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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.


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.

Student Government: Valuable Experience or Sideshow? April 11, 2009

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Joe Blanchard prepares for an interview after winning a seat on the Fairbanks Borough Assembly.  Blanchard is a past president of the UAF student government, or ASUAF.

Joe Blanchard prepares for an interview after winning a seat on the Fairbanks Borough Assembly. Blanchard is a past president of the UAF student government, known as ASUAF.

Sorry for my absence over the course of the last month.  I’ve been sidelined for a variety of reasons, most of which have to do with reporting I’m doing on the student government at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.  I’ve been doing a series of stories for the UAF paper – the Sun Star – on the efforts of some members of the student senate to remove the student president.  The experience got me thinking about student government and its relation to “actual” politics.  Is it a jumping-off point where future politicians can get their feet wet, or is it a backwater where political science majors with no hope of a career in real politics can stroke their egos and hold rein over their own little corner of the universe?

More after the jump.


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 #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: 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…)

Local Issues: The Flood September 28, 2008

Posted by roothogreport in Fairbanks Government.
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As people local to the Fairbanks area know, local rivers in the Interior reached flood stage at the end of July, with the Salcha, Tanana, and Chena rivers overflowing their banks and flooding many homes in the Salcha, Eielson, and West Fairbanks/Cripple Creek areas.  The response to the flooding was fairly swift and appropriate, and locals were lucky that the waters stopped where they did, as a foot or two higher would have pushed the waters into dozens, possibly hundreds more houses than were actually affected.

Although the Army Corps of Engineers did open the Chena Flood Control Project to keep the Chena River from flooding the downtown area (which worked well), nothing could be done to prevent the larger Tanana River from backing up the water in the Chena, causing flooding in the neighborhoods within a few miles of the Chena’s mouth.  While the safeguards and procedures put in place by the Corps of Engineers and the Fairbanks North Star Borough were largely effective, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the issue of the flood come up in Borough Assembly races, as well as Assembly meetings after the election is over.


Flooding on the lower Chena River

Flooding on the lower Chena River, as seen on the popular FAIL blog.