I don’t know who said it first but I’m fond of the phrase, “Politics is Alaska’s second favorite indoor sport.” I’ll let readers decide for themselves what the first one is, but my point is that even when there’s not much to talk about people still talk about it (long-winded political office-holder bloggers included). So here goes…
Saturday, January 3, marked the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood and also saw an unprecedented event, a mayor of the Municipality of Anchorage leaving office prior to the end of his term (not being sexist here, we just haven’t had a female mayor yet). The local paper covered the hand-off to our acting mayor, Matt Claman, and offered a nice send-off to Mark Begich in an editorial. But what does this mean to the rest of us?
Frankly, not much. As acting mayor, Mr. Claman can no longer vote on issues before the Assembly but can veto our actions. The mayor, along with numerous senior city officials, participates in the meetings and that will continue. There’s been some talk that the philosophical divide of the Assembly was six progressives and five conservatives and, with Mr. Claman out of the mix, the breakdown is now five-five and gridlock will therefore ensue. That certainly could occur but ignores that fact that the vast majority of Assembly votes are unanimous or nearly so. In fact, we had one month when every single item before the Assembly passed without a single dissenting vote and there aren’t many potentially divisive issues to address in the next several months.
Furthermore, while it’s tempting to neatly divide people into easily-defined groups the lines are so frequently blurred it can quickly become a meaningless exercise. That said, as I mentioned in a previous post, the five conservatives appear to have agreed to vote against any fiscal issue that could conceivably be construed as increasing taxes with the apparent belief that this will give their preferred candidate an advantage in the April election. This leaves me to wonder how bond measures will fare – will five of my colleagues draw a line in the sand and prevent any bond measures from being on the ballot this year? It’s an intriguing question.
Complicating this is the remarkable trait common to so many of us political types; give us a little power and we seem to want more. Questions of who would be acting mayor, acting Assembly chair and even acting Assembly vice-chair have been swirling for months and haven’t stopped yet. I received a call Friday from one my colleagues lobbying for support of his serving as the acting vice-chair. (As an aside, my reading of the charter is that we don’t have to elect anyone to such a post as the acting chair can pick whomever she chooses to fill her shoes when necessary. No reason we couldn’t do it anyway, though.)
Anyway, my prediction is that Assembly matters will be rather mundane over the next several months but that a few issues will become fodder for discussion in the election. One will be when the green property value assessment cards are sent in the mail, another will be first quarter budget revisions and others are anyone’s guess. Feel free to offer yours!
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