I’ve stayed away from Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan’s tennis mess, mostly because I haven’t really kept track from the beginning on what’s going on. And I didn’t keep track from the beginning because I had no idea the tennis courts would actually turn into a big story. Who can blame me?
And part of the reason it’s turned into a big story is that the story continues to change. There appears to be a new wrinkle just about every other day or so, and now, those wrinkles have pitted Sullivan against Alaska state Rep. Bill Stoltze, the powerful co-chair of House Finance. And in the meantime, the person who could perhaps help smooth out the wrinkles is staying mum. Rep. Lindsey Holmes, as she tends to do when she’s facing controversy, has gone radio silent.
Here’s what we know: the Legislature appropriated $37 million of grant money to Anchorage for maintenance on facilities that were built in the 1980s. Sullivan wanted to use some of this money to build tennis courts –anywhere from $4 to $10.5 million — in the Turnagain neighborhood, where Sullivan lives and which is represented by Alaska state Rep. Lindsey Holmes.
From there, things get dicey. Questions still floating around include:
- How much flexibility does the municipality have to spend the money?
- How much are the courts going to cost?
- What did the Anchorage Assembly know about this project and its costs?
- What did the Legislature know when it appropriated the money?
All of these, thanks largely to Sullivan, are moving targets and have been answered in various ways, depending on the audience.
The fourth question is one that has recently caused the most tension. Stoltze said that he worked with Holmes on the tennis court money, and that she told him that the courts wouldn’t cost more than $4 million.
She’s not confirmed or denied this. Instead, Sullivan is doing the talking. He says that’s not true. Stoltze then called Sullivan untrustworthy. In turn Sullivan called Stoltze disingenuous, which is a nice way of calling him a liar.
I know Stoltze a little. Like many of us, he contains multitudes. He’s razor sharp, can be vindictive and tempestuous. But I would never call him a liar. And neither should the mayor of Anchorage, who risks putting his city on the losing end in a battle over funds during next year’s legislative session, say nothing of alienating one of the Valley’s most powerful and popular lawmakers.
According to Holmes’ Facebook page, she is someplace sunny taking pictures of cute raccoons.
Her absence feels familiar. She also stayed low when she changed her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican last year. But that was a different sound of silence. Now, it’s bigger and potentially more destructive.
Holmes doesn’t have a lot to gain from getting in the middle of the mess. On one side, she risks alienating Sullivan and the powerful tennis group who want those courts built, many of whom are her constituents. And there’s Stoltze on the other side, who helped get her a position on House Finance when she switched parties, and appears to have been nothing but gracious to and supportive of her.
But just because it’s not good politics to tell the public what she knows, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have an obligation to do so. After all, isn’t that what we expect our elected officials to do?
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org