Sullivan and Coffey hijacked our Title 21

COMPASS: Other points of view

June 25, 2011 

How many times have you heard someone say, "The only good thing about Anchorage is that it is close to Alaska."

We believe Anchorage can be better, even beautiful, if we insist developers look beyond the cheap and fast to the good, durable, livable and beautiful. Better builders already do but the rest need to be helped to bring it up a notch.

That's why we need final passage of the provisionally passed Title 21. It requires simple things like sidewalks, on both sides of the street, screening for dumpsters, smaller parking lots and more landscaping, bigger stream setbacks to reduce pollution, a lower carbon footprint and basic standards for northern buildings.

After more than a decade, we were close when Mayor Dan Sullivan and Dan Coffey hijacked it.

They had help. Assemblywoman Debbie Ossiander, chairing the Title 21 subcommittee, suspended that panel's work to let the mayor have his say. Never mind that doing so silenced the community -- a strategy she continues to employ by denying residents who have filed appearance requests to bring their concerns to the Assembly.

They say they only made changes based on "costs and benefits." Whose costs and who benefits? They will tell you the pre-approved version of Title 21 is too expensive (the city's own planning department research indicates it costs the same or less than current law), that it is flawed and their proposal will fix it. Their plan may do a lot more than fix costs. Their plan was drafted behind closed doors, with only selective participation. So naturally the suspicion is that it throws out a decade of careful, open community involvement by developers, business owners, citizens and others with views from all sides and compromises to reflect that.

They will tell you it is a better and cleaner document. Don't believe it. One-sided may give you cleaner but does it make it better? What does better mean and who determines it? They may have great proposals to fix it, just like the rest of us, but that's what amendments are for and that's what the open process is for.

It's been almost a year and the public hasn't been given a glimpse of the mayor's version. Before it was hijacked, the community's Title 21 was almost completed. Staff amendments for consistency and clarity were already in the works; with a definitions chapter we would have had it -- rules to make our town a better place, written by all of us.

We need to tell the Assembly to pass our Title 21 and consider amendments in the fall, when we can deliberate them the way we did with the rest of it.

What the mayor and Coffey did was wrong. Title 21 is not just for certain developers and building owners. It touches all of us and we should all have a say in what it says and how it shapes our town, from the beginning to the end.


Triena Slatter is a lifelong Anchorage resident who has worked on Anchorage land use and building issues.

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