Assembly Report for August 28, 2007
DAN SULLIVAN LAYS AN EGG WITH PROPOSED CHARTER AMENDMENTS: At a recent Assembly elections committee meting, Dan Sullivan explained three charter amendments he’s cooked up for local elections: he wants to reinstate the old "50% rule" for mayoral elections; redraw Assembly district boundaries to give each member a separate district, and expand the school board to eleven members, again running from separate districts. Good government, Sullivan explains, requires primaries or run off elections to ensure our local officials are not, unlike Abraham Lincoln or even George Bush, elected by less than 50% of the voters. In Dan Sullivan’s parochial world, members of the school board and Assembly should champion neighborhood interests on their respective bodies, and not the interests of the municipality or school district as a whole. Sullivan’s attempt to breathe new life into old ideas that have been rejected before is ill considered for at least two reasons:
First, there is nothing wrong here that needs fixing. Voters are basically content with the current rule which requires expensive run off elections only where no mayoral candidate wins at least 45% of the vote. Similarly, there is no public clamor to carve 11 assembly districts out of the current 5, nor is the public demanding we hire 3 more school board members and require board members to represent neighborhood, rather than community interests on the school board. These issues are simply not on the public radar screen. To give Dan some idea what citizens in Anchorage are talking about, try gang violence, public corruption, property taxes, snow plowing, and the rising costs of health care.
Second, there is a lot of mishchef behind this election year caper: Run off elections typically involve low voter turnout and for the office of mayor, cost taxpayers in excess of $100,000 to hold. Combined with Sullivan’s scheme to pack the Anchorage school board, these changes will cost taxpayers a bundle. Moreover, if these amendments pass, every local elected office - all 23 of them- will be up for grabs in April, 2009, seriously jeopardizing any continuity in office among local elected officials. By the way, who gets to redraw these new Assembly districts? Why Dan Sullivan and his Assemly cronies, off course, with technical assistance from Randy Ruederich.
Sullivan has accomplished little on the Assembly for the past eight years: he claims he saved the local sign "industry" by resurrecting those obnoxious pole signs phased out by an earlier and more progressive assembly. He helped lead the disastrous effort last year to impose a sales tax that would have put millions of dollars back into the pockets of the wealthiest landowners in Anchorage. His latest fix for city elections is not a wise solution for some festering problem in Anchorage; instead it is a desperate, last ditch effort to brush up a failing legislative career before he runs for Mayor in 2009. If you don’t think this is all about politics, George Wuerch and Henry Springer will sell you a bridge.
DISASTER RELIEF APPROVED BY THE ASSEMBLY: The Assembly on Tuesday considered an ordinance that would provide immediate tax relief to owners of residential property partially destroyed by natural disaster, including earthquake and fire. Under AO 2007-109(S-1) the owner of residential property destroyed by fire or earthquake could apply to the city Assessor for revaluation of his residence in the same year the disaster occurred. Similar ordinances have been considered in neighboring local governments hit by recent wild fires. The ordinance was introduced by Mayor Begich and downtown Assembly member Allan Tesche.
Action on AO 2007-109(S) came after the assembly approved several amendments proposed by the administration. Mobile homes were added, earthquakes were deleted from the definition of "disaster" because of the far reaching impact of large earthquakes, and the ordinance was limited to losses comprising at least one half of the value of improvements. 7 members voted in favor of the ordinance; Shiela Sellkregg joined Dan Sullivan, Chris Birch, and Paul Bauer in voting against the measure.
DOWNTOWN BUSINESS ASSESSMENTS APPROVED: After additional debate, the Assembly on Tuesday approved the annual assessment roll (AO 2007-174) for the downtown business improvement district. The issue became controversial after a handful of downtown property owners complained about the district’s boundaries. Objections included the lack of snow removal and security service on the east side of the district and the Assembly’s decision fifteen years ago to exclude commercial properties on the west side, most notably the Hotel Captain Cook.
A work session was held on August 24 to explore possible changes to the downtown BID before the Assembly considered approval of recommended assessments. Although he presented assembly members with detailed maps and lists of individual properties and their assmessments, Assembly member Sullivan, had no concrete changes ready for the Assembly to consider in addressing his objections. The Assembly voted 10-1 in favor of the resolution; with only Assembly member Dan Sullivan dissenting.
The Downtown Business Improvement District is administered by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership (ADP) which provides snow removal, security, and event services to downtown businesses.