Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Anchorage Municipal Assembly Votes For Bigger Government; Elects To Keep I/M Vehicle Emissions Testing Program

On Tuesday July 15th, 2008, the Anchorage Municipal Assembly showed just how much it shifted to the left as a result of the April 1st, 2008 municipal election. They voted 6-4 in favor of AO 2008-04, which keeps the I/M vehicle emissions testing program in force. Media story published by the Anchorage Daily News.

Here's the tale of the tape. Voting in favor of the program:

- Matt Claman
- Patrick Flynn (his predecessor, Allan Tesche, would have likely voted Yes)
- Elvi Gray-Jackson (her predecessor, Dick Traini, would have voted No)
- Mike Gutierrez (his predecessor, Paul Bauer, would have voted No)
- Harriett Drummond (her predecessor, Dan Sullivan, would have voted No)
- Sheila Selkregg

Voting against it:

- Chris Birch
- Debbie Ossiander
- Bill Starr
- Jennifer Johnston

Dan Coffey recused himself from voting because of a potential conflict of interest.

The decision reverses an 8-month-old 8-2 vote by a more conservative Assembly. The decision to continue the program, which came on a 6-4 vote late in Tuesday night's meeting, means that most vehicles in Anchorage will continue to undergo an I/M (inspection and maintenance) check every two years. The Assembly approved exceptions for new cars and for old ones.

"The real issue before this community is that we are in a category of city that has some of the worst air in this country," said Assemblywoman Sheila Selkregg, who voted to extend the program. "Even though we meet (federal) standards, we have a serious air issue." [Ed. Note: But what Selkregg didn't say is that our air quality, when degraded, is as a result of dust stirred up after breakup when wintertime sand and gravel applied to roads dries out and gets circulated by vehicles. This is NOT a carbon monoxide problem.]

But Assemblyman Chris Birch said the panel should stick with the earlier decision. "The program has effectively run its course," he said. "We need to focus on issues in this community that are of a larger concern."

Numerous people offered testimony; sentiment was split about 50-50. Those who wanted to keep the program cited its benefits in decreasing carbon monoxide and keeping our air within Federal standards, and expressed concern that terminating the program might degrade the quality of our air. But those who wanted to kill the program pointed out that it had fulfilled its purpose, and was no longer needed.

The measure approved exempts new vehicles for the first six years. It also exempts 1967 model years or older. Sheila Selkregg withdrew a much more radical proposal that would have required noise and safety checks.

The tests have been in place in Anchorage since the mid-1980s. The program was enacted to get control of escalating pollution and to bring the city into compliance with federal air standards, which were often violated before then. But as the Voice Of The Times pointed out, the city has not broken federal Clean Air standards in more than a decade, carbon monoxide has been cut by two-thirds since the early 1980s, and nine of 10 cars tested passed on the first run through.

Nevertheless, another reason to keep the program, not cited by the Anchorage Daily News, was that some repair shops who became inordinately dependent upon providing I/M tests feared a significant loss of business., But this would not have been a major problem; one provider, XPress Lube, had already adjusted by expanding their range of services to include tire changes in order to compensate for any revenue lost if the testing program had been abandoned.

Commentary: This represents a classical philosophical battle; do you keep a successful program in place because it has been successful, or do you terminate a successful program because it has become so successful that it has fulfilled the measure of its creation? While I would have preferred to see the program end, I'm not that upset about its continuation, because I have seen far more burdensome vehicle inspection programs.

The most rigorous and burdensome I experienced was the MoT (Ministry of Transport) vehicle inspection program over in the United Kingdom. If you own an older car, I guarantee that you will NOT pass the MoT inspection the first time. You will need to get repairs and get it inspected again. It usually passes the second time.

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