Assembly Report for September 11, 2007
PAUL BAUER CELEBRATES DIVERSITY MONTH WITH NEW ORDINANCE TARGETING SUSPECTED ALIENS: East Anchorage Assembly member Paul Bauer selected 9/11/07 and the middle of Diversity Month to introduce AO 2007-125, a new ordinance that would require Anchorage police to enforce federal immigration laws by verifying the immigration status of persons detained for possible violations of municipal ordinances. Introduced Tuesday by Bauer, Sullivan, and Starr, AO 2007-125 would also require APD to sign a "cooperative agreement" with the Homeland Security giving Anchorage police officers the power to enforce federal immigration laws and to round up illegal aliens for delivery over to federal authorities.
Already controversial is Sec. 8.95.010(B) which would require that "incident to any lawful detention for violation of a . . municipal ordinance", Anchorage police would be required to have persons detained to declare their citizenship on the spot. If they detainee admits to being a foreigner, police are to detain him pending "verification" from U.S. immigration authorities that he lawfully in the United States. On request, APD would also be required to hold detainees wanted by U.S. Immigration until they are taken into federal custody and deported.
Bauer has no information suggesting that illegal immigration is actually a public safety problem in Anchorage, or how much more taxpayers will pay to use local police to hunt down illegal aliens. The ultra conservative Bauer, who is seeking reelection to the Assembly next year, has not addressed the potentially chilling effect his ordinance would have on race relations, or on efforts by APD to partner with ethnic and immigrant communities in order to curb gang violence. The ordinance was referred to the Assembly’s Public Safety Committee for review in November; a public hearing date before the Assembly has not been set.
IM PROGRAM HEADS TO THE JUNKYARD: On the eve of a long awaited report from a city task force over the future of the vehicle inspection and maintenance (IM) program, Assembly member Dick Trani and 5 co sponsors have introduced AO 2007-122, to end the city’s mandatory vehicle exhaust emission program. Under IM, Anchorage vehicles must undergo periodic emissions tests and make required repairs before they may be lawfully operated on city streets in order to reduce carbon dioxide air pollution. The principle argument for eliminating the program is the comparatively low number of "bad air" days Anchorage is now experiencing as a result of improved technology used in automobile engines and exhaust systems. The current IM program costs Anchorage residents some $8M in inspection in repair fees annually.
Public hearings on Traini’s ordinance will take place on September 25, 2007, after the mayor’s IM task force is scheduled on September 15th to release its final report and technical recommendations on whether the program should be continued, abandoned, or even expanded to cover some safety requirements. Passage of Traini’s ordinance won’t eliminate the IM program immediately; only with state and federal approvals could the Anchorage program be eliminated sometime in 2009.
BILL STARR TAKES ON THE CITY’S BUDGET: Rookie Assembly member Bill Starr touched off the 2007 budget season Tuesday night with a resolution setting Assembly policy on the upcoming general government operating budget. The city’s 2008-9 operating budget is expected from Mayor Begich early next month. Starr’s resolution, which attracted concurring votes of eight other assembly conservatives, sets levels for 2008-9 at existing 2007 levels and is not adjusted for inflation. Without consideration for expected inflationary increases due to raising fuel and health insurance costs, Starr’s resolution will necessary have the effect of forcing reductions in existing city programs and services. Tuesday night, Starr said under the city’s budget system as the freshman lawmaker understands, it is up to Mayor Mark Begich, and not the assembly, to identify specific reductions in city programs and services necessary to comply with the Asembly’s resolution. Mayor Begich, however, may have the next and the final say in the budget, however, because by law the budget which will initially come forward for Assembly consideration will be his, and not the Assembly’s. Moreover, the Mayor enjoys the line item veto power as well as a veto which extends to the entire municipal budget.
The resolution finds the ability of local residents to pay for government services "is at or near its maximum capacity" despite the fact that actual real property taxes paid by Anchorage homeowners have been reduced for each of the past two years and Anchorage continues to have the lowest burden on local residents in the country.
Only Assembly members Shiela Sellkregg and Allan Tesche voted against Starr’s resolution.
Starr told Assembly members on Tuesday night that Assembly Chair Dan Coffey had already signed a $20,000 sole source contract with former Murkowski administration budget chief Cheryl Frasca to help his committee during the city’s budget process. Coffey admitted he approved the sole source contract with Frasca without a formal vote of the Assembly, but only after he talked privately with ninel members of the Assembly, but not including downtown Assembly member Allan Tesche. Frasca will be paid $125.00/hour for her work; presumably she will be paid from personnel monies saved after the Assembly leadership fired previous Assembly budget staff.
MAKING SENSE OUT OF HOW TO NAME PUBLIC BUILDINGS: Still before the Assembly is Paul Bauer’s AO 2007-95 and now Matt Claman’s AO 2007-108(S) setting procedures for naming of municipal buildings and public places. After some procedural wrangling, the Assembly on Tuesday postponed action on both ordinances until September 25th.