Assembly Report for October 23, 2007
A POOL FIX IN THE WORKS? Midtown Assembly member Dick Traini and Allan Tesche want to take a $2M bond proposal to the voters to pay for much needed repairs in swimming pools within the Anchorage Parks and Recreation Service Area. The proposed ballot proposition will be heard on January 8, 2008, and if approved by six members of the Assembly, will appear on the March, 2008 ballot. Issue of the bonds would be contingent on receipt of an equal contribution of $2M from the state legislature for the pools repairs. Trani is looking into ways of funding additional costs of keeping four of the pools open during the remainder of 2007 and has offered a resolution match surplus Assembly money with Administration funds for pool operations in the remainder of this year.
2008-9 BUDGET HEARINGS OPEN: A backlog of old business delayed the opening of public hearings on the 2008-9 annual operating budget for several hours on Tuesday night. Public testimony the Assembly did hear came largely from swimming pool proponents who wanted assurances that the Assembly would reject plans by mayor Mark Begich to cut back hours in four municipal swimming pools because of rising maintenance costs. Public hearings on the budget will resume again on November 6, 2007, with final action planned for November 13, 2007.
ONCE AGAIN, SINGLE MEMBER DISTRICTS AND MAYORAL RUN OFFS ELECTIONS: Assembly member Dan Sullivan announced on Tuesday night he will introduce ballot propositions that would restore a requirement that a special run off election be held in the mayor’s race if no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote. Since 2003, the current home rule charter has required a run off election in the mayor’s race only if the leading candidate does not receive 45% of the vote in the regular election. Sullivan is a downtown bar owner and long rumored to be a candidate for mayor in 2009. Easily able to extract significant campaign contributions from local businesses, Republicans and other conservatives, Sullivan would benefit by campaign laws that would require multiple elections in a mayor’s race. Mayoral run off elections each cost hundreds of thousands of dollars more progressive opponents traditionally have difficulty raising.
Sullivan intends to also bring back an old Republican favorite - single member districts for Assembly members - in a companion ballot proposition for introduction at the next Assembly meeting. 10 assembly seats are currently distributed among five double member districts and a single member district downtown. Under current rules, a change to single member districts with three year terms would require a charter amendment approved by the voters and if pased, would most likely require all eleven Assembly members to stand for election even though some have years remaining on current terms. Single member districting has been rejected several times before and has little popular support among voters except the far right, but like an old penny, the idea just keeps coming back.
COFFEY BOOTS TESCHE FROM ASSEMBLY ETHICS COMMITTEE; REFUSES PUBLIC EXPLANATION: Assembly chair Dan Coffey on Tuesday night announced he has removed downtown Assembly member Allan Tesche from the Assembly’s Ethics Committee. Coffey admitted he took this action without prior notice to Tesche or other members of the Assembly and refused Tuesday night to provide a public explanation for his action. The committee reviews and makes recommendations to the assembly on potential changes to the city’s ethics code.
ACTION ON DOGS DELAYED ONCE AGAIN: The Assembly never reached AO 2007-106 proposed by Assembly member Dan Coffey which would ban dogs from all enclosed baseball fields. Dozens of dog owners waited patiently in the Assembly chambers for four hours before being told they would have to return on November 27, 2007 for public testimony.. Under this law, dogs would be banned from enclosed baseball fields regardless of whether a baseball game is actually in progress. Coffey’s ordinance would not repeal or modify existing laws which allows dogs to run off leash under voice control.
NO ACTION ON I/M PROGRAM REPEAL: Other matters prevented the Assembly from taking action on AO 2007-122, to end the city’s mandatory vehicle exhaust emission program. Under IM, Anchorage vehicles must undergo periodic emissions tests and owners must make required repairs before vehicles 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.
NEW COFFEY ORDINANCE ENDS ASSEMBLY OVERSIGHT OF BEER AND WINE LIQUOR LICENSE ZONING: By a vote of 11-0, Assembly conservatives approved an ordinance authored by Assembly Chair Dan Coffey Action on AO 2007-121(S-1) which will allow an administrative official to issue zoning permits for restaurants to sell beer and wine. Currently, the Assembly makes those decisions only after public hearings and after receiving input from community councils. Coffey picked up support for his ordinance by stating his intent that the new law would not take away the Assembly’s role in setting land use standards for beer and wine establishments nor diminish access by the public and community councils to the Assembly on land use issues. With the backing of city attorney Jim Reeves, Coffey’s ordinance may simplify assembly debate and discussion on beer and wine applications, it may not provide relief to small business owners who would still be required to obtain approvals at both a staff level (zoning) and then at an assembly level (regulatory and zoning) before pouring the first glass of wine..