Palin: Government Can Fix Social Ills

This undated photo provided by the Heath family shows Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as a city council member of Wasilla, Alaska. Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., announced Palin as his vice presidential running mate on Friday, Aug. 29, 2008. (AP Photo/Heath Family) AP Photo/Heath Family

CBS News Investigative Producer Laura Strickler wrote this story for CBSNews.com.

Sarah Palin's lasting legacy as mayor of the town of Wasilla, Alaska is a gleaming sports complex with an indoor soccer field, running track and of course, a hockey rink.

To understand what makes the complex so much better than the old rink, all you have to do is sit down. The seats are heated.

This keeps hockey dads and moms like Sarah Palin a lot warmer as they watch their kids zoom around the ice. Palin's son and future son-in-law have made good use of the facility.

Local pundit Ann Kilkenny attended almost every city council meeting where Palin presided. While dozens of local organizations supported the building of the sports complex, Kilkenny did not, "I think it's self-serving, I'm not a hockey mom."

During Palin's recent convention speech she sharply criticized Senator Barack Obama for wanting to end Bush's tax cuts. She pointed to her sister and husband who are new small business owners in Alaska, "How are they going to be any better off if taxes go up?"

But in fact, the way the hockey rink was built was by raising taxes. Palin funded the project by pushing a special referendum that raised the sales tax by 25 percent. City hall records show the referendum was passed by twenty votes.

One Wasilla resident who voted for the complex is Mike Edwards. He says he spends about an hour a day at the facility watching his son play. He says he's glad government stepped in to build the new ice because privately run rinks are much more expensive, costing teams as much as $300 an hour to practice compared to $185 at the public rink.

CBS News obtained 86 pages of city council documents that show Palin sought to justify the tax increase to fund the sports complex in part because the private sector had not stepped in to fill the gap. She noted the strong support in the community as a reason to move ahead.

But her most striking argument for raising taxes is one you might not expect from a fiscal conservative. She writes that the rink offers an opportunity for government to stop a social ill like drug abuse or juvenile delinquency before it starts.

Among the documents is this email written from Palin's account to the "Dept Heads" of the council in January 2001. Although its left margin is sliced off, the message of the email is clear. Palin writes:

Palin's Email To "Dept. Heads" Of City Council

"…as I look at the money that government [spends] on projects, programs, personnel and facilities to 'fix' societies ills and I realize that it's [be]come more politically correct and accepted for government to throw money towards 'after-the-fact [services]', instead of preventive measures that a community could take to support and promote…family oriented, positive, constructive activities and lifestyles. Even on the local level we [spend] hundreds of thousands of dollars on our Police Dept., Youth Court, DARE Program, etc... 'after the fact' fixes for juvenile problems. We are in a position to help prevent (Palin's emphasis) the [problems] that we are now forced to pay to attempt to remedy."

This approach sounds surprisingly similar to Senator Barack Obama's philosophies about youth violence and health care spending. Obama's "Blueprint for Change" bemoans the lack of money spent on preventive health measures, "The nation faces epidemics of obesity and chronic diseases as well as new threats of pandemic flu and bioterrorism. Yet despite all of this less than 4 cents of every health care dollar is spent on prevention and public health."

Robin Bailes, another hockey dad who moved to town after the complex was built says he doesn't think government should be involved in anything, "Every time you want to do something you need five permits."

But when asked about how he feels about local government funding the ice rink, his tone changes. "Kids like it, so I would probably support it."
By Laura Strickler
  • Laura Strickler

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