Legislature(2003 - 2004)

05/06/2004 09:15 AM House CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
SB 260-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS/AREAS                                                                              
CHAIR MORGAN announced that the  first order of business would be                                                               
CS  FOR  SENATE  BILL  NO.  260(TRA)  am,  "An  Act  relating  to                                                               
metropolitan planning  organizations and  to the policy  board of                                                               
the   metropolitan  planning   organization  for   the  Anchorage                                                               
metropolitan  area;   relating  to  transportation   planning  in                                                               
federally recognized  metropolitan planning areas;  and providing                                                               
for an effective date."                                                                                                         
Number 0145                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  BEN STEVENS,  Alaska State  Legislature,  sponsor of  SB
260,  explained  that  this  legislation  suggests  changing  the                                                               
makeup  of   the  policy  board  of   the  metropolitan  planning                                                               
organization (MPO).   He explained  that HCS CSSB  260(TRA) would                                                               
increase  the  current membership  of  the  Anchorage MPO  policy                                                               
committee from  five to nine  members.  The  increased membership                                                               
consists of two members of  the legislature as ex officio members                                                               
and two  public members, one of  which would be appointed  by the                                                               
mayor and  one by  the governor.   The aforementioned  attempt to                                                               
include  more public  input is  probably the  most controversial.                                                               
He noted that the policy board  of the MPO has spending oversight                                                               
over federal and state dollars within  the MPO of Anchorage.  The                                                               
MPO has oversight over approximately  $50 million of expenditures                                                               
a year.   Senator  Ben Stevens pointed  out that  the legislation                                                               
also  provides authority  to the  Department of  Transportation &                                                               
Public   Facilities  (DOT&PF)   "to   approve  a   transportation                                                               
improvement plan  made up of  the policy  board."  He  noted that                                                               
this  is  the  third  time  this  subject  has  been  before  the                                                               
The committee took an at-ease from 9:17 a.m. to 9:18 a.m.                                                                       
CHAIR MORGAN noted  that he had to attend a  Senate Community and                                                               
Regional  Affairs  Standing   Committee  meeting,  and  therefore                                                               
passed the gavel to Vice Chair Wolf.                                                                                            
Number 0493                                                                                                                     
DEANNA  ESSERT  informed  the committee  that  she  has  attended                                                               
Anchorage  Metropolitan  Area  Transportation  Solutions  (AMATS)                                                               
meetings  since  1997  and  is  thoroughly  frustrated  with  the                                                               
policies and process.   She related that one  summer she attended                                                               
numerous  work sessions  to improve  the process.   Although  the                                                               
process is now touted as "Anchorage  on the move, the solution to                                                               
public involvement", the process  doesn't provide any opportunity                                                               
for  public  involvement,  save   attending  AMATS  meetings  and                                                               
providing comments when  there is the opportunity to do  so.  Ms.                                                               
Essert  related that  this year  she has  learned that  AMATS has                                                               
instituted new  processes, outside the legal  statutory limits of                                                               
AMATS,  that are  influencing the  process without  the necessary                                                               
and  required  statutory protection.    One  of those  processes,                                                               
stakeholder  interviews,  doesn't  include the  public  at-large,                                                               
rather  just  select  "movers  and  shakers"  in  the  community.                                                               
Furthermore, the  round-table process  includes many of  the same                                                               
individuals who  have advocated  for controversial  projects that                                                               
have consumed  millions of dollars  and who now  suggest spending                                                               
15 percent of Anchorage's road  allocation on enhancements.  Some                                                               
balance on  AMATS is necessary,  she said.  Ms.  Essert explained                                                               
that she  supported SB 260  in its original form,  which would've                                                               
included  legislators  in a  voting  capacity.   Legislators  are                                                               
elected officials who are responsible  to the electorate.  In its                                                               
current form, AMATS  is a political animal  that isn't responsive                                                               
to the public's  needs.  Although Ms. Essert said  that she would                                                               
accept  legislators as  non-voting  members,  she expressed  hope                                                               
they  would   be  included  in   the  process.     She  expressed                                                               
frustration with  the mayor spending taxpayers'  dollars to lobby                                                               
the legislature for  specific projects when the  mayor could have                                                               
individuals  who  are  intimately  involved  in  the  process  of                                                               
choosing the projects  that should be approved sit  on the policy                                                               
committee.    Ms.  Essert  concluded   by  emphasizing  that  she                                                               
preferred the  original legislation because it  was simpler, less                                                               
involved, and  provided the  taxpayers representation.   However,                                                               
she noted her support of  placing legislators on the AMATS policy                                                               
committee in any capacity.                                                                                                      
Number 0780                                                                                                                     
CRAIG  LYON,   AMATS  Coordinator,  Municipality   of  Anchorage,                                                               
informed  the  committee  that   the  Municipality  of  Anchorage                                                               
supports  the  idea   of  opening  up  the   process  to  improve                                                               
communication  and public  participation.   Currently, there  are                                                               
two   citizen  committees   that   support   AMATS  with   public                                                               
participation,  notwithstanding   what  is  offered   during  the                                                               
meetings.    The  Planning  & Zoning  Commission  serves  as  the                                                               
federally required  citizens advisory  group [as does  the] AMATS                                                               
Air Quality Advisory  Group.  Mr. Lyon highlighted  that there is                                                               
a new  mayor, a new  coordinator, and  a new DOT&PF  director for                                                               
the central  region all of  which are committed to  improving the                                                               
public  process.   Steps are  being taken  to improve  the public                                                               
process,  which is  a  continual process.    Therefore, there  is                                                               
flexibility in meeting schedules  and quarterly meetings with the                                                               
Federation  of  Community Councils  are  held  to brief  them  on                                                               
projects and  processes in order to  open the process.   Mr. Lyon                                                               
related  that  at this  time  the  Begich Administration  doesn't                                                               
support  adding  members  to the  policy  committee  and  doesn't                                                               
support  doing so  unilaterally, which  is inconsistent  with the                                                               
intent of federal rules for MPOs such as AMATS.                                                                                 
REPRESENTATIVE  ANDERSON informed  the  committee  that Mr.  Lyon                                                               
worked as legislative staff for many  years, and noted that he is                                                               
glad Mr.  Lyon holds the  position of  Coordinator of AMATS.   He                                                               
also noted that  he served on the round-table  committee of AMATS                                                               
with Mr. Lyon,  who he said is knowledgeable.   He mentioned that                                                               
he appreciated Mr. Lyon's efforts.                                                                                              
Number 0913                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  KOTT moved  to report  HCS CSSB  260(TRA) out  of                                                               
committee  with individual  recommendations and  the accompanying                                                               
fiscal notes.                                                                                                                   
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA objected.   She informed the committee that                                                               
she has  received an  enormous amount of  mail relating  the need                                                               
for separation of state and local government on this matter.                                                                    
SENATOR  BEN STEVENS  related that  throughout  the evolution  of                                                               
this legislation, legislative  involvement in an MPO  was a topic                                                               
of  discussion.     He  said  that  he  and   supporters  of  the                                                               
legislation  believe that  legislative involvement  in MPOs  is a                                                               
good thing because  legislators are elected from  local areas and                                                               
answer  to the  people in  their district.   Senator  Ben Stevens                                                               
explained that  his involvement in  this issue began  because his                                                               
constituents  had nowhere  else to  go; no  one on  the MPO,  the                                                               
Anchorage  Assembly, or  Anchorage's  city hall  would listen  to                                                               
them.     Therefore,   he  introduced   the  proposal   to  place                                                               
legislators on the  MPO.  He noted that although  he believes the                                                               
legislative  members should  be  voting members  of  the MPO,  he                                                               
compromised  in the  House Transportation  Standing Committee  by                                                               
agreeing  to  an  amendment   that  made  legislators  non-voting                                                               
members of  the MPO.   At that time,  Mr. Lyon testified  that in                                                               
Oahu, Hawaii  there was an MPO  that consisted of a  large number                                                               
of  legislators.   Senator  Ben Stevens  recalled  that Mr.  Lyon                                                               
testified that  the aforementioned Hawaiian MPO  with legislators                                                               
was  operating   so  ineffectively  that  the   legislators  were                                                               
MR. LYON  recalled that  he had  testified that  legislators were                                                               
members of  the Oahu MPO and  that because Oahu's system  and its                                                               
priorities had become so politicized,  members of Anchorage's MPO                                                               
were asked  to go  to Oahu  and help fix  the system,  which they                                                               
did.    He  related  his  understanding  that  at  this  time  no                                                               
legislators are members of the Oahu MPO.                                                                                        
Number 1152                                                                                                                     
SENATOR  BEN  STEVENS informed  the  committee  that there  is  a                                                               
letter from the  director of the Oahu MPO saying  that the number                                                               
of legislators on  the MPO was reduced,  although the legislators                                                               
constitute  a majority  of the  Oahu  MPO.   Senator Ben  Stevens                                                               
stressed that  this is  the third time  that the  Municipality of                                                               
Anchorage  has testified  with  inaccurate information  regarding                                                               
the makeup  of MPOs throughout  the nation.  He  further stressed                                                               
that he has attempted to  work with the Municipality of Anchorage                                                               
and it's administration within the  Anchorage Assembly to develop                                                               
a  compromise,  but those  groups  won't  come  to the  table  or                                                               
compromise.   Furthermore,  [the  Municipality  of Anchorage  and                                                               
it's administration] have supplied disinformation, he said.                                                                     
MR. LYON disagreed.                                                                                                             
SENATOR  BEN  STEVENS reminded  the  committee  that there  is  a                                                               
motion  to  report   HCS  CSSB  260(TRA)  from   committee.    He                                                               
encouraged the  committee to  do so  in order  that "we  can hash                                                               
this out at the next level."                                                                                                    
Number 1236                                                                                                                     
REPRESENTATIVE  CISSNA  informed  the   committee  that  she  has                                                               
attended a large  percentage of all of  the public transportation                                                               
meetings in Anchorage for the past  six to eight years.  She said                                                               
that  she  hasn't had  the  experience  [related by  Senator  Ben                                                               
Stevens] nor is it the experience others have related to her.                                                                   
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS acknowledged that  on a regular  basis there                                                               
are  numerous planning  meetings that  take place  throughout the                                                               
community  and  during  which  the  public  can  testify.    This                                                               
legislation  provides  the  public  with the  opportunity  to  be                                                               
involved  in  the  voting,  that is  through  the  selection  and                                                               
prioritization  of  the  projects.   The  aforementioned  doesn't                                                               
exist  under the  current  makeup, which  he  characterized as  a                                                               
controlled distribution  system.  Senator Ben  Stevens reiterated                                                               
that  he is  merely trying  to bring  in more  public involvement                                                               
through  representatives of  other elected  officials or  through                                                               
the   addition  of   two  public   members.     In  response   to                                                               
Representative Samuels,  Senator Ben  Stevens specified  that the                                                               
legislators would be ex officio  members while the public members                                                               
would be voting members.                                                                                                        
REPRESENTATIVE SAMUELS  recalled his  tenure as  the head  of the                                                               
Anchorage  Chamber  of Commerce  and  related  that people  hated                                                               
AMATS.    To  follow  the   AMATS  process  is  a  full-time  job                                                               
regardless of  the mayor or  the governor.   To be  an individual                                                               
citizen  on   AMATS  is  "almost  an   impossibility,"  he  said.                                                               
Representative Samuels stated that he  didn't see any harm having                                                               
a legislator be an ex officio member.                                                                                           
REPRESENTATIVE CISSNA  pointed out that assembly  members and the                                                               
mayor  are also  elected,  with the  sole  responsibility of  the                                                               
municipality.    However,  a legislator  is  charged  with  being                                                               
responsible for  the entire state.   Representative Cissna opined                                                               
that   the  elected   officials  are   already  on   the  [policy                                                               
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS highlighted  that AMATS doesn't  spend local                                                               
money but rather federal and state money.                                                                                       
REPRESENTATIVE ANDERSON  surmised that Senator Ben  Stevens meant                                                               
that [municipal and state] funding is integrated.                                                                               
VICE CHAIR  WOLF reminded the  committee that there was  a motion                                                               
before it, and therefore he requested a roll call vote.                                                                         
A  roll  call  vote  was  taken.    Representatives  Wolf,  Kott,                                                               
Anderson,  and  Samuels voted  in  favor  of reporting  HCS  CSSB
260(TRA) out  of committee.   Representatives Cissna  and Kookesh                                                               
voted against it.  Therefore,  HCS CSSB 260(TRA) was reported out                                                               
of the  House Community and  Regional Affairs  Standing Committee                                                               
by a vote of 4-2.                                                                                                               

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