Wednesday, October 06, 2010

North Pole, Alaska Voters Shut Down Effort To Recall Mayor Doug Isaacson In October 5th Fairbanks Borough Election; Dianne Lindhag Perceived As Opportunistic

The October 5th Fairbanks area elections are now history, and, as expected, 60.1 percent of voters approved FNSB Proposition A, which revoked the Borough's authority to ban, prohibit, or fine residents for the use of any home heating devices deemed to be "excessively polluting". The remainder of the Borough's pollution control program, which includes tax incentives for trading up to more efficient systems, and public education programs, remain in effect. The Borough's pollution control program was conceived in response to EPA pressure over "fine particulate" air pollution, but it disproportionately targeted wood stoves, and Fairbanks voters wanted to send a message that they're more qualified to regulate their quality of life than a bunch of bureaucrats in far-off Washington. A key proponent of Proposition A benefited as well; Michael Dukes was elected to Seat D of the Borough Assembly.

In addition, 53.2 percent of Fairbanks city voters decided to "fire" incumbent Mayor Terry Strle and hire Councilman Jerry Cleworth to replace her. The issue wasn't really "good vs. bad"; most voters simply decided that Cleworth was a better choice, although Strle was perceived by some to be too friendly towards public employee unions. Other News-Miner election stories available HERE and HERE.

-- Complete Fairbanks election results HERE.

But also of interest was the fact that North Pole voters authoritatively rejected an effort to recall Mayor Doug Isaacson which had become increasingly perceived as opportunistic with the passage of time. 60.6 percent of voters rejected the recall. The recall effort was spawned by a group with the unwieldly name North Pole Community Coalition Effort to Recall North Pole Mayor Douglas W. Isaacson, and two of the key players were North Pole City Councilwoman Dianne Lindhag and insurance agent Tammy Randolph. The group accused Isaacson of using city money to buy meals, not disclosing a loan made to his now-shuttered Gold Coast Mortgage company by a lender Isaacson later appointed to head the city's economic development corporation, costing the city tax revenue by failing to enforce sales tax regulations on the now-defunct Dahlmann's Restaurant, and disposing of steel sidewalk shelters without City Council approval. Furthermore, Isaacson had previously faced two ethics complaints filed by the police chief; the first complaint was rejected by an ethics board, and Isaacson and the chief settled before the second complaint went forward. This entire package provoked the recall group to launch a petition campaign and they got enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot. A June 1st, 2010 Alaska Dispatch article provides more background.

In response to the allegations, Isaacson said he provided the steel sidewalk shelters to an Eagle Scout for a city beautification project. He also said the owner of Dahlman’s had made special arrangements on sales tax payments under the previous mayor. And he denounced allegations he cashed out leave without authorization from the City Council as inaccurately representing his conduct, explaining that “It was an end-of-year timing issue with an accountant no longer in city employment.”

But the seeds for the recall's failure may have been sown by Dianne Lindhag's refusal to publicly pledge not to run in the replacement mayoral election to be held if the recall succeeded. In an e-mail, Lindhag stated “I have yet to make a decision about running for the mayor seat.” Opponents of the recall were able to seize upon that as proof of opportunism and portrayed Lindhag as merely wanting Isaacson's job. A group called Support North Pole Mayor Isaacson: Oppose the Recall then formed in support of the mayor. They slowly turned the tide against the recall effort.

In reaction to the election outcome, Dianne Lindhag proved to be just as sore of a loser as Lisa Murkowski. Lindhag said she was bewildered the recall failed given the documentation the recall group provided the voters to make their case, and they will continue to "keep tabs" on the mayor and his administration. In contrast, Doug Isaacson was gratified at the outcome. “The voters saw through the political machinations of the few and are more interested in the welfare of the city than finding needles in haystacks,” he said. “They never once addressed their concerns to me.” Isaacson said he hopes the recall vote ends an era of bitter politics in North Pole.

So Doug Isaacson emerges smelling like a rose, and Dianne Lindhag emerges smelling like a skunk. The unfortunate aspect is that it does appear that Isaacson cut some corners and ruled by the seat of his pants at times, but Dianne Lindhag and her troops looked too vindictive and self-serving, carbon copies of Andree McLeod.

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