Having just completed my first run through the Anchorage budget as an Assembly member I found the process both fulfilling and wanting. On the former point, the Assembly worked closely with municipal staff in a deliberate and orderly manner that allowed each member visibility into the process, whether they served on the Budget & Finance committee or not. The result was an informed discussion and effective efforts to reduce spending in numerous areas. On the latter point, I was disappointed that several Assembly members waited until the final debate to suggest that the budget should undergo major structural changes in order to weather what they foresee as dark economic times.
During Tuesday’s debate on a series of budget amendments offered by my new favorite Assembly member, Bill Starr, discussions about the Police Department proved most interesting to me. One of the amendments would have cut $1,025,000 from APD’s budget with Mr. Starr reasoning that our addition of officers should result in reduced overtime but, instead, overtime costs have instead been rising. The flaw in that logic is that the Assembly passes a budget while departments retain the flexibility for intradepartmental allocation, meaning a decrement to “overtime” is essentially an unallocated cut.
The Assembly swung back into action this evening with quite a bit going on. I’ve seen more media representatives and lobbyists present than any time since my first Assembly meeting back in April. Regarding the former, they’re mostly here to interview Mark Begich, who was declared the victor in his Senate race earlier today. Regarding the latter, I suppose they’re here for the same reason we’re seeing a large – though not unprecedented – crowd, which is the third and final public hearing on the municipality’s 2009 budget.
The Assembly is taking a two-week break to acknowledge election day, November 4, and Veterans Day, November 11, which both fall on Tuesdays.Â Accordingly I, too, plan a break from blogging until the week of November 17 – look for a post some time after our meeting on the 18th.Â Thanks to all for reading and, no matter your political persuasion, please take the time to exercise your civic duty by voting.Â I’m not sure who said it first, but I’m fond of the old saw reminding usÂ that those who don’t vote don’t get to complain!
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