Back to the Sidewalk – Again!
The high drama of last summer’s sidewalk sitting may be back again in September.
Mayor Dan Sullivan didn’t like that a homeless man protesting his draconian attitudes and policies toward the homeless was sitting outside City Hall on the sidewalk. He glowered out of his window in the tall tower, gazing to the sidewalk below and decided to bring the long arm of the law down upon the lowly “protester.” And then, to the mayor’s horror, he realized that there was actually no law prohibiting Anchorage residents from sitting on the sidewalk. It really hadn’t been an issue during the entire history of Anchorage. But the mayor made it one, and decided to manufacture a law affecting everyone in the city, including the Anchorage Police Department, to exact revenge one one man.
Then the brainstorming in City Hall began: Hmmm… he’s a safety hazard! Yeah, that’s it. Old blind ladies might trip over him. Residents of Anchorage wouldn’t come downtown any more because he might obstruct traffic, and stifle business development! What if he started talking to people and bothering them? What if everyone started doing it? We’d have piles of bodies stacked up like cord wood blocking the entrance to City Hall! Municipal government would effectively come to a complete stop! It’s about public safety, and commerce, and Aaaaaaaaa!
Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler testified before the Assembly prior to their vote, saying that the ACLU had looked everything over and had no problem with this proposed law. Only problem was – it wasn’t true, according to the ACLU itself. Truth, schmooth. When caught, it was argued by Wheeler as all being a terrible terrible misunderstanding. You see, when he said that he had run it all by the ACLU and they didn’t have a problem with it, that was actually a “poor choice of words.” What he meant to say was that he’d never run it by the ACLU, and they had no problems with it because they never actually saw it. But Wheeler was pretty sure that someone told him at some point that the ACLU had told them that they had no problem with it… If he could only remember who that was…
Opposites are so confusing.
The law which stated that sitting or lying on the sidewalk passed the Assembly with a vote of 7-4. And many shook their heads. On the first day the law went into effect, on December 22, a hardy group of protesters sat out on the sidewalk in the dark and bitter cold, just to make a point. Nobody was arrested.
Fast forward to last Tuesday night. Two members of the Assembly who had voted FOR the law, have now changed their minds. One of the Assembly members in question is former Assembly Chair Debbie Ossiander of Eagle River, who has an annoying habit of sharing with the Assembly the long and angst-ridden tales of her ruminations, personal struggles and soul searching deep into the sleepless night before she votes the wrong way on issues. “I just think it was the wrong decision,” Ossiander said. “It bugged me. I want to fix it.”
Well, OK then. After staring at the ceiling and wringing her hands for months, she’s decided to do the right thing. It’s a nice switcheroo - like when a surprise plot twist in a movie completely takes you off guard because it’s the last thing you were expecting. She’s kind of like the Fight Club of the Anchorage Assembly now.
The other is Dick Traini, who is currently running for the legislature as a Republican, and is more sane than many other Republicans. Traini is known to have more than a small libertarian streak, and may now have come to the conclusion that a law which prohibits sitting down, enacted to satisfy an asshat mayor’s need for personal revenge on a homeless guy might be a bit over the top as far as restricting personal liberties. And, he also believed the Municipal Attorney who said that the ACLU had no problems with the law. And when Mr. Traini found out that they did, he was steamed about getting duped, and tried to get the ordinance repealed in December before it even went into effect, but to no avail.
So, if these two Assembly members change their minds, and it’s voted on again, we could expect it to pass this time by a vote of 6-5. Unfortunately, this vote is not enough to make it veto-proof, and Dan Sullivan could still don his magic asshat, and veto the whole thing.
Sullivan said Ossiander and Traini changing their minds “is a little bizarre, given their previous support and the fact that it is working just fine. I don’t know why they’re being schizophrenic about it.”
Schizophrenic? I suppose we shouldn’t be shocked, this coming from a man who has demonstrated such sensitivity, warmth and humanity to the mentally ill, and homeless populations, like when he called homelessness a “lifestyle choice.” For the mayor’s clarification, schizophrenia:
is a mental disorder characterized by a breakdown of thought processes and by poor emotional responsiveness.It most commonly manifests itself as auditory hallucinations, paranoid or bizarre delusions, or disorganized speech and thinking, and it is accompanied by significant social or occupational dysfunction.
I think maybe you meant “inconsistent” or “unpredictable.” Try that, and I bet you won’t sound like a high school freshman. Because I’m pretty sure they weren’t listening to the voices in their heads – they were just listening to your attorney who didn’t tell the truth. Or, I guess you could just go for it and ask them directly why they’re being like so totally schizophrenic about it. Seriously, I mean OMG! WTF? LOL! SMH.
Traini and Ossiander introduced their proposal to eliminate the part of the ordinance that prohibits sidewalk sitting at Tuesday’s assembly meeting. There will be a public hearing on September 11, and the vote will be taken on September 25 after another opportunity to give public testimony.
“The sidewalks belong to everybody,” Traini said.
Indeed they do. And thanks to both Traini and Ossiander for heeding the old proverb – No matter how far you go down the wrong road, turn back.