Why not abolish city charter?
Watching our betters as they try to pad government coffers with a proposed 5 percent retail alcohol tax, we have a suggestion: Why not just abolish the city charter?
No, really. it would save time and allow city officials to do whatever they want.
This is the third time in recent memory – the convention center and sale of Municipal Light & Power come to mind – that the city has asked voters to modify the charter, which now specifically calls for a supermajority 60 percent vote to adopt a sales tax.
This time around, in the April 2 election, officials want to amend the charter – just for this tax, mind you – to allow its adoption with a 50 percent-plus-one vote to get around the voter-approved 60 percent requirement. And they want it approved at the same time we vote on the tax.
To get their way, they have resorted to crass bribery. Assemblyman Dick Traini promised Anchorage bars they would be allowed to open earlier – something bar owners have wanted for years – if they did not oppose the levy.
“It’s quite simple: Don’t fight against this, and you can have bar hours increased,” the Anchorage Daily News reported Traini as saying. “Defeat the alcohol tax, and this disappears like this never happened.”
If not illegal, the prospect of an Assembly member promising longer bar hours for silence is a gross misuse of office. Bribery is, after all, bribery.
It seems to us that if you want to change the charter, the question should stand by itself, not be lumped in with something else. Changing the charter at the same time the tax is approved seems very much like a hustle.
Add to that, the squishy language in Proposition 9. Yes, it dedicates the tax receipts “to alcohol and substance misuse prevention and treatment, community behavioral health programs, public safety, and homelessness prevention and response, including abatement of prohibited campsites.” But what does that mean? Public safety? Does that mean more cops? A new headquarters? How many more unionized city employees are we going to end up with?
The kicker for us: The proposition says the Assembly “may” use net receipts from the tax to support those efforts. May? That is not the same as “shall” in anybody’s book. That leaves a lot of leeway.
In a city with a long history of trying to dodge tax caps and change charter language and tax formulas to wring more money out of its citizens, any charter change should raise concerns. When you add the push to change the charter again, the crass bribery to silence opposition and the ordinance’s muddled language, it is impossible to support Proposition 9.
You might think that at a time when the city professes to be worried about diminished state contributions it would be looking for ways to trim government rather than trying to find a way to reach deeper into our pockets. You would be wrong.