Assembly Report for July 3, 2007
AL CHOY AND HIS RAILROAD TAKE ON CITY HALL: Hoping to lure a few more patrons into his south Anchorage watering hole, bar owner Al Choy hauled this old Alaska Railroad passenger car onto the property to expand the seating area inside of his bar. City code enforcement staff balked, saying his parking is inadequate. Neighbors and a community council are itching wildly. Choy called in his lawyer who filed suit in Anchorage superior court and noticed up some twenty depositions of municipal officials. Pending the outcome of the litigation, Choy won a tiny victory in court: an order from the superior court allowing him to place the former railroad car on piliings adjacent to the old Seward Highway. By stipulation of the parties, Choy may not serve liquor or operate a bar in the railroad car until further order of the court. You can judge for yourself whether the railroad car and its curious hood ornament add to or detract from the commercial landscape of the Old Seward Highway.
ASSEMBLY BACKTRACKS ON TOWN SQUARE; CONSIDERING AN "ANYBODY BUT RUTH" NAMING POLICY: Without taking any additional comment from the public, the Assembly amended and passed Dan Sullivan’s so called "compromise" Town Square naming resolution on June 26, 2007 declaring that the Square will not be named to honor any single person. Instead, the resolution sent the controversial issue back to the city’s Parks Department for a "conceptual design" of a garden area within the Square to honor Ruth Moulton, Shirely Brundage, and Avis Cupples, subject, of course, to final Assembly approval. AR 2007-159 is hardly a "compromise", however, because it effectively replaces an earlier directive of the Assembly given to the Public Facilities Advisory Commission and to the Parks and Recreation Commission to consider naming the entire Town Square or an integral part of the Square to honor neighborhood leader Ruth Moulton. She led led the successful campaign in the 1980s and 90s to create a downtown town square in its present location.
Only last winter, the Assembly found that because of Moulton's "special efforts, accomplishments and . . . many years working to make Town Square a reality, she has achieved public status worthy of long term recognition". The Assembly voted unanimously to honor Ruth by naming "the town square plaza or other integral town square area . . . to recognize this exceptional citizen." The Assembly submitted her name to the Public Facilities Advisory Commission for official action. On March 27, 2007, the Commission unanimously recommended the entire Park be named in her honor, following an identical action by the Parks and Recreation Commission. At the Assembly’s public hearing on June 12, 2007, 20 community councils urged the Assembly to follow the recommendations of the two commissions and name the park for Ruth Moulton; only one council was against. 20 persons spoke in favor of the action; only 5 spoke against. The message from the public was loud and clear: honor Ruth Moulton’s many contributions to Anchorage with her name on Town Square.
Assembly conservatives just didn’t like what they heard from the public. Debbie Ossiander "struggled" with the issue and South Anchorage's Jennifer Johnston addressed the Assembly for the first time in her career, announcing that she too opposed naming the park for Moulton. Speaking for the ruling conservatives, Paul Bauer claimed the public was "confused" about the Assembly’ naming process.; a process he himself had crafted only six months earlier. Bauer’s colleagues then asked Dan Sullivan to pick out something in Town Square to name after Ruth, leaving the curent name intact. The product of Sullivan's work was apparently AR 2007-159 which the Assembly passed on June 26th without further public comment public, sending the delicate issue of naming something in the park for three women back to park planners.
Paul Bauer is not content with keeping the name of the Square intact and letting park planners pick out a smaller feature of the park to honor Moulton, Brundage, and Cupples, however. A particularly mean spirited ordinance he introduced on June 26th would change the rules governing facility names (once again) by prohibiting the naming of a public place for an individual who has been dead for less than five years or, the case of an "internal attribute" of a public place, within one year of that person’s death. Cleverly drafted by attorney Julia Tucker for Bauer, the new ordinance would effectively prevent the Assembly from naming even a manhole in Town Square for Moulton if a final design for the Park is completed within one year of her death last fall. Public hearing on Bauer’s AO 2007-95 is set for August 14.
Assembly conservatives may not have the last word on Town Square, however: The same group that so effectively worked with Ruth Moulton in the 1980s and in the 90s to make the present Town Square a reality (Friends of Town Square) has initiatied a petition drive to implement the ealier recommendations of the Parks Board and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission to name Town Square for Moulton. The track record of Friends of Town Square in similar initiatives in the past should not be ignored as the Anchorage Assembly, once again, tramples over the public process. For details on the petition drive, go to Friends' new website at