Sometimes I worry that I sound like a broken record.
For instance, take the latest news about U.S. Senator Mark Begich’s prior mayoral administration: the Anchorage Assembly suspects that Begich rushed through union contracts without warning of the coming budget crisis.
I suspect they’re right.
This would be bad enough if it were only poor judgment or bad budgeting that led to the deficit spending, but I suspect neither.
In fact, Begich probably did intentionally mislead the Assembly. He certainly had a motive. I’m surprised no one has yet explicitly mentioned the connection.
I’ve said it before: Begich bought his Senate seat – I have felt that way about his consistently bloated budget all along. Saying that he accomplished this with clean streets and sidewalks is one thing, though, while ensuring union support by financially over-extending the city is quite another.
While it may seem severe to toss around a term like bribery, there is a simple cause and effect relationship here. Begich awarded generous union contracts, then said unions supported Begich in his Senate run.
What’s the definition of bribery again?
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not faulting the unions. The unions only did right by their members, making the most of an advantageous situation. My problem was with Mark Begich alone, for selling Anchorage down the river for his own benefit.
Begich claims he warned the incoming administration that he left the city with its pants down.
In a response to the allegations, he said “My transition report to the acting mayor and Assembly said: ‘Due to the impact of the financial crisis upon the MOA’s investment portfolio, it is possible that during 1st quarter budget revisions, an S version reducing budget appropriations will be required.’”
I don’t understand how anyone could be confused about that statement—it’s completely clear in every way.
Before you think I’m just on another Begich bashing trip, though, I do have a problem with these latest allegations. It’s not an issue with the allegations themselves, actually, but with the motivations behind them.
See, I’m tempted to be excited any time Sen. Begich gets egg in his face, because then I have another opportunity to criticize him. It’s kind of a guilty pleasure of mine.
The real question is, why?
Why is it important for the Assembly to establish that they were “intentionally mislead,” or that there was a “conspiracy” on the part of the Begich administration?
It’s not altruistic, and I guarantee that. It’s not even the kind of mean-spirited picking on Begich that I can get behind. It’s merely the first step in a city cash grab-back.
Now that Mayor Dan Sullivan has balanced the budget for this year, his administration and the Anchorage Assembly are looking forward to next year’s shortfalls. The thing is, they’ve already laid off a lot of employees, held a lot of positions open, and downgraded a lot of the Municipality’s services.
The unions have refused voluntary pay-cuts for the most part, though—and who can blame them? That’s why you join a union—to protect your wages and benefits.
The Assembly, meanwhile, is probably worried about the next round of cuts, and how close to home they’ll land.
So what is the next logical step?
Hire an investigator to conclude that the contracts Begich negotiated are invalid – giving Mayor Sullivan the right to renegotiate.
Begich is on the wrong track, believing that anyone is “trying to use Anchorage’s budget challenges for political advantage or political assault.” It’s more like political smokescreen.
In other words: don’t hate the Assembly for cutting police and firefighter’s wages—blame the big, bad Begich because he agreed to unreasonable contracts.
Again, don’t get the wrong idea. I’m certainly not defending Sen. Begich. I just saw something screaming at me from between the lines. Don’t let the Assembly try to grab back money that’s already been given, simply on sleazy legalities.
The decision has been made, so deal with it.
Begich may or may not have been negligent to his duties in the negotiation, but these are people’s jobs now, not simply departmental expenditures. I refuse to believe that there’s no more fat that can be trimmed from the Municipal budget without robbing city employees.
Most of all, though, don’t let the Assembly make Sen. Begich the bad guy for their own greedy purposes—he handles that quite capably on his own.
Besides, character assault on Sen. Begich is kind of my thing.