News from Patrick Flynn

Stalling for time?

One of the interesting aspects of conspiracy theories is that they don’t need to rely on a logical fact string, merely to string together various facts to support the theory. I’ve often found that information vacuums lead to such theories and therefore try to fill such voids as quickly as possible. Right now, however, I’ve stumbled into my own abyss and can’t help but wonder what the real truth might be.

To expand a bit I would note that proponents of various projects frequently excoriate their opposition, often members of the conservation community, for using the public process to slow progress and, in some cases, kill projects altogether. But have you ever contemplated project proponents using the public process to keep an unpopular project moving forward? If not, consider the following:

  • In April the political make-up of the Anchorage Assembly changed. Shortly thereafter two members of the Anchorage Metropolitan Area Transit Solutions policy committee who support the Knik Arm Bridge, Chris Birch and Dan Sullivan, were replaced by two skeptics, Sheila Selkregg and myself.
  • The fastest and most effective way to stop the Knik Arm Bridge is for AMATS to remove the project from the Long Range Transportation Plan and the 2009 Transportation Improvement Project list, the latter of which is under development as I write. And, by the way, AMATS’ addition of this project to the LRTP occurred despite opposition from Anchorage’s Planning & Zoning Commission.
  • Of the five AMATS members, the three likely votes against the bridge are myself, Ms. Selkregg and Mayor Begich.
  • A KABATA public affairs consultant, Mary Ann Pease, hosted a fundraiser for mayoral candidate Dan Sullivan on Thursday, July 31, with Chris Birch listed as a co-host. (Mrs. Pease also hosted a fundraiser for Mr. Birch during his recent re-election campaign.)
  • If Mr. Sullivan were elected Mayor in April and assumed office in June, thereby replacing Mayor Begich on AMATS, and the Palin administration AMATS members (from DOT and DEC) were to continue their previous support of the bridge then the aforementioned method for stopping this project and using those funds for projects with greater need almost definitely would be lost.
  • A list of questions promulgated by Ms. Selkregg for KABATA officials to answer was presented at the June 12 AMATS meeting but was not €œofficially€ submitted by the AMATS chair, DOT Central Region Director Gordon Keith, to KABATA until the July 10 meeting.
  • Governor Sarah Palin‘s administration won kudos for an in-depth letter of inquiry authored by DOT Deputy Commissioner Frank Richards to KABATA, as well as an RFP seeking independent verification of the financial assumptions underpinning the bridge project.
  • If AMATS pulls the plug on KABATA prior to the Federal Highway Administration issuing a Record of Decision on the Environmental Impact Statement then the federal funds spent to date, more than $40 million, would have to be repaid by DOT. As Mr. Keith has impressed upon me previously, DOT is adamant that any action to remove the bridge from the TIP list must wait until the ROD is issued.
  • In a phone call on Friday, August 1, Mr. Richards told me that FHWA officials, at DOT’s request, had pledged not to issue their ROD prior to completion of the financial review, which pushes the issuance of a ROD from this fall to next spring – at the earliest.

Other than the phone call from Mr. Richards, I don’t know the man. I’ve known Mrs. Pease for many years and think well of her, despite our disparate views on the bridge. My interactions with Mr. Keith indicate he is an honorable person doing the best he can in a difficult job. Mr. Birch, while someone with whom I’ve disagreed frequently during my brief tenure on the Assembly, is a genuinely nice guy who advocates his position in a straightforward and thoughtful manner. And I’ve known the Sullivan family for decades and find Dan to be an upstanding member of his clan. In other words, I have no basis for ascribing anything other than the best intentions to any of the people involved with this process.

But based on the above I can’t help asking if KABATA proponents were trying to manipulate the public process to keep the bridge project alive, would they pursue a course any different than the facts suggest? I’m facing an information vacuum and I’m interested in answers.



This contribution was made on Wednesday, 06. August 2008 at 19:50 and was published under the category Transportation. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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1 Comment

  1. […] report not scheduled until December 5.  Delays like this seem to affirm the concerns I previously posted that KABATA and its allies may be stalling for time in hopes of changing the political make-up of […]

    Pingback: Patrick Flynn’s Blog » Time to move | – 12. September 2008 @ 9:11 am

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