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Sunday, March 31, 2013

DOES THE COUNCIL NEED A COUNSELOR?










Oh Palmer City Council how we had high hopes for you. When we started attending meetings a couple of years ago by all appearances the council though not without a few warts seemingly was balanced both by gender and designed thinking. But after the last council meeting we can't lie. Our hopes for a different than the rest council are a bit dashed. The gender balance is still there but the thinking seems to have taken that sharp ugly turn straight into political partisanship and pre-election posturing that unless a tow truck shows up and pulls a few ego's out of the ditch and some of those elected are reminded what they are there for, we are probably headed for some serious mud blogging.

It's puzzling really.  A council by all appearances made up of self processed conservatives should be on the same page. It would appear they have so much to agree on like the same tired "smaller government", "live within our means" blah blah blah. But a few members of the council are now showing the signs of an appetite for conspiracy theories and setting the stage for gotcha moments to move their own personal agendas along. There is further evidence the council is now getting caught in the tug a war of politics sprinkled with heavy doses of ego's, jealousy and personal political agendas. The residents of cities rarely win when that gauntlet is thrown. 


Should we blame it on lack of circulation from too many members having their feet stuck in concrete unable to move on any of the big subjects on their plate? For example a long still unresolved negotiation with the Palmer Senior's
over the transfer of the old center seems high centered with wheels spinning. Wheels AND attorney fees.The only thing seemingly moving on the Mat Maid property development is you guessed it...attorney fees. Along with the council acting like they are trapped in a house of mirrors at a traveling amusement park. The politics have already taken a toll on that issue in some ways.


 TETHERED TO THE PAST?


There has been much talk about Palmer frequently not being represented at borough assembly meetings passing on the ability to not only offer brief city reports but taking advantage of having the ability to weigh in on subjects that directly affect the city's bottom line.Too many times information and action taken at the borough table makes its way to the city after the fact. There isn't the best communication by the sitting assembly member (Woods) and the council on matters. We believe the City of Palmer manager, mayor and the very small staff do their best to be at these meetings when they can but their own council meets on the same night of the week nearly every time the assembly does which creates an instant conflict. A fixable conflict. The cities of Wasilla and Houston have their calendar scheduled so that it allows them to be at the assembly meeting and you can normally find representatives from those cities there using their allotted time to inform or speak on matters that effect them.


Mayor Johnson heard the concerns from members of the community and introduced an ordinance to change the day of the week the council meets. Seems simple enough. Should be worthy of discussing the pros and cons. But the ordinance didn't even get a motion for a second so it could be discussed. Let's see its being brought to the council’s attention the day of the week that the council meets MAY have an effect on the city they are governing and they decide to take a pass on even TALKING about it. Why because change is hard? Or is avoidance of the conversation a way just to avoid voting on it?  We will never know.


IS STICKING TO THE CITY AGENDA SO BAD?


This wasn't the only example of council members not willing to govern in the best interest or discuss in public what was really for the good of the city.  Member DeVries brought forth a resolution to support House Bill 19, to "Offer a Permanent Vehicle Registration and Tax Relief on Vehicles at Least Eight Years Old". After 10 to 15 minutes of a strained conversation concerning the uncertainty of the actual cost of the bill to the city and why it was brought forward if it passed,  DeVries finally admitted not having any real
good reason to bring it forward other than “who” the sponsor was Representative Stoltze. 

Okay we get that the council woman is a good Republican Party member and tea party darling and likes to support her guy in Juneau. We all appreciate what Rep.Stoltze delivers up to the city in funding for needed projects. All council members including the mayor seem to have a good relationship with Stoltze. Nobody would deny that. But really should it be up to the council to support legislation still being hashed out in Juneau when they have no clear idea the financial implications to the city that they represent? Particularly when it is brought forth by a member that claims to be watching every dime the city spends. Mayor Johnson at least voiced her concerns that the council didn't have the full picture of the possible loss of revenue (the city receives approx $88,000 a year for all vehicles) and how the bill would actually help move Palmer forward before joining the vote to pass the resolution so it could be unanimous but you could tell she was concerned not having answers.


BECAUSE THERE IS ALWAYS TIME FOR A BIG DEAL THAT'S NOT..


If that wasn't enough disappointment for one night the last piece of business the council took up was brought forward by Council members Best and DeVries who apparently has had their fee-fee's hurt because Mayor Johnson accepted an invitation to represent the city on a state wide board that will meet 4 times this year to discuss the state rails plan.  Typical of state DOT (department of transportation) fashion a letter arrived to the mayor with a couple of day deadline inviting the city to provide a name for representation on a temporary board. A very brief conversation with the manager and mayor resulted in Mayor Johnson's name being forwarded. It was so not a big deal. Never mind that Mayor Johnson had already been advised by the head of state DOT when last in Juneau that he wanted to hear more from about the city's plan for reestablishing rail service and that she had been the
point person selected by members of the community that have launched a 501C to get that job done.  She has spent countless hours interacting with members of the community on this subject and advocating for replacing the tracts that were removed by another project before she was elected.

Best and DeVries were so sure they had captured a "gotcha" moment to launch an attack on the mayor and bring to the council claims of violations to the city code and other nonsense that just contributed to more unseemly behavior. Council member Combs left in the middle of the debate ill. Deputy Mayor Hanson recognizing the silliness attempted to calm the waters by
suggesting that it be a learning opportunity on procedure for selecting names
for future committees down the road and that they move on. 


But Best and Devries would not let it go. The manager did his best to throw water on the fire by suggesting they just blame him for not bringing it to the council although there was no council meeting scheduled that would have allowed sufficient time to move forward another name for representation.  Suggestions by the attorney who seems to weigh in more like a 8th council member these days instead of with what should be sparse thoughtful pointed comments only muddled the waters more. The City Clerk and Council members Erby and Vanover tried to follow Hanson's lead and stay out of the fray probably seeing no good would come of it. It looked and smelled like an ambush on the mayor for clearly just trying to do her job and use her knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the city. The whole issue was an example of how to make a big deal out of no big deal and they still haven't settled it.



HEAVY SIGH...ALWAYS ABOUT THE NEXT ELECTION


We have a few idea's on how the council finds itself in this current mayhem.  Most fingers point to the upcoming election in October when Council members DeVries and Vanover will be up for re-election along with Mayor Johnson's seat as mayor. The council has no term limits and none has publicly said they will be running again but it is widely thought that they all will. There is some speculation that DeVries may challenge Assembly member Woods for his seat which is also up which could prove interesting. Maybe she hasn't gotten the memo that women aren't encouraged to hold positions of power at the borough. In the past we are told DeVries has relied on "visions" to tell her what direction to go.  Who knows when that might occur? 


And who might challenge Mayor Johnson is an unknown as well. Apparently the still stinging council member Best having been replaced by Hanson as Deputy Mayor earlier in the year by a vote of the council is always eager for some recognition and an official name tag so perhaps that is his plan. Being the sponsor of bringing such pettiness and personal agenda to the council doesn't instill much confidence in him.

Whatever the intent by these elected officials if the next election is getting in the way of their governing they should as the last member of the public (and chair of the city planning commission) testifying told them "just stop it".
Enough already with the partisanship and politics. This gentleman  also made some good points about recognizing the importance of Mayor Johnson, who as the face of the city and the manager who is paid to lobby make trips throughout the session to Juneau but it wasn't going unnoticed the other couple of members that were traipsing down there not in the interest of the city but themselves. He said after attending council meetings for a long time he had lost respect for all but a couple of members currently seated watching them play politics instead of doing what was good for the city. He had become very disappointed in what he was seeing. 

We are too.  We hope the next council meeting on April 9th sees some changes with a lot less drama and political posturing. Let's hope the council pulls it together and makes it worth all our time. 

Face it with all that we have to cover with the shenanigans at the assembly (meeting Tuesday at 6pm) we hardly have enough for another standing invitation to the dance of the foolish.
















3 comments:

  1. Mayor Johnson has proven to be an action oriented mayor who has kept the interests of her constituency first and foremost.

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  2. What more can you expect from Tea Party conservatives? They stab each other in the back trying to get to the top. It's in the Koolaid they drink! Really!!

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    Replies
    1. No need for a counter-offensive or even attrition warfare. The T-party is in a battle of annihilation with itself.
      Maybe there's an unoccupied island in the Aleutians where they can colonize until annihilation is complete?

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