Legislature(2003 - 2004)

02/09/2004 01:33 PM Senate CRA

Audio Topic
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
           SB 260-METROPOLITAN PLANNING ORGANIZATIONS                                                                       
CHAIR BERT  STEDMAN announced SB  260 to be up  for consideration                                                               
and  that he  intended  to move  the bill  that  day provided  no                                                               
issues were raised  to slow that process. He read  the bill title                                                               
and invited the sponsor to come forward and introduce the bill.                                                                 
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS, sponsor of  SB 260 and  representative from                                                               
Senate District N  in Anchorage, reported this is  the third time                                                               
this bill has  been introduced. The legislation  would change the                                                               
makeup of the Anchorage  Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO)                                                               
by increasing the board membership  from five to seven members to                                                               
include  two legislators  that were  elected  from the  Anchorage                                                               
He  referred to  the Distribution  of Federal-Aid  Transportation                                                               
Formula  Funds Per  17 AAC  05.155-200  chart to  point out  that                                                               
AMATS [Anchorage Metropolitan  Area Transportation Solutions] has                                                               
discretionary  use  of  27.8 percent  of  the  state's  available                                                               
surface  transportation funds.  He described  his motivation  for                                                               
sponsoring  the  legislation  as  an effort  to  bring  increased                                                               
transparency  to  the  public  process  in  the  AMAT  procedure.                                                               
Elected  Anchorage  officials would  be  more  involved and  help                                                               
AMATS  meet its  objective to  enhance transportation  systems in                                                               
the Anchorage area.                                                                                                             
SENATOR THOMAS  WAGONER asked whether  a legislator  from outside                                                               
the Anchorage area could serve.                                                                                                 
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  told him that is a good  question and brings                                                               
up  a valid  point that  needs clarification.  He explained  that                                                               
legislators  from  districts  other than  Anchorage  wouldn't  be                                                               
eligible   to   sit   on    the   Anchorage   Metropolitan   Area                                                               
Transportation  Solutions  Board.  Only  officials  elected  from                                                               
Anchorage would be considered                                                                                                   
SENATOR  WAGONER   noted  the  Kenai  Peninsula   Borough  has  a                                                               
population  that   is  close  to  the   threshold.  Mary  Jackson                                                               
discussed the  issue of  urban area and  urbanized area  with him                                                               
and  he  asked  the  sponsor  whether   he  had  a  copy  of  the                                                               
SENATOR BEN STEVENS said he didn't have a copy.                                                                                 
SENATOR WAGONER  stated he  had no  questions and  fully supports                                                               
the bill.                                                                                                                       
SENATOR GARY STEVENS said he was ready to move the bill.                                                                        
CHAIR STEDMAN  acknowledged he wasn't  as familiar with  the bill                                                               
and  asked  if  it  was   correct  that  it  targets  areas  with                                                               
populations that exceed 200,000.                                                                                                
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS confirmed it  did and explained  the 200,000                                                               
population  threshold was  incorporated so  that Fairbanks  isn't                                                               
required to participate. He noted  that Fairbanks is beginning to                                                               
pay attention to the problems  that Anchorage is experiencing and                                                               
if Fairbanks  legislators so desired,  adjustments could  be made                                                               
to include that area.                                                                                                           
CHAIR STEDMAN commented the board  composition would go from 5 to                                                               
7 members, which wouldn't be unwieldy  and noted the effort is to                                                               
increase public awareness and participation within the board.                                                                   
SENATOR BEN STEVENS agreed.                                                                                                     
CHAIR STEDMAN announced  there were a number  of individuals that                                                               
wanted to give testimony via  teleconference. He asked Craig Lyon                                                               
to identify himself and state his position.                                                                                     
CRAIG LYON, AMATS coordinator for  the Municipality of Anchorage,                                                               
outlined the  history of  the team. He  reported that  the annual                                                               
$40 million in  federal funding accounts for about  90 percent of                                                               
the public money for development  of the Anchorage transportation                                                               
The  AMATS  policy  committee  is   charged  with  approving  the                                                               
transportation plan and programs as  well as providing the policy                                                               
direction  of the  AMATS  process.  SB 260  proposes  to add  two                                                               
[locally elected]  legislators to the AMATS  policy committee and                                                               
the  Municipality  of Anchorage  opposes  that  for a  number  of                                                               
reasons not the least of which is the issue of local control.                                                                   
MR.  LYON  explained  that  Metropolitan  Planning  Organizations                                                               
(MPO) were established by the  federal government for the purpose                                                               
of  prioritizing  spending  federal transportation  money  within                                                               
certain   urbanized  municipalities.   Adding   two  more   state                                                               
positions  to the  MPO would  tilt  the balance  away from  local                                                               
control,  he  opined.  At present,  the  process  allows  private                                                               
citizens the  opportunity to  discuss transportation  issues with                                                               
their  local representatives.  He  pointed  out that  legislators                                                               
spend  five months  in  Juneau each  year,  which would  decrease                                                               
public participation  of the process  "if citizens  couldn't meet                                                               
with two  members of the policy  committee due to their  being in                                                               
He argued  that the  bill is also  inconsistent with  federal law                                                               
because the Federal Highway Administration  has stated in writing                                                               
that the  action suggested in this  legislation would restructure                                                               
and redesignate  the MPO.  The governor  and the  local governing                                                               
body would  have to agree  to the restructuring and  if agreement                                                               
couldn't be  reached, there would  be no functioning  MPO process                                                               
in Anchorage, which could jeopardize federal highway funding.                                                                   
He cited a  February 2004 conversation between  Mayor Mark Begich                                                               
and  the  Secretary  of  Transportation  where  Secretary  Mineta                                                               
expressed support for the status  quo. The Anchorage Assembly has                                                               
opposed similar  legislation in the  past, he declared,  and that                                                               
position  hasn't  changed as  evidenced  by  a February  3,  2004                                                               
resolution that  passed with  overwhelming support.  In addition,                                                               
the  State  and  Local  Government  Committee  of  the  Anchorage                                                               
Chamber of Commerce voted to oppose the bill.                                                                                   
SENATOR WAGONER  referred to the  comment regarding  tilting away                                                               
from local control  and remarked that his  interpretation is that                                                               
the committee would have more  local control through the addition                                                               
of two Anchorage legislators.                                                                                                   
MR.  LYON replied  he  was relying  on  previous federal  highway                                                               
statements that  refer to legislators  as state  officials rather                                                               
than  local officials.  As such  that  would add  two more  state                                                               
officials  to  the policy  board  for  a  total of  four  thereby                                                               
tilting the balance.                                                                                                            
SENATOR  WAGONER   asked  how  often   the  committee   meets  in                                                               
MR. LYON replied the AMATS policy committee meets once a month.                                                                 
SENATOR WAGONER noted  the legislative session lasts  120 days so                                                               
the  two Anchorage  legislators would  have to  fly to  Anchorage                                                               
four  times   or  make  arrangements  to   attend  four  meetings                                                               
telephonically.  He wasn't  sure that  would be  a reason  not to                                                               
have Anchorage legislators on the committee.                                                                                    
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS distributed  copies of  a letter  from David                                                               
Miller,  federal  highways  administrator in  Juneau,  addressing                                                               
this issue during a previous bill  hearing on the same topic. Mr.                                                               
Miller stated there is nothing  in federal regulation prohibiting                                                               
legislators from being  members of a MPO. He then  asked Mr. Lyon                                                               
to provide  him a  copy of  any correspondence  between Secretary                                                               
Mineta  and   Mayor  Begich  corroborating  the   statement  that                                                               
Secretary Mineta prefers the status quo.                                                                                        
CHAIR  STEDMAN  announced  he  didn't   want  to  take  redundant                                                               
testimony. He noted that Dick  Traine from the Anchorage Assembly                                                               
was on the list  to testify and if Mr. Lyon  had omitted a point,                                                               
then Mr. Traine was welcome to give new information.                                                                            
Mr. Traine was not online.                                                                                                      
MR.  DICK   TREMAIN  testified   via  teleconference.   After  he                                                               
introduced  himself, he  made an  effort  to distinguish  himself                                                               
from Mr. Traine in a provocative manner.                                                                                        
CHAIR  STEDMAN firmly  warned him  about making  only appropriate                                                               
comments in a public meeting.                                                                                                   
MR. TREMAIN  announced that he was  representing the Municipality                                                               
of Anchorage. Several years ago he  sat on the AMATS committee as                                                               
one  of three  publicly  elected local  officials  and found  the                                                               
committee's   workings   "to   be    Byzantine   at   best,   not                                                               
understandable,  projects moved  around in  priority without  any                                                               
apparent reason to the policy makers.                                                                                           
The  policy  committee  found  that  the  project  managers  were                                                               
setting  priorities and  the policy  makers weren't  getting full                                                               
information. Senator  Donley was  interested in  participating at                                                               
that time  and he was  invited to do  so. In fact,  the committee                                                               
extended  the invitation  to the  all legislators.  He emphasized                                                               
that  anytime legislators  sit at  the table,  members listen  to                                                               
what they say.                                                                                                                  
While he served on the AMATS  committee and since, he noted there                                                               
have  been divided  votes  between the  mayor  and the  assembly,                                                               
between   Anchorage  elected   officials   and  state   appointed                                                               
officials. There  was never  any evidence  that the  parties were                                                               
acting in collusion.                                                                                                            
He noted  that Senator  Ben Stevens  said he  would like  to give                                                               
transparency to the public process  and although they welcome the                                                               
assistance,  he  believes  it is  disingenuous  to  suggest  that                                                               
voting is the only way to bring transparency to the process.                                                                    
MR.  TREMAIN reported  that he  sits  on a  number of  committees                                                               
representing Anchorage where  he has no official voice  yet he is                                                               
always  welcome to  participate  and contribute.  He agrees  that                                                               
more public participation  is needed and that  the process should                                                               
be  more understandable.  He welcomes  ways to  better accomplish                                                               
that, but  policy meetings  are open and  decisions are  not made                                                               
behind closed doors.                                                                                                            
On February 3,  2004 the assembly passed  resolution 2437 clearly                                                               
stating they do not support  SB 260. That position hasn't changed                                                               
in the  last five years. "If  state law, as passed  by your joint                                                               
bodies and  the governor, come  in conflict with  local decision,                                                               
there will have to be  some negotiations between the governor and                                                               
the mayor." Federal funds are at risk, he asserted.                                                                             
Anchorage,  he concluded,  receives 27.8  of the  federal surface                                                               
transportation funds for the state, but  it has 40 percent of the                                                               
population.  Perhaps,  he   suggested,  legislators  should  give                                                               
Anchorage more funds.                                                                                                           
There were no questions.                                                                                                        
CHAIR STEDMAN called Tom Chapple.                                                                                               
TOM   CHAPPLE,   director   of   air   quality,   Department   of                                                               
Environmental  Conservation,  informed  members  he  has  been  a                                                               
member of the AMATS committee as  one of the two state officials.                                                               
He was available for questions and had no specific testimony.                                                                   
DEANNA  ESSERT,  testified  via  teleconference  to  say  she  is                                                               
concerned that the  budget is using road  dollars for enhancement                                                               
projects and  citizens are  being forced to  bond for  roads. She                                                               
attends public  meetings as a  concerned citizen and at  one time                                                               
someone  chided her  for attending  so  frequently and  commented                                                               
that she didn't have anything better to do.                                                                                     
She charged  that local government  isn't listening  to community                                                               
needs. Rather, they  are responding to wants.  She understands 40                                                               
percent  of the  Anchorage roads  are state  owned and  she knows                                                               
they aren't in good repair.                                                                                                     
As a taxpayer, she would like  to know where the enhancements are                                                               
calculated  in the  budget  She  has asked  and  has received  no                                                               
response to her inquiries. She  understands that construction and                                                               
design  costs for  enhancements are  hidden in  the road  budget,                                                               
which  makes  it   difficult  to  know  how  much   is  spent  on                                                               
Several community  councils have  passed resolutions  asking that                                                               
enhancements be restricted to the  federally mandated 10 percent,                                                               
but AMATS has  not responded to them either.  She concluded, "I'm                                                               
just a  concerned citizen and  I want my  money spent so  that it                                                               
will protect the roads."                                                                                                        
SENATOR  GARY  STEVENS  asked  her to  clarify  whether  she  was                                                               
testifying in favor of SB 260.                                                                                                  
MS. ESSERT replied she supports SB 260.                                                                                         
MARY WHITMORE, South Anchorage resident,  insisted it's time that                                                               
AMATS becomes more accountable for  how federal highway funds are                                                               
used.   She  stated,   "I  think   SB  260   will  provide   more                                                               
representation  on AMATS  and a  hope for  accountability." As  a                                                               
community  council  member,  she  reported  that  AMATS  has  not                                                               
responded to questions that were posed.                                                                                         
She insisted  AMATS has been  spending more than the  required 10                                                               
percent  on enhancements  and  has been  using  road dollars  for                                                               
enhancement projects. Mayor Begich is  asking citizens to vote in                                                               
favor of a $46 million road  and drainage bond but, she declared,                                                               
with  increased accountability  more  than half  of the  projects                                                               
could be funded with AMATS money in the next four years.                                                                        
MS. WHITMORE said  she looks forward to  having local legislative                                                               
representation on  the AMATS policy  committee. "We  should start                                                               
fixing AMATS so AMATS can start fixing our roads."                                                                              
THEODORE VOLIN  stated he would address  several issues regarding                                                               
the municipal  assembly meeting referenced earlier.  He clarified                                                               
the  conversation focused  on AR  2004-26  and the  vote was  not                                                               
overwhelming; three people didn't support the resolution.                                                                       
He noted that  the state attached conditions  when it transferred                                                               
the coastal  trail [Tony Knowles  Coastal Trail] project  back to                                                               
the  Municipality of  Anchorage. AMATS  advised the  municipality                                                               
not  to accept  those conditions,  which he  finds troubling.  He                                                               
urged favorable action on the bill.                                                                                             
GORDON  KEITH,   acting  regional  construction   and  operations                                                               
director for the  central region, DOTPF, and acting  chair of the                                                               
AMATS policy committee,  reported that DOTPF supports  SB 260. He                                                               
stated, "It boils  down to representation in  the public process;                                                               
and  I  think with  a  greater  number  of  people we  have  more                                                               
representation  of  a greater  constituency  and  it reduces  the                                                               
chance of special interest groups controlling AMATS."                                                                           
However, according  to the  Federal Highway  Administration there                                                               
is a  problem with  the bill.  To change  the composition  of the                                                               
committee, one of two things must happen:                                                                                       
   · AMATS, in cooperation with the state, could agree to add                                                                   
   · AMATS could be redesignated by agreement between the                                                                       
     governor and the municipality                                                                                              
There were no questions.                                                                                                        
WILL  BLINE  expressed  support  for  SB  260  because  of  local                                                               
control. He charged there are  a lot of South Anchorage residents                                                               
that have no representation so the public isn't being served.                                                                   
DAVID  LEE,  Ocean  View  resident, stated  support  for  SB  260                                                               
because  he feels  more  local control  is  needed to  prioritize                                                               
projects. A  number of community  councils have been  involved in                                                               
trying  to  influence  the  AMATS  process  and  they  have  been                                                               
unsuccessful in  their efforts. Although  it has  recently become                                                               
easier to get copies of  minutes, the transparency of the process                                                               
has  been disappointing  and trying  to determine  what money  is                                                               
spent has been difficult. Restricting  enhancements to 10 percent                                                               
would be a step in the right direction.                                                                                         
There were no questions.                                                                                                        
CHAIR STEDMAN closed public testimony.                                                                                          
SENATOR GARY STEVENS established that  a legislator would need to                                                               
have more  than half of  his or her  district in Anchorage  to be                                                               
eligible to  serve on the board  then asked the sponsor  how many                                                               
Senators and Representatives were in that pool.                                                                                 
SENATOR BEN STEVENS  replied he wasn't sure how many  were in the                                                               
pool,  but  there are  6.5  Senators  that  would qualify  and  a                                                               
corresponding 13 Representatives.                                                                                               
CHAIR STEDMAN  remarked he  would not ask  the sponsor  to define                                                               
half a Senator.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR BEN  STEVENS laughed  and clarified  he was  referring to                                                               
districts.  There   would  be   at  least   6  Senators   and  12                                                               
CHAIR STEDMAN asked for a motion.                                                                                               
SENATOR WAGONER made a motion to  pass SB 260 from committee with                                                               
individual recommendations and attached  fiscal note. There being                                                               
no objection, it was so ordered.                                                                                                

Document Name Date/Time Subjects