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Monday, November 3, 2014

IT'S YOUR FUTURE..VOTE TOMORROW






The Mat Su Borough Assembly has a different look these days. Oh it still an "all male" club but thanks to voters who finally acquired a taste for moderation in the last couple of elections the men that have taken a seat at the table (Beck, Sykes and Mayfield) appear to be much more interested in working together with the public for a better more transparent government and place to live. They seem to be determined to give more than lip service to a public process and actually include and invite folks to the table to be part of the solutions. Change that could give you whiplash if you aren't paying attention. 

They also seem to be determined to keep their ego's in check. That in itself should trim hours off of assembly meetings. A welcome change for those of us that find the chairs in the new assembly digs not that much more comfortable than the old ones.  

Speaking of elections and change and in case you've been living under a rock TOMORROW is the statewide election.

After months of teeth gnashing, wild promises. finger pointing, twisted truths and flat faced lies that came into our homes and even our businesses in the form of an avalanche of mailers, phone calls, door knockers and commercials the day of reckoning and maybe referendum is upon us. Hopefully you take this duty to vote seriously and have done your homework beyond the soundbites. Also that you recycle that mountain of glossy fliers mostly paid for by outside money laying in the seat of your car or kitchen table.  

IF you haven't voted early or by absentee so you can dangle your feet in the ocean or some other place with a clear conscience, you will head to your voting precinct tomorrow to cast your vote to either change the look of the state with new leaders or continue to support the status quo. Of course there will be some people for one soggy reason or another will fail to cast a vote and become part of an epidemic more serious than ebola, low voter turnout.  

Oddly this wild ride on the election roller coaster comes down for most people to a couple of issues that are important to them. If your concerned about the future of Alaska at all one of the top issues will be EDUCATION. Something important in our state constitution Article VII states "the legislature shall by general law establish and maintain a system of public schools open to all children of the State, and may provide for other public educational institutions. Schools and institutions so established shall be free from sectarian control. No money shall be paid from public funds for the direct benefit of any religious or other private educational institution".  During last session of the legislature one of our own valley freshman legislators, Dunleavy launched an attack on that amendment that narrowly missed the target, trying to sell the idea of school vouchers. A bad idea with a side of bad idea. But make no mistake, that attack will be back in earnest if voters stick to the status quo and don't make a change by electing his opponent Warren Keogh a strong supporter of public education and using public money for that purpose and not into the pockets of corporations or religious organizations. Keogh is in the company of some fine candidates across the state that have received the seal of approval from Great Alaska Schools who did your homework for you and through their thoughtful questionnaire came up with the best voters guide of the election when it comes to education. It will tell you who really talks the walk of the education of our young being a priority and not a campaign slogan shell game. There are other issues for sure but few rises to the level of a good FAIRLY FUNDED education for our kids and future workforce. 

We have a feeling that Alaskans are in the mood just as borough voters were in for a new look for their leaders in state government. Folks are ready to let the adults back in the room now that the piggy bank has been turned over and the food fight it over. They are tired of being shaken down for their lunch money and they are ready for some sense and sensibility in their leaders. If that's the case than Keogh won't be the only new legislative leader but there will be a few more whose name you will see in the voter guide. Along with them if the stars align the unity ticket of Walker/Mallott, will take the helm with their steady hands and guide us through the rough seas ahead. And despite Ted Cruz and his mom jeans "desperation weekend tour" of Alaska, the bush will carry the water of the state and send Begich back to the Senate and Ohio Dan back to his trust fund and the arms of the Koch Brothers and his new BFM, Mitt. 

Whatever happens it will happen tomorrow (Tuesday Nov.4th) and our bleeding ears will get a rest. Do your part of what may prove to be an historical election. Vote.  Any questions find the answers on the state website

Let's do this!


Sunday, March 30, 2014

DOUBLE, DOUBLE TOIL AND TROUBLE...







What is it? Campaign boiler room or a Borough government that serves the interests of its citizens?  

Assembly Ordinance 14-050 comes before the Assembly this Tuesday, April 1, 2014 for public hearing followed by Assembly action to approve or deny.  This hastily drafted and pathetically ill-conceived ordinance would allow the expenditure of public funds…. our taxpayer funds… to influence statewide ballot propositions.  No requirement for accurate representation of the issue; no cap on the amount of funds that may be expended; no limit of Borough staff time to work on the Assembly’s narrow, extreme agenda; no prohibition on using borough facilities.

If Assemblyman Arvin and company have their way this Tuesday (which happens to be April Fool’s Day, or is it make fools of the public day?), the Mat-Su Borough Assembly will go a long way towards becoming nothing more than a political platform to further an extreme ideology of at least one assemblyman at the expense of the public interest.

Instead of dealing with a heaping plateful of serious underfunded road projects, classrooms becoming more crowded, emergency services beaming with litigation and liabilities, and dry docked ferries hemorrhaging taxpayer money just to name a few, furthering political agendas instead of meeting the real everyday needs of our citizens gets thrown in the already ugly political polarized stewpot and given a place on the assembly agenda?  Really?  How exactly to you square that up with a bunch of elected officials that were elected under the banner of “fiscally conservative”. 

Is Mr. Arvin so emboldened by the toss of his own hat in the ring for a state level house seat that he wants to show his political party just how big a bucket of water he can carry? It’s hard to think of anything smacking more of political partisanship unless of course you count of the Wasilla assemblyman’s influence in the states redistricting fiasco. All of this while pointing a finger at the size of government and demonizing public workers with one sweeping ordinance, this would let a tango line of foxes in the peoples hen house and use borough property tax money to pay for the privilege of the raid.

Cities across the country are starting to realize that the “big project” approach the ceremonial mayor and the spending hound majority member assembly love takes up too much staff time, wastes too much political energy and distracts too much from the basic needs of existing neighborhoods. But that memo hasn’t seemed to reach some members of this assembly. Despite the election of two even handed assembly members (Beck and Sykes) who have put the brakes on a few bad ideas and started asking questions that clearly annoy those on the assembly that are only used to telling us what to do and not answering our questions, they are swimming against the same powerful tide. Toxic brew supplied by cronyism!

Assemblyman Jim Sykes who is walking his talk of protecting the borough checkbook and property taxpayer monies wrote an excellent piece in today's Frontiersman that makes it clear this is one elected official that thinks passing Ordnance 14-050  is a terrible idea. We encourage you to read it and other sane men on the assembly to protect our public funds from this nonsense and vote NO. 


We also suggest contacting your Assembly person (and while you are at it… cc the entire Assembly and the Ceremonial Mayor) and say DON’T MAKE FOOLS OF US…. VOTE NO ON ASSEMBLY ORDINANCE 14-050!  If you want to see the sparks fly on this you are encouraged to come to Tuesday's assembly meeting at the borough building at 6pm or listen to the live stream at www.radiofreepalmer.org

Even if Mr. Arvin pulls this terrible ordinance off the agenda before the meeting his introduction of this idea and the smell of it is so bad it should serve as a reminder of what nefarious things lay ahead if we aren't paying attention and hand power of representation to the wrong people. And yes we are looking at you if you fail to vote. 




Monday, January 13, 2014

WAIT..IS THERE A CRACK IN THE CEREMONIAL MAYOR'S MEN?





After watching the last borough assembly meeting it’s beginning to look like the “lockstep dance” might not be trending this year.

In the last couple of years the mayor and some members of the assembly have done a lot of gerrymandering with boards and commissions. 

In 2011 saying it was time to go on a “board and commission diet” assemblyman Arvin led the charge to successfully eliminate the “Real Property Asset Management” Board on the grounds it was “redundant”. No actual financial analysis was done to see if it would save money but with the votes lined up on the assembly (Arvin, Colver, Colligan, Woods, Salmon) and no threat of a mayoral veto, like magic it was gone. As Garfield the cat said “diet” is “die” with a “t”.

The board’s job WAS to “act in an advisory capacity to the assembly and administration, on all matters affecting real property and natural resource development.” With that ball kicked through the goal post no time was wasted in unhinging the subdivision code, passing handfuls of resolutions  in support of coal mining everywhere and anywhere, eliminating the existing tall towers regulation (and by looking at the cell towers that have popped up like chickweed with no notice that worked out well), watered down  the gravel ordinance thus allowing for gravel mining in the water table, lifted the cap off the noise ordinance and dropped  taxes for business all in the name of “opening the borough for business”. Draining the nice reserve balance the borough HAD including the emergency fund was the cherry on the top of the less oversight of government diet sundae. Opening a door to business that was never closed was just a pesky detail.

Like most dieters only one food group was eliminated (oversight of borough asset management) and more calories were packed onto boards like the port commission.This commission had the limit on appointment terms raised from two 3 year terms to three 3 year terms. The port commission has always functioned with a revolving door not uncommon in skyscrapers but rarely good for government.  In fact, that revolving door is likely to get another spin soon as defeated Assemblyman Noel Woods is up for mayoral confirmation to warm a seat that he not so long ago occupied on the port commission. This ensures no disruption in the total agreement that everything and anything that has “port" in the title gets a nod.

The assembly binging has continued with dozens of people appointed by the mayor and confirmed by a majority of the assembly to a various array of real and invented boards and commissions.  And then there are the “working groups” which by the way cost money because they require staff time. Important items like economic development are once again being taken up by a working group that includes a laundry list of cronies and political supporters of mostly yes men (and few women). The membership seat count was even raised for the ethics board but with the soggy mess the assembly has made of that ordinance it’s doubtful they will be called to meet anytime soon.


  • No other board or commission other than the “Real Property Asset Management Board” was ever eliminated ! Go figure.
  • No reason when the gatekeeper to protect the public and taxpayer interest was the only real target.
  • No reason when the borough buffet table is full of members serving up some big oversize helpings of special interest to their buddies in business to benefit with their own personal interests sprinkled on top. And with hardly anyone paying attention by evidence of the pitiful voter turnout why not, right? Only thing standing in their way is office holder ethics. And oh wait once again Assemblymen Arvin and Colver took care of that.
  • No reason when the whole goal of the assembly spending hounds (see earlier post) is to privatize the profits and socialize the costs and losses of local government.


SOMEONE IS PAYING ATTENTION 

Last week the assembly asked for a special meeting with the Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission and chances are they got more than what they bargained for. In what's become the accepted dog and pony show was well, without its dog or it's pony. Instead it was presented and documented by the well-spoken and very knowledgeable acting chair of the commission former state fish and wildlife biologist Larry Engel. His presentation made it pretty clear that he and the others on the commission take their duties and purpose to  “represent the interests of the borough in the conservation and allocations of fish, wildlife, and habitat” pretty darn seriously. Serious enough to take issue with HB77 a hotly debated bill that has some serious implication to water rights and gutting the public process that will most likely involve much arm twisting and teeth gnashing during the upcoming legislative session. You should again pay attention or you may not have any say on what happens on Alaska’s public lands and waters.

RUT-RO! 


Somehow in the storm of giddy cronyism appointments to the Borough Fish and Wildlife Commission, it appears to have much of what the real property asset management had before it ended up in the sacrificial stew, people with expertise who care about where they live and are not afraid to speak up. It has appointees that are subject authorities that seem to understand the difference between “public service” and “lip service”. So much so it has found itself in the middle of a tug a war between the mayor and some assembly members over a couple of letters sent to the governor speaking on behalf of the borough. The Frontiersman sums up the serial over-stepping of the mayor here http://www.frontiersman.com/opinions/editorials. So off base were the mayor’s actions it brought out former assemblyman Warren Keogh to speak up as a private citizen during audience participation. Often the lone wolf protecting the public and pointing out the ceremonial mayors political partisan actions and wrong-headed opinions, Keogh didn’t hold back and for good reason. That testimony is required reading and can be found here http://www.frontiersman.com/opinions/letters_to_editor/house-bill-is-an-extraordinarily-bad-piece-of-legislation/article_fd2f8610-79bf-11e3-8b73-001a4bcf887a.html

And to make matters worse, in the process of carrying his political water, the mayor splashed some on the shiny new assembly members.


FALLING MORE IN LINE WITH THE PUBLIC 

Assemblyman Jim Sykes has seen years of political hi-jinks. Last fall voters selected him over another of the good ole boys in part because they knew he would use is wisdom and experience to make sure there would be more transparency and a robust public process in the borough. He was the first to step up to take issue with the dueling letters and the inconsistent message it sent to the state.  For that his assembly brethren instructed him to work with fellow Assemblyman Colligan who is always at the front of the pack to demonize those that don’t agree with his narrow ideology. Colligan’s mastery in obstruction of measures to protect the public is only second to his skills in pushing the borough nearer to the radical conservative cliff. Finding that common ground might be harder than finding water in the Mojave Desert. Colligan has repeatedly claimed he hasn’t had time to read the 24 page bill. Perhaps Sykes should consider the Ted Cruz approach by reading it out loud Dr. Seuss style to his fellow assemblyman. 

On the other hand Assemblyman Matt Beck is a fresh face on the scene and is proving tout suite that he is nobody’s consort.  We are going to go out on a limb here and forecast that he will be the kind of assembly representative that does his homework on the packet and builds coalitions of balanced thinkers just as he is for a valuable resource. That can be a big threat to those filling chairs for the political purpose of their party or own political futures. The chance that he cannot be counted on "to go along to get along" poses some hurdles to the lockstep dance recitals. According to his comments he is making it clear that he understands that borough code says that NO ONE speaks for the position of the borough or the assembly other than the manager.  He also made it clear that he doesn’t like to be accused of being closed minded on issues before he has made up his mind. This may be tough for the mayor and lock steppers on the assembly to take in. To say deciding the merit of issues on the facts and not political parties and personal dogma hasn’t been the spending hounds strong point might be the biggest understatement so far this year.

So it’s looking like there will be a few more dance steps on the assembly. That even perhaps the “lockstep” will turn into a “knee lock” that brings down those that are only fiscally responsible in their own minds. We have some hope that the changes will shine some needed light on who on the assembly is working for the public and who is working for their buddies or their own political futures and that the October election will cull out some that don’t seem to understand that public service shouldn’t be confused with private entitlement.

But then there is that old saying.”If wishes were horses we’d all ride”.  The public can take the reins and lead they just have to show up and want to.