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Assembly Rejects Tennis Court Facility, Approves Cab Reforms

By Adam Pinsker, Multimedia Political Reporter, apinsker@ktuu.com
Published On: Dec 03 2013 11:54:13 PM AKST
Updated On: Dec 03 2013 11:54:23 PM AKST
Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan
ANCHORAGE -

The Alaska Legislature allotted $10.5 million for an Anchorage tennis facility that has proven controversial.

A proposal of the Anchorage Assembly to accept the funds and build the facility failed Tuesday night because of concerns the money was appropriated through a fund that is usually reserved for upgrades to aging buildings.

“What it means is, we have $10.5 million that sits unallocated," Mayor Dan Sullivan said. 

Tim Steele, an Assembly member, proposed a compromise that would have set aside $7.7 million for the tennis center, but the measure failed by a 6-5 vote.

Another proposal from Assembly member Bill Starr would have allocated $4 million for the project but also failed 6-5.

"One of our goals will be to start looking for other sources of funds, maybe from the private sector or from some of the foundations and then we can come back to the Assembly,” Sullivan said.

The Alaska Tennis Association lobbied for the project, which supporters said would benefit organized tennis teams, people seeking private lessons and basketball courts.

OPERATING BUDGET OVERRIDE FAILS

The Assembly failed to override a veto by Mayor Sullivan on an amendment to the municipality's $467 million operating budget. 

The measure would have provided $1.5 million for school resource officers for the Anchorage School District.

Every school in the district currently has funding for 17 officers, and since they are employees of the Municipality, the district must foot the entire cost of their services, which is around $3 million.

"I think we've gone a step here this time around with picking up part of the costs and I would urge a no vote on this over ride,” said Chris Birch, an Assembly member, during Tuesday’s meeting.

8 votes are required to override a mayoral veto, and the measure was 2 votes short.

"The school district should not be using educational money to pay for the police officers,” said Assembly member Tim Steele.  “It's a community policing activity and a very successful one.  I urge a yes vote on this." 

The mayor said the district will receive $750,000 to help defer the costs of the program during summer months when school is out.

TAXI ORDINANCE PASSES

Assembly members were less divided on the issue of taxicab safety.  The body voted 10-1 to amend rules governing cabs in Anchorage.

"When I started driving taxis in 1990, the ordinance was only 11 pages, and this is 68 pages in the current re-write,” said Checker Cab employee Laren Eggleston.  “I believe there is a need for a certain amount of regulation, but I think they are over stepping on some of this."

Major changes include requiring surveillance cameras in all cabs and background checks on prospective drivers.

"The cameras are nice because they protect both the passenger and the driver,” said Assembly member Dick Traini.  “We had an incident recently where a driver was beat up I'm told he lost an eye.”

Traini proposed the ordinance re-write several months ago.

Other provisions include increasing the power of the Transportation Committee and Transportation Inspector.  Inspections for limousines, cabs and other vehicles for hire will now take place twice a year.

Passengers will not be permitted to ride in the front passenger seat unless there is no room in the back.

The Assembly can re-evaluate the ordinance in the future if more changes are needed.