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Being unjustly angry with mayor is poor form

Mike Dingman

I am so angry I could just ... I'm just so mad because Mayor Sullivan ...

Here's the thing -- that sentence doesn't need to be finished. Those angry at Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan are just angry. They may actually care a little bit about the issue at hand. But generally, it seems that they just need to ensure constant outrage is maintained against the mayor.

The West Anchorage tennis court proposal is the latest in the series of outrageous acts by the mayor. Apparently, he single-handedly bullied the Alaska State Legislature into approving a measure in the capitol budget, which along with other projects, builds a tennis facility adjacent to the Dempsey Anderson Ice Arena. There is no word on how the legislators feel about the accusation that they are puppets to one municipal mayor.

The facility would actually be a recreation center, including basketball courts as well as tennis courts, and would have versatility beyond that. His detractors likely focus on the tennis courts, since Sullivan was once a West High tennis coach and is an avid tennis player.

Before the recreation center, it was Assembly Ordinance 37 (this ordinance changed rules about how union contracts within the municipality are written). Before that it was hiring Dan Coffey to help with the rewrite of Title 21, not being supportive of the LGBT community and -- 28 years before he became mayor, there was an agreement to make a $193,000 life insurance payment into a trust fund for his father.

The elder Mayor Sullivan had paid more than $19,000 in premiums on that policy, the Assembly voted 9-1 to pay the money to the Sullivan trust and even one of the most liberal members of the Anchorage Assembly, Patrick Flynn, noted that the family could sue for breach of contract if the payout were not made as originally agreed.

Even so, faux outrage over the one time payment to the Sullivan family trust helped fuel this fire against the mayor.

There is a partisan divide in this country that is stronger than ever. Obviously this divide has always existed. However, there was a time, not to long ago, when members of both parties were able -- often anxious -- to work with one another and accomplish goals.

President Ronald Reagan and Speaker of the House Tip O'Neil were good examples of this. They would banter back and forth all day long, but when the job needed to get done, the offices of the two statesmen would work together to get it done.

Even as recently as the late 1990s, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and President Bill Clinton worked together to balance the budget; an act so remarkable that it hasn't been accomplished since.

The turning point in national politics seemed to have come in the 2000 election. The emotional release from both sides thinking their candidate had won the election and then thinking it was stolen from them all in one night led to one of the ugliest displays of hatred -- on both sides -- this country has seen in recent memory.

This disdain for our fellow man based solely on their political opinions, unfortunately, seeps down to state and even into "non-partisan" local politics. Dan Sullivan is the most visible local target. Also, you might recall how the left attacked Rep. Lindsey Holmes, who was one of their shining stars before she changed her party -- but not her positions on the issues.

I'm not an apologist for the mayor by any stretch of the imagination. I hold no punches when discussing his unwillingness to work with the LGBT community and his tendency to make decisions with a lack of regard for public input.

Regardless of those issues, I believe that he is one of the best mayors we have ever had. He has kept the municipal budget in check and recently announced a budget which is lower than the year before and has turned projected budget shortages into surpluses.

He has also done more for the homeless than any mayor before him. That's not just my opinion; it is shared by former homeless coordinator Darrell Hess, who worked for multiple prior mayors and can, by no measure, be considered a conservative.

Should the mayor be immune from criticism? Absolutely not. However, faux outrage by an opposition that is obviously just angry, rather than sincerely concerned, makes us all look bad.

Mike Dingman is a fifth generation Alaskan born and raised in Anchorage. He is a former UAA student body president and has studied, volunteered and worked in Alaska politics since the late '90s. Email, michaeldingman@gmail.com.


Mike Dingman
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