By Chris Story
Last week, Mayor Wythe used this forum to discredit my knowledge of city government because I had written an article she disagreed with.
I had criticized the mayor, council and city manager because of their attitude toward tax dollars. They seem to feel that if you are allowed to keep money you have earned — like sales tax on non-prepared food — they are losing money and it’s the public’s fault. She proceeded to let me know that I don’t know government and implies she does.
Margaret Thatcher said, “Power is like being a lady; if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.”
If the mayor and the council have to point out how citizens don’t understand government, my guess is the mayor and council don’t either. If they did, they would know Government 101: In a democracy, all power comes from the people. So does all money. The people allow the government to use their money via taxation. The government has no inherent right to it.
When it comes to saving money, the mayor likes to gloss over legal fees. She refers to it as “minimize the city’s liability.” The city spent almost a half-million dollars on litigation and legal advice that reached finality last year — or is continuing. That’s about $500 per family, or $40 per month per family.
Was it necessary to “minimize the city’s (your) liability?” I believe that totals more legal fees than were paid in the 1980s and 90s combined. Thank your lucky stars this government wasn’t minimizing your liability then.
How about when we pump sewage into someone’s house, we just fix it and don’t tell them to, “sue us”? How about we don’t spend more legal fees to get someone to move their junk than it costs to move it? How about we plow for ice skating instead of spending so much on legal fees to prove we don’t have to plow that we could have plowed into the next century?
How about we don’t build a restroom for cruise ship passengers for $200,000 one hundred yards from the museum they were going to visit? How about we find ways to reduce the water rates rather than finding loopholes that allow us to raise them?
How about finding ways to save money, rather than looking for ways to raise money.
This is all very disappointing. I had personally met with the mayor to discuss my concerns, and had really hoped we could establish a common ground. Her response was an email thanking me for the meeting and telling me it was a, “disheartening conversation.” My translation is that we are going to keep “government running just the way it is. You just don’t understand, Chris Story.” Now I get this personal public attack. I think I am beginning to understand government.
When the mayor wants to come back to the grown-up’s table, she has my number.
Chris Story is a lifelong Alaskan, and broker and owner of Story Real Estate. He is also host of “Alaska Matters Radio,” heard Tuesdays from 12:30-1:30 p.m. on KPEN.
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