News from Patrick Flynn

What is a conservative?

As alluded to in a previous post, one of the intriguing aspects of the political process is observing how public officials “adjust” their views to conform with changing circumstances.  I don’t mean to imply anything sinister, just that it’s sometimes worth reviewing various facts and considering their relevance.

Take, for example, a self-described conservative candidate for school board like Don Smith.  Mr. Smith’s history of public service stretches back for decades including his tenure in the Alaska House of Representatives back in the 1960s with, among others, Ted Stevens and Don Young.  Mr. Smith later served on the Anchorage Assembly for 10 years, which was when I first met him.

While Mr. Smith has long cast himself as a conservative, I later encountered him working for the Alaska State Legislature for then-Senator John Cowdery.  Mr. Smith explained he was working to improve his state retirement benefits by adding years of service and getting his “high three” (one’s highest three years of salary helps determine the level at which one’s pension is based).  Later, Mr. Smith went to work in the Murkowski administration and further boosted his public sector retirement.  During that time he advocated for, among other things, changing seat belt requirements from a secondary to a primary offense.  To explain, until the law changed motorists could only be given a ticket for failure to wear a seat belt if pulled over for something else, like speeding.  With the statutory change successfully advocated by Mr. Smith, motorists can now be stopped and ticketed for the sole offense of failing to wear a seat belt (hence all those “Click it or ticket” ads you might have seen).  Unsurprisingly, opponents of the measure considered it big government, “nanny-state” legislation.

And, of course, Mr. Smith was one of the Assembly members who approved providing life insurance to former Mayor George Sullivan after he left office.  As above, not necessarily a bad thing but it certainly boosted future municipal spending.  More recently I ran into Mr. Smith taking pictures in the Ship Creek area, which gave us an opportunity to chat about municipal affairs.

It’s not clear to me whether the self-appointed conservatives advocating for Mr. Smith’s election know much about his public service history.  I know him to be a decent fellow who has run for a variety of political offices and cares about our community.  And I suspect I know him better than many others who claim to know him well.



This contribution was made on Thursday, 25. March 2010 at 19:45 and was published under the category Coming events. You can follow comments on this entry through the RSS-Feed.

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  1. I know Don Smith pretty well, too. He was in the printing business for many years and I used a variety of Anchorage printers in my own publishing and public relations business. Don was born in Anchorage. His dad was a businessman, and his parents were pioneers of the first order, but he has told me they didn’t think much of his interest in politics nor his efforts to serve as an elected official.

    Don is one of those old timers who wears a cheap Timex watch on a $2500 gold nugget band, and he really is community minded. We have driven together through local neighborhoods in which Don speculated in hindsight about whether certain development approved by the Assembly he was on was really the right way to go. But I’ve never known him to spend a lot of time making glib remarks about current or past elected officials who he might diminish with crass out of context observations. He’s kind of square, that way.

    For instance, we may never know how many people have lived through automobile accidents they might have died in since the major efforts of Don Smith resulted in the many “Click it or Ticket” signs he had printed and posted throughout the state during his time at the Murkowski Highway Safety Office. To those who question whether safety is a liberal or conservative virtue, I have to say the Don Smith I know puts protection of citizens above convenience–even requiring use of seat belts. And, the fact Don Smith was one of a bunch of assembly people who passed an ordinance decades ago to provide an insurance policy for Mayor George Sullivan, shouldn’t result in a mean-spirited effort to single him out for criticism by a current Assembly member who must be looking for cover from political fall-out after also voting to pay for the obligation once it came due. In fairness, while opining on the past political motivations of Don Smith, Mr. Flynn should have also listed the other members of that particular Assembly, which I believed included Lidia Selkregg, Fred Chei, and possibly even his own mother, Heather Flynn. Could you please tell us who all was on that Assembly, Mr. Flynn?

    On the other hand, I don’t profess to know why Don Smith is running for the Anchorage School Board again. I’m definitely not advocating for him to run because I don’t think he is qualified to make decisions about public education, although I do understand he sees the $700+ million budget passed routinely by the current Assembly and likely wonders whether that might be a good place to start finding local government cost-savings. As the “Father of the Property Tax Cap” Don Smith was outraged that Mayor Begich manipulated the budget to use utility income separate from the tax cap. And, whatever the reasons were for Don Smith to work for Sen. Cowdry, and for Gov. Murkowski, and to continue to seek elected office, we can be pretty sure those who supported his service won’t be left holding the bag the way Anchorage was left with a multi-million dollar budget hole when Begich left for Washington.

    It’s pretty easy to look down your nose at a guy like Don Smith if you like to spend other people’s money. If Mr. Flynn really knows Don Smith then he knows he doesn’t even spend his own money! He drives a 1970s vintage pickup and doesn’t need to demonstrate how clever he can be. Makes one wonder when the voters of Anchorage will start supporting more politicians who have strongly stated values, and fewer candidates who are so clever they don’t think anything can be accomplished without spending a lot of public money.

    Let’s hope that day is coming…

    Comment: Donn Liston – 27. March 2010 @ 1:31 am

  2. Mr. Flynn’s mother joined the Assembly in 1983, more than a year after Mr. Sullivan’s insurance policy was approved.

    Comment: hf – 02. April 2010 @ 8:41 pm

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