It isn’t Kucinich-level mismanagement of a municipality, but the story about Wasilla’s relatively enormous debt burden that Palin left the town with from her time as mayor has to give Palinites pause. If the idea is that she can do for the federal budget what she did for Wasilla’s, the possibility that she might well become President at some point in the next four years is unsettling. We are indeed, as Peggy Noonan quoted, a nation of Wasillas, and this is even more true when you consider our tendency to spend money we don’t have. Yes, Sarah Palin really is one of us when it comes to getting irresponsibly buried in debt–or, in this case, getting other people irresponsibly buried in debt. Mind you, this is the same mayor whose town received $27 million in earmarked federal funding, and thanks to her projects the town is now $20 million in debt. In carrying out some of those “actual responsibilities” Palin talked about on Wednesday, it seems that she made a hash of things in her drive to have a hockey rink/athletic facility built in the town. Because of what appear to be avoidable blunders (in particular, the failure of the city to sign the appropriate documents relating to the purchase of the needed land), the result for the town came in the form of higher costs, litigation, considerable lawyers’ fees and a pile of debt:
The only catch was that the city began building roads and installing utilities for the project before it had unchallenged title to the land. The misstep led to years of litigation and at least $1.3 million in extra costs for a small municipality with a small budget. What was to be Ms. Palin’s legacy has turned into a financial mess that continues to plague Wasilla.
In addition to the considerable amount of debt that Wasilla’s voters took on with the bond issue to pay for the facility, costs from the project continue to mount:
Litigation resulting from the dispute over Ms. Palin’s sports-complex project is still in the courts, with the land’s former owner seeking hundreds of thousands of additional dollars from the city.
After Palin left office, the town finally acquired the land through eminent domain. The property had already been purchased by someone else while the town dawdled in finalizing the deal with the Nature Conservancy, and in order to settle with the owner the town had to pay more than $700,000 extra plus interest for the same parcel of land that they had originally negotiated to acquire years before. Remember that this is one of the major accomplishments of Sarah Palin’s tenure as mayor.