Assembly Report for September 25, 2007
COFFEY WIGGLES WITH DOG POOP ORDINANCES: Tuesday night’s long anticipated public hearings on Dan Coffey’s "poop laws" brought out a handful of dog owners, parks uses and little leaguers who showed up testify on ordinances he drafted to keep incontinent dogs out of little league fields. Public hearings have been closed and action has been postponed until November 23, 2007. Coffey's proposals have proven highly controversial in recent weeks, dividing angry local dog owners who enjoy public parks and always pick up after their dogs, against other Alaskans, (including Coffey himself) who are tired of dog poop left on trails or, worse still, in Little League fields.
Before the Assembly was Coffey’s AO 2007-100 which would have banned all dogs, even if leashed, from municipal ballfields and playing fields. The ordinance would have eliminated a long standing exemption for dogs under their owners’ "voice command" while on public property except for official "dog parks". After some discussion, this ordinance was postponed indefinitely.
A second ordinance sponsored by Coffey (AO 2007-106), would ban dogs from all enclosed baseball fields and would imposes fines of $75 for the first violation, $100 for the second violation, and $150 for the third violation of existing "leash laws". This ordinance would not repeal or modify existing law which allows dogs to run off leash under voice control. Under this law, dogs are banned from enclosed baseball fields regardless if a baseball game is actually in progress. Amendments are expected.
According to a reliable urban myth, Coffey introduced the ordinances after he stepped into a pile of dog poop while coaching his son’s Little League game on a municipal ballfield. He was joined by Eagle River’s Bill Starr and East Anchorage’s Sheila Selkregg as co sponsors of AO 2007-106.
SULLIVAN DERAILS TOWN SQUARE RESOLUTION: By a vote of 6-5, the Assembly derailed a compromise resolution AR 2007-206 which would have resolved the controversial issue of naming Town Square Park. Prepared by the Begich administration, the compromise would have honored the three citizen activists (Shirely Brundage, Aves Couples, and Moutlon) who battled City Hall for twenty five years by naming discrete portions of the Square for the women, but leaving intact Town Square as the name for the park. The compromise was intended to replace an earlier proposal to name the entire Square after late Ruth Moulton. Despite assurances from Mayor Begich that families and colleagues of all three women had agreed to the final design of the Square, Assembly member Dan Sullivan objected. He said he had heard that the Brundage family was not satisfied with the design worked out by city staff and that he wants the Park designed differently. Technically, the compromise resolution prepared by the parks department will return to the Assembly for further consideration on October 9, 2007. Voting with Sullivan to postpone action until October 9, 2007 were Assembly members Starr, Coffey, Johnston, Birch, and Bauer. As a practical matter, Sullivan has ripped old wounds open again in the downtown area.
PAUL BAUER SPANKED FOR ETHICS VIOLATION: In a written decision released last Friday, the city’s Board of Ethics ruled that East Anchorage Assemblyman Paul Bauer violated the city’s Code of Ethics by calling a press conference on March 20, 2007 to publicize a Notice of Possible [Ethics] Violation he had filed against Mayor Mark Begich. Anchorage Municipal Code Sec. 1.15.070(K) expressly forbids disclosure of ethics complaints before the Board has completed its investigation of the matter. Despite a warning by city clerk Barbara Gruenstein before his press conference began, Bauer "knowingly violated" three sections of the Code by holding the press conference and distributing copies of the Notice of Possible Violation he had filed with the Board.
The Board recommended that the Assembly "officially admonish Assembly Member . . . Bauer for these violations" and also recommended that he attend and complete an ethics training course within the next six months. Final action on theses recommendations is left to the Assembly following receipt of the board’s report. It is unclear whether Bauer will complete his ethics training before he is up for re election in his east Anchorage district on April 1, 2008.
The Assembly did not (in public, at least) address the issue Tuesday night nor did Chair Coffey announce how the Assembly will address the Board’s recommendations Bauer be admonished for his Ethics violation. The board’s decision was posted on the web by deputy clerk Linda Heim Friday afternoon and can be downloaded from: http://www.muni.org/Assembly2/ethicsviolationreports.cfm
IMMIGRATION SMACKDOWN ON NOVEMBER 14TH: Assembly member Matt Claman, announced on Tuesday that his Public Safety Committee will meet on Wednesday November 14, 2007 to review Paul Bauer’s Immigration Policy ordinance. (2007-175) The meeting will start at 12:00 noon in the assembly chambers at the Loussac Library. The meeting will last for 1.5 hours and public comment will be allowed.
ASSEMBLY TWEAKS STANDARDS GOVERNING ZONING VARIANCES: AO 2007-117 restates grounds the Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals follows in considering applications for variances from municipal zoning regulations. A private developer and the Board’s chair testified the ordinance gives the board "a little more latitude" in considering variances on existing structures, eliminating some of the "intellectual gymnastics" the Board sometimes follows in handling variances. A critical change allows the board to grant variances from parking requirements if the applicant shows spillover parking onto other properties will be avoided in the variance is granted. By a vote of 10-1, the ordinance was adopted.
DOWNTOWN PLAN STALLS: Requests by truckers for additional time to prepare potential amendments, public hearings on dog poop, dozens of potential floor amendments and the late hour forced the Assembly to delay final action on a new Downtown Comprehensive plan until October 9, 2007. Several years in the making and supported by the Administration and Planning and Zoning Commission, the new downtown plan establishes a strategy for downtown revitalization, new land use and economic development policies, transportation and circulation, design standards, and program strategies such as signage and wayfinding, safety and security, and event activity programming.