Sarah Palin: fiscal management not her thing
Other than trying to fire the librarian for not banning books, Sarah Palin administered Wasilla, a town with no sewage treatment plant and zero debt, into a town with no sewage treatment plant and $22 million of debt. She handed out a surplus to residents whilst she borrowed for infrastructure (roads).
Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a "fiscal conservative." During her six years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by more than 33 percent. During those same six years, the amount of taxes collected by the city increased by 38 percent. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax, which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefitted large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.
The huge increases in tax revenue during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list, though — borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt but left it with indebtedness of more than $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? Or a new library? No. $1 million for a park. $15 million-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex, which she rushed through, on a piece of property that the city didn't even have clear title to. That was still in litigation seven years later — to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5 million for road projects that could have been done in five to seven years without any borrowing.
Later on Anne Kilkenny provides a Fact check on Sarah Palin, and explains why she took the time to write this:
Claim vs. Fact
- "Hockey mom": True for a few years
- "PTA mom": True years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
- "NRA supporter": Absolutely true
- Social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, but vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconsitutional).
- Pro-creationism: Mixed. Supports it, but did nothing as governor to promote it.
- "Pro-life": Mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby but declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation.
- "Experienced": Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
- Political maverick: Not at all.
- Gutsy: Absolutely!
- Open and transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
- Has a developed philosophy of public policy: No.
- "A Greenie": No. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
- Fiscal conservative: Not by my definition!
- Pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
- Pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
- Pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla's history.
- Pro-labor/pro-union: No. Just because her husband works union doesn't make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.
Why am I writing this?
First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name, you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.
Secondly, I've always operated in the belief that "bad things happen when good people stay silent." Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council meetings.
Third, I am just a housewife. I don't have a job she can bump me out of. I don't belong to any organization that she can hurt. But I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that's life.
Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the city librarian against Sarah's attempt at censorship.
Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.
Caveats: I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending and taxation two years ago (when Palin was running for governor) from information supplied to me by the finance director of the City of Wasilla, and I can't recall exactly what I adjusted for: Did I adjust for inflation? For population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall — they are swamped. So I can't verify my numbers.
You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my "about 5,000" up to 9,000. The day Palin's selection was announced, a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was 5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-1990s.
- Anne Kilkenny is a homemaker and education advocate in Wasilla, Alaska