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Sarah Palin was mayor of Wasilla from 1996 to 2002. Her record during that time can tell us a lot about her. The biggest deal during her tenure is perhaps the construction of the sports complex that was built on someone else's land. She had to raise sales taxes to pay for it. The whole episode of incompetence, arrogance, and lack of respect for the law is exactly the style of governance that we've seen from Bush and co in the past seven years.

The $15 million multi-use indoor ice arena was supposed to be her legacy as the mayor. This was a very big deal for a city that had a budget of $3.9 million in 96 (increased to $5.8 million in 2002). Although the city subsidy has gone down from the initial $600k per year to about $125k per year, the sports complex still does not break even.

The biggest problem, however, was the process of how the land was acquired. The whole thing was handled with exceptional incompetence and arrogance, ultimately costing the city an extra $1.7 million in settlement and court cost for a piece of land that would have costed only $125k if they had handled it right from the beginning in 1998.

This involved a developer by the name of Gary Lundgren. Here is the whole scoop:

Lundgren negotiated with the national office of The Nature Conservancy to buy the land. Meanwhile, Wasilla city officials decided they wanted the land too, and began negotiating with the Alaska office of The Nature Conservancy. Offers were extended to both parties. Lundgren closed the deal.

Without the title in their hands, the city went ahead with the sales tax increase and started the construction. Then in typical Bush fashion, as Palin was leaving office in 2002,

Wasilla sued both Lundgren and The Nature Conservancy for title to the land. The case went to a federal appeals court, where Lundgren won rights to the property.

The court case was finally settled several years after Palin left.

The real legacy is, that the city is still paying for this today, while having to cut budget in library service, postponing capital improvement projects, and raising fees.

Can we afford this kind of incompetence on the national level?

Originally posted to xgz on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:39 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Stole land from The Nature Conservancy? (4+ / 0-)


    John McCain: noun + verb + P.O.W.
    Sarah Palin: hates polar bears

    by The Dead Man on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:42:30 AM PDT

    •  If I'm reading to rightt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MrJersey, Big Danny

      The NC sold the land to Lundgren and she tried to steal it from him.

      Results count for more than intentions do.

      by VA Classical Liberal on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:44:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  The Nature Conservancy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      has a history of "shady" land deals . . .

      •  Please elaborate (0+ / 0-)
        with links and explain what you mean by "shady."  I know TNC buys land quietly because a lot of it is critical wildlife habitat that they don't want the public stomping all over, but they have the right to do that.
        •  Well, they do have their critics . . . (0+ / 0-)
          •  All from the right (0+ / 0-)
            The WaPo piece(reprinted on winger site) is the only one with any substance, but still lacking specific evidence.  I'd like to see parts 2 and 3 before making any judgment calls.

            (Disclosure:  I'm not a TNC donor or member.)

            •  Just because it's right wing doesn't mean (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              it's automatically bunk.

              I used to be a member but dropped out a few years ago after TNC seemed to have no concern for property rights (I suppose that's the RW angle) combined with their backroom deals with their corporate partners worth hundreds of millions of dollars.  

              The bottom line, the $25 I was sending them each year clearly wasn't needed, and I'd just as soon avoid the appearance of impropriety.  

              I do recall the pretty much on a quarterly basis they'd send out explanations in their newsletter as to why their dealings weren't as bad as being reported elsewhere . . . which, probably was true, but OTOH just the fact that these issues arose repeatedly was troubling.

              •  I forgot to add (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                xgz, DaNang65

                that this arena deal is a prime example - if TNC owned this land, it was presumably bought because it was in need of protecting due to wildlife habitat or whatever.

                And, if was in need of protecting, then why did it suddenly become OK to sell it for building an arena?

                Repeated episodes like this just makes you wonder WTF they're up to . . .

                •  Horse trading (0+ / 0-)
                  Government does it too--if a developer wants a permit to build and it looks like the state or federal agency will lose in court if they try to block it, they'll cut a deal where the developer buys a more environmentally valuable piece of property and donates it to the state.

                  I know it smells the way I describe it, but some one-of-a-kind wilderness areas have been saved this way--albeit with the sacrifice of less unique, ecologically valuable pieces of land that were going to be developed anyway after a long court battle.

                  What TNC is doing is raising money by speculating in property so they can buy more expensive, environmentally valuable property.  I wouldn't mind this if they were more upfront with their donors about it.

                  •  Yup, that's pretty much their explanation (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    loretta, DaNang65

                    but for me, after shelling out $50 (back when $50 was $50) to help buy wetlands to save the unique purple-polka dotted bearded horned toad (or something like that), it was a bit disconcerting when two years later the toad became so unimportant that they opted to sell the property to Marriott to build a five star resort (that, btw, I could never afford to go to).

                    But whatever, I'm just going to let it go, harrummphh.

                    •  The thing that turned me off (0+ / 0-)

                      the Nature Conservancy was the discovery that a very high proportion of their board members had contributed large amounts to Bush.

                      I discovered this in the course of looking for potential wealthy donors to a liberal cause. Checked some names at (though other sites would have done just as well) and was astounded at what I found.

                      The political donation pattern combined with the deceptive fund raising would probably be good grist for an article.

                      John McCain: no health insurance for kids.

                      by AlanF on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 07:18:45 PM PDT

                      [ Parent ]

  •  I love the Internet (7+ / 0-)

    In less than two hours it seems Kossacks have unearthed every single public statement this woman has ever made and policy position she has ever taken.

    BRAVO KOSSACKS!  Keep up the good work!

  •  So she is a Tax and Litigate Conservative (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xgz, rangerteeple

    And it feels like I'm livin'in the wasteland of the free ~ Iris DeMent, 1996

    by MrJersey on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:44:56 AM PDT

    Recommended by:
    wdrath, Randall Sherman, DaNang65


    Don't lend your hand to raise no flag atop no ship of fools.

    by mojave mike on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:45:20 AM PDT

  •  Palin also gave her community hospital (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    smintheus, UPDoc

    to corporate titan Triad for a guarantee that they would keep prices competitive for 5 years.  

    She is an idiot.

  •  Nice research (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xgz, athensga

    The incompetence you cite is par for the course for Republicans, and looks like Palin follows in that vein. She is not as corrupt as her predecessor (then again, she has only been around for two years).

    However, the corporate media will probably be desperate to fall in love with her.

    McCain also now has his wife and a VP to enter into the Sturgis beauty contest.

    I'm mad as Gravel, and I'm not going to take it anymore!

    by ceti on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:52:02 AM PDT

    •  Her corruption is not in money (0+ / 0-)

      At least not yet.

      But there is definitely corruption in terms of power. When she was first elected mayor, she pretty much fired everyone who didn't support her during the election. Typical Bush fashion.

  •  Reminds me of Bush's antics in Texas (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    with the stadium deal.  Not exactly competent fiscal management.

    Nice catch.

  •  She went to Wasilla High (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Some interesting bits here on giving them a $600,000


    The Justice Department is no longer a credible defender of the rule of law or the Constitution.

    by Overseas on Fri Aug 29, 2008 at 09:54:27 AM PDT

  •  the entire budget of Wasilla (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    xgz, lurks a lot

    is the budget of (in McCain's terms) a single middle class family.

  •  great research, kudos xgz (0+ / 0-)

    Sarah Palin looks to be as incompetent as every top-ranking member of the Bush administration.

  •  Good Grief! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This is an Eminent Domain case!!!

    From the link above (Anchorage Daily News):

    As is typical in eminent domain cases, Klinkner said, the city will also pick up the tab for Lundgren's attorney fees and professional services.
    Emphasis mine

    Holy Crap!  Freepi and other assorted conservatives are gonna shit bricks!!!!

  •  Typical GOP style management. (0+ / 0-)
  •  Wasilla Sports Complex Litigation - The Truth (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    cici414, xgz, Challenger

    Sarah Palin and her administration completely mishandled the land purchase from The Nature Conservancy (TNC) for the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex.  The TNC made as many as three attempts to close the sale of land to the City of Wasilla before it turned to Lundgren to complete the purchase.  Palin and her administration made numerous demands upon TNC that were impossible for them to accomodate.  Only as a last choice (not a first choice) TNC sold the land to te only responsible cash buyer and that was Lundgren.  The land was part of 450 acres donated by DOW CHEMICAL and designated as "Trade Lands" to be sold in the future and the proceeds used to purchase wetlands for The Nature Conservancy.  She had the opportunity (in fact three of them over a one year period) to purchase the property and refused it onservancy and Lundgren which ultimately cost the City of Wasilla (so far) $2,100,000 when they lost every legal decision to Lundgren.  The case is now headed to the Alaska Supreme Court may the City of Wasilla could lose another $5,000,000 or more if the Lundgren prevails regarding a change of the date of taking.  All of this litigation arose as a result of Palin appointing a Republican croney as the City of Wasilla Attorney whose only judgement was BAD JUDGEMENT.   Lundgren even offered to GIFT them the land neceessary to build th sports complex and the City of Wasilla turned that offer down choosing to continue the litigation.

    All of these pales in comparsion to the record of her "hand picked" successor as Mayor of Wasilla named Diane Keller whose term in office expires this next few months. Check the record of Mayor Diane Keller for the shock of your life.  The only reason Mayor Keller hasn't been recalled from office is that there was so little time (a few months) left in her term.  Check out the City of Wasilla website for a copy of the ethics investigation commissioned by the City Council investigating her.  

    I can't believe that McCain would pick Sarah Palin as a nominee to be VP of the USA, a person with only limited experience with the lower 48 states let alone NO FOREIGN POLICY experience. I am a Republican and I can't vote for this ticket. Biden will eat her alive.  With all the good choices McCain had he reached to the bottom of a long long long list.

    God help us !!!

    •  Thanks for these details (0+ / 0-)

      Are there newspaper articles that can be linked? Most of the articles I saw are pretty terse. Thanks again.

      •  Wasilla Sports Complex Litigation - The Truth (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        This litigation wasn't just confined to one legal case of "CONDEMNATION" of landowner rights (ownership).  It first started in 1999 with another lawsuit when the City of Wasilla sued Lundgren and the Nature Conservancy seeking "specific performance" from TNC from an unsigned "DRAFT" real estate purchase agreement.

        To handle this matter for the City of Wasilla Mayor Palin hired Kenneth P. Jacobus a Republican Party friend and attorney

        His bad judgement brought many of the problems to the City of Wasilla.

        The City of Wasilla argued that even though the agreement wasn't signed there was a meeting of the minds and therefore it was a valid contract that could circumvent the statue of frauds. The City of Wasilla intially received a favorable ruling which was appealed but while on appeal Lundgren filed a motion (in the lower court) to vacate the judgement based upon newly found evidence of fraud by the City of Wasilla attorney when he knowingly mistated the truth about legal access to a portion of the property the City of Wasilla wanted to purchase which made transfer of title impossible.

        Upon reviewing all the facts the lower court judge stated if the appeal was dropped he would vacate his earlier judgement in favor of the City of Wasilla.  After the case came back to his juridiction he vacated his judgement and both parties filed Motions for Summary Judgment with the City's motion being denied and Lundgren Motion being granted allowing him to retain title to the property he originally purchased from TNC.  The court awarded attorney fees to TNC and Lundgren in an amount that deviated upward from the standard award fee schedule because of the bad conduct of the City of Wasilla in the case.  This litigation must have cost the City (my guess) $300,000.  

        But it was just the first shot off the bow by the Palin administration.  The City of Wasilla without owning the Lundgren (TNC) property had designed and was beginning to built the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex on land they didn't own.  Next, the City filed a condemnation action to take all of Lundgren's land (more than the Statium required).  This condemnation action was filed on a "quick take" basis with NO apprasial of the land, no negoiation with the landowner, no design or legal description of the land being taken all against the provisions of Alaska Law and the consitution of the USA. In essence the City of Wasilla against their own outside condemnation attorney advice filed a "quick take condemnation" using "slow take condemnation" methods.  This case will ultimately be decided in the Alaska Supreme Court or the US Supreme Court years from now and that could cost the City of Wasilla millions more than the $2,100,000 it already has cost them.  

        Only now 6 years after the condemnation action was filed is the final subdivision plat with revisions being recorded and title clearly in the name of the City of Wasilla lifting the cloud on the remainder property of Lundgren.  In the condemnation case the court also deviated from attorney fee guidelines to award Lundgren additional legal fees and costs due to the City of Wasilla's bad conduct iin that case as well.

        The sad thing is that Lundgren made an offer to GIFT them enough land for free to build the statium and they turned that offer down chosing to litigate. When Mayor Palin was faced with a choice of purchasing the property (twice the amount they took through condemnation) she and her administration choose to litigate against the landowner and it has cost them (and their taxpayers) dearly for their bad judgement.

    •  Apparently Diane Keller (0+ / 0-)

      tried to use eminent domain threat to grab land again from private owners. She must have learned it from Sarah Palin.

      Geez, are they Republicans or Fascists?

  •  Sources for city budget? (0+ / 0-)

    xgz - I've just reviewed the City of Wasilla's web site and they only have budgets going back to fiscal year 2004.  

    Do you have any citation, place for us to verify, the explosion of city spending during her tenure?  This is a great talking point for letters to the editor about her management skills.

    Pay qttention and try not to forget too much.

    by Michael R on Sat Aug 30, 2008 at 09:30:17 AM PDT

    •  Anchorage Daily News article (0+ / 0-)


      Palin was able to cut property taxes by three-quarters while eliminating small taxes such as the personal property tax and the business inventory tax. She wasn't doing this by shrinking government, however: The cost of running the growing city, apart from capital projects and debt, rose from $3.9 million in fiscal 1996 to $5.8 million in fiscal 2002. Excess sales tax revenues went to paying for capital improvements such as roads and government buildings, says city finance director Ted Leonard.

      I'm not sure about the argument about ballooning city budget. She may argue that Wasilla went through huge growth during her time. In a sense it was true, they built 3 Wal-marts, in a city of 6000.

  •  Big Gov while Cutting Corp Taxes (0+ / 0-)

    sounds like Bush Jr

    George Santayana: Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.

    by Maaarrrk on Wed Sep 03, 2008 at 05:02:00 PM PDT

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