It's Not the Purpose of People to Serve Roads: October 2003
Good Evening: My name is Bob Lynn, State House Representative from District 31, a district that includes a major portion of the property around DeArmoun Road. I want to thank you for holding this hearing tonight, to assess the pros and cons of the proposed Phase II of the DeArmoun Road project.
A number of my constituents are very, very concerned about this project in general, and concerned specifically about proposed options that will destroy family homes. First of all, I want to assure you that I support the maintenance and improvement of the road system, both throughout Alaska, and within the Municipality of Anchorage. Good roads are a good thing. There are questions, however, about the necessity of the DeArmoun project, as compared to other roads around town. Other people are going to address speed and safety issues, damage to the environment, and other topics. I’d like to center my own brief comments on two major areas of concern: unnecessary use of eminent domain and unnecessary cost.
First of all, the purpose of roads should be to serve people. It’s not the purpose of people to serve roads. It’s serious business when the state considers kicking families out of their homes, for any reason whatsoever. One needs to ask: what benefits could possibly accrue to this community, and to the state, compared to the destruction family homes to accommodate higher driving speeds, and duplicate trails? How does that question weigh on the scale of common sense?
Everyone knows that, without state power of eminent domain, most freeways would never be built, and many other needy projects would be stymied. That said, DeArmoun doesn’t need to be a freeway, and certainly not a speedway.
The bean counters who add up the dollar costs of proposed projects like this, may or may not be accurate in their dollar cost estimates, and there may or may not be expensive cost overruns to be paid for with scarce state money. But there’s another cost, that’s difficult - if not impossible - to quantify, and put into a neat column on a report. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the human cost of destroying family homes and family dreams. Some bureaucrats excuse of this sort of thing with the philosophy that the “detriment to the few is for the benefit of the many” – or more simply, the “end justifies the means.” Well, seldom does the end justify the means. I think the human cost for this project is more important, and more expensive, than the dollar cost, more important than whatever benefits might accrue to those who drive that portion of DeArmoun Road at a higher – and potentially - less safe speed. Do not, I repeat, please do not destroy people’s homes and dreams, and spend unnecessary money, when other options are available.
It appears that one option for this project destroys a person’s home to facilitate both a road alignment, and to facilitate a trail underpass on that property - so a proposed trail on the north side of DeArmoun can be duplicated on the south side of DeArmoun. Now I’ve got to tell you that I like trails as much as the next guy, and its nice to have a place to ride a horse, and nice to have a place to roller-blade - for those young enough to roller blade without killing themselves. But none of these worthwhile recreational activities should come at the human expense of destroying family homes.
One of the most troubling things about the proposed destruction of the Flister Family home, in addition to the obvious, is that Mr. Flister acted as a prudent and responsible – the so-called “reasonable person” - before he invested both family savings and sweat equity in his beautiful home. I’m told he called the project manager and asked specifically – specifically - about any proposed changes to DeArmoun that affect the property that he was thinking about buying – and wass told specifically that he had nothing to worry about. Basically, the state gave him a green light to buy. And so he did. As the saying goes, “If you can’t trust your government, whom can you trust?” Well, now you know the “rest of the story.” At this stage of the game, the Flister Family is spending a majority of their time trying to defend their home. It appears to be a contest of “David versus Goliath.” Protecting one’s self from the state shouldn’t have to be a full time job.
In my other life, I’m an associate-broker for a major real estate company here in Anchorage. I can tell that, because of this proposed road project, the Flister Family, and several other families, own real estate that is essentially unsaleble at any price. Is there any banker here who would make a loan on their property? Is there any Realtor here who would list their property? Is there any private party here who would buy their property? I think not. This road project has put DeArmoun homeowners in a very uncomfortable box.
It’s no secret that Alaska faces a serious budget deficit. Somehow that budget deficit has to be fixed. I can tell you - as your representative for this district - and as the recipient of countless messages from people for and against an income tax, for and against a sales tax, for and against taking the permanent fund, for and against taking the longevity bonus, and for and against every other conceivable way of addressing the budget deficit – that however I vote to help address the budget deficit, probably half of this district will want to come after me with a bucket of tar and feathers. Well, I’ve got one easy way to help address the budget deficit – and that is not to spend hard-to-find state money to gold plate a road in a rural area, not to buy family homes so they can be destroyed, and not to build duplicate trails.
Some will say, only 10 percent of the road construction money will be state money – with 90 percent being matching federal dollars. Well, I don’t think we should misspend federal dollars anymore than state dollars. The government doesn’t have a dime that doesn’t come from us. Capturing matching federal funds can be a seductive endeavor, and like most seductions, it can be a very expensive process to the entity being seduced. It’s like thinking I can afford to buy a Rolls Royce, if Uncle Sam pays 90 percent. One 90 percent savings here, and another 90 percent savings there, and the “savings” can drive a person into personal bankruptcy, and the state is no less exempt.
Please listen to everyone here tonight, and listen with your heart as well as your engineering plans and your calculator. Please include the lives of homeowners in the decision process.
If I had more time, could tell you how I really feel about this project! As it stands right now, the Phase II project wins my “That’s Incredible Award.” Thank you.