It was a cold, foggy Tuesday night in Anchorage, with tennis looming on the horizon.
But that would have to wait until after the dinner break.
Assemblymembers Ernie Hall and Adam Trombley reported meeting with state representative Bill Stoltze about whether the Projects 80’s funds outlined in Senate Bill 18 were intended to include funding the construction of the proposed new public tennis facility that’s held Anchorage in its grip lately.
Hall gave a brief description of their talk:
What he was also very clear in pointing out was, in that particular senate bill there were two items that were items that were numbered specific. One of those items was the museum for $5 million, and the other was an item for Harry McDonald Center that was $4 million. But it was [left] to the discretion of the municipality, of us, to make decisions on how those funds were expended, and I appreciated the fact that he did that and shared that with him.
As chair of the Ethics and Elections Committee, it was announced at the beginning of last night’s assembly meeting that Adam Trombley will hold a work session on a huge new stack of changes he’s proposing. The new ordinance would rewrite a significant chunk of Anchorage’s election code. The work session will take place on December 13 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m., location to be announced. The changes, according to the municipal clerk’s office, are a mixture of language and technical changes, and there are a lot of them – 43 pages online (and 103 pages for a physical copy, available at city hall).
The first public hearing on those changes took place later in the same meeting. Chronology is a curious thing.
The taxi cab debacle.
What has been commonly referred to as the “Taxi Cab Ordinance” survived an effort by Patrick Flynn and Chris Birch to table it indefinitely. Flynn voiced the concern that what had started as former assemblywoman Debbie Ossiander’s effort to improve taxi service into outlying areas of the municipality (in lieu of funding public transportation) had gotten out of hand.
Flynn has a case. The wonkfest of a debate has evolved – or devolved, depending on how one looks at it – into 68 pages of things like percent-per-mile rate increases for rural taxi customers, decreased lease rate proposals for hybrid vehicles, and mandatory annual inspections of limousines after 10,000 miles. A limousine car service needs to be safe and meet high quality standards. It passed easily. Now we can sit back and see if it does anything.
Title 21 Re-re-re-re-repeating, of course.
A slew of amendments were wrapped up into ordinance 117, which aimed to make some technical fixes to, and restore some of the original intent that was stripped out of, the municipality’s land use code: Title 21. For more information about the changes, kick those boots off, relax, and enjoy spending a week or two here.
The change order for the birds.
What does a private contract with Roger Hickel Contracting for “construction and development of the Plant 2A South Staging and Storage Gas Piping Upgrades Project” have with the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?
A $4,950,116.67 whoopsy-daisy.
For over a month now, the Assembly (under the lawyerly direction of Bill Starr) has been trying to figure out why the contract the body awarded Roger Hickel Contracting resulted in a change order asking for another $5 million. The Sullivan administration has steadfastly supported the change order, saying that the contractor acted in good faith. Starr contends that while that is probably the case, the contractor took actions (like a migratory birds study) without approval beforehand.
“That decision falls flat on my shoulders,” said Mike Shaw, president of Roger Hickel Contracting.
The Assembly passed the measure with Patrick Flynn as the lonely dissenting vote.
The veto override that didn’t.
The most contentious moments of the night came during an attempt to override one of the mayor’s recent vetoes. This one was a budget amendment that sought to add $750,000 in funding to Anchorage’s School Resource Officers program. Although SROs are part of the police department, the school district currently pays for the officers. That means it comes out of funding for other things, like education. The original amendment passed 7-4, but lost ground on the override attempt, which only mustered 6 (overrides require 8 votes).
Members Chris Birch, Bill Starr, Amy Demboski, Adam Trombley, and Jennifer Johnston voted to uphold the mayor’s line item axing.
For their next trick, tennis.
Bill Starr sought to strike a compromise by reducing the appropriation from the legislature to build a public tennis facility from $10.5 million to $4,015,000, but after the mayor objected to “half funding” a project, the motion failed 5-6.
A second compromise, authored by Tim Steele, cut the funding from the $10.5 million figure down to $7.7 million to construct a new multipurpose sports facility, including indoor tennis courts, run by the municipality.
“I’ve heard more about tennis than I’d ever want to hear in my life,” Chair Hall said before asking the body to support the funding. They did not. It failed 5-6.
Red meat for social conservatives; a sad moment for municipal politics.
A brief discussion derailed proceedings when the body considered a resolution accepting a $743,722 grant, courtesy of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant award was slated to go to family planning services, and ideological ears perked up.
Trombley asked Anchorage Health and Human Services Director Janet Vietmeier if any of the money would be put towards contraception or abortion-related services. Vietemeier responded by reiterating that the department’s function is to perform counseling, not to steer people in any direction. Demboski asked if any money would be used to provide the “morning after” pill. Vietemeier conceded that it would be, but that it was also available over the counter.
Apparently, that wasn’t enough. Amy Demboski, Bill Starr, and Adam Trombley all voted against the family care funding. You might want to read that last sentence one more time.
Three does not a majority make. The resolution passed.
A couple hundred acronyms and amendments later, the meeting was adjourned. But not before tennis came back up. The mayor dropped a last minute resolution, three minutes before eleven o’clock, dedicating the full $10.5 million (again) to construction of a new sports facility. The move ended up halting public comment mid-sentence, as the eleven o’clock deadline struck.
A new round of public hearing will open for the mayor’s resolution at the next meeting, raising the question of when Assembly Chair Ernie Hall decides to shut down testimony on that issue.
To be continued, December 17.