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The Howl of Wind, the Silence of an Administration: Mayor Sullivan Can’t Be Bothered

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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?

13 COMMENTS

  1. This is astounding! Insulting. Insufferable.

    This is what small government looks like folks, hear no mayor, see no mayor. All you sitting in the dark are simply SOL.

    My empathy for Anchorage folks that didn’t vote for this guy.

  2. This is sort of like how Assembly member Paul Honeman and others blamed Sullivan for massive amounts of snow last winter. Really? Progressives are acting like Mayor Sullivan caused the storm itself. If he had released more statements would that have been him using a storm for political reasons? At what point will people prepare themselves for these types of situations? We must learn to be more self sufficient rather than relying on Mayor Sullivan for everything.

  3. I don’t know of any progressives, or anyone else, acting like the mayor caused the storm. He is the executive of the city. During the winter, he did a thorough job of coordinating extra snowplow efforts to provide services to areas being dumped on by inordinate amounts of snow. This time around, he’s silent. Two completely different responses. He should be, at the very least, communicating what efforts are going on, and not leaving people in the dark. Pun intended.

  4. I get what you’re saying, Chris, but I think the situation is different this time. The snow last winter was ridiculous, and I think that any Mayor would have been hard pressed to handle the situation gracefully. Don’t paint all Progressives with the same brush.

    No one is accusing Mayor Sullivan of hindering the work that was done. But do you really think he shouldn’t be taken to task for failing to issue any kind of statement until three days after the storm? They could have released information about emergency hotlines if people had no access to water or had medical devices that depended on electricity. He fell flat on this one, and I think it’s appropriate to call him on it.

  5. @ Chris Bailey. This isn’t at all “like” people blaming Sullivan for the wind. I can only speak for myself. I blame Sullivan for his failure as Mayor. FIRST you must understand that Sullivan and his allies on the Assembly forced the restructuring of ML&P from an independent Utility to a department under the Mayor 1 year ago. Remember that? What were the practical consequences? First, the budget and fund management shifted from Jim Posey and an independent Board to the Mayor’s administration. This in turn lead to the failure by the Sulivan Administration to purchase an emergency generator for the ML&P Call Center. The money is available, but the Sullivan Administration is so wrapped up in the SAP Business system to Replace PeopleSoft and Kronos, the electronic time-management system that everything else infrastructure related is ‘on hold’. Moreover, the failure of the Sullivan Administration to treat the wind affects as an emergency means that routine reimbursement from State and Federal Emergency services budgets for the reimbursement of replacement of federally-funded components of power systems or the insurance accounts that we pay into are not going to occur and this will create an extra burden on rate payers. Sullivan doesn’t care because rate payers are not the same as property tax payers in his political world. Finally, Chris, I have NO effing idea where you and the Sullivan Administration come up with this meme that individual ’emergency preparedness’ has any bearing on clearing public streets and rights of way and getting transformers replaced and fixing downed power lines. The Mayor didn’t even get off his bar stool to walk around town and look at damage. Don’t give me that stuff about ‘blaming’ him for the wind…

  6. ML&P customers pay 2% of their bills every month for undergrounding overhead cables. Mr. Bailey seems to think that the failure of the Sullivan Administration to come up with planning and implementation of those upgrades is ‘picking on the Mayor’. When Sullivan decided to take over ML&P, was he thinking about making it work better or just how quickly he can cream-off the utility funds? Well this event seems to have answered THAT question

  7. I must say it is incorrect to say that Sullivan handled the snow situation well. His response was tardy and over and over again crews were not authorized overtime on weekends. Management failed to think ahead about snow dump sites. All the actual workers know this very well.

  8. @Elstan L. – we the people should live in a country where everything is private. As Dennis Prager says the bigger the government the smaller the people. This is the AMERICA i want. Do you want the govt to be with you from the baby cradle to the grave? Your fancy analysis doesn’t impress me!!!! America is a constitutional republican country and isn’t socialist like you sound like you want it to be. Thats all folks.

  9. @Jon A – do you think that all fat white guys are the same ? Those 2 men are great Americans who love America. I have read your pieces and you are a socialist just like the rest of these people!

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