Sean Murphy: Eagle River needs to have this discussion about incorporating separately

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By SEAN MURPHY

I joined Eaglexit two years ago this February. I donate monthly, attend meetings, and now am the chair for the group. 

Michael Tavoliero, former chair, is a motivator. He speaks black and white. If you read his material and you are a Marxist or communist, you will probably take action. If you are a conservative, then you too will be motivated to action.  

Motivation has its place, and it got me moving. But I am an educator, I want to see our communities educated about the possibility and process of detachment from Anchorage.  

You may see this as a political process, but at this junction this is an educational discussion on civics. 

As an educator, I have committed to taking on the Chair of Eaglexit with the goal of creating a civics course to inform the local community of their options for Alaska local government. To demean this as a political process is short-sighted and does not encourage a discussion among citizens to ultimately inform themselves and improve our community. 

I don’t care which side of the aisle you come from. If you are a community member of Assembly District 2 (AD2), we need to have this discussion for our future and the future of our kids. 

Eaglexit is a collection of citizens in AD2 who want to detach our district from the Municipality of Anchorage and make our new municipality in Alaska. We have studied the state constitution and the petition process, we have studied the revenue and expenditures of AD2, and now want to know if you, the public, during these interesting times are will to have a discussion on the civics of Alaska local government. 

Over the next couple of months, we are planning to hold several educational sessions, in person or online to explain the process. In explaining the process, we will share with you the constitutional guidelines to detachment, the statutes guiding the establishment of a new municipality and school district and discuss the type of local government which may best serve our citizens. 

After the educational sessions we plan on holding some public input sessions in some format to gather your opinions for our new municipality. If the total of your opinions indicate AD2 should move forward with this process, we will start writing our petition to the Local Boundary Commission. That will take some cost in media, polling, and cost for a legal brief. 

As I talk to the community I get several kinds of responses, and I understand all of them. 

First, will my taxes go up?

Our 2020 studies show a revenue of $62 plus million a year for general government and $105 plus million for education. For a community of 51,000 and a school district of 8,000, that should be sufficient. 

Please keep in mind while under the Anchorage jurisdiction AD2’s property taxes alone increased 14.43% from 2019 to 2021, which total from $57,448 million to $65,739 million. We believe our community can do better. 

Second, will my services stay the same? 

We have an area of 1050 square miles. Our roads are outsourced and maintained through a public/private partnership. Our utilities will all remain in place with no increases resulting from the change in local government.

Most of our assembly district is covered by a volunteer fire department and JBER has its own fire and police, so there may be opportunities for cost savings and better service delivery.

In 2021, as one example, we paid $8 million in property taxes for public safety to the MOA, and we get 3-4 police a day. I think we can do better.

Third response I get is silence: “It can’t be done, or they will never let us detach from Anchorage.”

I understand these responses, and have had these same concerns myself, but Eaglexit is bigger than all of these. 

There are seven principles our government is founded on. 

  1. Popular Sovereignty. Who gives the government its power?
  2. Republicanism. How are people’s views represented in government? 
  3. Federalism. How is power shared?
  4. Separation of powers. How is power divided?
  5. Checks and balances. How is power evenly distributed?
  6. Limited government. How is abuse of power prevented?
  7. Individual Rights. How are personal freedoms protected?

I do not see these principles being practiced in our current governing situation. Do you?

If we were a smaller community with direct local control, we the people would be more active in giving the government its power. We the people would have our views more readily represented in government. We the people would have more control over AD2. 

We at Eaglexit continue to be a civics discussing grassroots effort by local citizens open to detaching AD2 from the Municipality of Anchorage.  We want to educate the citizens of AD2 about the process of detachment, the effort needed to detach, and most importantly to give the people living in AD2 the choice for freedom and self-governance.

What a great lesson for us and a spectacular example for our children. 

Lee Jordan said it best, “Will the people of Chugiak-Eagle River have the opportunity to control their own destiny, or must they forever remain subject to what has been decreed for them by Anchorage?” 

The Alaska State constitution allows for our communities to grow and govern themselves. The process takes time and money, but most importantly it takes people. People with the will to stand up and exercise our right to make governing decisions for our community. 

Sean Murphy and his wife Robin came to Alaska with the Army. He moved to Eagle River from Anchorage in 1999 with his family. He is a retired Anchorage School District educator and administrator. He is active with his community council.  He is the new chair of Eaglexit. 

21 COMMENTS

  1. Although I agree in principle with Eaglexit I believe simply don’t believe they have the tax to provide the quality of services they now enjoy thru the MOA. A mor thorough analysis of providing schools, fire and police protection, water and sewer service, inspection services and much much more is warranted . This information then must be presented in an unbiased manner to the voting public.

    • Perhaps if you are a mber of AD2, you might take the time and meet with Sean and the others to determine 8f your belief has a basis or is just hyperbole.

      Just a thought.

  2. Thank you, Sean. Good article. Next time you see Mr. Tavoliero, let him know that a state-wide effort is underway to draft him for a run at Don Young’s congressional seat. 2022 is the year Don will be beat. And Mr. Tavoliero will make a great US Congressman from Alaska. Thank you.

  3. I think initially too much emphasis was placed on “cost savings” with no proof to back it up. The current emphasis on self-governance- specifically getting away from the insanely liberal Anchorage Assembly that loves our tax dollars but doesn’t want us represented in any fashion including effectively muzzling our assemblyperson as well as our duly elected mayor- resonates with me. I still am skeptical that we can secede from Anchorage and purchase/lease all infrastructure as well as form our own police, fire protection/EMS, roads maintenance, water/wastewater utility, schools and local government for less- especially as we may well need to pay more to attract candidates from their current union positions with the MOA. It seems to me that spreading the costs of these necessary services out across a population base of 30,000 can’t be less expensive per household than spreading those costs out over a population base of 300,000. That said, I’m completely fed up with the Anchorage Assembly. I’m tired of feeling that conservatives are disrespected and silenced by the Assembly majority while they gleefully spend the tax dollars we provide on projects that don’t match our needs or values. Obviously Anchorage has gone deep blue, and that is their right. But Eagle River doesn’t have to be dragged along with them. I think it might make sense to explore joining Palmer/Wasilla but at this point I am open to voting in favor of EaglExit.

    • Dee, do you live in Assembly District 2? If you do, perhaps you might want to track down Sean and discuss that idea.

      • I live in Eagle River, yes. I expect as EaglExit gains steam, I’ll eventually have an opportunity to talk to Sean. I think more people like me are out there- those that don’t really expect it will be a money saver but feel it’s time for self-governance for Eagle River/Chugiak or to join up with the Mat-Su, whose values more closely match ours than does Anchorage.

    • As someone who lives here, I’d have to disagree. There are some issues. But we don’t have anything near the scale of Anchorage. And one thing I’m in complete agreement with Sean on is that for $8M we should have a lot more than 4 cops. A decent police presence in Eagle River would solve a lot of what issues we do have.

      • There’s a lot more than four cops per day out here. 9 on patrol to cover all three shifts is standard plus the two SRO’s assigned out here and the two detectives assigned here. There are also infrastructure costs in that tax that cover sub stations, vehicles, connectivity, radio systems, etc. then you factor in your share of pay and benefits

  4. As an educator, I expected Sean to answer why the separation is desirable. The piece is vague and wandering.

    • It’s pretty apparent isn’t it anchorage is the San Francisco of Alaska, tyrannical assembly, out of control taxes, other towns and villages send us their problem citizens to anc, waste fraud and abuse of tax dollars, never ending covid orders. I ask you why they should stay?

  5. Few issues with your math first off . Last census lists 99567 with 9211 residents , 99577 with 25771, for a total of just under 35,000 people (not the 50,000 you quoted).You are counting Ft Richardson and Elmendorf which you shouldn’t because they wont shop or do anything for your new Eagle River / Chugiak area at all in terms of taxes etc. If they live on base/post the idea they are coming out to ER to do anything is thin at best. If they already live in ER then they are counted in one of the above zip codes.

    If you really are going to trust your new city to CVFD I feel for you, they really aren’t a good department at all from what I have seen. When I watched them fumble with the hoses and let my in laws house burn to the ground in late May 2013 I learned all I needed to know about them. The joking and laughing while 40 years of my In laws lives went up in flames was really classy and professional, but I guess you get what you pay for. That was after they let my co workers wife die on the kitchen floor because they couldn’t figure out there gear then either about 18 months earlier.

    I will agree with you on a few things you brought up. In 2021 ER Chugiak should not have volunteer FD at all, and you should have a full compliment of emergency services in the area including enough APD to stop the wide open drug deals that happen in “dime bag park”, or the creepy homeless guys who stalk kids and moms at Schroeder Park. You also should have some form of urgent care that can do something other than a bandaid and tell someone to drive to Mat Su Regional or Providence for a real emergency. You all pay plenty in taxes and should have the services you deserve like any other section of the MOA.

    • Rick – nice piece.
      Let’s roll down in your comments to the bottom and the list and your references: ER/Chugiak/JBER/Peters Creek/Eklutna ‘should haves’.
      .
      There is a ER (Anchorage) FD and a volunteer Chugiak FD for the area.
      Homelessness and drug issues are a burden to ER township, but I’d venture a guess less than downtown Anchorage (streets and parks) or Wasilla/Palmer.
      Urgent care is far more accessible for these communities than fly in’s or long drives from out the on road Anchorage tax payer communities of Girdwood, Bird. Urgent care isn’t a taxpayer benefit, it’s more an ‘insured’ benefit.
      .
      An aside: I know a FD Captain (who works in Anchorage but lives in the Valley = not paying the higher property taxes that foot higher unionized pay scales). Isn’t it ‘generally’ (not always but mostly) true that union firefighters look down on volunteer FD’s.
      It’s obvious volunteers don’t belong in the same class with the better trained, unionized FD’s firefighters and paramedics.
      .
      Question – on the house fire and death you described:
      When there are serious fires and physical issues, aren’t all ANCHORAGE FD’s called in?
      If the only response to this house fire and serious health issue was the volunteer FD, I would say you should be pointing the finger at Anchorage dispatch. I am sorry for the ‘burnt to the ground’ house fire and person left dying on the floor – IF it was because of the incompetence a volunteer FD. Again, where was the Anchorage taxpayer funded FD?
      .
      If great losses will happen given Eaglexit is implemented – I say – what is happening NOW (or at the house fire and death you described) for those communities?
      .
      The fear mongering of ‘should haves’ are a prime example of what the property tax payers SHOULD HAVE NOW as they are dumping huge amounts of tax dollars into the Anch. system.
      .
      BTW – I hate the ‘our fair share’ crap. Typically, you get what you pay for.
      but isn’t it is time the communities of ER/Chugiak/JBER/Peters Creek/Eklutna get what they pay for – and what they vote for.
      .
      Eaglexit is a logical choice.

  6. Sean, if you really want to succeed, you need to do a better job of explaining what you mean by “republicanism” and “federalism” – while I understand what you mean and agree 100%, most of the population hasn’t had enough civics to know – all they know is the political party by that R name. You will turn off about 30% of your local voters by using that term, when you need every vote. I’m not at all suggesting you tone down your meaning, just be careful with the word so you include the dems in your district – they’re disgusted with communist Anchorage too, and just suffer from TDS and biased media. Promote your local media. As a former small town mayor, it looks to me like you’re doing all the right things. You will gain better control of the State Community Assistance revenue that is doled out by population.

  7. Put up or shut up!

    Here is a previous story I wrote after interviewing Mr. Murphy last March:
    “https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/03/our-asd-public-education-challenge.html”

    I have written extensively about EaglExit. I believe the EaglExit Board has one job–to get a simple vanilla plan before the Alaska Boundry Commission and then convince a majority of voters in AD2 that it makes sense to break from Mother Muni.

    EaglExit board members have been talking to themselves more than two years now and reportedly raised nearly $100,000. Three members of the boundry commission are from AD2. Time is of the essence to be heard on this petition. Squawking to people around the state about their virtuous cause is getting EaglExit no closer to the professed goal. It took one year to break from Atlanta by the community of Sandy Springs.

    It required focused leadership without a lot of fanfare.

    Here is the last story I wrote about EaglExit: “https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/07/visions-of-eaglexit_28.html”

    It’s delusional.

    EaglExit Board: You have one job…

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