The head of a taxpayer group critical of the local government’s spending has accused borough Mayor John Williams of blaming the group for the borough’s fiscal problems, and of attempting to marginalize their influence by labeling them as domestic terrorists bent on subverting government.
“That’s totally not true,” said Mike McBride, head of the Alliance of Concerned Taxpayers, an organization that has alleged the Kenai Peninsula Borough is being mismanaged, and that the current administration was preparing to raise taxes rather than cut spending.
Last year, ACT’s efforts succeeded in getting a pair of propositions on the fall ballot that won the approval of voters. Those propositions lowered the cap on capital spending without a public vote, and rolled back a 1 percent increase in the sales tax. Both those ballot measures, according to the borough, will have a dramatic impact on future budgets that could require significant cuts in appropriations to schools and services.
While responding to ACT’s assertions of government mismanagement during an interview two weeks ago, Mayor Williams said clearly more than once that he did not believe ACT members knew the effects the two propositions would have the central government’s ability to function.
ACT officials, however, continue to assert they knew exactly what they were doing.
In that interview, Williams said, “If they did know what they were doing, then, to me, it amounts to domestic terrorism in an attempt to subvert government.”
The mayor also took issue with ACT’s demands for government information, which while legal, were causing costly diversions of employee time.
“Their continuous disruption of government by continually requesting of staff more and more information, taking away time they need to properly run government, is costing taxpayers of the Kenai Peninsula Borough rather than saving them money,” Williams said then.
“The whole thing Williams is doing he and the assembly is trying to blame ACT for their financial situation,” McBride said. “All ACT did was we put issues on the ballot to where people had a say whether sales taxes would increase or whether to cap project spending without a vote at $1 million. (It had been $1.5 million). People thought that was a good idea.”
Mayor Williams has also said that many of the electorate may not have had a clear understanding of the impacts of the propositions, either.
“I would counter that by saying they (the voters) didn’t know what they were doing when they elected Williams mayor,” McBride said Wednesday.
The ACT group, he continued, must determine how to react to the “unfounded assertions” that they are “terrorists.”
“If we’re terrorists for petitioning the government, then we need to change the Constitution they are sworn to uphold,” McBride said.
Asked to address a rumor circulating that ACT would consider launching a recall effort to unseat Williams, McBride said he wasn’t ready to talk about that.
He did say, “I don’t want to rule anything out. Anything is possible. He has made a very serious and unfounded claim and we are taking it very seriously. What the next move is, only time will tell.”
ACT members asked the assembly Tuesday to censure the mayor for the “domestic terrorist” comment.
“They sat there like bumps on a log,” McBride commented.
Assembly President Ron Long, of Seward, said it wasn’t the assembly’s job to censure the mayor, and unlike Congress, the body lacks the specific power to formally censure the borough executive, though the assembly may censure its own members. In the case of a disability, the assembly can temporarily remove a mayor.
“We have seen in other instances where the mayor and the assembly have had differences of opinion,” Long said. “The resolution to that is time and discussion. We don’t get to sledgehammer each other into submission. We have no censure power. We are all free to express our opinions as individuals.”
Long took issue with McBride and ACT for taking the mayor’s comments out of context. ACT, he said, failed to address the fact that the mayor had said more than once that he did not believe ACT members knew the true effects of the propositions. Further, Long said Williams clearly made the “domestic terrorist” comment in relation to what he (the mayor) had expressly viewed as the unlikely case that ACT did know what they were doing.
Long said taking that comment out of context had been “at best, irresponsible,” adding that that same irresponsibility led to ACT’s selective use of government data to make its case that the government was being mismanaged and misled.
“If they’re giving taxpayers information, as they claim, then give them enough information to warrant the valid conclusions,” Long said. “Don’t cherry pick numbers from reports without their context. They can be the right numbers, but the wrong conclusions.”
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