SARAH PALIN IN A NUT SHELL: GOING ROGUE: MAYOR AND THE FAUSTIAN BARGAIN.

January 4, 2010 by
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Sarah Palin served two terms as Mayor Of Wasilla from 1996 until 2002 when she was termed out. She alleges she ran against the good old boy and politics as usual crowd however records indicate she introduced abortion, gun control, term limits (her opponent was a three term incumbent) issues in a small town race that had heretofore been a more sedate race based on local issues and not hot button issues like abortion and gun control. Wasteful spending and high taxes were other issues. These issues continue to be part of her mantra and that the incumbent politicians are good old boy insiders ( code word for older male incumbents who allegedly resent women in politics.)

Yet three men who were incumbents, John Stein Mayor, Nick Carney, Council member and Irl Stambaugh, Police Chief, endorsed her candidacy in her initial run for city counsel. In that first race she campaigned for a two percent sales tax and for reduction of property and business taxes.

Her endorsements indicate she was in fact a part of the” in “crowd as well as the fact that her mother in law and father in law were also active politically in Wasilla.

She states that her philosophy of carrying out the duties of mayor were to facilitate the building of streets, sewers, water systems and other necessities of a growing city. She was also opposed to restrictive building codes and zoning laws. The city financed the infrastructure improvements with bond measures and earmarked funds from the Federal Government. Because of this and of the sales tax previously passed she lowered property taxes and taxes on business by 75% and this in turn attracted big box stores and Wal-Mart to locate in Wasilla. The effect of this was increased sales tax revenue.

Wasilla’s population was growing as the result of Anchorage’s population increase which was linked to the discovery and development of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in 1968 along with the construction of the Alaska Pipeline and the all weather port of Valdez. Wasilla is preponderantly a bedroom community for Anchorage and it grew also with the oil boom.

She also built a sports center with a 15 million bond issue to be financed by a .5 % increase in the sales tax. Using these measures she doubled the long term debt of Wasilla and gave the impression she was reducing taxes and government expenditures however she was either stretching infrastructure payments out over a longer period or getting Federal aide from Senators like Ted Stevens who was celebrated in some circles for his ability to obtain earmarks for Alaska like “the bridge to no where.”



THE FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

What the long term effects of loose building codes and zoning codes will be on the city remains to be seen however more established and experienced cities value building and zoning codes as a means to provide a cleaner, safer habitat for it citizens. Frommer’s Alaska Guide book by Charles Wohlforth, a noted and prize winning author on Alaska, described Wasilla as “the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots.”

In the short term money might be saved on lower government costs for building and zoning departments but the cost of rehabilitating a poorly zoned and constructed city will be much higher in the long run. Also the effects of the oil boom will decrease as time goes by as the flow of oil either decreases or levels off and alternate energy sources are developed.

However the developers, big box stores and Wal-Mart have been the immediate beneficiaries. Also a sales tax is one of the more regressive taxes taking a greater percentage of the income of the poorest citizens and ostensibly those with the least ability to pay. So the tax burden is greater on the poor for the benefit of the rich including businesses like Wal-Mart whose profits go to shareholders living outside of Alaska. While her tax policies may have induced big box stores and Wal- Mart to locate there, long term these businesses tend to decimate local businesses and are not the kind of “ born here, raised here, be buried here type of citizens” she extolled in her prior campaigns. Also stores like Wal-Mart are notorious for their low wages and meager benefits. So the majority of jobs generated are low value and not the type one can marry and build a family on.

She also alleges a conversation with the librarian over the nature and placement of books in the public library was blown all out of proportion and that she was trying to make sure certain books would not be placed adjacent to the children’s areas. Others have said she was trying to inject her religious and personal beliefs into the administration of the library and was in fact attempting a form of censorship.

Former Mayor, John Stein, who is pro choice, says right to life groups outside Wasilla were sending out flyers in her behalf and against him in the mayoral race on this issue which was far beyond the true issues of taxation and growth policies in the race.

The librarian was later fired under her tenure as well as the police chief who was opposed to her cost cutting in the police department.

Her term ended when she was thirty eight and she began to look for other opportunities in government. She entered the Republican primary for Lt. Governor against four other Republican opponents. She alleges she was able to raise only $40,000 for the race and the others each spent five times as much as she did. Despite all this she came in a close second. One wonders with all the tax cutting and loose building and zoning laws why she wasn’t able to raise more money from developers and business. Also where was the monetary support from right to life Christian groups in Alaska?

This was in 2002 and Frank Murkowski, an incumbent long term Senator, ran for Governor of Alaska and won. Thus he was able to appoint a successor to his remaining Senate term. Sarah says she was on the short list and interviewed for the appointment. However she says Murkowski felt strongly that the job would take too great a toll on Sarah’s family although she assured him that she would take the family to Washington with her if appointed.

In the end Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa who had two children of her own. She was also was the majority leader designate of the Alaska House of Representatives and so Murkowski may have thought she was the more experienced person for the job despite the charges of nepotism.

However Murkowski did appoint her to the Alaska Oil And Gas Commission which she chaired in 2003 and resigned from in 2004 on grounds that other members of the commission, all Republicans, were unethical.

This is another thread in Palin’s story instead of trying to work with and form a consensus with her political allies she turns on them and says they are good old boys, insiders, unethical or unethical good old boy insiders. This inability to straighten out problems within her own neighborhood or with party members is apparently what she is calling her rogue or independent virtue.

This quality seems to be true in her own family in regard to her ex brother in law who she tried to have fired from the Alaska State Police and now with her public dispute with Levi Johnston, her grandchild’s father. Later we will see this same tendency in regard to the McCain aides.

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