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Friday, April 27, 2012

IT’S A SHADY DEVELOPERS DREAM PROCESS





When it comes to the public process in the borough these days, there seems to be two choices.  No public process or the "The Good Ol’ Boy Public Process".  Both of which smell like a spawning salmon washed up on the shoreline on a hot summer day. And both lead to extraordinarily bad public policy.



TO BRING YOU UP TO SPEED…

Take the recently passed version of the Borough subdivision code, Title 43 for instance.

Last summer, Assembly member Jim Colver, a surveyor by profession, led the borough down an ugly, muddled path when he initiated a reversion to the old, badly outdated and widely discredited subdivision code (aka Title 16).  Under Title 16, subdivisions were developed according to low standards for things like roads and fundamental infrastructure such as placement of utilities.  We have referred to Mr. Colver’s subdivision obsession as the Bad Roads and Taxpayer Exploitation Act.  The end result is that the borough now has a new subdivision code… named Title 43, presumably to remove the stigma associated with Title 16.

THE HEAD CHEERLEADER

In his zeal to dismantle the code, Mr. Colver got everybody in a tizzy:  staff, planning commission, platting board, road service boards…. all frantically trying to figure out the implications of reverting to this lax and woefully inadequate Title 16 code; trying to identify and patch up the worst of it.  Mr. Colver, taking the lead, convinced a large majority of the assembly to jump on board.  It didn’t take much convincing, though, since most of the assembly’s policy decisions are driven by an extreme ideology of development with no rules and a get the public out of the way attitude. 

So, instead of listening to the pleas of the platting board, planning commission, road service boards, and staff recommendations to fix the relatively few problems with the then current Title 27 subdivision code… Jim Colver pushed on, not just with the old Title 16, but with the old Title 16 as modified by the Mat-Su Business Alliance, a special interest organization with a narrow focus, one that is not exactly concerned with the broad public interest.   It was the MSBA version that replaced Title 27 and became the working copy of the subdivision ordinance.

Thus, Jim Colver and company supplanted the public interest with a narrow special interest.  That was pretty easy to do when you have an Assembly that doesn’t care much about either the public interest or the public process. This switch to the MSBA version, complicated and made more unwieldy the public, staff and board review because there wasn't a clear connection, through amendments, between the Colver version introduced in June/July and the MSBA version.  Not to mention this kicked to the curb the then present Title 27 subdivision code, which on the whole did a pretty good job of providing for the orderly development of the borough while protecting the taxpayer.  Oh and let’s not forget that developers, surveyors, engineers and the public drafted and supported Title 27.  The underlying problem is that lax rules give the developer a break at taxpayer expense.   Relaxed subdivision road standards (a la Title 16) means, among other things, bad roads and infrastructure (you know…. mudholes, bad drainage, poor road material, etc.), which the taxpayer must ultimately pay to fix, while the subdivision developer enjoys umbrella drinks in Vegas.

Most everyone acknowledged that some modification to Title 27 was in order but that changes should be considered in a thoughtful, straight-forward, clear manner, so that the public knew how our subdivision code was being changed.  The result would be a better code. But no, not good enough for the assembly wrecking crew who chose to throw Title 27 out entirely. You know the throw the baby out with the bath water scenario, which seems so popular these days. 

THE BACKUP SQUAD

To make a long and painful story short, at the last meeting, your assembly by a 6-1 vote, listened largely to a narrow special interest group rather than paying meaningful attention to the general public, planning commission, platting board and road service boards. (which soundly opposed the roll back in code) And then the good ol’ boys contingency of the assembly in one dramatic instance ignored the advice from their own borough attorney and created their own subdivision code from this growing paper pile we would wager few of them had even read or had a good grasp of.  

More astonishingly, the Assembly, also by a vote of 6-1, turned down a request by their own planning commission presented to them to run the final subdivision code by the road service boards, planning commission, and platting board and to hold a public hearing.  That’s right….  after the substitution of the MSBA version of our subdivision code and after several months of amendments  BY A VOTE OF 6-1, THE ASSEMBLY SAID “NO” TO A PUBLIC HEARING….  So much for the public’s basic right to participate in the decisions that affect them. 

The result of this horrendously flawed process was the outright repeal of Title 27, a code that was not perfect but one that had been developed over a number of years with broad public and stakeholder participation.  This was summarily cast aside and replaced by the Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act, otherwise now known as Title 43. 

This raises the question… WHY?  Why would the assembly steamroll this process so it could force on the citizen’s of this borough a Subdivision Code that favors a narrow special interest over the public health, safety, and welfare, at the expense of orderly development of our borough.  I think you all can figure it out..


JUST GIVE IT A NEW NUMBER WITH THE OLD RULES

Here are a couple of glaring problems with the new subdivision code that the assembly even saw fit to give a new code number (Title 43) much like that touted lipstick on a pig.

1.  Serial Waivers are now allowed, even though according to the borough attorney and an outside law firm this practice is illegal under state law. Sounds complicated but really isn’t. Specifically allowing the practice of serial waivers [a Waiver Subdivision is the division of a single lot into not more than four lots, as allowed under Alaska state statute, where normal subdivision rules are “waived.” A so-called “serial waiver” a series of waivers of previously waivered parcels, enabling the creation of far more than the four lots.] facilitates the development of a full fledged subdivision without having to comply with normal subdivision development rules. This has in the past and will no doubt in the future lead to road quality, access, utility, drainage, water and septic problems…..just the “Full Monty” of issues. Issues someone has to suffer through and more importantly pay for long after the developer has made his money. 

2.  Public notice period “mailing at least 15 days before a public hearing” reducing it from 21 days in the previous Title 27 code. This means the public, and in particular the road service boards, the fire service area boards, and the community councils, is, as a practical matter, now effectively deprived of the opportunity to be heard on platting issues.  The shorter comment period will in many cases conflict with meeting schedules,  doesn’t account for mailing time or the need for the platting department to receive the comments in time to prepare and distribute the platting board’s packet.

MAD ENOUGH YET?

There is much, much more to be stunned and outraged about, which you’d see and hear if you sat through the scattered and disjointed meetings that the assembly held on this issue over the last 9 or so months. Chances are you didn’t since many of them were scheduled during a time of the day not likely to have much of an audience other than their cheerleaders for development with no rules.  

It is a sorry state of affairs, but the voters elected them…. we only report on it.  It is decided at the ballot box.  It is time to get mad and get active. 

Just to be clear, Assemblyman Colver had plenty of help getting this hot mess through the goal posts.  The ceremonial mayor has reminded us repeatedly we need to "take care of the people that pay the bills" because apparently in his monarchy homeowners and small business owners are the "takers" of the borough.  Even with Assembly member Arvin giving his personal assurance that "this didn't go idly by the public and get slipped into code one dark night" just doesn't begin to pass the straight face test.  We can understand his confusion though as he is largely participating telephonically from a different time zone. We're guessing his attendance record at community council meetings, road service boards and other opportunities for public input is not impressive on any day or night.  Assembly member Salmon seemed pretty uninterested in the whole process, the inefficiency of it all and agreed that the lack of urgency at this time of year will have little effect on the upcoming construction season.  However he completely reversed himself at the final vote and gave it a shove through.  

At the end of this debacle, comments by some assembly members such as, we know there may be problems with this code but we need to pass this, we can fix the problems as they come up and we need to get it passed because of the construction season are all bloviated, empty gestures and an admittance that they didn’t do a very good job.

This failing patch quilt of an ordinance was brought to you by one assembly member, guided by a few fellow surveyors, a handful of noisy small time developers wanting access to more land on the cheap, and a "big hat no cattle" so called business organization. Well they got the full attention of the assembly and the process that they wanted.  The rest of us get to live with and later pay for the results of what can only be described as a pretend process and decisions made by elected officials that will be long gone down the well traveled political road. 


Once again..You voted them in.  We only call it like we see it.


Sunday, April 22, 2012

ON NEXT WEEK' S TO DO LIST....







AND YOU THOUGHT IT WAS JUST ANOTHER ASSEMBLY MEETING

No doubt everyone is sitting on pins and needles wanting to know all the juicy details of the last assembly meeting. It took a couple of days to pick ourselves off the floor but we're working on it. There was nearly 20 hours of nonstop fun between Monday and Tuesday’s meetings of the boys in the corral last week.

But time marches on and we would be remiss if we didn't give you a heads up on a couple of important items for early next week while we work on last week that shouldn't go unnoticed, undocumented or much less misunderstood.


VOTE TO KEEP THE UNDERHANDED'S HANDS OFF THE LIGHT SWITCH..

At Raven Hall on the fairgrounds in Palmer on Tuesday/April 24th at 6pm the annual MEA (Matanuska Electrical Association) Meeting will be held.  Not only is it a worthwhile gathering to attend that attracts co-op members from all over the valley, the results of the 2012 election will be calculated and announced.  The future direction of our cooperative utility could well be at risk at this election. If you didn't get around to mailing in your ballot (mailed ballots must be received by Monday at 5pm) this is your last chance to vote and have that vote count. So, if you accidentally (perhaps on purpose) tossed your ballot by the wayside, get a clue, come to the meeting and vote! Besides exercising your democratic and civic duty by voting you will get a $10 credit towards your next MEA bill. 


Even local utility races are subject to some last minute mudslinging and viral nonsense emails in a desperate act to win and dare I say take us back to the “dark ages.”  It's almost to be expected.  There is some of that this time with the same good ol' boy group that has one of their posse on the ballot and will try almost anything to rally support.  Don't be fooled into thinking any of this has merit. This group thinks co-op rate payers aren’t paying attention and are an easy target to fool. You aren't and show them that by making sure you vote. 

Do the right thing for the future of power generation in the valley if you haven't already.  Again if you didn't mail your ballot, get to the annual meeting and vote. Never doubt that one vote can make a difference and determine the outcome of this election.  There are those that are most unscrupulous and are doing their best to make sure they own every seat to decide the future of in the valley. 

WASILLA'S WAY OR NO WAY.. 

Some valley developers have a leg up on the rest of the public to enlist things to benefit them.  In fact, it appears that they know just who to call on when things don't go their way.  The phone musta rang this time for Wasilla's mayor who seems to be hollering at just about everyone that will listen about the Park's Hwy design concept from Lucas Road to the Big Lake Cut-Off.  Never mind that the bulk of this road is out of the Wasilla City limits.  Never mind that this road long deemed the most dangerous road in the state has been engaged in an 8 year PUBLIC design process with the involvement of dozens of stakeholders. Never mind that hundreds of thousands of dollars of state money has gone into an already arduous  PUBLIC process. Never mind that stopping the process now will delay the road improvement by at least 2 years. Never mind that the people of Big Lake and the majority of people giving the state feedback who drive that road in all kinds of inclement weather fully supported the design of a divided 4 lane road.  Reportedly a formally Anchorage developer, Pete Zamarillo, the undisputed king of strip malls has a little access problem so whoa nelly!  Nothing like a little obstructionism to get the years of work the state and the public has done thrown in the trash and start over for a more friendly developer design.  

APOC reports speak louder than words and let’s just say that Mr Zamarillo's check book has been pretty busy here in the valley with a few elected officials and you can bet there is more to come this election year. The heat is turned up hot enough that there is a resolution in front of the Wasilla City Council Monday/April 23rd that would officially denounce that design.  If it gets a green light there, you can bet it will be delivered under the arm of the Wasilla deputy administrator to wave like a cape in a bullfight at an upcoming assembly meeting asking for support and a similar resolution. Heck they might even skip that part and just get their assembly member to do the heavy lifting with his own resolution about the injustice of it all. If that happens expect the excessive use of the word “hideous” to describe the current design.



PUBLIC SAY SO …OH NO YOU DON’T

The moral of the story is there are some that want a public process when it’s THEIR public process and they can be assured of the outcome that suits them. After all the wailing about plans not followed and too much public process it turns out there can be plenty if you’re the right developer or business calling for it.  And that’s especially true in an election year.

We are likely to see many many more of these end games as a result of assembly action on the subdivision code last week.  Let the subversively and sub divisionally games begin! You'll have to wait a few days to hear about that, but you can weigh in on the above topics now.  You have the power.  You just have to decide to use it.





Tuesday, April 17, 2012

COMMUNITY COUNCIL TEST RUN

The public is a witness and participant in all kinds of meetings in the borough almost daily. We have reports coming in from different corners by folks to say "Hey this is what I attended and here is what happened". 


Following is field report from last week's South Knik River Community Council Meeting. Thanks in advance to the submission by this cleaver CL correspondent!







REPORTER DOWN


 Did she trip over her own feet, or was it friendly or enemy fire? Surely not fatal but injury extent still uncertain; how would you have fared?:
  • What could be more clear after 3 April assembly 5 – 2 vote to uphold community council code requiring resident-only voting?
  • S. Knik River Community Council 12 April meeting opened with president statement that to be a member you have to be a resident, and ‘everybody here I know is a resident. If you’re not a resident, please don’t vote.’
  • No identification was checked, no residence addresses were checked; otherwise no distinction was made between residents and nonresidents before, during, or after votes;
  • March meeting minutes to approve included these parliamentary and other highlights,
    • motion (to overturn a prior year motion that passed with more appropriate public process) introduced by commonly acknowledged nonresident vouched-by-president resident passed by virtue of 8 absentee ballots submitted with motion, while secretary request to delay vote for greater community information and participation was ignored (vote was 8 against, 15 for; it would have failed by 1 but for the ‘absentee’ ballots);
    • the secretary is still investigating questionable compliance of ‘absentee’ votes with absentee voting restrictions in the unsigned draft bylaws under which the council compliantly functions regardless of their validity -- these are the unsigned draft bylaws amendments that include property owners as council members, in defiance of borough code, that the borough filed (counter to their code), which the council president takes as meaning these amendments are accepted by the borough;
    • the secretary’s report on her good faith attempt to execute the president’s task of sending her to solicit advice from the borough attorney, when the whole council has been advised of borough policy in communications from the attorney through the last assembly representative, in a letter from the borough clerk, and in a direct letter from the current assembly representative (even with bureaucratic waffling, they all laid a consistent maple syrup grid);
    • not to belabor the point, you get the picture;
  • Unfinished business included
    • resistance demonstrated against applying for revenue sharing funds;
    • resistance demonstrated to completing the bylaws revision we got halfway through two years ago (including residents only voting);
    • a vote to confirm the June ‘11 review of the comprehensive plan, in the absence of any minutes from that meeting or ability to reconstruct attendance or content from anything other than a smattering of recalled memories . . . and those aren’t the only minutes that appear to be missing . . .
  • The president, who retains sole key to council mailbox, introduced the CIP application whose submission deadline happens to be prior to our next scheduled council meeting, convenient to delay information to and from the community at large (the efficient borough clerk has been requested for the mailing date);
  • The president insisted on using the 2008 unsigned noncompliant bylaws for reference

Sorry, the pain isn’t allowing this reporter to continue . . . she needs to retire to her pallet if she hopes to report another day . . . so how’s that for democracy and public process in this little corner of the borough? 

And oh what’s to be done?

Monday, April 16, 2012

SPRING HAS SPRUNG! LOOK OUT!




Snow is melting, migrating birds are arriving and spring fever is in full swing. But HEY this is not the week to ignore what’s happening at your local government.  

Huge issues front and center. Or Katie Bar the Budget Door

Today (Monday April 16th) at 4pm the Assembly gets a look at the Manager's Overview of the Proposed Budget and Review of Departmental Budgets.  All indications are that the majority of the borough assembly is looking for a way to decrease this annual budget but at what costs in personnel and services to the public? Some assembly members disguised as small government guys really we want our guy government guys, seem to believe that everything should pay for itself but yet seem to be on a quest to yank everything off the budget table that looks like funding for services. That's a three legged stool without a leg. Its up to the public to give input for decisions on the budget that are for the good of the general population and not just a tool for a future sound bite in someone's upcoming candidacy. Feet need to be held to the fire.
  
Just Like a Bad Penny that Keeps Turning Up

Tuesday (April 17th) at 2pm a Special Assembly Meeting takes up changes to the borough subdivision code.  How we develop borough land, our neighborhoods, roads, trails, parks etc has big health, safety and quality of life impacts. Previous work of this assembly has eliminated any regulation for tall structures (towers), allowed for mining in the gravel table, watered down the ethics code, gerrymandered the agenda many times over and cut off public testimony.  What's that tell you about their views on the public process, quality of life issues and protection of the residents of the borough? We are hopeful this will get another punt right into a better public process but don't count on it. 

Tuesday (April 17th) 6 pm (Yep same day!)
Pack your dinner because there is a full agenda in store with ordinances on proposed changes in borough elections and how changes impact the cities, possible loss of revenue to the borough by repeal of existing ordinances for business inventory taxes and business licensing, changes to allowable amplified noise in the borough,(moving items around so we can’t find ‘em) supplemental funding to Academy Charter (fast becoming the best funded school charter school in the borough) and approval of a new location for Fronteras Charter School (sorry Fronteras looks like you only get dirt) on borough land. 

All big issues that you can learn more about in the packet.  Weigh in with your assembly representative by the links provided on the right of the blog. Better yet come warm a chair!  

Assembly wont have all the fun there's more…
School is still in session...There’s some learnin to do.

School Board meets Wed/April 18 @6pm taking on its own full agenda to approve the Birchtree Charter school calendar and renewal of the school charter. Expect some lively conversation under non action items when a discussion on school schedules is taken up.  After one year of changes to start and release times and moving from a 6 to 7 period day there are no shortage of opinions on the impacts of that move. 

Luckily we have the fortune of having Radio Free Palmer our community radio that will be present streaming actions of the Assembly starting at 2pm Tuesday throughout the evening and again at the school board meeting Wednesday at 6pm. While you’re at their website taking advantage of this great area service, please use the donate button to become a member or renew your existing membership.  They have bills to pay too and need your donation to continue their good service.  

We will endeavor to post the results of today's borough budget presentation.  There are sure to be some great reactions to report. That is if we can pick ourselves up off the floor from the experience.

  

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

CONFLICT WITH A SIDE OF CONFLICT






Last week's Assembly Meeting and School Board Meeting just goes to prove you don't need a full moon to blame for a full plate of getting weird. 

COMMUNITY COUNCILS WIN ONE!

Who knows how many miles the ceremonial mayor packed on trying to garner some love and support for the ordinance to allow non residents to vote in community councils?
It ended in a rousing exchange that resulted in a 5 –2 vote against. Only Noel Woods and Steve Colligan voted for the ceremonial mayor’s Ordinance 11-157 to include nonresident property owners as voting members of community councils.  Interestingly, neither of those 2 Assembly districts has community councils so why shouldn’t they support the ceremonial mayor.  Of 18 comments during audience participation, 14 were against the proposal. The major reason cited was one person/one vote/where you live. Assemblyman Darcie Salmon spoke to residents, not property (‘dirt’) defining community; Vern Halter defended democracy; Warren Keogh talked about the variety of perspectives in the councils in his district and his own decision to vote no.

And what was up with the ceremonial mayor making the statement that by not allowing nonresident property owners to vote in community councils "it was taxation without representation" further implying that all 1200 new residents of Goose Creek wouldn't be able to vote in the Point MacKenzie Community Council. Voting booths in prisons? Just when most were thinking Mr. Ceremonial Mayor didn't have a progressive bone in his body. 

The conclusion was not to fiddle with grassroots democracy. For now at least, only residents have voting rights in community councils of the borough. As it should be. Clearly, the majority of folks in the borough believe in their community councils and their preservation of their local perspective.  What isn't clear is the cost of this little skirmish between councils and the borough mayor to the taxpayer.  No doubt money would be better spent for the borough to provide a low cost permanent vehicle for information, communication, and borough wide community building.  Perhaps beginning with a community council page on the borough’s website with more than just meeting announcements and agendas.  Now there’s an idea!

ANOTHER DAM WORKING GROUP

The next dust up came over a proposed ordinance to create a Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Task Force.  Seemingly someone missed the team "develop at any cost meeting".  When the play was called by the voice from China where it normally resides, for an amendment to add two more at large members and a representative from MEA the huddle suddenly fell apart as players were asked to leave the field.  The first vote resulted in  a conflict of interest recusing of the ceremonial mayor that continues to hold his seat on the MEA board.  Then after a hastily called break, Assembly member Arvin declared he would save the body a vote on his possible conflict because he is presently holding seats on both the Alaska Energy Authority Board and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority board. (can you imagine his phone bill for teleconferencing all these activities?)  Mr. Salmon, third in line as deputy mayor then took up the gavel and did his best to keep things on course that veered all over the map with adding more members, then spun totally out of control into the ditch. Wasn't that just a big load of taxpayer fun? 


COMMUNICATION IS HIGHLY UNDER RATED

Hardly able to stop the head spinning from the assembly meeting, the next night it was time to head over to the school board meeting.  What started on a positive note celebrating the academic and athletic successes of borough kids strayed into the weeds as the school board was delivered some disappointing news by Chief Business Officer Ken Forrest. Months of waiting for the answer from the borough of what projects the school district would be able to handle from the mega school bond passed by voters last fall the simple answer was delivered as a big fat zero.  The borough powers that be decided they will be the total administrators of ALL  bond building projects leaving the district so to speak at the altar.  There is a long history of struggles with the borough and district that frankly outlining here would only pour a container of salt on those war wounds and be unproductive.  Suffice it to say there are periods of a “failure to communicate” way too often. There is no directive from the state to improve history skills so moving on. Since the school board meeting however, there has been a summit of the borough and district and although the decision of the borough to remain in control of bond projects hasn’t changed, we are guardedly optimistic communication is back on course.  It should be acknowledged that the the voter is the child in the middle so to speak, of these two sets of parents,  so we are hopeful both will continue to collaborate and work through the growing pains of a rapidly growing borough.  The school district needs a high seas navigational chart as it tries to stay afloat in political choppy waters looking out for our kids.  To the borough, that means acknowledging the time has come perhaps to lay aside “the way we have always done it” for a more fiscally responsible way of letting a proved up district handle some of their own grown up projects like Anchorage does.  This should not be about arm wrestling for empires but efficiency in using assets and talents of both bodies.  Enough said but we will be watching as you the voter also should be.

BIG LOG JAM AHEAD.

Everyone should be resting up for next week’s meeting of the assembly minds which exhausts your citizen lobbyist just thinkin about it as does the rest of the April’s public meeting schedule.  Next Tuesday/April 17th, while most people that reside in the borough are still  trying to eek out a living at their jobs, your assembly will roll up their sleeves in a special meeting starting at 2pm (or 6am Wednesday in the Republic of China where Mr. Arvin will probably be assuming his normal teleconferencing spot) to take up revision of the subdivision code.  After months of being batted about and avoiding a real public vetting this is when a major way we develop neighborhoods in our borough, plan future developments and roads that will serve those neighborhoods will be taken up.

Your basic big eye roll noted about now..


 BUT WAIT THE BIG FUN...

After the expected assembly pizza for dinner arrives at 6pm, the real fun starts with the regular (okay your right, nothing regular about this group) meeting of the assembly is to commence.  There are some gigantic agenda items to be taken up including:

          Changing of Title 25 Elections-Mr. Colligan takes up the big oar in the water in an attempt to change when we have borough elections and move them to match state election dates.  What sounds on the surface as a cost saver is mired in costs to the borough and cities. Expect the public testimony to be deep on this one.

          Repeal of the Business Inventory Tax-the ceremonial mayor running with scissors to please his supporters at a cost of nearly $1M in revenue to the borough which in turn is partially directed to FSA’s and RSA’s etc. Another move by the king of carrots mayor that might leave the cities strapped with additional costs potentially.

          Repeal of the Business License Fee-Again the ceremonial mayor weaving in and out of the general fund pockets putting economic development of the borough in a financial hamstring.

          Amending the Noise Ordinance and adding a temporary noise permit-Act 3 of the rolling ceremonial mayor legislation train.  Will this legislation come with ear plugs?

          An Ordinance opening the cash register of the savings in the school site fund for expansion of Academy Charter School-will homework get done as children are paraded out?

Oy’ vey, is it really allowed to have this much fun in one day of governing?  Maybe there is an ordinance coming forward to repeal such “fun” and public indulgence.  One can only hope. The packet with all the details will be out Thursday and you can find it here then. Radio Free Palmer will start streaming it for your pleasure at 2p here

You can almost hear the trees being felled for the pile of paper for this wild and crazy not to mention demented waywardness. 




Sunday, April 1, 2012

READY FOR SOME LOCAL GOVERNMENT POTPOURRI?


City government has all the fun…  

Well at least the chickens are safe.  Yep, this week the Palmer City Council, true to its Colonist agriculture roots passed an ordinance amending code to increase the amount of domestic birds allowed in the city limits.  And by "domestic bird" it means birds which are used for consumption, egg production or personal enjoyment "female" chickens, ducks, turkeys, geese and swans.  Don't even think of harboring peacocks, ostriches, or emus though.  And if that leaves you asking what’s up with discrimination against roosters, City staff did their homework and presented information on how it has played out in other communities.  They not only make noise, they make way too much noise for the average neighbor.  Makes you wonder if all the "crowing roosters" at the assembly table know they are in the city limits right?

Not so safe might be the arrangement with the borough to continue services for animal control for the City of Palmer.  Presently the city has what they call an ala carte arrangement. The borough only provides services after the Palmer City Police deliver the animals to the animal control shelter.  The Council was advised the borough would like to increase the contract amount by a whopping 114% for the coming year.  Not exactly an increase that the city that has been in trimming mode will be able to absorb. Expect this topic to come back to the table as negotiations and alternatives are discussed in future meetings.

The City of Palmer manager got the okay to purchase a new garbage truck to replace the only one they have and although everyone agreed a blue one would be awesome, expect to see a sparkling new yellow truck to match the other city trucks that work so hard for Palmer residents.  Hats off to the city for tagging on to a Municipality of Anchorage purchase of new trucks and getting a deal which put a smile on the faces of the conservative minded city council.

Just not into you Planning Commission….

While the City of Palmer was taking up important issues, the ALL MALE Borough Assembly was in a joint meeting with the ALL MALE Borough Planning Commission at the borough. The ceremonial mayor who rushed off fifteen minutes later to another scheduled appearance called the meeting to order in a ceremonial fashion.  With deputy mayor Arvin, disembodied as just a long distance voice over the phone once again, deputy to the Deputy Mayor Salmon took up the gavel which he is not totally unfamiliar with having served as borough mayor in the 90's.

The majority of the current planning commission, including the chair was appointed under this ceremonial mayor’s tenure.  They by in large agree with the mayor and his veto proof assembly which is exactly what got them in the big kids chairs at the table. And in case you’re a little behind in your reading, the majority of the current assembly is in the mode to dial back the clock on anything that is even loosely perceived as a planning tool. 

Planning Commission chair, John Klapperich repeatedly seemed to ask what the assembly wanted the planning commission to be and to do to serve the assembly.  He didn't seem to get an answer at the meeting but if he took the time to read past posts of this blog he will know in a hurry. The assembly and PC the borough is required by state code to serve the citizens of the valley. Not each other!

It would seem by the actions taken by this assembly although required to have a planning commission they can’t require the assembly to have a plan or really give the commission much to do.  Perhaps Mr. Klapperich would like to get his and his brethren on the planning commission a little vocational training from the lonely Maytag repairman.  It doesn't appear that their services are going to be required much. 

Be careful what you ask...

Quite a discussion was had on what happened to Title 16/27/43 which we often refer to here as the Surveyor Stimulus Bill or the Bad Road and Taxpayer Exploitation Act.  Fast turning into much like an extended episode of  Car 54 where are you?  Another blast from the past.  We commend Planning Commissioner Tom Adams's attempt to ride in on his white horse with repeated requests during the meeting for the planning commission to be extended the courtesy to comment as a body on the last iteration of proposed changes to subdivisions which bypassed them entirely on its way from the Mat Su Business Alliance through Assemblyman Colver (in the black cowboy hat) in its reversion.  But it fell on deaf ears. Borough planning staff gave a concise summary of the assembly’s enforced abbreviated comment period for both the planning and platting commissions.  Deputy Mayor Salmon asked why didn’t the PC request more time for review if it were needed. Mr. Salmon was reminded a resolution from the Planning Commission went unattended by the assembly as well as feedback from the platting board, other citizens and the RSA supervisors. 

One member of the PC was concerned that this would impact this year’s construction season, to which Mr. Salmon indicated that considering timelines and proposed amendments lined up for the 17th of April’s meeting, it has already missed this year’s construction plans. Good point. But the majority of the assembly and the ceremonial mayor appear to want a speedy resolution, with subsequent ‘tweaking’ if necessary.  At least Mr. Adams and Assembly member Keogh  stood up for more time now in a more thoughtful approach and necessary attention to getting a very important borough code right that would serve us well in the future. Unfortunately they are not the boys at the controls of the steamroller. 

There was a proactive preventive action report on funded grant work with Storm Water Management stakeholders. Palmer and Wasilla both appear to recognize the benefits they can realize from addressing this earlier rather than try to deal with repercussions when the impact of increased population and resource development affect water quality, availability, and accessibility. There appears to be buy-in from state stakeholders as well. The borough is the natural choice to take the lead, especially considering the census bureau’s just declared (notification today) ‘urbanized cluster’ in the valley that triggers the requirement for compliance with federal Clean Air Act requirements. This in itself appeared to trigger some sort of heartburn from Mr. Arvin.  Okay, who doesn’t want clean air?  Speak up now or forever hold your piece/peace.

Remaining items on the agenda included reports on the S. Denali Visitor Center (breaking ground this spring with a ceremony this summer,) and the school site selection progress including a draft master plan for 19 acres that surrounds the Academy Charter School purchased out of site selection funds last year, relocation of Mat Su Day Schools and a future site of Fronteras Charter School to the 55 acre present borough owned district maintenance facility site, as well as a Knik-Goose Bay Jr./Sr. site.

Remember the doozy agenda coming your way?  Well when isn’t it a doozy.

If you find your social calendar is a little lacking in fun and games we suggest that the place to see everyone you have been missing and a guaranteed fun packed evening is next Tuesday's Assembly April 3rd meeting. The agenda as we promised has some doozys on it including the punted UNEQUAL VOTING PROPOSAL for Community Councils which will be back for a visit under unfinished business. Citizen Lobbyist is thinking of recommending a new section of the agenda be “Unfinished Monkey Business”  of which this proposed change would clearly fall. This ordinance brought forth by the mayor would provide community councils the option to allow non-resident landowners to vote in our borough community councils.  Smelling oddly like "Corporations are People Too,”, apparently this is democracy ceremonial mayor style but the people of the Mat Su deserve better. This is a bad idea period. That message will no doubt be delivered Tuesday. To learn more it is strongly advised you don't miss an opportunity to read a compass piece published in the Frontiersman by Mark Masteller, former  chair of the borough planning commission and voice of reason and responsibility. 

Your citizen lobbyist also recommends if you do attend Tuesday's borough assembly meeting you bring a chair cushion. It could be quite an evening and the only padded chairs are the ones with the elected folks sitting in them to make the big decisions. Too bad for us all that level of comfort so far doesn't seem to contribute to their ability to use common sense in making good big decisions.


As always you can take the easy way and sit in your own comfortable chair at home and visit Radio Free Palmer's website while they stream it live for you. Visit the donation button while your there. They are public radio and depend on your donations and membership to do their good work!