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.
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.
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…