KFQD’s conservative talk radio show host, Casey Reynolds, made a lot of waves yesterday morning when he posted “an insane email” (his description; my endorsement) state GOP Chairman Peter Goldberg sent to Anchorage Assemblyman Bill Starr.
Tuesday evening, the Assembly would decide the fate – or, at least, the next step in the fate of – Ordinance 37, which severely affects collective bargaining rights for public union. That includes the police and fire departments. The ordinance currently faces a voter referendum, but midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini has authored a proposal to repeal the law outright. Eagle River lawmaker, Starr, surprised a lot of people when he added his name as a cosponsor.
GOP Chair Peter Goldberg’s letter read:
Why are you changing your mind on the bill that reined in the unions? From my personal perspective, that was one of the greatest achievements of the Assembly and the Mayor in recent history. The salaries that some of our municipal employees receive is absolutely absurd. In particular, the police and firemen are WAY overpaid. I don’t buy the argument that their job is dangerous. Their pay dwarfs that of the average soldier who is far more likely to be shot at. Some of our police have retired pay that is much higher than military colonels and generals.
I suspect that you’ve gotten a lot of pressure from the unions, but I can’t believe that the population of the city as a whole wants to give in to them.
Please go back to your original position.
Peter S. Goldberg
Chairman, Alaska Republican Party
Reynolds’ leak of the letter caused a healthy sampling of outrage, including from current Republican state house candidate Roger Purcell, who responded, in part:
Your action has disgraced the office you hold and a Party that prides itself on its steadfast support not just for our troops, but also for our hard working and courageous police and firefighters. You should swiftly and publicly apologize to us all, but particularly to the families of our fallen public safety heroes.
That’s from a guy who thought posting a picture of President Obama’s head, attached to testicles, on Facebook seemed like fair game. That should tell the party something.
Goldberg was billed as the “cooler head” when vaulted atop state Republican Party leadership. As Amanda Coyne pointed out in her coverage, “After the party leadership was hijacked by a combination of tea party/Ron Paul supporters, Goldberg, a retired Army colonel, took over to provide some sanity.”
Sanity looks weird.
To his points, Anchorage is a relatively safe place for our public servants in the police and fire departments. Only seven police officers have fallen in the line of duty since statehood; six firefighters.
That’s both a really good statistic and an astoundingly perverse metric to judge their compensation or value.
The municipality currently faces a very troubling intersection of bad things. As Nathaniel Hertz of the Anchorage Daily News reports, crime is on the rise, with new FBI data reporting increases in “murder, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, motor-vehicle theft, and larceny and theft.”
Otherwise known as…stuff you need the police for.
Unfortunately, the spike in crime comes at precisely the same moment as, what KTVA’s Kirsten Swann titled, a “staffing spiral.”
Chief Mark Mew told the Anchorage Assembly’s Public Safety Committee his department expects 40 officers to resign or retire this year; twice the annual average. On the flip side, he said the incoming police academy class is unusually small. Only 18 new recruits qualified for November’s academy, and one was subsequently rejected after the department dug further into their background…. He said the mass exodus of veteran officers and the already smaller-than-usual academy class would have a profound impact on Anchorage’s police force.
Part of the recruitment and retention problem could be linked to AO37. Back during the public testimony on the labor rewrite, APD’s James Dokken presented a familiar back story, often repeated by hundreds of the bill’s opponents. Serving in the army, he came to Alaska in 2003. He had zero intentions of sticking around, but fell in love with the place and the people. He became a cop. He liked it.
I began to experience how selfless attitudes they had lifted me and kept me on the path of compassion. I also began to realize that it wasn’t just the peace officers in this city that had the same attitude, but daily contact with firefighters, EMS, and other servants – even some not employed by this city – revealed a mirror image of my department’s goal to make this city the best place in the country to live and work.
And then Dokken said something that easily could have been written expressly for the head of the state Republican Party, Mr. Goldberg.
So, I think maybe the reason you would consider [Ordinance 37] is because you haven’t had the unfortunate pleasure of experiencing the emergency services this city has to offer. Maybe you haven’t experienced the compassion these people show, above and beyond the task they are given of keeping you sage, treating your wounds, and saving your home. But then I remember all the services this city provides so well other than that. Power outages are few and well contained, even in the harshest of storms. Last year, our employees removed enough snow to fill five acres of property several hundred feet high. I’m in this city every week. I see the work your employees provide, and I am constantly amazed at the level of service they don’t have to give but do.
Dokken said if the labor rewrite passed, he would “take what little I have saved in my 401k, my training, my experience, and my skills to another state.”
The Alaska Republican Party endorsed our loss.
GOP Chair Peter Goldberg owes a lot of people an apology.