Thursday, June 30, 2011

Attorney to Mayor: You Have Power To Veto Amendments

At the Assembly meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Sullivan vetoed an amendment to a proposed ordinance that had just passed.  I wrote about it with amazement and questioned, particularly, how that fit with separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.  The attorney at the meeting representing the mayor said there was an interpretation finding the mayor had this power.  The assembly's attorney thought he did not, and also mentioned separation problems and the need for a written statement explaining the veto.  The Municipal Clerk had also mentioned the written memo requirement in the Charter. 

Yesterday I called the mayor's office and was forwarded to Legal.  This morning Legal called back and asked for more information about what I was looking for.  Soon they called back and said they couldn't find anything from Municipal Attorney Wheeler to Mayor Sullivan on the veto.

But, they had a 2006 memo from  earlier Municipal Attorney Boness to Mayor Mark Begich on veto power.  It's a 28 page memo.  I've embedded the full document further down in this post.  But as you can see from the synopsis at the beginning of the memo, Attorney Boness clearly believed that the mayor has the power to do exactly what Mayor Sullivan did on Tuesday night.

Memo Synopsis
"QUESTION: You have requested I provide you with a general discussion of the veto authority of the mayor, and to specifically address whether you may veto a motion approved by the Assembly which amends a proposed ordinance.    If you have the authority to veto a motion, you have asked me to indicate when the veto must be presented to the Assembly.
BRIEF ANSWER:    Subject to the following Background and Discussion, my Brief Answer is the mayor has broad general veto power. The mayor may veto an amendment to a proposed ordinance. The timing of the veto is dependent upon the goal to be achieved by the amendment. Assuming your goal is to prevent an amendment from becoming part of the ordinance under consideration but not to prevent the ordinance itself from being further considered by the Assembly, the veto should be made immediately after the Assembly votes to approve the amendment and before the Assembly considers the proposed ordinance."
The memo cites earlier memos interpreting the Charter Commission's intent when it gave the Municipality the 'strong mayor' form of government that the Greater Anchorage Area Borough had.  (The Borough merged with the City of Anchorage to become the Municipality of Anchorage in 1975.)

The Municipal Charter, Section 5.02 c says:
The mayor has the veto power. The mayor also has line item veto power. The mayor may, by veto, strike or reduce items in a budget or appropriation measure. The veto must be exercised and submitted to the assembly with a written explanation within seven days of passage of the ordinance affected. The assembly, by two-thirds majority vote of the total membership, may override a veto any time within 21 days after its exercise.

Anchorage Mayor Veto Power Opinion - Boness 06-011

I've tried to find other examples of executives being able to veto an amendment before the main motion was even passed.  The closest I came to was this 2008 discussion of Illinois' "amendatory veto" from Eric Zorn in the Chicago Tribune:

You have questions about Gov. Rod Blagojevich's big surprise last week. And I have answers.
Q: Is the proposal to make public transportation free for senior citizens a separate bill suddenly submitted to the legislature?
A: No. Without warning, Blagojevich simply tacked it onto the transit-bailout bill that lawmakers sent to his desk Thursday. Then he sent that bill back to the General Assembly saying, in effect, I'm vetoing your plan unless you also approve my idea.
Q: What makes him think he can do that?
A: A passage in Article IV of the Illinois Constitution of 1970 allows a governor to make "specific recommendations for change" to any piece of legislation, then send it back to be OK'd. The informal name for this is an amendatory veto.
Q: Can the legislators reject such changes and pass a bill in its previous form?
A: They can. But they need a  three-fifths vote in both houses to do so. To accept the changes, however, they need only a majority vote.
Q: Do all U.S. governors hold such a mighty club?

A: No. Illinois is one of seven states where the governor has amendatory veto powers, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Q: Whose idea was that?
A: "It was mine, I'm almost embarrassed to say," said former  state Comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch, now a Northwestern University law professor. She was a delegate to the 1969-70 Constitutional Convention and wrote the proposal that advanced the amendatory veto.
Q: What was she thinking?
A: That it was an efficient way for the governor and part-time legislators to tweak bills as needed and speed them along. "A governor can use the power with discretion and in appropriate circumstances and not abuse it," Netsch said, and then she laughed merrily.
Q: What's so funny?
A: History has been unkind to this optimistic notion, as Netsch came to realize. Illinois governors have been making mischief with amendatory vetoes since 1971, when Richard  Ogilvie totally rewrote three bills and sent them back to the legislature.
Q: Did he get away with it?
A: No. The Illinois Supreme Court ruled in 1972 that "the substitution of complete new bills ... is not authorized by the constitution." In the most recent related case, in 1980, the state high court added the view that amendatory vetoes can't "change the fundamental purpose of the legislation, nor make substantial or expansive changes in the legislation."
If readers know of other jurisdictions where the executive can veto legislation in the middle of the legislative process rather than after legislation is passed, please comment below or send me an email.

Regarding Tuesday night, the mayor did have an opinion saying he had the power to veto amendments.  The opinion wasn't from his own attorney, but from now Sen. Begich's attorney.  An opinion is an opinion.  It's not law until it is challenged in court and upheld. 

I find the logic and documentation used to link this power through the charter to the powers of the Greater Anchorage Area Borough's powers persuasive.  Though I would like to hear some attorneys' comments, especially how it relates to the separation of powers between the legislature and the executive. 

I called  now Sen. Begich's office to ask whether then Mayor Begich had ever used this form of veto.  While they couldn't recall it and were pretty sure he hadn't, they said they didn't have access to the records to check.  Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein checked the records and said that Mayor Begich had only vetoed one ordinance.  He never used the power to veto an amendment which his attorney said in this memo he had. 

By the way, the Clerk said the Mayor did write out an explanation of his veto at the meeting. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Such a Beautiful Day

Riding home this afternoon on 36th.  The air's warm/cool factor perfect.  Blue sky, white fluff on the edges. 36th closed westbound at Lake Otis, not much traffic.

It would be nice to shut down 36th to cars altogether. :)  Oh, maybe we could make it one-way and give cars a lane.

UPDATE 9:30pm:  From the June 26, 2011 NYTimes article Dallas (in comments) links:
Cities including Vienna to Munich and Copenhagen have closed vast swaths of streets to car traffic. Barcelona and Paris have had car lanes eroded by popular bike-sharing programs. Drivers in London and Stockholm pay hefty congestion charges just for entering the heart of the city. And over the past two years, dozens of German cities have joined a national network of “environmental zones” where only cars with low carbon dioxide emissions may enter.

Anchorage Mayor Tries To Veto Amendment To Proposal During Assembly Meeting

[Follow up post Thursday June 30 with attorney's memo.]

I haven't been to an Assembly meeting for a long time.  But I went because I know something about boards and commissions and I wanted to see what they were going to do with the ordinance on boards and commissions.  I'll write more on the ordinance they passed adding back sunset provisions for many boards and commissions in another post soon.

What really caught my attention was the mayor's attempt to veto an amendment to a proposal right after the amendment, but not the ordinance, was passed.  As I've said, I haven't been to an Assembly meeting for a while and I've never attended them regularly.

But it seems to me pretty clear that there is supposed to be a separation of powers.  The Assembly does the legislation, then the mayor needs to implement them or veto them, but only AFTER they pass. To veto an amendment in the middle of the Assembly debate seems  totally bizarre.

Assembly members quickly responded.  I wasn't planning on posting about the meeting and hadn't brought my computer or even a note pad.  But someone said something about line item veto being reserved for budget items.  Municipal Clerk Barbara Gruenstein said that a veto had to be accompanied by a written explanation.  Assembly chair Ossiander asked an administration attorney and a person I assume is the assembly attorney.  The administration's attorney said she thought it was ok.  The other attorney said she thought it wasn't, and agreed that a written statement explaining the veto had to accompany it.

Someone added, perhaps it was the mayor, that the Municipal attorney had written an opinion that the mayor could line item anything.  But that memo didn't show up and the Municipal Attorney didn't explain it while I was there.

Then Assembly member Trombley argued that since the item to be vetoed would affect the budget, it could be considered a line-item budget veto.  Member Flynn said something to the effect of, "Nice try, but no way."

For me the issue is separation of powers.  The mayor was, in my opinion, interfering in the Assembly process.  He can say he plans to veto it, but he can't just stand up at the Assembly meeting and veto things on the spot, even before the ordinance is passed, even if he writes a note explaining why. (Who knows what all attorneys can do to twist the process, but it just feels unseemly for the mayor not to wait for the process to play out, before he plays his authorized role.)

And if there was an opinion written by the Municipal attorney on an issue of such significance, why wouldn't it be shared with the Assembly in advance, instead of dropping it in like a bomb, perhaps to see if he could get away with it?  I think the answer is worth another post - a discussion on how seriously divided the Assembly has become.  Divided so that they are toeing the ideological line on practically every minor amendment.  Even when it wouldn't matter particularly.  So divided that both sides seem to assume the worst about the whatever the other side proposes.

UPDATE June 29 11:30 pm:  Let's see if I can make this work. The Muni video of the Assembly meetings has a way to embed specific parts of the video, but I'm leery. These should be:
a. The mayor vetoing the amendment. (if it works, I'll put up b)
b. A bit later when they get clarification

a) didn't capture the part it was supposed to get. I'll try b.  This one is closer to the part I was trying to get, but still misses it.  I'll leave it for now, for anyone who wants to see how Assembly members talk to each other.  Meanwhile I'll try again to get the right clips.
[Friday July 1: I've deleted the video clip because and can't turn off the autostart and having the video automatically go on is just plain annoying.]

[AUTOSTART DISABLE HELP NEEDED: Anyone know how to change the html to disable the autostart? Autostart and play are both set to false. What else is in there that needs to be changed?]

I'm having trouble loading up the video again. Meanwhile, my Firefox access to Blogspot gets me a "Bad Request Error 400" message - I'm using Safari now. Did that come from the Muni video link? It started after I was using it.

But I did learn from the video I wasn't able to upload that the second attorney, Julia Tucker does work for the Assembly and she did raise the issue of separation of powers.

You can go to the Muni site yourself and load up the video.
The motion gets passed and the mayor says he vetoes it @ 1:24:00 - 1:25:26
Then they do other things while waiting for a clarification of the Mayor's basis for being able to veto.
Then they get the clarifications from the Mayor's attorney and the Assembly's attorney @ 1:30:50-1:34:00.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Mayor Doesn't Need Citizens Advising Him - Whacking Boards and Commissions

[Warning:  I'm afraid some snark has slipped into this.  My wife isn't here to check this over before tonight's meeting.]

The Dan Sullivan administration has a proposal before the Assembly tonight to put sunset clauses on many boards and commissions and to abolish a few.  These aren't "let's review these every now and then to be sure they're still needed" sunset clauses.  Some would end this October.  Some next October.  Some in 2013. 

Sunset clauses are a good thing.  Agencies as well as boards and commissions should be reviewed periodically to be sure they still are needed.  But the mayor's limits means people appointed to a board could sometimes have longer terms than the board.   This seems less like oversight than an attempt to kill off as many boards as possible.  A whole list of boards are scheduled to be whacked UNLESS otherwise renewed.   This looks like an attempt at wholesale board and commission slaughter. 

It would be nice to see the study the mayor's office did and the criteria they used to determine which boards to keep and which to whack.  And to know the people they consulted for history and context.  Surely, they have such a study before making a wholesale attack on citizen participation.  His father did a pretty extensive study through the Anchorage Urban Observatory back in the late 1970s to determine how well the different boards and commissions functioned. 

Why have these bodies?

Boards and Commissions have two main statutory functions:
  1.   Give advice to officials about particular programs.
  2.   Make decisions about about specific issues, such as zoning variances or ethical violations.
During the Knowles administration, after another study, the ordinance was changed to make the titles reflect the function.  Boards made decisions and Commissions gave advice.  This no longer seems to have been followed consistently. 

There are a number of benefits such boards and commissions serve.

1.  Many perspectives weigh in.  They allow an easy and inexpensive way to have a variety of voices heard on issues.  Members add valuable perspectives that Muni employees might never consider otherwise, or not until they've implemented a program that causes serious complaints.

2.  Board Members educated on policy.  It's a way to get everyday citizens to be much more aware of what is happening in Muni departments, communicate that to their constituents, and bring back valuable feedback.

3.  Problems avoided in the planning stage rather than implementation stage.

4.  Other beneficial side-effects
  • The more information people have on an issue, the more they are able to understand the complexities and tradeoffs necessary in most programs.  
  • Having people of diverse backgrounds - politically, economically, socially, ethnically - sitting together on a regular basis to hear about a program their interested in, means that they have time
    •  to get to know and respect each other,
    • understand the interests affected by the programs, and 
    • when issues arise, they are much better equipped to find solutions that meet the needs of more than one interest group.  
  • They can also reassure their constituency that the 'other guys' aren't out to screw them over.  Or, if they are, they can alert them early.  

Good public officials, who believe in serving the whole community, encourage a wide variety of citizen input, because they recognize that the community is made up of lots of different types of people. 

The Mayor doesn't simply represent one political ideology.  The mayor represents everyone.  Boards and commissions are a good way to get that wide spectrum of Anchorage interests participating in mutually supportive environments to iron out wrinkles in the early stages, rather than in combative, expensive, divisive win/lose battles. 

People who come into office determined to change things to suit their ideology or other guiding principles tend to have little patience for public participation.  It's messy and takes longer to make decisions.  And they may not get their way.  But if you can't get people to buy in, the battles will continue and things will get uglier. 

The original proposal called for sunset clauses:
A.  All boards and commissions established under this title, except for those mandated by the Charter or state law, or where specifically set forth in the board or commission enabling ordinance below, shall terminate by operation of law every three years from the date set forth therein unless affirmatively continued by the Assembly by ordinance.
B.  All new boards and commissions shall sunset within three (3) years of creation and shall be subject to the provisions of this section.

C.    Prior to continuation or reestablishment of any board or
commission, the Assembly shall hold a public hearing.
But the latest proposal - apparently from Assembly members Ossiander and Piper - whacks C.  The Assembly apparently wouldn't have to hold a hearing before the board vanishes into the sunset.  I'm guessing that's what this means, not sure.

Another sign that this is an attempt to whack the boards?  They have very specific, one time dates for termination.  They aren't to be reviewed, say, every five or ten years.  No, there's a specific death date.  And then what?  After that date, will a new date be added?  Will the ordinance be changed for each board every two or three years until they finally get rid of the commission? 

The Library Advisory Board's death penalty is set for  October 14, 2012.
The Health and Human Services Advisory board's is also October 14, 2012.
(Both of these were originally scheduled to go on the block in 2011)

The Mt. View Community Recreation Center Advisory Commission - ZAP - October 14, 2011.  After that, we don't need community folks helping out. 

Transit Advisory Board?  October 2012.  Since all the Mayor's staff ride the bus to work, they don't need others to tell them how to do things. 

Senior Citizens Advisory Commission?  Also October 2012.  Does the mayor know that us old folks vote?

Fortunately, the Sister Cities Commission is exempt from the Sunset clause.  Clearly this is more important that local public transportation and senior citizens.

Arts Advisory Commission?  October 2012 (moved up in the last draft from 2013) 

The Public Facilities Advisory Commission is simply whacked in the new ordinance.  No sunset here.  It's possible that some commissions don't have a continuing need.  I don't really know about this one.

You get the idea. 

Assembly member Flynn has some amendments to offer.    And to require the Assembly be noticed at least 90 days before a board or commission is sunsetted.  He wants to eliminate the sunset clause for some of the commissions.  Specifically he wants to make the following permanent:
  1. Urban Design Commission
  2. Library Advisory Board
  3. Parks and Rec Service Area Commission
  4. Public Transit Commission
  5. Heritage Land Bank

All the links come from the Assembly website.  The meeting is tonight at the Anchorage Assembly.

Walking Home - Takes the long way home

I just finished Lynn Schooler's Walking Home - in time for tonight's book club meeting.  It's not a book I would have picked and now that I've finished it, I'm trying to figure out my lack of satisfaction.  And should I evaluate Alaska related books differently from other books? 

Middle-aged Juneau outdoorsman, while building a house for himself and his new bride, decides to complete the last leg of a trek that would have him circumnavigate Mr. Fairweather.  There's already problems with the marriage.  Will leaving for a solo wilderness adventure save it?

As I tried, without much success due to the reflective library cover - to photograph the book, it seemed to me the book cover was a good metaphor for my dissatisfaction.

I looked at the photo, and reflected that Schooler is described as an 'award winning wildlife photographer" and though - "Ok, there are a lot of subtle and interesting parts to this photograph, and it reflects the darkness in this story, the coast, the clouds that provided lots of rain, but for a book cover, it's not really that striking.  Intellectually, it's a good photo for the book, but it doesn't quite work as a book cover."

And that's how I felt about the whole book.  There are a lot of interesting parts.  The interweaving of his present trip with the historical accounts of those who preceded Schooler to these parts.  The moving from what he sees as he walks the wilderness, and his discussions of the habits of the birds he's learned through experience and books.  Or plants, or boats, or weather.  And how members of his island community watched after each other.
"The Ulrichs and the Swansons all stood watching as the wave ripped the timber off the ridge above Gilbert Inlet to a height of 1,700 feet with a force that was later calculated as twenty-five million pounds per-square-foot, which was sufficient to instantly strip all the bark off the tumbling treetrunks and tear away their branches.  Then it rebounded to the eastern shore below Crillon Inlet, flaying the mountainside up to 500 feet above sea level;  it struck so hard that every tree, shrub, tuft of grass, and bit of vegetation was wiped away down to naked bedrock.  It was only after the wave lashed over 320-foot-high Cenotaph Island and tore a swatch through its middle that Ulrich came to his senses.  Seeing the wave rolling down the eastern shore toward them, he said, 'I began to move and I moved fast.'"(p. 81)

Interweaving different times and ideas is tricky business and for the most part it works, but we can see the edges where he moves from now to then, from specific to general.  Schooler was in Lituya Bay and recounting the records he'd found of the 1959 earthquake. 

Sonny (Howard Jr.) was eight and the boat with his dad Howard Ulrich Sr.  He'd be 60 or 61 today.  Juneau folks - does anyone know him?  In the book, they're described as 'from Pelican.' 

Generally, I liked the prose. 
"On a map it looked easy.  I could plant my thumb on Lituya Bay and cover the sixty miles to Dry Bay with an outstretched pinkie."
Some chapters are page turners - the 1958 earthquake and the Lituya Bay tidal wave, being stalked by an injured, hungry bear - others are merely interesting.

I'm sure a lot of folks will really like this book.  Ultimately, while it had interesting background on Alaska history and geography, I just didn't get any new insights.  The personal relationship that was woven into all the other threads was mundane.  There were no real insights into what happened.   If he had them, he didn't share them. 

 Oh yeah.  I didn't even notice, until I started this post, that the rest of the picture is on the back of the cover.  And with both parts it's a better photo.  But the cover is what people see.  And the contents, for me, were like the cover.  Not quite good enough on the whole, though with lots of good parts.

I'm not sorry I read it.  I noted in an earlier post I got to read some history of Mt. Fairweather as I saw it out my Seattle bound flight window. 

I'll hold off until I hear what the other book club members say about the book.

Later:  The book club guys seemed to like the book better than I did.  They like his prose, the liked the history and nature accounts interwoven into the other tales.  They liked the sailing and tidal details and how he described them.  They didn't think much about the relationship thread and some felt it could have done without.  I know I have problems at times about not wanting to leave things out that are important to me, but not to the story I'm telling.  As the person telling the story about his trek in the wild, he probably felt it would have been dishonest to leave his dissolving relationship with his new wife out of the book.  But as good literature, he needed to either make that part of the book more insightful or leave it out. 

It's not a bad book by any means.  I never considered abandoning it.  But for me it didn't quite reach its potential. 

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Last Homeless in Anchorage

He saw me whip out my camera as I was waiting for the light to change and so he turned his sign around.

I imagine there will be some people who will focus on spelling here.  It's a legitimate point one could make, but spelling isn't the issue.  It's what happens to the homeless in Anchorage now that they've been rousted out of their camps and drivers have been warned they can be fined for giving money to 'signers' on corners near traffic.   Our why our wealthy nation

I called the number.  The man's name is Guy Nelson.  I recognize that homeless people is a broad label and that some people who have lived out in the camps in town have been a nuisance or worse to people living nearby.  When I asked how many homeless Guy thought were mentally ill and how many were homeless by choice he estimated 3,000 of the former and 2500 of the later.  And another 7000 who are homeless by circumstances - homeless being a broad category including coach surfers. 

  • Since the Mayor has made it illegal to hand money to the homeless, and
  • since Nelson has a phone, and
  • since it's still legal to use your cell phone while driving in Alaska,
  • perhaps Nelson can work out a way for people to give him money via their phones. 
I'm only half joking.  The mayor and police chief said this was a safety issue.  I don't think they are against people being charitable.  Just in unsafe places. 

Guy's basic point on the phone was that when you kick people out of the places they live, you need to help them learn to cope in the world.  He had ideas about alternative, cheap housing.  We made a time to meet this week.  I'll let you know what I find out.

The First Walt Parker Sustainable Community Award Winner

I forget that not everyone shared my luck.  I got to meet Walt Parker early, when I first got to Alaska.  He was active in the local American Society for Public Administration chapter.  It was only later that I found out he was active in a lot of organizations.  And that he's had a remarkable life.

A few examples:
  • pilot in WW II China
  • bush pilot Alaska
  • trapper
  • FAA employee
  • amateur thespian
  • city council member
  • academic
  • consultant all around the world on various topics
  • chair of the Alaska oil spill commission
  • member of the Arctic Council

And he's still getting new stamps in his passport and volunteering full time in his 80s.

He's a walking encyclopedia about, well, everything.  You mention any topic, any country, and Walt will explain it in detail and tell a tale of when he was there. 

Sunday night a bunch of community groups sponsored the night and the first Walt Parker Sustainable Community Award.  While the crowd would probably be seen as left of center, a BP employee was at our table, and the Lt. Governor, Mead Treadwell, spoke in high praise of Walt Parker.

Walt was asked to open the envelope and announce the winner.  You don't see Walt at a loss for words often.  But he was clearly surprised when he saw the name.  

New Eyes, New Images, New World

 We grow up being taught how to see the world.

 Some of us rebel and try to see it a little differently.

But constantly seeing anew gets tiring too and 
we settle into our own version of how to see.  

The people of the world aren't doing well.  
Some people see black, others see white.  

In either case we are locked into to seeing what we expect to see.  
Oil vs. solar.  Torture vs. Security.  Unnatural vs. Normal. 

But there is an infinite number of ways to see our world and to find ways to be prosperous, happy, and generous.  We just have to recover our childlike ability to see things freshly. 

These images are from my front yard.  Looking closely.   
The familiar becomes newly enchanting.  

What's there to discover in your yard? Or are you to busy to see?

We all need to look with new eyes at how we live and how we could live. 

It's not about winning.  It's about seeing.  Seeing a world we can all share.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Fairbanks to Sue Over Redistricting Plan

According to a story in the Fairbanks Newsminer by Christopher Eshleman, the Northstar-Fairbanks Borough voted 8-1 at 3am on Friday to file suit against the Alaska Redistricting Board's plan.

The main concern in the piece seems to be House District 38:
Local government will sue the state over redistricting plans that some argue would inappropriately and illegally dilute Ester and Goldstream Valley residents’ voting power.

Proposed maps would, among other things, link much of northwest Fairbanks with a slice of the Bering Sea coastline — and include everything in between — in one of five sprawling House jurisdictions proposed by the Alaska Redistricting Board.

Click to make larger and clearer
 Sprawling districts is nothing new to Alaska.  The last redistricting plan included District 6 (covering much of the new District 39 but without going to the coast) which was the largest state house district in the US - and probably bigger than a number of states.  But given Alaska's huge size and tiny population, this is inevitable.

The above map is from the Redistricting Board Website.  You can see that House District 38 (the S is the Senate district - it's paired with the Bethel district 37) goes from the Fairbanks suburbs out to tiny off-the-road-system, honey-bucket-hauling villages like Wales.  It also, conveniently (if you're a Republican) gets a chunk of liberal Fairbanks voters and sticks them into a basically Native (and Democratic) district and out of the Fairbanks mix.

One can easily make the argument that this district is not socio-economically integrated as the state constitution requires.

But Board attorney Michael White has told the board that the Federal Voting Rights Act (VRA) trumps the state constitution and that they needed the Fairbanks voters to get 38 big enough  (all districts have to be as close as possible to 17,755 people) and that they had to keep nine Native districts or they would be in violation of the Voting Rights Act.  They'll argue that they couldn't do this without taking a chunk of Fairbanks voters.  And due to the complicated balancing system used to determine 'Native Districts' taking Democrats would require a lower percentage of Natives.  [It's complicated. Here's a post that goes into these issues in detail.]

This map shows how Fairbanks was divided into house (numbers) and senate districts (letters.)  House Districts 1 and 4  and then 3 and 5 could have been paired for Senate seats.  Then 2 and 6 could have been paired and no incumbents would have been paired.  The board did not make saving incumbents one of their principles (though they discussed it.)  In some cases pairing incumbents is inevitable as it was in Southeast where one house district was lost due to population loss.  But otherwise incumbents shouldn't be paired. At least that was my conclusion after testimony in a public hearing where the person said, "If my rep is fired, it should be by the voters and not by the board."

My understanding is that other groups such as Alaskans for Fair Representation and the Rights Groups (the Democratic Party) were able to get nine Native districts without pairing urban dwellers with villagers who ride four wheelers to the pond out of town to get drinking water in buckets. 

Another issue I didn't see raised in the article is related to political gerrymandering, which is illegal, but hard to prove.  The plan brought to and approved by the board by board member Jim Holm of Fairbanks, pairs two Fairbanks Democratic Senators in a single district and then leaves a third open district.  It is hard to believe that the two Democratic Senators couldn't have had their House districts paired so that each would have been in his own district.  And it's hard to imagine that this wasn't done intentionally.  Mind you, I can't get inside the heads of the board members so I don't know their intentions.  But I do know that a lot of Republicans would like to end the 10-10 split in the state senate and regain the majority for the Republicans.  Pitting the two Fairbanks Democrats bumps off one right there, all that is needed to regain the senate.  There is an infinite number of ways that these lines can be drawn, and I just can't imagine that they couldn't find a way to make reasonable maps that would have kept both Democratic senators if they had wanted to.

But I didn't see anything about that in the Fairbanks Newsminer article.

The fact that a law suit is going to be filed doesn't mean much by itself.  This has happened in nearly all (possibly all) the prior redistricting processes.  Someone is bound to be miffed by how the districts end up.  But the basic questions the courts will ask, as I understand this, are:
1.  Does it violate the law?
2.  Was it possible to do it differently so it wouldn't violate the law?

If any of the plans submitted by interested groups were able to do meet all the standards without violating the law, then the Board wasn't, the court will take a dim view of the Board's plan.

Alaska Pridefest Photos and Music

By the time we got to the parkstrip, the Alaska PrideFest Festival was almost over, but there were still folks around and the music was great.   Blogging about this raises a couple of challenges for me.

First, I don't want to ignore the unfortunate accident at the beginning of the parade, but I figure that will suck up most of the media attention on this day, which many people saw as a special celebration coming on the heels of New York's decision to allow gay marriage.  My condolences go to the family and friends of James Crump. 

Second, is the question of how to handle photographs.  In November 2008 while covering an Anchorage demonstration in favor of gay marriage, I'd gone up the stairs in the parking garage across the street to get some pictures.  There was a man in the stairwell who told me he was there with his partner, but was a school teacher and didn't want to be seen at a gay protest.  So he was watching from across the street. 

Are there people who are at the festival who wouldn't want their pictures on a blog?  I've discussed at length the ethics of posting pictures of children, but what about adults who are still fearful of discrimination?  The conventional journalist response, I think that would be this is a public event.  And a lot of people at the event are openly gay and a lot of others aren't GLBT anyway.  Nevertheless, I've blurred the most obvious faces except for those who gave me permission (no one I asked said no) or were people clearly involved in the festival.  (For the dog close-up, I asked its leash holder.) This also affected how I took pictures - much more timidly than normal. 

Ms. Gay Alaska - Amber Do All Lá Chores Sawyer - explained to me the difference between Ms. and Miss Gay Alaska.  Ms is the category for lesbians and Miss for drag queens.  

I'd encountered Miss Gay Alaska - Micah Sauvageau "Vanity Affair" - at performances of  Midnight Soapscum where, as Mama Rose Mary, she narrated the show and kept the audience in line. 

Mister and Mr. Gay Alaska had left already, so no pictures. 

I've added a video - mostly with still shots - because a huge part of being there was the music.  Pictures by themselves don't capture the mood of the event. The music by Pandamonica was great and my Power Canonshot gives you a sense of it, but doesn't do it justice. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

In the Meantime, Here's Some Devil's Club

When you have a big event, a lot gets done in preparation, but a lot of other things get put aside until after the event.  My daughter's been graduated and my son's been married and now that everyone who came here for the events has left, I'm reviewing what needs to be done in the various facets of my life.

So, in the meantime, I was going to put up some devil's club photos I've taken.  But they really aren't that good.  So, I deleted most of them and settled for a couple that are just barely ok. Sorry, I've got things to do. 

 From an old NPR story:
Devil's club, or Oplopanax horridus, is a plant with an unmistakable presence. It has leaves like palm fronds, spines like daggers and red fruit that's candy for bears. It sticks its long neck out as far south as Oregon, and to the east, has even surprised a few Michigan hikers with its cloak of vicious thorns. But the plant is perhaps most common to the bear, deer and salmon habitats of Alaska's Tongass National Forest.   [Well, we aren't near the Tongass, but we have lots up here in Southcentral Alaska too.]

 "The Tlingit have turned to devil's club for a list of ailments you wouldn't wish on an enemy: from coughs and colds to stomach ulcers, tuberculosis and hypoglycemia. 
Tribe members steep it into teas, mash it into salves, chew, sip and steam it. It's also used to ward off evil. The plant, dubbed the "Tlingit aspirin" has not been approved for medicinal use by the Food and Drug Administration."

"Externally the prickly outer bark sometimes is scraped from the stem, leaving the cambium for use in the preparation of decoctions and poultices; however, others use both the cambium and stem together. Poultices were applied to sores and wounds to prevent or reduce swelling and infection. The cambium sometimes is softened by chewing prior to being placed on a cut or burn as an emergency analgesic and local antiseptic. In many cultures, the plant is believed to possess “magical” powers that impart great strength."

Devil's Club superficially is similar to Cow Parsnip - in the size of the plant and the leaf shape and size.  An older post on cow parsnip compares devil's club and cow parsnip.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Playing-with-Your-Head Art

It's been a great week with lots of people in town for the wedding this past Sunday.  The last few days we've had doing Anchorage things with our visitors.  I've tried to post every day, but my attention has been elsewhere.

Here are some websites I've been wanting to share that visually play with the notions of reality and not-reality.

The Wondrous - This post features Belgian artist Ben Heine mixing drawing and photos (I think.)

When I sent my friend Tómas the link to Heine, he offered back this link to a post on chalk sidewalk art by Julian Beever at Cecilitaa’s Blog.  More playing with how we see reality.  In many cases I can't tell where the art ends and reality begins.  Is the photographer in this picture a real person or drawn on?  It looks obvious in this one, but after seeing some of the others I'm not sure.

Both sites have LOTS of examples of these artists' work and most are amazing.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Deer Fly? Maybe.

This blog is called "What Do I Know?"  But I'm probably more interested in "How Do I Know?"  Since my camera does a decent job of taking macro shots, I've been able to take fairly close-up pictures of bugs.  But that leaves me with the problem of identifying them.  So, I bought Dominique M. Collet's Insects of south-central Alaska. Sometimes it gives me a pretty clear id, like for the birch shield bug. But other times it leaves me still uncertain, but it narrows down the possibilities and then I can start googling.

The book has 29 families of flies. (He includes mosquitoes and midges.
"The most distinguishing characteristic for these insects is a pair of well-developed forewings and hindwings (halteres) reduced to stubs.")
Most of us probably can distinguish 'flies' from 'mosquitoes', but now we have 27 more different specific families.  And then each family can be broken down - though he doesn't do that for most.  You can see, though, how the more you know, the more you realize how much you don't know.  And if you're honest with yourself, you'll realize that what you don't know dwarfs what you do know.  And this should lead to humility. 

Going through the pictures, I decided the deer fly seemed the most likely.  Especially this:
"These . . . flies have gold and green metallic eyes . . ."
So I googled deer fly (family Tabanidae).

Bugguide offers a lot more detail. [my comments in brackets below]
"Medium to large flies, females take blood, and some are pests. Typical characteristics:
  • stoutly built flies with large squamae (scales above the halteres, also called calypters);
    [It is stout.  I'm not positive about the squamae.  If you click the links to halteres it tells you
    "calypter noun - a small membranous flap at the base of the hind edge of the wing in some flies; it covers the halteres."
    but I can't tell from the pictures they provide and this one I took. There is a lump at about where the wing comes in.]
  • feet with 3 pads (as opposed to 2); [My picture doesn't show the foot pads]
  • 3rd antennal segment elongated, clearly made up of several fused parts; [???]
  • 3rd antennal segment with a prominent tooth at base in some groups [????]
  • wing veins R4 and R5 fork to form a large 'Y' across the wing tip." [Yes! you can see the Y pattern of the veins on the wing.  Look at the tip of the wing on the left.]

So, I'm not certain, but at this point I'm tentatively identifying this as a deer fly until I get more evidence one way or the other.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Horsetail: One Person's Weed is Another Person's Scouring Pad

Writing for the blog often makes me question things I think I know.  I took these pictures of horse tail at the Helen Louise McDowell Sanctuary, but is that really what it is?  Or just the name we tend to use?  It does seem to be horse tail. 

My first stop on the google express got to this at gardenstew:

"I have a weed growing in a bed in my yard (Horsetail). From my research I have found out that this is a very hard thing to get rid of. Unfortunately it has begun to spread in my lawn and into another vegetable bed that I have. I don't want it to get much further, but from what I am reading most weed killers do nothing for this. Has anyone ever dealt with this weed before? Any suggestions? (I have pets and don't want to expose them to anything toxic in my yard.)
 (You can find suggestions for getting rid of horsetail there at gardenstew and also at the UBC botanical garden site.)

But horsetail has beneficial properties too. 

Alaska Herbal Teas tells us:

"Horsetail is edible, but not choice. It must be boiled, as it is toxic raw. Some Athabascans use it as a seasoning. A fluidextract of the sterile stems and ashes from the burnt plant are used for medicine against kidney and bladder trouble, stones, ulcers or wounds in the bowel, and externally on sores. Horsetail has historical uses for cleaning and polishing. Its high silica content makes it good for scouring and soap preparation."

There's overlapping info at  Wikipedia:

The Water Horsetail has historically been used by both Europeans and Native Americans for scouring, sanding, and filing because of the high silica content in the stems. Early spring shoots were eaten. Medically it was used by the ancient Greeks and Romans to stop bleeding and treat kidney ailments, ulcers, and tuberculosis, and by the ancient Chinese to treat superficial visual obstructions. Rootstocks and stems are sometimes eaten by waterfowl. Horsetails absorb heavy metals from the soil, and are often used in bioassays for metals.

According to Carolus Linnaeus, reindeer, which refuse ordinary hay, will eat this horsetail, which is juicy, and that it is cut as fodder in the north of Sweden for cows, with a view to increasing their milk yield, but that horses will not touch it.

Sometimes a Bug is Really a Bug

Not long ago, I posted this picture of a bug.  I've been excited that I can get pretty good macro shots with my pocket sized Canon.  So, when I discovered the book Insects of south-central Alaska  by Dominique M. Collet, I went to Title Wave and bought it.  

I looked under beetles first, but then found it under 'true bugs.'   A birch shield bug.

Then last week at the botanical garden I caught this shot of a bumble bee (page 169). 

Then Sunday I found this fly. 

Click to enlarge

Using Collet's book, I decided it might be a tachinid fly.  Google got me to cirrusimage which gave me lens envy, because they had such incredible photos.  It also said there were 8200 different species of tachinid flies.  They all lay their eggs either in, on, or near the larvae of other insects.  The young then act as parasites on their hosts.  These are actually beneficial.

"Many tachinids parasitize major agricultural pests of food or timber crops, and have potential for use as biological control agents, but most attempts at using them in such wise have been dismal failures.

Among the methods tachinids use to infect their subjects are the oviparous species that place large, macrotype eggs directly on the body of the host, the micro-oviparous, which place tiny, microtype eggs on foliage or other foodstuffs being consumed by the host, or the larviparous, which retain their eggs until maturity; these eggs hatch immediately upon being laid on or near the target. Some female tachinidae that attack bugs or beetles have piercing ovipositors much like wasps in the Hymenoptera family Ichneumonidae."

I recommend checking out cirrusimage because those photos are incredible!

Monday, June 20, 2011


There's a semipermeable membrane that keeps my family out of my blog.  Sometimes, though, they slip in as an aside. 

Keeping blog and family separate this last week has been hard.  Some things are just too good and too big to leave out completely.

A small contingent of relatives and friends of my son and his betrothed converged on Anchorage for their wedding.

Clouds crowding low on the mountains and the beauty of emerging vegetation embraced us with mystery, hope and joy. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

No Bikes: Owen Told To Take His Money Elsewhere

A friend was by the other day and told me his tale of woe at Alaska USA Credit Union.  The lobby of the credit union was closed for renovation, so he took his bike around to the drive through lane, put several hundred dollars into the tube to be deposited and waited. 

You can hear Owen tell his own story below.

Even though the money was already to the teller, he was told he couldn't use the bike in the drive through. When he pointed out that the lobby was closed, he was told to go to another branch.

I called to check on their policy. Dustin told me that it varied from branch to branch. In some you can walk through the drive through.  Dustin figured it was the C Street branch because they've had some construction. He called them and they said they do not allow bikes in the drive through.

I called my own credit union - Credit Union 1 - and Kendra said she knew that people were able to walk through the drive through and didn't think there would be a problem with a bike, unless, of course, it was very crowded and the lobby was open.

I would add that Owen has been a member of AlaskaUSA for over 30 years. Since CU1 has no problems with walkers and bikers using the drive through when the lobby is closed, and other AlaskaUSA branches allow it, methinks this is one person who is just inflexible and unreasonable.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Anchorage Behaves for Guests

A squirrel* on the Winter Creek trail

We took some visitors to dinner last night at the Double Musky in Girdwood. The cloudiness was clearing up as we drove to Girdwood, stopped at the restaurant to put our names on the list and checked the wait time.

 *everything I could find through google suggests it's a red squirrel, but I'm not certain. 

Sated exit from Double Musky

We had 45 minutes to wander the area around the Prince Hotel and get back. A dinner that brought approving comments from our guests

and then a drive home into 11pm setting sun.  The picture just doesn't do justice to the water color quality of the water and sky.

And a short stop to watch the terns at Potter Marsh.

Denali was out and clear was we made our way home. (I was driving, no pictures.)

Making Policy Behind Closed Doors - Port and Planning

KSKA had a report on the Mayor's State of the City speech and developments with Title 21 at the Building Operators and Managers Association luncheon last week and today's ADN has a story on the Port Authority.  The common factor - as I see it - is that both represent policy development by the Mayor behind closed doors.

The Port 

Lisa Demer at the Anchorage Daily News writes, 
Mayor Dan Sullivan, trying to find a solution to the troubled Port of Anchorage expansion project, brought shippers, government officials, and other interested parties to a closed-door port summit Tuesday at City Hall.
"This is a project that's too big to fail, too important to fail," Sullivan said.
City officials said ahead of time that the meeting was closed to the public so that parties could speak freely. The mayor said restricting access would also allow proprietary business information to be discussed.   (emphasis added)

Title 21

This one's a little more complicated.  The Municipality of Anchorage went through a long, eight year process to develop a long term plan for city development including changes to Title 21 - the Muni's land use planning code.  A local citizens group - Anchorage Community Council has a timeline of the process (from their point of view, of course):

  • The Title 21 Rewrite Project was started in 2002 to implement the city’s adopted comprehensive plans.
  • There have been five drafts, each of which has been reviewed by the public. Thousands of staff hours and volunteer hours have gone into reviewing
    and amending the various drafts.  The extensive public process has been open to anyone who desired to participate.
  • There have been multiple public hearings at the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Assembly. 
  • With each draft, input from the public, including the development community, has led to changes and improvements.
  •  By the summer of 2010, all but one of the fourteen chapters had been provisionally adopted by the Assembly. (Not counting the separate Chugiak-Eagle River chapter.)
  • “Provisionally Adopted” means that the Assembly Title 21 Committee had thoroughly reviewed, discussed, and frequently amended at least two different drafts of the code, and the final draft was found to be generally acceptable by the Assembly. 
  • Dan Coffey was a member of the Assembly’s Title 21 committee and he voted FOR every single provisionally adopted chapter.
But then,

  • On July 25, 2010, the Mayor entered into a sole-source contract with Mr. Coffey (who was no longer on the Assembly) to review the provisionally adopted chapters with an assignment to select the top ten most controversial issues in the rewrite and work with interest groups and municipal staff to resolve the identified issues.  In a political letter in late 2010 urging support for certain Assembly candidates, Mr. Coffey wrote that the mayor asked him to “re-work” Title 21.
  • In the Fall of 2010, Mr. Coffey held private meetings (planning staff was not allowed to attend and they were closed to the public) with various interest groups.  Instead of identifying and working on the top ten issues, Mr. Coffey submitted to the Planning Department redlined drafts of chapters 1 and 2 of the rewrite. [emphasis added]
  • At a meeting with Anchorage Citizens Coalition representatives in November of 2010, Mr. Coffey showed redlined drafts of chapters 1 and 2 of the rewrite.  He made it clear he is rewriting the code following his own personal opinions and biases.  He expressed disdain for planners and discounted studies that did not fit his opinions.
  • In November 2010, the Assembly Title 21 Committee stopped meeting after Mr. Coffey convinced the chair to discontinue the meetings until he finished his work.

When are closed door meetings justified?

There is always a tension between transparency and confidentiality/privacy.  The federal Freedom of Information statute identifies specific exemptions.  The basic exemptions listed are there to protect information, which if made public, could compromise
  • National Security
  • Personal Privacy
  • Trade Secrets
  • Criminal Investigations and Litigation and 
  • Physical Safety
The list has more specific items, but they tend to fall in these categories.  You can see the detailed list here.

A less legitimate reason for closed door meetings is to get things done without tipping off people who might object.  

The mayor listed two reasons for the port discussions being closed: 

  1. parties could speak freely.  
  2. allow proprietary business information to be discussed.

Yes, it's easier to say what you're really thinking in private where others can't hear you.  But people with opposing views don't get the chance to hear what you're saying and rebut it if necessary. 

There are situations where one might talk about underlying issues and personalities that people wouldn't say in public, but ultimately, I personally feel the danger of too much being hidden is greater than of too much being public.  As much as we've heard, for instance, about the danger of the wikileaks, so far the main fallout we've heard about is embarrassment and attitude realignment based on the new public understandings - such as the Arab support against Iran's nuclear projects. 

Proprietary business information is a legitimate reason for going into a closed session.  Companies do not want their competitors knowing their costs and plans.  But who is in on these discussions? 

Just one of the companies involved?  Then are enough voices at the table?  If more than one, how do they deal with one of them disclosing proprietary information?  It is, after all, the competitors, not the general public they are concerned about here. 

In any case, if there is proprietary information being disclosed, they can do what the Alaska Redistricting Board did when they talked about litigation - go into temporary executive session.  There's no reason to close the whole discussion to public observation. 

Unless they don't want the public to know what's going on.  It's much easier if no one is privy to what you're doing, because they don't ask pesky questions and point out inconsistencies or inaccuracies.  But it doesn't make for good long-term public policy. 

What the Anchorage Citizens' Coalition is saying is that after the whole process was essentially completed, and all parties had a chance to say their piece, and a great deal of negotiating and compromising had been done,  BOMA (Building Operators and Managers Association) gets to  step into the process and work privately with Coffey to make suggested changes that they would like to see. 

Not in open meetings like everyone else during long and exhaustive public process, but in private meetings. out of the spotlight, where people can't hear what is said and challenge inaccuracies. 

Yes, it will still go to the Assembly for final approval, but will the original, provisionally approved document be the starting point and will the Assembly vote on each of the newly proposed changes? 

Or will they be offered Coffey's changed document as the starting point?  And how much time will Assembly members have to scrutinize and discuss the changes?  And how much time will the interested members of the public who participated in the original 8 year process have to identify issues and explain them to the public and the Assembly? 

And now that the Assembly balance has changed, does any of this matter?  Has Sullivan simply waited until he got a majority of the Assembly to summarily throw out an eight year public process and substitute what the industry wants instead? 

It's hard to know whether my fears are justified because we don't know, in either the Port situation or the Title 21 situation what is being done. 

But, I'm adding the State Public Meeting statute so people can consider it themselves.  Why do we have such a policy and is it really being followed?

AS 44.62.310. Government Meetings Public.

(a) All meetings of a governmental body of a public entity of the state are open to the public except as otherwise provided by this section or another provision of law. Attendance and participation at meetings by members of the public or by members of a governmental body may be by teleconferencing. Agency materials that are to be considered at the meeting shall be made available at teleconference locations if practicable. Except when voice votes are authorized, the vote shall be conducted in such a manner that the public may know the vote of each person entitled to vote. The vote at a meeting held by teleconference shall be taken by roll call. This section does not apply to any votes required to be taken to organize a governmental body described in this subsection.
(b) If permitted subjects are to be discussed at a meeting in executive session, the meeting must first be convened as a public meeting and the question of holding an executive session to discuss matters that are listed in (c) of this section shall be determined by a majority vote of the governmental body. The motion to convene in executive session must clearly and with specificity describe the subject of the proposed executive session without defeating the purpose of addressing the subject in private. Subjects may not be considered at the executive session except those mentioned in the motion calling for the executive session unless auxiliary to the main question. Action may not be taken at an executive session, except to give direction to an attorney or labor negotiator regarding the handling of a specific legal matter or pending labor negotiations.
(c) The following subjects may be considered in an executive session:
(1) matters, the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect upon the finances of the public entity;
(2) subjects that tend to prejudice the reputation and character of any person, provided the person may request a public discussion;
(3) matters which by law, municipal charter, or ordinance are required to be confidential;
(4) matters involving consideration of government records that by law are not subject to public disclosure.
(d) This section does not apply to

(1) a governmental body performing a judicial or quasi-judicial function when holding a meeting solely to make a decision in an adjudicatory proceeding;
(2) juries;
(3) parole or pardon boards;
(4) meetings of a hospital medical staff;
(5) meetings of the governmental body or any committee of a hospital when holding a meeting solely to act upon matters of professional qualifications, privileges or discipline;
(6) staff meetings or other gatherings of the employees of a public entity, including meetings of an employee group established by policy of the Board of Regents of the University of Alaska or held while acting in an advisory capacity to the Board of Regents; or
(7) meetings held for the purpose of participating in or attending a gathering of a national, state, or regional organization of which the public entity, governmental body, or member of the governmental body is a member, but only if no action is taken and no business of the governmental body is conducted at the meetings.
(e) Reasonable public notice shall be given for all meetings required to be open under this section. The notice must include the date, time, and place of the meeting and if, the meeting is by teleconference, the location of any teleconferencing facilities that will be used. Subject to posting notice of a meeting on the Alaska Online Public Notice System as required by AS 44.62.175 (a), the notice may be given using print or broadcast media. The notice shall be posted at the principal office of the public entity or, if the public entity has no principal office, at a place designated by the governmental body. The governmental body shall provide notice in a consistent fashion for all its meetings.

(f) Action taken contrary to this section is voidable. A lawsuit to void an action taken in violation of this section must be filed in superior court within 180 days after the date of the action. A member of a governmental body may not be named in an action to enforce this section in the member's personal capacity. A governmental body that violates or is alleged to have violated this section may cure the violation or alleged violation by holding another meeting in compliance with notice and other requirements of this section and conducting a substantial and public reconsideration of the matters considered at the original meeting. If the court finds that an action is void, the governmental body may discuss and act on the matter at another meeting held in compliance with this section. A court may hold that an action taken at a meeting held in violation of this section is void only if the court finds that, considering all of the circumstances, the public interest in compliance with this section outweighs the harm that would be caused to the public interest and to the public entity by voiding the action. In making this determination, the court shall consider at least the following:

(1) the expense that may be incurred by the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals if the action is voided;
(2) the disruption that may be caused to the affairs of the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals if the action is voided;
(3) the degree to which the public entity, other governmental bodies, and individuals may be exposed to additional litigation if the action is voided;
(4) the extent to which the governing body, in meetings held in compliance with this section, has previously considered the subject;
(5) the amount of time that has passed since the action was taken;
(6) the degree to which the public entity, other governmental bodies, or individuals have come to rely on the action;
(7) whether and to what extent the governmental body has, before or after the lawsuit was filed to void the action, engaged in or attempted to engage in the public reconsideration of matters originally considered in violation of this section;
(8) the degree to which violations of this section were wilful, flagrant, or obvious;
(9) the degree to which the governing body failed to adhere to the policy under AS 44.62.312 (a).
(g) Subsection (f) of this section does not apply to a governmental body that has only authority to advise or make recommendations to a public entity and has no authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity.

(h) In this section,

(1) "governmental body" means an assembly, council, board, commission, committee, or other similar body of a public entity with the authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity or with the authority to advise or make recommendations to the public entity; "governmental body" includes the members of a subcommittee or other subordinate unit of a governmental body if the subordinate unit consists of two or more members;
(2) "meeting" means a gathering of members of a governmental body when
(A) more than three members or a majority of the members, whichever is less, are present, a matter upon which the governmental body is empowered to act is considered by the members collectively, and the governmental body has the authority to establish policies or make decisions for a public entity; or
(B) the gathering is prearranged for the purpose of considering a matter upon which the governmental body is empowered to act and the governmental body has only authority to advise or make recommendations for a public entity but has no authority to establish policies or make decisions for the public entity;
(3) "public entity" means an entity of the state or of a political subdivision of the state including an agency, a board or commission, the University of Alaska, a public authority or corporation, a municipality, a school district, and other governmental units of the state or a political subdivision of the state; it does not include the court system or the legislative branch of state government.