News from Patrick Flynn

No amendments

Attending a local community council meeting earlier this week one of my neighbors prefaced a question to me by noting that, “All politics is local.”  I suspect he didn’t know I actually happen to own the book sporting that title, authored by former U.S. House Speaker Tip O’Neill, but it resonated with me at a later meeting on Friday.

After the most recent of the Assembly’s umpteen budget work sessions Mayor Sullivan took a few minutes to meet with me in his office.  As I listened to his lecture I couldn’t help thinking of Mr. O’Neill’s memoirs, entitled Man of the House, wherein, if I recall correctly (I don’t own that book), he describes then-President Nixon speaking in a manner that suggests there’s a much larger crowd in the room.  Tip mused that perhaps Nixon was speaking to the secret microphones in the Oval Office, something he (O’Neill) didn’t learn about until much later.  Indeed, I think I heard every budgetary talking point the mayor could muster.

Without going into details I’ll simply offer my hope that the mayor doesn’t consider our meeting to have been a productive one – I’m darn sure I don’t.  I re-read All Politics is Local last night and noted an item on the political checklist:

Lead by consent, not by demand.

An interesting observation, one among many I’m musing over as I prepare for Tuesday’s Assembly meeting.



This contribution was made on Saturday, 14. November 2009 at 12:57 and was published under the category Fiscal matters. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. This Mayor is philosophically driven. He is incapable of compromise or seeing the other side. He is a Government hater at heart. He wants all the things that make a city nice and attractive to business and the residents but he does not want to pay for them. He especially does not want to tax. In the end Anchorage will get what it pays for.

    Comment: JD – 15. November 2009 @ 8:29 am

  2. Aren’t we all “philosophically” driven? Don’t we all make choices based on personal values? Isn’t the political process itself about reaching consensus from divergent views?

    This budget reflects the fact Mayor Sullivan was elected by a majority of Anchorage residents who agreed with his campaign promises and previous experience on the Assembly, after watching Mayor Begich promise everything to everyone (at great financial expense to the Muni) then leave the job for a higher elected position. If the electorate had wanted more of that, Claman or Selkregg would have won.

    As long as ASD spending is out of control, and the only source of taxes is from property owners, we will continually see budgets to serve transient interests paid for by people who have a long-term stake through property ownership. The fact Mayor Sullivan does not want to increase taxes on property owners means it’s time to pony up for those who live here but have no long-term stake in the community except to have more kids to attend ASD schools.

    I support Patrick’s efforts to provide important services for Anchorage residents who need the People Mover to get to work, and the Boy’s & Girl’s Club after school programs. I think property owners want that, too, but they also may be ready for another form of taxing people who live in Anchorage but pay a minimum amount to support services and amenities we all enjoy.

    That’s not hating government, that’s expecting government to be accountable and frugal with money it extracts from property owners. Patrick’s budget requests reflect this reasonable expectation. It’s not helpful or necessary to demonize Mayor Sullivan for his “philosophical” basis for closing the budget hole left from Mayor Begich’s expensive political ambitions.

    Comment: DonnListon – 15. November 2009 @ 11:51 am

  3. I imagine I will be attacked for even putting forth this idea but maybe the tax cap is out of date. The idea that taxes will only go up for inflation, growth, and voter approved bonds is a good idea. The first two allow Government to continue at existing rates and the third will allow it to grow if that is what the majority wishes. The problem at this point is that it relies to heavily on the personal property owner. The personal property owner is at the point they are willing to set our city back rather that pay more.
    While I would not say we have an elaborate government in Anchorage, I would agree with the previous commentor that there are a lot of people taking advantage of Anchorage and all her services while not contributing in any way to pay for them. When I travel to Soldatna or the Valley I pay a sales tax. Why don’t the daily commuters do the same in Anchorage? They drive our roads. They enjoy the safety provided by the police and fire departments. They work jobs in our city.
    At the end of the day I want a city with a good quality of life(parks, libraries), good public safety, good education, and good infastructure(roads, ports, airports). These are the things Mayor Sullivan talked about in his campaign. I hope it was not rhetoric. We won’t have them if we keep depending on the property owner.

    Comment: YT – 15. November 2009 @ 6:44 pm

  4. I really don’t understand when homeowners say that they are unfairly burdened with paying for all of city services because:

    *There are non-property taxes (as I’ve recently learned);
    *Homeowners and renters both pay property taxes, directly or indirectly;
    *Property tax appraisals are lower than market value;
    *State and federal grants support many positions within municipal government;
    *The PFD has off-set the average household’s tax burden.

    The only financial benefit for reducing taxes is to those who own multiple properties. For the rest of us, we pay a tax on a house and/or land that, in theory, has nothing to do with our income. We can purchase and pay respective taxes at as low of a rate as we choose.

    A sales tax might get some extra revenue from the homeless, tourists and slope workers passing through, but it would also take additional government to process, regulate, etc.

    Is funding libraries, transit, and community services a burden or is it okay to see it as a method of investment or a display of civic pride?

    Comment: -l – 15. November 2009 @ 8:46 pm

  5. Well maybe talking to an echo in the room sometimes will help. I’ve concluded that Mayor has an agenda and part of that agenda is to cut public services. The citizens are watching. As more and more services are cut the more they will watch. There is a fine line on how many services can be cut before even the supports start changing their mind.

    It took a former Mayor cutting down to bare bones in many Departments before the citizens said no more.

    It is true…you get what you pay for!

    Comment: Jillanne – 17. November 2009 @ 12:08 am

  6. After living in Juneau more than 20 years I know that a sales tax does not mean elected officials will reduce spending with a sales tax, but at least it spreads out the burden to those who use local services but do not own property. The Anchorage tax cap was a citizen initiative meant to limit local government dependence upon taxing of homeowners, and after Mayor Begich violated that tax cap through manipulation of the utility funds, it has returned.

    The mayor’s “agenda” reflects the reality that property owners ARE paying the majority of the cost for local government and they feel betrayed by the previous administration’s violation of the tax cap. That was clear in the last election and Mayor Sullivan understands that.

    Nobody is saying that we shouldn’t expect to pay for services, but it may be time for short-term residents and visitors to pay some, too.

    Comment: donnliston – 17. November 2009 @ 10:55 am

  7. Sullivan does not believe that both pay property taxes. Homeowners and renters both pay property taxes, directly or indirectly.

    Comment: donald hennessey – 29. November 2009 @ 1:49 am

  8. Dear No. 6, we all pay property taxes unless we live in a tent in a free camping area. You just want to double up on taxes. I don’t wat to pay the tax twice: once in property and the second in sales.

    Comment: donald hennessey – 29. November 2009 @ 1:51 am

  9. Hopefully a sales tax might result in relief for those who now own property and pay the majority of the tax burdon. The specious argument that someone who rents pays property taxes indirectly is like saying people who don’t own cars and only use public transportation help fund the highway system.

    Another approach would be to remove the artificial tax relief given to property owners (ASHA/HUD) who rent to low-income folks. By having to raise their rents to accomodate the real taxable rate paid by everyone else, perhaps those renters won’t be so quick to vote for every bond issue that comes down the pike.

    I have always believed that Anchorage has no sales tax because it is so transient and so many people who vote don’t have a long-term stake in this community. Now, since construction of the pipeline and the Alaska Permanent Fund we have ever more ways to spend money with no consideration of who will ultimately end up paying the long-term costs.

    Comment: donnliston – 30. November 2009 @ 4:48 pm

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