The Howl of Wind, the Silence of an Administration: Mayor Sullivan Can’t Be Bothered
We simple denizens have to understand that sometimes Anchorage Mayor Sullivan, the man in charge of Alaska’s largest metropolitan city, can’t be bothered.
Just because we were graced with his re-election, doesn’t mean he should be bothered to inconvenience himself to come accept his re-confirmation in person; he had bigger plans. On an island in the sun.
Equal rights? There’s no need for that in his golden city. Please, don’t bother him with trivial things like public testimony; he knows what he is talking about. His esteemed review showed no quantifiable evidence to necessitate equal protection under the law for all Anchorage residents.
If you want to be a homeless person and protest city policies on homelessness, please keep your protests clear of Mayor Sullivan’s causeway. He doesn’t want to stumble over any unwashed peasants. Aren’t there laws against that sort of thing? Well, now there are. At least, for the time being.
So, when a freak September arctic storm pounds the city into stunned submission and leaves thousands of Anchorage residents without power – some still without, five days later – expect silence. When hundreds of mighty trees are felled, keeping arborists, electrical workers and chainsaws burning midnight oil for days, don’t expect to hear our venerable leader over the din of gas-powered generators. You know, it’s just one of those things that happen to the little people. They’ll just put on their Xtra-Tufs and get stuff done. Bootstraps and all.
Clearly the head Sully-in-charge can’t be bothered to make an official statement; he has more important things to do than be burdened by updating his constituents, much less lead them.
The Municipality of Anchorage was unusually mute on the subject of this storm. Once the winds started really kicking in the early evening hours of September 4, we only had our own hushed, wondering voices and the growl and howl of nature making her presence known.
Residents found no official announcement warning of the possible scope of the storm on the Muni website. There were no emergency broadcast alerts. No safety recommendations. No flashy headlines like: “Rope down your furniture,” “stay inside,” or “DUCK!” No one projected what might happen, or what we should we do after.
Wednesday morning broke, and thousands of Anchorage residents woke up to unpredictably relocated trees, damaged homes, and no power. There was no press conference to assess the damage; no call-to-action for citizens to rally together or assurances from our officials; no coordinated effort to inform the public on what the city was doing, nor any public statement from our elected executive in response to an event that would be called a Category One hurricane in any other state.
Even two days after, as thousands of residences remained powerless, Anchorage continued to hear nothing out of City Hall.
The mayor wished to be left alone.
Finally, on Friday, the Anchorage public heard from Mayor Sullivan – provided that you happened to be listening to the Rick Rydell radio show, at a time most tend to be working.
Rydell: Did you have to go into the emergency response center or anything like that during [the storm]?
Sullivan: No. My municipal manager did though. He was pretty much up all night that night responding to calls from utilities and others on whether to call in other people. That kind of stuff. And we’re calling in folks from, literally, all over the state to help restore power lines. I think at ML&P we’re pretty much back on track. I know Chugach, which has a lot larger service area, they’ve still got some challenges. But, you know, this is one of those things where it just takes a few days and, one by one, folks get their power back. So, hopefully, I haven’t heard a report yet this morning, but I think we’re getting to where just about everybody’s restored.”
Power restored to just about everybody, the mayor told Rydell’s listening audience – away from questions from the press. Away from callers Rydell had on in the first hour hearing rumors of weeks without power, callers blasting the lack of communication. Mayor Sullivan’s casual assertion likely came as a bit of a shock to the estimated thousand-plus residents still without electricity as Friday rolled into the weekend.
Saturday evening, a press release from the mayor’s office offered the first glimpse at an official response from the uncharacteristically quiet administration. It reads, in part:
“The shower and restroom facilities at Fairview Recreation Center will be available for use beginning on Sunday 9 September from 10 AM until 8 PM for residents who still may be without power.”
So far, this is the entirety of communication from the highest elected official in Anchorage, vested with administrative power of the Municipality. Go take a shower. The mayor does not wish to be bothered.
What happens when another storm descends on Anchorage in the dead of winter? When subzero temperatures and a power deficit equate to the real possibility of lives lost? What radio show does he call into to opine then? What are we supposed to do, other than shower in Fairview during standard business hours?
Will he allow himself to be bothered then, or shall we just sit in silence and hope for the best?