By Patrick Flynn
Anchorage Assemblyman, Downtown District
Everyone makes mistakes. Indeed, if humans were on some sort of mistake quota system I’d likely be cadging ducats from friends in order to keep myself within limits. And I’ll let someone else tell you about the “negative example” marketing plan once proffered on my behalf. But the important thing about making mistakes is learning from them and doing better the next time.
Which, of course, leads us to the Assembly’s badly bungled reapportionment process toward which my antipathy knows few bounds (examples here and here). To summarize, three members met behind closed doors for months, hired a partisan demographic firm (co-owned by the former vice-chair and current treasurer of the Alaska Republican party), produced three lousy plans clearly aimed at protecting the status quo (incumbents), shut out all community council and other public input, and, finally, manipulated the de minimus public process by laying their plan on the table at one meeting and passing it at the next. To the credit of at least one of the three, he seems to be ashamed of his behavior.
Not so my colleague Chris Birch. Nope – in the face of criticism throughout the political spectrum he’s decided the solution to his failure (he chaired the aforementioned “committee”) is a charter amendment to mandate single-member districts. Not that such a change is necessary – if he’d understood the charter prior to promulgating his deficient plans the result could’ve been nine single-member districts and a single two member district, or some other mix thereof.
And if, per chance, 11 single-member districts is the goal, his proposed charter amendment still goes too far by mandating them. Oh, and it also requires yet another reapportionment in advance of the 2014 elections without reforming that process – I can only imagine the brain trust envisioned to take charge then.
But, unable to feel satisfied with flubbing his Assembly responsibilities, Birch plans to take it to another level by including the School Board in the mess he’s created by forcing it into his ill-conceived plans with yet another charter amendment. And, of course, he’s promulgated these proposals with (surprise) no input from either the public or his colleagues. No surprise there – he’s got a history of lousy charter amendments. (Call me old-fashioned, but on the one I successfully drafted and got passed I spent nearly a year working with a multitude of parties.)
Rumor has it Mr. Birch wishes to serve as chair during the next and, blessedly, his last year on the Assembly. If this is the sort of leadership he’ll provide I’m hopeful we can find a better option.