Saturday, October 2, 2010

The Municipal Election is Tuesday, October 5. A Few Words About Voting, Candidates and Issues

Voting is a responsibility not enough people take seriously.
There's an old saying - "ALL politics are local.."  And they are.

Well, there's a local election on October 5th, and your participation will help to determine what future course our local governments will take.

In the 2009 municipal elections, the voter turnout was 19.16%. Less than 1 in 5 registered voters bothered.

Now, even if you don't feel civic-minded, think about this: If you don't take part, a small minority will decide for you who represents you on local government bodies, and what ballot propositions may affect you looking out for your own interests coincides with executing your civic responsibility.

If you don't care, stay home.

I'll be happy to let my vote make your decisions for you.

With that in mind, I'm making a few candidate and ballot proposition recommendations... and hoping it doesn't jinx who and what I support.  When it comes to candidates, I'll be sticking to Kenai, since I live there.

Kenai Mayor:  Two candidates vying for a 3-year term.

Mike Boyle.  As a 5-year veteran of the Kenai City Council, Mike has demonstrated solid judgment.  His 2+ decades as a vocational education instructor and participating member of KPEA lend him a perspective that's more encompassing and reality-based than the "whatever is good for the Chamber of Commerce is good for Kenai" view that incumbent Mayor Pat Porter seems to hold.

Kenai City Council:  Four candidates, two seats available.  3-year term.

Hal Smalley:  Without question, Mr. Smalley should be re-elected.  Hal has a long and distinguished history of service, from the Kenai City Council to the Alaska Legislature to the Borough Assembly.  The various capacities in which he's served - Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District, the Alaska Municipal League - give him a solid grasp of good long term public policy that few others have. That alone makes him a valuable member of any governing body.

Terry Bookey:  Mr. Bookey was born here, and his family has been active in both political and civic activities since the 1960's.  They helped bring about many of the good things you see in Kenai today.  Steeped in that family spirit, Bookey demonstrates a similar dedication and caring.  Terry will bring an energetic, progressive voice to the council, moderated by his knowledge of Kenai's history and his genuine concern for its future.

Borough Ballot Propositions:

Proposition No. 1:  Education Capital Improvement BondsShall the Kenai Peninsula Borough borrow up to $16,866,500 through the issuance of general obligation bonds?

Vote "Yes." 
This is sort of a no-brainer.  The Kenai Peninsula Borough schools are a valuable investment, and frankly, many of the structures are getting old.  Over the years, roofs have been diligently maintained, and the Assembly has appropriated funds for limited replacement, but that funding has not matched the need.   There simply comes a time when maintenance is not enough, and major replacement is required to prevent failure and loss of the building and its contents.

Since bonding for each roof project will not occur unless steps are taken to ensure that the project qualifies for 70% debt reimbursement from the state, there is strong reason to believe the Borough indebtedness will be reimbursed if the Alaska Legislature makes funds available.

Under that scenario, the property taxpayer's cost to retire the debt is $5.78 per $100,000 of assessed real or personal property value (in my case, about $8.67) per year.

What happens if the Alaska legislature DOESN'T come through, and the Borough picks up the whole tab to retire the debt?  Then it will cost the property taxpayer $19.28 per $100,000 of assessed property value (in my case, about $28.92) per year.

Realistically, it's a pretty small price to pay to protect Borough educational facilities worth in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Proposition No 2: Adopting A Manager Plan Of Government To Be Effective After The 2011 Regular Election.  Shall the Kenai Peninsula Borough adopt a manager plan of government, effective upon certification of the regular October 2011 election, where the chief administrative officer is a manager appointed by the assembly instead of the current form where the elected mayor runs the borough administration?

I could easily argue either side of this issue.

Over the years, the Kenai Peninsula Borough has been pretty lucky in that the mayors we've elected have either been pretty damned good municipal managers, or they've been smart enough to hire and/or retain smart, capable people who kept everything running on a pretty even keel.

Unfortunately, the ability to win an election is completely unrelated to the ability to serve.

Bluntly, the fact that this is even on the ballot says more about the management ability (or lack thereof) of the current Borough Mayor than it says about the pros and cons of a Manager vs strong Mayor form of municipal government.

Voting "Yes" will replace the Mayor as the day-to-day manager of the Borough with a professional hired by the Borough Assembly.  A professional manager will be, logically, more responsive to the Assembly than he/she will be to the public at large.

Voting "No" will retain the current system, wherein the Borough is managed by an elected Mayor, who is, logically, responsive to the general public, but who can often be be at odds with the Assembly.

I'm conflicted on this one.
As readers of this blog know, I have no confidence in the current administration. 
On the other hand, I also feel that this is sort of a drastic,  long-term solution to a temporary situation.  
The current mayor has not said whether he's running again, but if he does, based on his performance, I find it impossible to believe he would win re-election.

So frankly, I'm not sure how I will vote on this issue on Tuesday.
Just like you, I'm still thinking it over.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Another From Miller Lie: Ethics Laws Don't Apply To Him, Either

Just in from Think Progress: (all emphasis mine):

Miller’s campaign endorsement page features Alaskans praising him for having higher ethics and a greater commitment to transparency.

However, ThinkProgress contacted the Senate Ethics Committee and the Senate Office of Public Records yesterday and discovered that Miller has not filed a personal finance disclosure as a candidate for the U.S. Senate, as required by law. According to Title I of the Ethics in Government Act of 1978 and Senate Rule 41.1, candidates for U.S. Senate must file a disclosure form within 30 days of raising or spending $5,000. According to the Federal Elections Committee, Miller raised well over $5,000 as early as April of this year. Asked again today by ThinkProgress if Miller has filed his personal finance disclosure, or has contacted the Senate Office of Public Records with any request for an extension to file, a staffer with the Office responded:
“We haven’t received anything from him. He hasn’t sent us anything.”
According to law, “failure to file or report information required to be reported by section 102 of the Act may subject” Miller — a Yale Law School graduate — to a “civil penalty of not more than $50,000 and to disciplinary action by the Select Committee on Ethics and/or any other appropriate authority.” As of today, Miller is at least five months late with his disclosures.
So... it isn't only Alaskan laws that Joe Miller figures do not apply to him.

Neither do federal ones, either.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Miller Lie? Whatever He Thinks You Want To Hear. After All, Joe Thinks You're Stupid.

In the primary race, US Senate candidate Joe Miller said lots of things.  Things straight out of the corporate giant Koch brothers-funded Tea Party Express playbook.

They were fraudulent, jingoistic positions he espoused, quite simply, to solidify his ultra-right wing base, and wrest the Republican US Senate nomination from Senator Princess Lisa Murkowski.

It worked.

The problem is that now, Carpetbagger Joe has to appeal to not only the extreme right wing, but to more moderate Alaskans as well.  Alaskans who are worried about his "scorched earth" concept of ending federal programs and spending that are a major part of Alaska's economy and infrastructure.

So, in an effort to win over moderates (he only needs a few) Carpetbagger Joe Miller has been dancing the old soft shoe, to the tune of "that's not what I really meant."

In the September 24 edition of the Anchorage Daily News, Joe Miller backpedaled and bobbed and weaved.  A lot.

In the Aug. 4 Project Vote Smart candidate survey, Carpetbagger Joe Miller said
  • He favors eliminating federal funding for education.
In an interview last week with the ADN, Miller "explained" that he didn't really mean that.  What he MEANT was that he wants Alaska in the near-term to "get the same $360 million in federal education money -- just not to be told by the federal government how to spend it."  
Give us the money, but we want it with no strings attached.
To Project Vote Smart, Miller said 
  • He favors eliminating federal agriculture subsidies
Of course, from 1991-1997, Joe received more than $7,000 in subsidies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for land that he owned in Kansas. Now he's against it, because, after all, he got his.  Others must now take the hurt.
To Project Vote Smart, Joe Miller said
  • He does not support the federal government providing college students with financial aid.
(I'm going to let slide the fact that this guy has a West Point education, worth $250-300K and paid for by our tax dollars... more of the "I've got mine, screw you" mentality.)
Joe Miller "clarified"  his views on this matter:  He said what he means is that student loans "should be administered by the state and not the federal government."
Huh.  More "give us the money, but we want it with no strings attached."

In the interview, Miller also said he doesn't want to immediately cut off all government spending, but that spending must be reduced because "because of the fiscal state that we're in as a nation. No one can argue with the fact that we're broke." 
In the same Project Vote Smart Survey, Miller said
  • He favors eliminating ALL taxes.  Alcohol taxes, gasoline taxes, cigarette taxes, corporate taxes, ALL personal income taxes, federal estate taxes, capital gains taxes, and  taxes in pretty much any other category, too... while increasing or maintaining ALL defense spending (not to mention the spending he's now said he doesn't really want to cut).
So... the country is broke, and his answer is to cut off all government sources of revenue?  If you don't get that logic, you're not alone.

Carpetbagger Joe is NOT stupid.
According to his own website, he graduated from West Point with honors.  He has a degree from  Yale Law School, and has a Master's in economics from the University of Alaska.

So - if he's not stupid, how can one explain his contradictory, simplistic stances on issues important to Alaska, and to America?


To anyone paying the slightest bit of attention, it's apparent that Carpetbagger Joe Miller is a fraud.  

A political chameleon, willing to assume any appearance in order to get elected.

That alone is reason to give him a wide berth, no matter your politics.

h/t to packy for the graphic.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Stephen Colbert, Comic Genius, Testifies Before Congress. Steny Hoyer, (D-Tight Assville), Doesn't Get It. No Surprise There.

There was a lot of hoopla the last couple days concerning the fact that Stephen Colbert, the comic genius who anchors "The Colbert Report" on Comedy Central testified Friday before the House Judiciary committee's subcommittee on immigration.

Over the years, Colbert has brilliantly created a character that is a scathingly sarcastic, over the top portrayal of tone-deaf, extreme-right  news/talk show "pundits."  His character demonstrates sort on an insanely clueless illogical logic, and in his character's mind, there is no intellectual disconnect, because intellect plays almost no part in his forming his beliefs.

The Colbert character's beliefs are based on "Truthiness,"  which can be loosely defined as "speaking from the gut" rather than using one's brain.

His performance is one of the most on-target, deadpan serious, seriously funny things on television.

During the Bush years, Colbert was invited to speak at the 2006 White House Correspondent's Dinner.  Four years later, people are still talking about it.  I doubt he will ever be invited back, because not only was President Bush lampooned, so was (oh, the horror!) damned near everyone in the room... and most of the people in that room still take themselves very seriously.

So when California Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (D-San Jose) invited Colbert to speak at the subcommittee hearing, Colbert fans were pretty sure they were in for a treat.

While Colbert is a funny man, the invitation was not a joke.  Colbert's invitation came after he and Lofgren both took part in the United Farm Workers' "Take Our Jobs" campaign, which challenged all Americans to experience the hard menial work that immigrant farm workers do.  Lofgren apparently figured that having a celebrity like Colbert testify might generate public interest in the subject. She was correct.

Colbert appeared with United Farm Workers (UFW) President Arturo S. Rodriguez, and stayed in character as the clueless arch-conservative from his television show.  His testimony started off with "I certainly hope that my star power can bump this hearing all the way to C-SPAN 1." (The hearing aired on C-Span 3).
Here's a clip.

You can decide for yourself, but I don't think Colbert's testimony made light of the plight of immigrant farm workers... he instead lampooned himself,  the clueless "Truthiness" of Congress, and the inherently clueless "Truthiness" practiced by much of the American public.

This offended the sensibilities of some of the oh-so-proper Congress members present, some of whom actually DID get that they were the butt of much of his humor... and they take themselves very seriously. Too much so for THAT shenanigans!

Apparently, Colbert also offended the sensibilities of House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, who told Fox News Sunday that Colbert's appearance was "an embarrassment."

It should have been an embarrassment, Mr. Hoyer.  For YOU and most of Congress.

Colbert's testimony underscored the fact that the House Leadership in particular, and Congress in  general has done little to improve the plight of the immigrant farm worker, or to even address problems with illegal immigration at all.

When asked by Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA) why he chose to testify, Colbert actually dropped "out of character"   for his answer:
"I like talking about people who don't have any power...I feel the need to speak for those who can't speak for themselves....We ask them to come and work, and then we ask them to leave again. They suffer, and have no rights."
Colbert also quoted Matthew 25:40:
"The King will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.'"
I think that about sums it up.