Bike to work with the mayor

February 18, 2010 at 5:31 am | Posted in biking, politics | 3 Comments
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Ran across this item yesterday at Bike Commute Tips.  Tried to put the video up here but couldn’t do it last night after an hour of trying.  WordPress supports a few different players, but not the one StreetFilms uses… there was another way to back-door it in via Vodpod but that had its own problems.  Since I’m too cheap to get the $57 annual upgrade to support all video types [I’d do it, if this blog was getting hundreds of hits per day instead of 10 to 20], I gave up.

Ya sure… anyway… do go to StreetFilms and watch the short video of Seattle mayor Mike McGinn biking to work.  It is totally worth it!  I know nothing of McGinn’s politics, but I am aware that he beat two other candidates who were a lot better funded, in a close three-way race.  He makes biking 6.5 miles from his house in the Greenwood neighborhood to City Hall downtown look like a piece of cake — even while it’s obvious it isn’t.  I biked around Seattle extensively in Summer ’08 when I was photographing alleys, and while it was delightful it was also challenging and obstacle-laden.  Anchorage is a lot easier.

Conservatives are fond of telling commies like me that we have “Portland envy” or “Seattle envy”.  There are aspects of both these places I find compelling, even precious.  But they have major issues with pollution, crowding and congestion and high cost of living — without the access to wilderness that Anchorage offers.

But what I appreciate about them is a desire to improve.  Look at McGinn’s ‘Ideas for Seattle’ site, and try to imagine these suggestions coming from Anchorage residents.  Or do I sell Anchorage short?  Maybe a little.  You’ll never see our current mayor, Dan Sullivan riding a bike to work — but on the other hand, the days I ride I have plenty of company on the paths, side streets and arterials.

McGinn is still in the honeymoon phase — but if he makes good on listening to suggestions submitted directly from citizens, and flattens the pyramidal control structure a little, and makes good on various populist principles — he will enjoy a long and productive run.  I love the guy.

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Election eve rant-n-rave

May 5, 2009 at 4:31 am | Posted in alaska, anchorage, politics | Leave a comment
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I recognize the air out there.  It is the mid-1980s all over again.  A lot of people got drastically overextended during good times, and now comes the inevitable dip.  (Of course, it may be much worse this time — combined with apocalyptic environmental catastrophe and the collapse of the world financial system.)  Anyway, a lot of people who are on the fence about it are susceptible to right wing ideology when times are bad.  Maybe liberals appeal to our drives and conservatives to our fears? 

In 1987 the city turned to mayor Tom Fink — a consummate skinflint, the cheapass’s cheapass.  All decked out in a natty 30 year old suit, wingtips, a bow tie, porkpie hat and corncob pipe (sounds hilarious, I know), he wormed his way into our collective heart by playing the victim, making promises he couldn’t deliver and promising to make massive cuts.  Clever ads squeaked him through a close election.  He had said he wouldn’t run again, losing his last several bids for elective office over a 20 year period (he had served in the State House in the ’60s).

He sensed the mood of fear and uncertainty, and capitalized on it in the way Sullivan is now trying to do.  For anyone who was around for Fink’s two terms, it was a big mistake for Anchorage and set back several initiatives decades.

I wish I’d taken more photos of Anchorage during Fink’s tenure.  I moved out of Anchorage for a year.  A lot of that decision hinged on the political climate.  By the time I returned I’d decided the place was great in spite of the rampant dominance of ill-informed so-called conservatism.

Fink stopped maintaining parks.  I recall soccer fields with dead, brown grass and foot and a half high weeds.  Planting beds with shrubs being choked out by dandelions.  He publicly threatened to mothball the brand new Alaska Center for the Performing Arts.  He closed four of the neighborhood branch libraries.  He cut the Parks and Recreation Dept.’s budget by two thirds.  I fully expected him to round up the poets and shoot them in the Town Square.

Essentially, he cut everything I ever cared about and everything that made the place more livable to anybody outside of the elite Republican (what passes for) Anchorage aristocracy. 

His successors, for the most part inherited a mess of deferred maintenance and shoddy organization.  In Mt View where I live, the most densely populated and poorest Anchorage neighborhood, we are finally getting a branch library again 21 years after Fink closed it.  Other signs of Fink’s abscence of compassion are everywhere.

People who manage to get seduced by Sullivan should look coolly and objectively at the situation, and how much they are taking for granted.

I believe a city is like your body.  It is very hard to whip yourself into good physical condition.  It takes constant work, to get there and maintain.  It does not take long at all to fall back out of shape.  The mental conundrum with Sullivan, is he has personified comfort food, a couch and TV.  You won’t even have to think about taxes, infrastructure, vital services and proper planning and management.  Just vote for me, and I’ll take care of it.  And if some of my rich friends get a lot richer, it’s just collateral damage, don’t worry about it!

It’s all the same bad craziness that made modern Republicanism so remarkable — so many people out there voting against their self-interest.  It’s somehow weirdly fitting that the northernmost metropolis is the last bastion of a movement that is deservedly freefalling down a hole.  A Sullivan victory will take Anchorage down the same death spiral. 

Vote your drives!

Update 5-5-09: Sully wins it, bigtime.  Looks like the final will be 56-44%, pretty much a smear.  Low turnout as expected.  Suck!

Quality of life

April 29, 2009 at 5:09 pm | Posted in alaska, anchorage, biking, politics | Leave a comment
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This gives a good idea of what Spring in Anchorage looks like.  Unfortunately a lot of the local bike routes will stay this way for the Summer.  Don’t forget to vote next Tuesday — for Croft.

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