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.