News from Patrick Flynn

The ghost of Begich

Antipathy between certain elements of the Assembly and former Mayor, now Senator Mark Begich isn’t really new or news.  That said, one of my colleagues managed to generate headlines last week by claiming the previous administration withheld relevant fiscal information during the waning months of 2009, citing a memo from former CFO Sharon Weddleton.

Perhaps seeking to stoke the flames, Dan Fagan penned a column where, as judge and jury, he convicted Mr. Begich of “withholding key information from the public and Assembly.”  Case closed, right?  Well, maybe not.

Before continuing allow me to digress a bit by noting that Mark Begich and I are not friends.  In fact, if you believe the rumor mill, he actively sought candidates to run against me in 2008, though I can’t confirm that.  We’re not enemies either and, while I’m generally supportive of his politics, those who follow Assembly machinations are likely aware that my vote to delay consideration of his curb-side recycling proposal helped force his administration to address private sector concerns.  (That wasn’t the only issue where we disagreed, but this aside has gone on long enough.)

Returning to the subject at hand, once one digs a little further into the allegations it doesn’t take long to recognize that many of the concerns cited by Ms. Weddleton were quite familiar to the Assembly.  To wit:

  • Poor investment returns compelling a contribution to the Police & Fire pension fund ($10 – $20 million).  This has come to pass on the low end but, with the market rebound, a new actuarial assessment may mitigate the depth of this problem.
  • A MOA trust fund “holiday” ($6 million), which was averted by Assembly endorsement of an administration proposal to reduce our annual draw from 5% of market value to 4%, thereby allowing the fund to regain its strength over time.
  • The loss of state revenue sharing ($15.6 million), though Governor Parnell has since reiterated support for the program and, by the way, the Assembly has traditionally used these dollars for tax relief, not spending.
  • Fire department overspending ($1.7 million), which the Assembly knew about, chastised the department for and ultimately provided (one-time) funds to address the problem.
  • A lawsuit related to the Police & Fire Medical Trust ($20 million) upon which were briefed, briefed again and briefed several more times.  The municipality won the case.
  • Another lawsuit involving AWWU ($7 million).  Same as above, we won this one, too.

In other words, more than $70 million of the “$33 million to $100 million” deficit was not only well known to the Assembly but the vast majority of it never materialized, which raises the question as to whether these items were included primarily for impact.  But don’t mistake this for an apology on Mr. Begich’s behalf – based on what I know today had I been mayor last fall I would’ve provided a more comprehensive review of the CFO’s financial concerns to the Assembly.  For whatever reason, however, the administration chose not to do so.

So why are we dredging up the past?  A friend I spoke with Friday speculated that keeping “negative” financial subjects in the public eye is considered politically advantageous for some (if so, I hope they’ve read Shannyn Moore’s recent post).  I sincerely hope that’s not the case.

As elected officials we have limited time and resources to address the needs of our community.  I’m trying to spend mine working on the 2010 budget so we can both provide services to Anchorage residents while working to keep taxes down.  Hopefully my colleagues won’t be distracted by other issues as we pursue that goal.



This contribution was made on Monday, 28. September 2009 at 12:36 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. Good post Patrick; Shannyn Moore’s post has several factual errors; I know that she has been alerted to those but has not changed them in her post.

    Comment: Rebecca Logan – 28. September 2009 @ 4:43 pm

  2. I am writing to express my appreciation of your vote Tuesday night.

    I worked for the AFD for 15 years as a paramedic, paramedic/firefighter, paramedic supervisor, and battalion chief, I sat in nearly all of the chairs at the tables while working with, and in frank conflict with, both IAFF 1264 and municipal administrators. I have a very rare, objective insight of both sides and have countless things to say (and will say) about my experiences, but my point there is this:

    Regardless of the issue, its magnitude, the might of an adversary, or my personal beliefs, I ALWAYS adhered to my core values: 1) the patient always comes first, and 2) do the right thing. The NEVER failed me,nor did I ever lose (admittedly, a few haven’t yet been resolved, but I am confident of remaining undefeated).

    Your decision and vote strikes me as being the same. Perhaps you wished to vote differently (some of your peers certainly wanted you to), but you considered all things and then did the right thing. (please don’t burst my bubble if my suppositions are incorrect). Doing the right thing is always the right thing to do (isn’t profound, but very true).

    Also, I was impressed by and thrilled to receive the note you wrote to me regarding #97-16. I’ve been swamped but do hope to reply in the near future.

    Comment: Kurt Sorensen – 01. October 2009 @ 12:58 pm

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