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Obstinate Public Servant of the Week Award, May 6 2012 May 6, 2012

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government, Local Government, Uncategorized.
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The Obstinate Public Servant of the Week Award for this week goes to Mike Bork, Fairbanks North Star Borough Director of Parks & Recreation. Bork receives this award for dodging six (!) of my phone calls Thursday while I was trying to do a story on potential cuts to his department in the borough budget. Memo to Mr. Bork: I’m aware you probably don’t like talking about your budget getting cut. But you get paid six figures for a reason: not everything you do is going to be something as enjoyable as playing your ukulele. And talking to the press is part of that job as a public servant. You used to be a Marine. Start acting like it.

Honorable Mention goes to Guy Sattley, who was not suffering fools (or anyone else) gladly at Thursday’s Borough Assembly meeting. Homeboy was so grouchy you half expected him to pop up from behind the desk with a trash can lid on his head.

All right, that’s all until next week.

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The Sound And The Fury May 4, 2012

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government, Local Government.
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Attended the Borough Assembly meeting last night. I should say I caught about three-fifths of it, as I spent the middle two fifths across town watching my girlfriend accompany a local children’s choir. I wish the meeting had been more like the choir concert – earnest, courteous, and fairly well in harmony. It was none of those things.

I think I’m probably a little over-invested emotionally in the content of borough assembly meetings because I grew up here and it’s a very important place to me. That said, the increased partisanship on display both from the assembly and those coming to testify is depressing in the extreme. Everything with a fiscal impact has at least two “no” votes guaranteed (and usually two “yeas” as well). Everything relating to taxes or regulation has three of each. To crib from Chinua Achebe, it’s not that the center cannot hold – it’s that the center took its ball and went home a couple years ago. It’s even more distressing to see that on a local level than it is on a national one, somehow.

Because the people who are calling the other side “communists” and saying they’re “putting a gun to our head” aren’t from some other state where they’re all crazy. They’re our friends and neighbors, and the people we count on to make this a community worth living in. But lately it doesn’t seem like many of them want a community at all – judging from testimony last night, it seems like what a lot of people want is for their property to be the Republic of Them, where they can do whatever the hell they want on the land without being taxed for it, and if you want a library or an animal shelter you can bugger off because they don’t use those services, so you shouldn’t get them either.

It’s hard to be called the enemy by your neighbor.

“Wash, Rinse, Repeat”? City Sales Tax Resurfaces October 20, 2008

Posted by roothogminion in Fairbanks Government.
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In Sunday’s edition of the Daily News Miner (DNM) a story covers Mayor Terry Strle’s suggestion of a possible 3% city sales tax.  Long-time residents of the interior likely remember frequent proposed sales taxes of varying degree on a wide range of consumer items over the years.  Nearly every mayor in the past 20 years has faced tight budgets when trying to fund city services such as emergency medical, fire, and police services as well as perennial road repair.  The current city budget (reportedly around $30 million a year) is funded by the city’s property tax.

Proponents of the sales tax suggest that the nature of the current property tax heaps the burden of city finance on property-owners, rather than spreading the costs across the city’s demographic.  Opponents of the sales tax worry that if the door is opened for a sales tax that it will lead to increases in the percentage rate and reckless spending.  The Interior Taxpayer’s Association (ITA) have worked hard over the past twenty years to keep local sales tax from becoming a reality.  

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Guest Post: Teachers’ Strike Averted October 15, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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Note: The following post is a guest post by Chris Benshoof, who you may have seen in the comments if you’ve been here before.  Chris is a high school math teacher in Fairbanks.

UPDATE [3:30 PM]: Chris is joining the Report as a contributor and will henceforth be making his own contributions from time to time under the username “roothogminion”.

This past weekend the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District (FNSBSD) and Fairbanks Education Association (FEA) reached a tentative contract agreement.  Every three years the district has to renegotiate their operating contracts with the teachers union, support staff union, and administrative union.  Usually this process takes the length of a school year and the issue is resolved by a passing vote at both the union and school district around May.  Last year the negotiating committees were nowhere near resolution in the spring, and even as the school year began in August an agreement had not been met.

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It’s Not Over ‘Til It’s Over October 10, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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“If at first you don’t succeed,” the saying goes, and we all know the rest.  That holds true for local election candidates too.  I have received personal confirmation from two candidates defeated in Tuesday’s municipal election that they plan to run again, likely at their respective next opportunities.

Wayne Swanson committed to run for Borough Assembly again on Tuesday night before leaving the Borough building.  He didn’t specify whose seat he plans to contest, but Nadine Winters and Mike Musick are up for reelection in 2009.  “You move a mountain one pebble at a time,” Swanson said, “and I’m still young.”

Fairbanks’ youngest candidate this election cycle, Ron Warner II (who apparently also stops in here from time to time), is also planning to run in the future.  In an email, Warner confirmed his intention to keep his hat in the political ring, saying, “I definitely plan to run again, I believe Bernard [Gatewood] and Vivian [Stiver] are up next.”  

Gatewood and Stiver are both members of the City Council, so that appears to be Warner’s target.  Stiver and Chad Roberts are both up for reelection in 2009.  I’m not sure as to Gatewood’s status- he was just elected and terms are usually two years long, but since he was originally appointed to his seat he may have to run again in 2009 as well.

Municipal Election Liveblog #3 – Aftermath October 8, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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City Council hopeful Emily Bratcher talks to her mother.

City Council hopeful Emily Bratcher talks to her mother.

 

 

 

Apologies for the late update, but I was under deadline for a different story and couldn’t update live from the Borough building.

100% of precincts are now reporting.  The only race which remained as too close to call before the counting of absentee and questioned ballots is City Council seat E, where Emily Bratcher holds a narrow 73-vote lead over Lloyd Hilling.  There were only 512 absentee ballots cast in the entire borough (the city didn’t provide city-specific numbers), so Bratcher’s lead may well hold.

 

 

 

 

A few thoughts on the night:

  • Turnout was low.  Even with absentee and questioned ballots added to the mix it looks like turnout won’t break 10,000 in the entire borough.  With roughly 65,000 registered voters in the borough, that’s about 15 percent turnout.
  • The number of candidates who showed up to the Borough Assembly chambers to watch election returns come in was significant, but many didn’t show up, including some who won.  Tim Beck didn’t show up, though according to Assembly member-elect Tammie Wilson he may have had a family emergency which required his presence.  No candidate was present from the relatively high-profile race between Jerry Cleworth (who won) and Tonya Brown.  Kurt Gutzman was listed on the ballot in the race but dropped out for personal reasons.
  • Young politicians were at the forefront of several races.  Joe Blanchard, 23, was elected to the Borough Assembly.  Emily Bratcher, 28, will be a City Council member if her lead over Lloyd Hilling holds.  Ron Warner II, 19, turned in a credible performance in his City Council race against incumbent Bernard Gatewood.  Warner was defeated, but his showing was stronger than I think most people (myself included) expected.  I would be surprised if he chose not to run again.
  • The current borough tax cap was resoundingly re-approved, and a proposition seeking to reduce it was resoundingly (though by a smaller margin) defeated.  In my opinion, the defeated proposition was very likely harmed by its difficult-to-understand wording.
All right, it’s time to close up shop for the night.  Thanks for following along.  I’ll have more thoughts on local races in the days to come.

Municipal Election Liveblog #2 October 7, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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Candidate Wayne Swanson surveys election returns.

Candidate Wayne Swanson surveys election returns.

This will be short because returns are coming in fast. We’re at 63% of the vote in and there are only a few close races- check out returns at the North Star Borough’s website.

 

Many of the candidates are here, but it is a small crowd overall. Voting was slow- probably a result of voter fatigue and low-intensity campaigning, if I had to guess. This means that results are coming in fast. As frequent candidate Frank Turney said a minute ago, “never underestimate the apathy of the American voter.”

I need to talk to candidates. I’ll update again later.

 

City Council member-elect Joe Blanchard is fitted with a mic.

City Council member-elect Joe Blanchard is fitted with a mic.

Municipal Election Liveblog #1 October 7, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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I’m sitting in the lobby of the Fairbanks Borough Building, which is Election Central for local races. So far things here are pretty quiet; a TV crew is in the Assembly’s chambers setting up and an aggrieved voter is complaining to election officials about a “hostile atmosphere” at her precinct. A high school government class showed up a short time ago and was shuttled off to an antechamber with the promise of free sandwiches.

The Borough administrative folks are talking shop with the news crews. Maybe I’ll move in that direction. They look like they’re talking about the potential of a teachers’ strike in the Borough.

I’ll update as news warrants.

PSA: Polling Locations October 6, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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I realized that in my post on the municipal election (right under this one), I forgot to include information on where to vote.

Here (PDF) is a list of polling locations for all area precincts.  (List courtesy of the Fairbanks North Star Borough)

Polling stations are organized by State House district, then by precinct.  Here is a map of local house districts.

I realize that many of us don’t know what precinct we live in.  If you’re unsure, call 1-888-383-8683 for information.  You’ll need your voter ID number or your Social Security number so that they can find your record.

Polls open tomorrow at 7:00 AM and close at 8:00 PM.

PSA: Municipal Election TOMORROW October 6, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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For those local to the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the municipal election is tomorrow, October 7.  You may not have heard about this even if you keep a fairly close ear to the ground about local politics.  The reason the municipal election is so poorly-covered is that it tends to be a very “local” affair, which is to say that there isn’t much day-to-day coverage of the races, and campaign budgets can often be measured in hundreds of dollars instead of thousands.  For these reasons, turnout at municipal elections is usually quite low.  The funny thing is that the municipal races are usually the ones which have the most impact on local residents.  Sarah Palin might sell a lot of papers, but she’s not the one who decides whether to implement a local urban renewal program or make budget shifts that threaten elementary-school music classes.

Information on candidates, issues, and ballot measures after the jump! (more…)