News from Patrick Flynn

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Many years ago a friend observed parallels between the legislative process and elephants mating; most of the activity occurs above the average person’s head, there’s a great deal of blaring and other noise, and it generally takes 22 months to produce tangible results.  I suppose it was his way of explaining the difficulties of governance (and I apologize if any elephants are offended by the comparison).

While I’m happy to perform the work associated with writing laws I feel the various complications mean one should focus on the right issues, which is why I intend to vote against an ordinance intended to clarify that it’s “ethical” for on-duty firefighters to participate in the annual Fill the Boot campaign.  For the uninitiated, each year on the Friday prior to Labor Day firefighters (both on- and off-duty) drive their trucks to high-volume intersections and collect change from rush-hour drivers to benefit the Muscular Dystrophy Association.  It’s certainly a good cause and something most people in the community support, so it was a surprise last summer when the administration decided it was illegal.

Administration officials offered a few reasons to back up their argument, including the theory that participation of on-duty firefighters and the use of trucks that get them to the intersections violates Anchorage’s ethics code, hence this evening’s ordinance.  This is the third time the ordinance has been before the Assembly in addition to two work sessions and goodness-knows-how-many hours of staff, attorney and Assembly member time.  And that would be fine, if it weren’t an absolute waste of time.

That’s because the administration’s theory is flat-out wrong.  In fact, the ethics code does permit on-duty firefighters to participate as long as the mayor says it’s okay and, rather than someone gracefully admitting their erroneous code interpretation, we’ve chased this issue over hill and under dale for months.  If, for whatever reason, the administration doesn’t want on-duty firefighters participating in the Fill the Boot campaign they’re welcome to that point of view and have the power to enforce it.  But I feel cloaking a policy decision with the ethics code is inappropriate.

So while I appreciate all the hard work that’s gone into this “clarifying” ordinance I can’t support it because I feel doing so would be akin to giving a child a candy bar to stop a tantrum.  Every parent knows this assuages the immediate problem while creating bigger ones down the road.  But it’ll probably pass anyway; after all, I’m the only Assembly member with young kids at home.



This contribution was made on Tuesday, 13. July 2010 at 12:16 and was published under the category Neighborhoods. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. An elephant’s gestational period is 24 months!!

    Comment: Lee – 13. July 2010 @ 12:28 pm

  2. Lee,

    Good catch! Wikipedia says 22 months so I’ll make that change!


    (For everyone else, I mistakenly typed 12 months in my initial post.)

    Comment: Patrick Flynn – 13. July 2010 @ 1:00 pm

  3. Patrick:

    Nice piece of work. I rarely read your blog (no offense intended, I just have better things to do), but on occasion usually at the behest of our friend Jennifer, I read your blog.However, since I concur with this latest piece, I thought I would chime in.

    I do not believe that we should be paying employees to do charitable work. Secondly, we should not encourage/allow begging in the ROW. We have enough of that from the chronic public inebriates who inhabit our major intersections.

    Finally, the most interesting aspect of this blog is that I learned that different sources have different gestation periods for elephants. Maybe its the difference between Africian and Asia elephants. I assume you will research this issue and present findings in a subsequent blog.


    Dan Coffey

    Comment: dan coffey – 13. July 2010 @ 2:51 pm

  4. Mr. Flynn,

    I’m curious about the Mayor’s Charity Ball. While I realize it is a non-profit organization, I do wonder if any city resources go toward the planning of that event?

    Comment: Gina Romero – 13. July 2010 @ 7:28 pm

  5. The only useful thing I learned here is about elephant biology. Well, that and that Mr. Flynn like most politicians can lack self-awareness when poking his fellow council members about bratty behavior. Making an at best tertiary point by voting against it was no better than their making a point to bring it to a vote. If it had gone down we would have been back to wasting even more time. Vote your position on the underlying issue and save us from the “protest vote.”

    Comment: flyer5000 – 13. July 2010 @ 8:47 pm

  6. Agree with Gina. Also wondering about the Iditarod, Fur Rondy, these charity Fun Runs, Fourth of July Parade, Anchorage Pridefest activities,etc. Wondering how many additional city resources and special requirements are used for these? But golly gee, try to do something good and help a bunch of sick kids. And isn’t it ironic that the picture included on the ADN shows Gov Parnell helping Firefights collect donations on the corner of Northern Lights and Minnesota? It will be interesting to see what comes up on Fill the Boot day this year.

    Comment: Mike Adams – 13. July 2010 @ 11:46 pm

  7. Events like Anchorage Pridefest are paid for by the event organizers. The Mayor’s Charity Ball is different because all Anchorage 501(c)3 organizations fill out an application and basically a lottery is held. The chosen charities are drawn at random. The city isn’t benefiting one single cause to the exclusion of thousands of others.

    That said, I am not at all opposed to the Firefighter charity drive. It is entertaining. It is a strong PR/Outreach activity for AFD. Win win win.

    But as you said Patrick, it is the Mayor’s call.

    Comment: AK Constant – 14. July 2010 @ 12:17 am

  8. It would be useful for you to provide the code (or a link to the code) that you state already covers this.

    Comment: Closer – 14. July 2010 @ 8:46 am

  9. Back to the Mayor’s Charity Ball. Does anyone know if city resources go toward the planning of this event?

    Comment: Gina Romero – 14. July 2010 @ 11:40 am

  10. Also, APD officers are used for traffic purposes during fun runs in Anchorage. These runs generally benefit a specific charity. Do we need to take a closer look at city resources being used for local runs that benefit a specific charity, as well? This opens the door to many, many questions.

    Comment: Gina Romero – 14. July 2010 @ 11:44 am

  11. Patrick,
    I was there last night when you basically played right into the mayor’s hand by voting “no” for the ordinance. He’s going to keep this an issue even though it is a complete waste of your time, my family’s time showing up at the assembly meetings four times now, and the public’s time.This should have never gone this far. MDA and the firefighters have been conducting this event for years, and it only became an issue because Mayor Sullivan wanted it to be one. Way to give him what he wanted. My son has muscular dystrophy and uses MDA’s services. A cut of one-seventh of their budget will have to cut those services. MDA gets no public money like many other charities and has relied on these firefighters for more than 20 years- at the very least they should be grandfathered in. I pray your young kids at home never have to use MDA’s services.

    Comment: 30yearalaskan – 14. July 2010 @ 11:48 am

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