More than a few folks are making note of what's going on at a local governing level. And apparently not all the fun is at the assembly meetings!
The following article was submitted for us to post as a take on the Monday Wasilla City Council Meeting by a...
Exclusive Citizen Lobbyist Reporter Reports....
There was plenty of LoL stuff Monday night (7/9) at the City Council's nearly 4 hour meeting. It was a night to remember for LoL.
The first waah came from Council Member Colleen Sullivan-Leonard (CSL), Ms. Wannabe Mayor, during approval of the agenda. She had put something on the no-brainer agenda, aka the "consent agenda". (FYI, the "no-brainer" part supposedly refers to the issues and not the council members, but sometimes it's the later.) This is the part of the agenda that people use to try to slip things by, under the radar. But Council Member Dianne Woodruff, who was participating in the meeting via teleconference, had her radar on and was not painting her toenails and eating bonbons, so caught Ms. Wannabe's (CSL's) attempt to pull a fast one and had the item moved to New Business. More on this later.
Subsequently, the audience learned the good news: Mr. Troy Tankersley, the City Finance Chief, is an honest man. Ah. When questioned by the ever-vigilant Ms. Woodruff about why he was bringing forward a 2nd no-bid city contract which should have been put out to bid, he 'fessed up to what she had already deduced: that the city had not paid attention and the contract had expired. (Woodruff wasn't napping, either, but somebody has been.)
However, waah, Woodruff made a 2nd correct guess (she wasn't in the shower even though it sounded like she was) and there's more no-bid contracts coming; according to Mr. Tankersley, there may be as many as 5 no-bid contracts coming before the Council shortly. Apparently, a change in staff has meant that some balls got dropped and contracts expired, or are due to expire, before bids were, or can be, requested, so the City is sort of constrained to renew the existing contract(s). So much for the COW being a really tightly run ship. Waah.
Party On! The Wannabee sisters agree to vote to party.
Without much to-do the council voted to create committees to plan for parties for the 100th anniversary of the founding of the city which will be 5 yrs from now (Taffina Katkus' pet project) and the 40th anniversary of the incorporation of the city in 2 yrs (Colleen Sullivan-Leonard's pet project). Planning ahead for parties: it's a good thing!
No Coasting just yet....
Fast forward to New Business and that no-brainer item. It was a resolution opposing Prop 2 on the October ballot. Prop 2 is about a Coastal Management Plan, which was the subject of a major presentation across town at the very moment that the City Council was debating it. I got the distinct impression that Ms. Wannabe (CSL) put this item on the agenda because Big Bro Anchorage Mayor told his little sis to. The 13 lines summarizing the reasons Ms. Wannabe gave for opposing Prop 2 included such damming words as "EPA", "federal", "bureaucracy", "strict oversight", "environmental standards", and "regulations". Ooooooo, sounds bad to the "open for business crowd"! But had anybody read Prop 2? That's where the no-brainer part comes in. No brains seem to have been waisted on that endeavor otherwise they would have had something specific to point to as a problem with Prop 2. Council members Ms. Katkus and Mr. Wall indicated their opposition to Prop 2, and mentioned having heard about it at AML (Alaska Municipal League, a conference for elected officials), while Council Member Woodruff (still vigilant) pointed out that AML voted to support, not oppose, Prop 2. After some discussion, at Council Member Woodruff's urging the Council voted to delay voting on the resolution so that the citizens who were attending the presentation would have an opportunity to weigh in, and so that this would not be no-brainer action afterall. Ah. Maybe.
Now, we get into the real heart of the meeting, for LoL.
LoL: it isn't what you think.
The council spent 2 hrs as a Committee of the Whole asking questions about and discussing the Mayor's proposal to put on the October ballot an increase in the city sales tax to 3%, 1/2% of which would be dedicated to capital projects, with a new library heading the list. Most council members had submitted written questions. Ms. Wannabe (CSL) seemed to have more statements to make than questions to ask; did she already know it all, or did she not care about learning anything? The answer would be revealed later in the evening.
Some interesting factoids were unearthed:
•it's possible that the City already has the authority and power to increase the sales tax, and doesn't need an affirming vote of the people. The legal beagles will be digging up the bones on this.
•nobody has a copy of the ballot on which citizens voted for the sales tax, so we don't really know what, exactly, the wording was of the issue that city residents voted for back in 1992 when the sales tax was created.
•it's estimated that the 1/2 cent sales tax would generate $2.9m revenue per year
•the interest expense for the sports center bonds was about $3.6m. Had we not borrowed/bonded to build it, but forward-funded it, the 1/2% sales tax surcharge could have been discontinued more than a year earlier, saving taxpayers $3.6m
•thanks to the Friends of the Library and others, the State legislature passed a bill which says that the State will pay half of the cost of the library.
•a one-story building will cost about $7m, half of which will be paid by the state.
•adding a 2nd floor to the library will cost about another $3m. . . . this space would be cheap to build now but is not needed by the library at this time, so could be rented out at a profit (to the school district for a charter school or to Charter College) which would help pay for the cost of running the library
•the cost of running a library 3x larger than our existing library would NOT be 3x higher, but only maybe 1/2 again higher, an additional $400k
•City Admin had no proposed list of capital projects for the Council to kick around.
•City Admin had no proposed list of priorities for improved city services to be fund by the 1/2 cent sales tax increase that would go into the general fund. (The truth is that the sport complex eats a hole in the COW budget to the tune of over half a million dollars a year and the 1/2 cent sales tax increase would go into covering up that fact by filling that hole.)
•if the COW did like the COP does (don't you love the acronyms for Wasilla & Palmer?) and raised the sales tax ceiling from $500 to $1000 (right now, if you buy something costing more than $500, you pay sales tax on only $500), it would generate about $1.4m, plenty of additional revenue to cover the estimated $400k increase in the cost of running a larger library, so there's other ways to fund the increased operating expenses of a larger library than raising the sales tax rate.
Good information. Facts on which to base decisions. It looked like we were getting somewhere, at last. Ah.
But this is WAAH-SILLY-ah, folks, and we must live up to our name!
Coming out of the Committee of the Whole is when the utter silliness began. Ms. Wannabe (CSL), whose library "questions" were mostly statements, started the silliness with a motion to table the ordinance: doing this would mean that after about 25 years of planning for a library nothing would be on the ballot in October. Six more hours of council meetings had been scheduled on this topic, but Council member Sullivan-Leonard declared that she'd heard enough already to know that she didn't have enough information and she wanted a new library too much to want to proceed to get more information (or something like that). Was her real problem that this ordinance didn't have her name on it? Or that she wanted to delay this project until her administration so it could appear on her list of accomplishments? Oh, that would be too silly. Or would it? (How does "Sullivan Library" sound to you?) Not to be left out of the silliness, Ms. Katkus, another Wannabe Mayor, also stated her lack of knowledge, and that this was coming out of the blue with no warning. Mr. Wall and Ms. Harris said that they wanted a library too much to allow the question to go onto the ballot. Ms. Woodruff said she didn't like this proposed ballot language, and would support amending it. So, 4 Waah-silly-ah council members who LOVE libraries voted to not allow the voters to vote for a library this fall. . . . and a 5th meant to: Katkus, who seems to frequently be confused about what "yes" and "no" mean, asked to change her vote to go on the record as opposed to putting the question on the ballot. They, who are paid to learn the facts, couldn't be bothered.
This is when a genuine waah was heard from the audience, because sitting in the nasty, snot-green uncomfortable chairs were 6 true LoL (Lovers of Libraries) who were decidedly NOT LOL, each of whom had invested up to 25 yrs or more on the issue, DID know the facts and for whom this issue was not "out of the blue".
Killing the ordinance was not enough silliness to cap a long meeting, however: more was needed to make this a night to remember. With the exception of Council Member Woodruff (who had burned up the landline and was now teleconferencing via cell phone) the members of the council voted to cancel all their planned work sessions and not continue to educate themselves or pursue putting a measure on the ballot. This was in spite of the pleas from true LoL--who were not LOL--that the council not stop the process, but continue to meet and hammer out an ordinance that could be brought forward for public vote--possibly by October or even in a special election.
How silly library supporters felt to have thought that "maybe this time . . . ". How silly it was of them to think that the people who sit in the comfy chairs--who say they know all that they needed to know about Prop 2 which barely impacts Wasilla, and are all over it when it comes to party planning--would know (or care to find out in a timely manner) what they needed to know about an issue which has been on the council agenda periodically for over a quarter of a century. How silly of library supporters to think that people who have expressed doubts about the need for a library were true LoL. How silly library supporters were to trust people in tilt-a-whirl chairs who run for election and re-election on a platform of not trusting government and who have said that libraries are passe.
And you would be silly, too, if you thought that Council members Sullivan-Leonard, Katkus, Wall and Harris did this because they dislike libraries. Oh, no! they love libraries! Faster than any of them could whirl their chairs, they were all protesting their long-held love of libraries. You should have heard the eloquent speeches they made! (They seem not to know that actions speak louder than words.) Ms. Harris killed the library because she "doesn't trust government". The Wannabe sisters killed it because, they said, it was sudden, and there was no rush; it's not like the library has been too small for at least 25 years, or anything.
Council Member Woodruff, who didn't like the original ordinance, was the only council member ready and willing to continue to meet to work out something that could be put on the ballot and that would be appealing to voters. Too bad she didn't think to do this last fall.
So, party: yes; library: no. Great priorities, doncha' think!
Q: How many LoL in tilt-a-whirl chairs does it take in Waah-silly-ah to kill the library, again?
A Four: Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, Taffina Katkus, Leone Harris, and Brandon Wall. (Holler was absent.)
Each of them could have, but didn't bother to, bring forward an ordinance supporting a library; instead, the LoL on the council criticized the Administration for its efforts on the behalf of a new library.
My gosh, what if the library had enemies!!! It was enough to make heads spin and cause true LoL to hang onto their nasty, uncomfortable snot-green chairs for dear life!
Waah and gaging sounds were heard in the hallway as the "I-don't-know--25-years-is-rushing-it--there's-no-rush--and-I-care-too-much-to-learn-more-but-I'm-ready-to-be-mayor-and-party" crowd declared how proud they were of the actions that they had taken this evening.
This is not sci fi fantasy. It was real, folks.
Where do we go from here?
•Join the Friends of the Library. Contact Jeanne Troshynski. Donate. Help the Friends put together a long over-due massive lobbying effort.
•Talk up the need for a new library with friends. Write a letter to the editor.
•Talk up the library with City Council members.
Leone Harris has said that she sees no need for a library; she has a computer and can get all the
information she needs from the internet.
Ms. Wannabe (CSL) said she has a nook and doesn't need books, either.
Mr. Holler has also been saying that he thinks that libraries aren't needed anymore.
Question: is an educated, informed public still necessary for the functioning of a healthy democracy, or is that passe, too?
•Find some better people to run for City Council, Borough Assembly and Mayor. The filing period begins
7/16. COW seats up for election this October are A (Katkus), B (Holler) and F (Wall). Holler is term-
limited and cannot run again, so at least one seat will not have an incumbent candidate. Borough
Mayor and Assembly seats held by Larry DeVilbiss, Ron Arvin, Jim Colver, and Vern Halter are up.
•Put your mind to figuring out a formula for funding borough libraries in cities. Then find and support a Boro Mayor and Assembly candidates who support it.
Borough libraries outside the COW & COP are fully funded by the borough through revenue raised by the borough's .5 mil non-area wide property tax for libraries (from which city residents are exempted). 80% of COW library users pay the non-areawide tax to the borough (ie, are not city residents) but it sounded like from what Wasilla mayor Rupright was saying, the Borough Mayor and Assembly currently is providing no funding for the COW library, so where is the borough property tax going for all those non-city residents who pay property tax for libraries and use the COW & COP libraries?
The next Wasilla City Council meeting will be Monday, August 13th@ 6pm. Come. Stare at them; they love being the center of attention. Better yet, speak up. A resolution opposing Prop 2 will again be on the agenda; maybe you'd like to tell the council what you think of it. (You can see these things online, and get alerts and packets for meetings by going to the COW Clerk's webpage.) Maybe you'd like to talk about the library. If you think you might have something to say (you can always change your mind later if you decide not) be sure to sign the clipboard near the door to the COW council chambers as you enter. Don't come late: Mayor Slam-bam-thank-you-Ma'am Rupright is always trying to set a new meeting speed record and your chance to speak could be right after 6pm. You get 3 min. There's a second opportunity to speak at the bitter end of the meeting, if your butt can handle that much time in the uncomfortable seats and your head hasn't exploded beforehand from the cognitive dissonance.