News from Patrick Flynn

Back on the corner

We begin today’s post with a word that nicely summarizes the administration’s continued efforts to warp Anchorage’s ethics code; pettifoggery.  Here’s how Webster’s defines it:

pet·ti·fog·ger, noun
Etymology: probably from petty + obsolete English fogger pettifogger
Date: 1576
1 : a lawyer whose methods are petty, underhanded, or disreputable
2 : one given to quibbling over trifles
pet·ti·fog·ging, adjective or noun
pet·ti·fog·gery, noun

As readers surely know, earlier this week the mayor vetoed an ordinance aimed at clarifying that on-duty firefighters could participate in the MDA’s annual Fill-the-Boot fundraiser.  I know, I was shocked too.  But, unable to leave well enough alone, the mayor pressed the pettifoggery a little further.  Here’s how KTVA reported it:

Sullivan says it all comes down to community events versus fundraising for one group.

“What it does mean, though, and we’re going to review our policy and procedures, we don’t have a problem with municipal personnel being involved in community events, whether it’s a parade or like the Bear Paw festival or those sort of things that are community-wide and don’t singularly benefit one individual or one entity,” said Sullivan.

Really?  Overlooking the fact that mentioning the Bear Paw festival seems like a transparent effort to gain support from Assembly members representing the Chugiak-Eagle River area – and perhaps address the concerns of Ernie Hall, who correctly figures the administration’s decision to employ the ethics code in this manner likely means the end of municipal support for Fur Rondy – the mayor seems to have misinterpreted his original misinterpretation of the ethics code.  Remember the Municipal Attorney stated that, as written, the code prohibits a fire truck from being part of a parade.  But now maybe it’s okay if you simply reinterpret the code a different way?  (By the way; the section of code in question was not substantively changed in the 2007 update to the ethics code so one can’t help but wonder how these on-duty firefighters have been able to take part in Fill-the-Boot for decades without incident.)

Let’s say, for example, you’re a South Anchorage retail business owner.  Do you enjoy some benefit from “community-wide” festivals in Eagle River or downtown?  Very likely not and, further, those municipality-backed events likely draw South Anchorage residents so they’re less likely to patronize your business during said festivals.  The good news is that the mayor has handed you a very effective tool for putting a stop to these business-killing municipal practices – simply invoke the ethics code.

Think that’s a little far-fetched?  Try this one on for size; many festivals include pageants where contestants compete for scholarships and other prizes.  I don’t pretend to be an expert about them but it’s my understanding that winning a smaller event like Miss Bear Paw or Miss Fur Rondy is a necessary qualification for larger pageants, like Miss Alaska.  Here’s part of the description of Bear Paw pageant:

Come out to the Chugiak High School Auditorium on Thursday, July 8 at 7 PM and cheer on our own local teens!  The Bear Paw Pageant is not your typical event!  Young men & women who are enrolled in grades 9 – 12 and who reside in this area (emphasis added) compete in costume competition & personal interviews.  This is a pageant based on poise, creativity, friendliness and service to community.Miss Bear Paw Queen 2010 will receive a $1000 scholarship and a $500 scholarship will be awarded to the contestant who is selected with the most outstanding community service record.  Sleeping Lady Mountain Lions Club is providing both the Academic Scholarship and Community Service Scholarship for the Women. GCI is underwriting the Mens Community Service Scholarship and our Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation is underwriting the Mens Academic Scholarship.

Bear Paw King will receive a $1000 scholarship sponsored by the Chugiak-Eagle River Foundation.

Note there’s no mention of municipal resources used for the pageant.  Well, except for it being held at a school.  Oh, and the MOA, ASD & People Mover are all mentioned as sponsors of the Bear Paw festival on their home page.  So if you’re a young person residing in Midtown and interested in competing in pageants for scholarship money, your parents’ property taxes are supporting a festival where you don’t get to participate.  But don’t worry, mom or dad simply has to file a complaint with the ethics board and either the pageant rules will change or it’ll be canceled!

How about Fur Rondy?  Street Maintenance hauls snow down to Fourth Avenue for the sled dog races and, after they’re over, picks the snow back up again.  I enjoy watching the dogs run but, really, aren’t the mushers competing for prize money the true beneficiaries?

That’s the problem with opening up cans of worms, you don’t get to pick which ones stay put and which ones crawl out.

So where are we?  Somewhere on that little speck of land north of a rock and south of a hard place.  The Assembly either needs to override the mayor’s veto, even though I don’t particularly like this ordinance, or it’s open season on the myriad of intersections between the city and the non-profit community because if there’s anything this debacle has demonstrated it’s that we can’t rely on the administration to address this issue properly.  And here’s the really silly part; even with an override the mayor can still prohibit on-duty firefighters from participating in “Fill-the-Boot” by simply making a policy decision.

And that, if it’s what he really wants, is what he should have done in the first place instead of abusing the ethics code.



This contribution was made on Saturday, 24. July 2010 at 14:16 and was published under the category Coming events. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. The Mayor’s Charity Ball is only open to handful of charities who win a lottery, and only certain charities are eligible to enter that lottery.
    United Way relies on city employees to help organize the fundraising within city hall.
    Fire trucks in fourth of july parade okay; fire trucks in the gay pride day parade also okay????

    Comment: John – 25. July 2010 @ 10:16 am

  2. Mr. Flynn,

    This is well put, and essentially explains how this is all a problem that did not need solving……but now has created a host of questions.
    Very few people in Anchorage hit ALL the events……but most people in Anchorage want them all to continue.
    One has to wonder…..what was the goal in bringing all this up, and how are we now better off?? Personally, I can’t tell for all the fog(gery).

    Comment: Andy Holleman – 25. July 2010 @ 10:55 am

  3. You have nailed this one.

    Comment: Tom Wescott – 26. July 2010 @ 9:36 am

  4. I wonder if Pridefest will be allowed to utilize Muni resources to the same extent as Bear Paw, if they were to ask?

    Comment: Eric – 27. July 2010 @ 6:11 am

  5. […] of the most draconian administration-proposed cuts), but the administration’s ill-considered attack on the fire department’s “Fill-the-boot” campaign cast a chill over municipal […]

    Pingback: News from Assemblyman Patrick Flynn » On the corner, again | An Assembly member's take on Anchorage issues – 23. July 2011 @ 11:46 am

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