rainy day, a planned activity or expense for the coming year.  But not if you’re the school district.  You have to divvy 50% of that up and give it back to the borough under the premise they will use it for future sites for future schools authorized by voters to build.  So far the only money spent out of the fund since 2007 has been money for what wasn't covered by insurance ($1,093,021.00) for the rebuilding after a fire at Su Valley High and  for land ($905,000.00) for expansion of an existing charter school that was not before the voters just the assembly. Currently there is a move in the assembly to go back to that fund for "just a little bit more" for the same charter again without going to the voter. Kinda like cutting a check to your neighbor so you can admire the new bushes he decides he needs for his yard or leash to walk his dog. The district would like to keep their fund balance so they can save for their own educational related projects, and smooth out deficits on the rocky political road of state funding. Again something other districts are allowed to do. It seems pretty inconsistent to continually tell the district to be financially conservative and responsible but not give them one of the big tools in the toolbox to do it.

OH PLEASE, STOP SAYING THAT THE “SKY IS FALLING”!

The Ceremonial Mayor and some assembly members spend lots of time hand wringing while trying to keep the fear alive that the economy is tanking (contrary to every economic report), shouting from the roof tops “there is no reason to panic, we got this” and espousing that the borough is at the front of the pack for funding from the state. This budget presentation shows though when it comes to education funding, well not so much.  Graphically the assembly was apprised of the percentage of local contribution to education that puts Mat Su (growing at a phenomenal pace increasing average enrollment by 400 students a year) really at the back of the pack behind Anchorage, Fairbanks and Kenai in funding. That should give the assembly, the holder of the local contribution check book something to think about when they ponder the district’s request for a 3% increase in funding this year.  Even at that, they aren’t funding to the cap and there will be some lay-offs at the district again this year.  It should be noted that the district has been in cut back mode since last year when 120 employees were eliminated through early retirement and other means. Even with out "testing" we should be able to do the math how lay-off's effect communities.  Just ask your coffee shops, mechanic, gas station or specialty store.  They know. 

This year, principals were asked to make 6% cuts to their school budgets, and administration took a 9% cut in its expenditures. Some groups of employees have agreed to absorb 50% of their health cost increases that are expected to go up 10% this year after a staggering 129% increase over the last 10 years. Bottom line is, in a state that has billions in savings and will continue to in the foreseeable future (unless the powers of be decide to abide by the strong arm of the oil companies and subsidize them beyond the millions and billions they already are with further tax cuts and oh yeah that’s a whole different rant isn’t it?) and assembly members that prefer to cut pennies to spend dollars for their own pet projects there is just no reason not to fully fund our real major resource, education. And a memo to one assembly member the resource this meeting was about was to talk about was "kids" not "coal".  Hark I think I hear an AMEN!

SOMEBODY GET THE MOP..CLEAN UP ON AISLE 10…

Couple of clean up items of the JT Meeting included some comment by the present School Board President in regards to a resolution he plans to introduce at an upcoming School Board meeting.  He wants to advise the federal government that while they want the monies to keep coming from DCA he has no appetite for the strings attached to NCLB (no child left behind act adopted in 2002 under Bush) that most everyone with an eye on education deems untenable. While there might be some merit to that argument it seems a better road might be a resolution to our Governor and State Legislators to take advantage of the federal governments offer for states to opt out of NCLB by developing their own plan for improvement which gets them out of some of the “one size fits all” chains of NCLB. They can do that by instead passing a resolution supporting HJR 32 which instructs the state to develop its own standards that incorporate rigorous college and career standards, focus on fixing the worst performing schools that have the biggest achievement gaps, and adopt teacher and administrator evaluations based partly on test scores.  School Board and Assembly members are suppose to be non-partisan which might prove to be a stumbling block in supporting what makes sense in this case. Let's hope not.  Another item brought up by Mr. School Board President was the suggestion of merging operations and maintenance of the borough and school district in search of savings.  He claimed to not know if other districts of similar or larger size in the State have studied that possibility which doesn’t pass the red face test really.  It’s pretty widely known that Anchorage has examined this possibility a couple of times that we know of and come up dry.  So while it might be politically popular to suggest this, we will be interested to see if the numbers ever make sense to allow it to happen.  We have two very different public entities here with different missions and most remember the ugly battle over outsourcing custodians which cost the community much more than money to resolve. Yeah, so good luck stirring that pot again without some solid, believable, substantiated information and a process that doesn’t bring everyone to their knees.

An item titled “Site Selection for Charter Schools” (presently six charter and 3 alternatives are part of the 44 school district public school system) was removed from the agenda at the start of the meeting.  This is a discussion that needs to happen in a joint meeting and soon.  It’s been batted about in other meetings and commissions. Currently one school, Academy Charter, is located on borough land and another one, Fronteras seemingly is through the hoops at the district and borough, and also wishes to build a permanent home on existing borough land.  Fronteras staff and parents testified passionately while following what is currently the rules of the road repeatedly in front of the school board, assembly and school site selection committee each time thinking that was what it took to get approval only to be batted to the next body to appear one more time. Granted this was the first to forge this trail but the whole thing shouts to the inefficiency of the current code and you can be sure other charters strapped with large leases will be looking for that trail head too. The discussion of permanent sites for charter schools is a political hot potato that even if it’s not discussed elsewhere will be here in coming days.

Joint Meetings of the Assembly and School District are in borough code to be convened on the second Tuesday in March, June, September and December. There were three scheduled meetings last year and the Ceremonial Mayor took it upon himself to cancel one of them.  It would serve the public and stakeholders better if these bodies pounded out a meeting calendar for the year and lived with it.  It’s easy to let other things get in the way of personally communicating or what’s become the norm with some Assembly members participating telephonically instead of live and in person. But a meeting of the Assembly and the School Board is not one of them.





Wednesday, March 21, 2012

While your waiting...

Much pencil sharpening taking place to craft the report that's in the hopper on yesterday's Joint Assembly/School Board Meeting and the anything but normal Assembly Meeting following. Meanwhile we encourage you to read this article by fellow blogger Jeanne Devon.  While Citizen Lobbyist tries to stay out of the fights in the chicken coop between parties, Ms. Devon hit's the nail on the head about the seriousness of the War on Women by one party and it's elected officials. It's a must read. 


Regular (we use that term loosely until its occurred) Matanuska School Board Meeting tonight at 6pm at Palmer High.  Radio Free Palmer will be streaming live.  For you podcast lovers the tab on the RF Site has been moved to the drop down menu under "select program" for your listening pleasure. Lot of good stuff there to balance out your day.  


Some weeks are endless fun!



Saturday, March 17, 2012

Hear Ye, Hear Ye, Welcome to the Palmer City Council



So it turns out there is more fun to have at public meetings that aren’t always held just in Borough Assembly chambers.  And it’s not just the padding of the seats that feels new and different.   There’s the small humble looking building on the main road into Palmer that serves up a pretty tasty meeting menu  bi weekly. The Palmer City Council
To begin with, the Palmer City Council as a body is at least more gender diversified than the Assembly of the Borough.  The Mayor and three members of the seven member Council are women.  Rather refreshing after months of viewing a vast amount of backslapping and chest puffing by the cowboys in the Assembly corral.  Just gives a more balanced vibe off the bat.  Of course, this is a casual and completely unbiased observation by your Citizen Lobbyist.  
The Palmer City Council went right to work on a busy agenda with adoption of one item on the consent agenda approving some new definitions in city code pertaining to Agricultural Districts clarifying the intent and expanding some permitted uses.  The ordinance seemed reasonable and respectful of Palmer’s long-standing support of the importance of Agriculture to the area by revisiting the existing code to update it to current times.  A bit refreshing after witnessing the mess that one Assembly member has created to roll back the clock on the Borough Assembly subdivision code instead of fixing what was wrong with the current code. Sheesh.  For more background on that nugget see our past post on the Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act.

The usual line up of reports….

Palmer City Manager, Doug Griffin gave a cohesive report on ongoing issues and work being done in the city.  For a small city, Palmer has a lot going on its compact five-mile boundary.  It is the seat of government for the Matanuska Susitna Borough, School District and Alaska Court System with  bustling retail, medical, banking, small business, and restaurant and hospitality amenities.  
Mayor DeLena Johnson gave her report, with added written reports from part time staff, and stated that it will be a regular feature including any complaints received from citizens and how those complaints are handled.  This could be a good tool to let everyone know what is being said, what problems exist and how and what’s being done to resolve them.  In addition, Ms. Mayor (it seem awkward that some council members referred to the Mayor as “Your Honor”) expressed a strong desire to see the MTA Center now being remodeled used more fully.  She announced some possible support from the Mat Su Health Foundation for encouraging more folks to use the facilities walking track. She discussed how Palmer High Students might use the facility for graduation services this spring instead of trekking to Menard.  Go Moose!  There was some discussion on concerns about the sale of The Avalanche Hockey Team and its implications to the city.  Not much more than what your local newspaper the Frontiersman has reported really.

Community Development director Sandra Garley gave her annual Community Development Activity Report.  Contents included a good outline of information on programs, attendance and circulation of the library. (Estimated 316 patrons a day and 120,538 items circulated)  Like all city libraries Palmer struggles with funding from the Borough to offset the service given to non-city residents.  Of the 8,664 patrons using the library only 2,172 are city residents.  Statistically pretty interesting.  Count on hearing more about that in the next few months during Borough library funding time.  It’s good to know in spite of funding struggles the Palmer Library is thriving under the guidance of a shining Library Service Coordinator that is guiding new and well-established programs for users of the library.   Generous grant funding has allowed the library to allow for a new 60” monitor for video conferencing in the meeting room and adds to the valuable assets of the library, one of the corner pieces of downtown Palmer. 

Raise your hand or tip your glass if you have never heard of the Open Meetings Act

The Palmer City Clerk reminded members in her report about the Open Meetings Act or often referred to as the OMA.  The State of Alaska's Open Meetings Act is a law that addresses public meetings and protects the public's right to know and opportunity to be heard. The OMA among other things addresses:  Attendance at public meetings, distribution of meeting material, what may be discussed in executive session and what constitutes public notice.  All addressed in AS44.62.310.   Several members seemed a bit confused by the interpretation of the law or at least seemed surprised it applied to them. A bit of an ego test maybe on who got to show up where and when to speak for the city. The Clerk and City Attorney did their best to advise the Council and in the end at the recommendation of the Mayor and some other Council members it was decided to add this topic to an upcoming agenda and include some discussion on informing the public about the law.  Could be that they too need a refresher course.  Let’s hope they follow through. 
Resolutions for supplying funding for stand-by wages for public works on the weekends, miscellaneous ongoing capital project money authorizations, and ratification of the City Manager to take further action on revision of the expansion of Phase III of the MTA center went through unanimously with some discussion but with civility.  There was consensus on requests from Palmer residents to acknowledge and act on having someone attend the Borough meetings to speak at the designated time on the agenda on city matters. Both bodies meet often at the same time and same night which presents a challenge but not without solutions.  It seems pretty important for the city, the home of the seat of Borough government to be there to have their turn to speak and be heard even if it is straight from the City Manager report. Public testimony was respectful and consisted mainly of comments about the angst of sales tax in collection and enforcement which the Council is addressing at an upcoming Special Meeting March 20th along with some other important topics.  It seems tiresome to hear the argument that because something is tricky to enforce it should be dropped.  Not all drunk drivers are caught but tell the Mothers of Drunk Driving we should drop the law because not every staggering fool isn’t caught and brought to justice. Right? There was public testimony for graduation services to be held in Palmer at the MTA Center and appreciation for a small monetary contribution from the city for a hugely popular event “Who Let the Girls Out!” which will be held April 28th in Palmer.  At least there was comment.  Far too many Assembly meetings contain not an ounce of public comment.  You would think at least some of that 15% that participated in the last Borough wide election would show up to either cheer on their pick or “give em hell”. 
The wheels of small city government often blamed like any government, warts and all, do chug along to do the people’s business.  Not all players are on the same team and there are clearly some power struggles in play that don’t serve the people.  As much as we attest for our city and Borough governing bodies being NON-PARTISAN they aren’t.  They should be, but they aren’t and that comes to play way too often all around.  Again the blame can always be found at the feet of the voter who doesn’t participate and require accountability after they cast their vote.  You have a chance to change that this October with elections across the Borough. 

All in all a well run open to the public meeting.  Who knows, maybe it was best behavior night.  Time will tell and so will citizen lobbyist as we continue on the quest to wake up the sleeping residents of the Borough to what’s happening in large and small corners of our governing bodies. Next City of Palmer Council Meeting March 20th and the agenda is a dandy.  While your in the neighborhood the assembly will meet the same night starting at 4pm with a Jt meeting with the school board then with a modest 500 plus page packet for the regular meeting.  With this kind of fun why do you need TV really?