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.
Copyright - Patrick Flynn, All Rights Reserved