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October 24, 2021

Headlines:

Governor on the fire escape. This is not a good sign.

TALL TALES from Juneau (and beyond)

Eyes on the Dunleavy/Babcock administration

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AND THE AWARD FOR BEST DRAMA GOES TO…

The House Minority (which is filled with Republicans who refuse to work with their peers in the Majority coalition) shows once again why their Republican colleagues preferred to work with Democrats to actually get things done. Three minority members on the House Education Committee – Josh Revak (R-Anchorage), Ben Carpenter (R- Kenai), and DeLena Johnson (R-Palmer) decided that the vote their committee was about to take on the governor’s austerity budget, was predetermined. That basically means the majority of the education committee is made up of people who won’t vote to cut the legs out from under public education. And our three petulant Republicans know this. DeLena Johnson also complained later that the majority was forcing them to make “awkward votes” by requiring that they actually go on the record either approving or disapproving of the governor’s cuts. We hate to be the ones to break it to them, but that’s actually part of the job. You have to make awkward votes sometimes that reveal to your constituents what you really think. OR, of course, you could just stand up and claim the process is biased against you and stomp out of the committee so you don’t have to make the vote at all. Which is exactly what they did to avoid showing that they support these unpopular cuts to education. House Minority Leader Rep. Lance Pruitt (R-Anchorage) also made sure to loudly complain about the process later in a speech on the House floor. Lance Pruitt’s wife Mary Ann, by the by, is making almost five times his legislative salary as the Communications Director for the governor – paid to push his message. Convenient.

 

 

AWKWARD VOTE 2.0

Speaking of Republicans and awkward education votes. Over in the University of Alaska Finance subcommittee, Sarah Vance (who recently in a Facebook Live video scolded students who wrote her letters for not properly addressing her as “Representative”) had a proposed amendment. She made a motion to eliminate $154 million in university funding. That motion failed. Hard. Vance was the only one to vote for it. Are you keeping track of all this stuff, Homer? The one thing you can say for Rep. Vance is that where there is awkwardness, she fully embraces it.

 

 

A VOTE OF NO PEBBLE, AND NO CONFIDENCE IN JASON BRUNE

Well, in case you weren’t sure, Alaskans still hate Pebble Mine. And it’s not going to change. We know enough to realize that the idea of a mining company building an earthen dam the height of the Space Needle in an active earthquake zone that will have to remain fully intact forever is downright crazy. If the dam fails, there goes Bristol Bay, 17,000 jobs, and the largest wild salmon fishery on the planet. It’s been years now, and two Republican governors have been hoping that the No Pebble people will get tired and stop talking, and they’re continually disappointed. One-time Pebble Mine spokesman, and current appointee to run the Department of Environmental Conservation, the agency tasked with permitting the mine, faced a barrage of no confidence from the public this week. 97 people signed up to testify and 93 opposed his appointment. Ouch.

 

 

THE BEAT GOES ON

If it seems like every week delivers another horrendous, fringe right-wing Dunleavy appointee, it’s because it does. This time it was an appointment to the Board of Realtors that caused an uproar. Michael Tavoliero is the latest train-wreck nominee. Check this one out:  “Make no mistake, these medieval butchers won’t stop. Islam is not compatible with western civilization.” A month earlier, he tweeted: “You can’t be polite or tolerable of those who blindly and deftly want to kill you. Our only option is to destroy them.” Gee, he seems nice. After being questioned about his string of virulently anti-Muslim tweets and retweets, Tavoliero defended himself by saying “I don’t really understand the Twitter,” and “I have – had – a virtual assistant who set up my accounts.” But when asked if this “virtual assistant” tweeted on Tavoliero’s behalf he said, “I don’t think so.” His seeming utter confusion combined with some disrespectful snappiness to committee members puts him on track to be the next in a long line of Dunleavy appointees to go down in flames.

 

 

THE PUBLIC TOWN HALL MEETINGS THAT WEREN’T

The big news of the week, which has been covered widely by the press is that the governor’s promised “series of town hall meetings across the state” is anything but what it appeared in the governor’s press release. The town hall meetings are actually no more than a bought and paid for road show, organized by none other than Americans for Prosperity, the Koch brothers’ primary organizing entity for far-right Libertarian policy advocacy. He just totally forgot to mention that! Oops! After Dunleavy hired the head of Americans for Prosperity in Alaska, Jeremy Price, to become his Deputy Chief of Staff, nobody should be too surprised. And the governor isn’t even listed as a headliner, but rather one in a lineup of administration officials and Americans for Prosperity talking heads who will address the crowd. Did we mention that seating is limited, you must register online, ID must be shown, no photos or recordings can be made, AFP owns any images of you that may be taken, and if you have a problem with this, you will be escorted out of the building? After the press got wind of this, the event on the AFP website was suddenly removed. When they were asked why, they said they didn’t know. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Sen. Donny Olson (D-Golovin) was having none of this nonsense. He marched himself down to the governor’s office with a letter saying he would pay for the rental of the hall in Nome to make sure his constituents feel comfortable attending without all the crazy red tape and privacy violation. We’re still waiting to hear. And yes, Sen. Donny Olson is the rock star of the day.

 

 

 

HOW YOU TREAT THE LEAST OF THESE

As the weeks roll on, we continue to see how the governor’s proposed budget cuts actually play out in the real world. And now we’ve heard from the folks who provide services and programs to themost vulnerable populations including those who use food banks, domestic violence shelters, homeless shelters, senior centers, meals on wheels, mental health services, and otherwise unaffordable legal help. Many of these programs have matching grants from communities, so the amount of the cuts will actually double.

“Services provided through these programs support Alaska’s most vulnerable population. The homeless, hungry, and destitute depend on these services to remain alive and safe. These services are of the most basic type where sometimes the goal is to simply keep someone from freezing to death,” says a budget document from last year.

Sen. Lora Reinbold criticized a description of the Department of Health & Social Services core services as “flowery statements” and wondered aloud if they weren’t “creating dependency.” When told that the Alaska Legal Services Corporation (which provides pro-bono legal services to Alaskans whose income is too low to afford it otherwise) would have to turn away 1,400 people a year including seniors, persons with disabilities, and victims of crime and domestic violence, she went on to say “I’m actually happy to see a cut here. I think this budget is way, way, way too big, and I really want to see this budget shrink.” Read a great in-depth account with more information here.

 

 

DAVID EASTMAN SAYS THEY’RE COMING FOR YOUR $1 BILLS!!!

There was a great article in the New York Times the other day about Elizabeth Peratrovich, and the landmark civil rights legislation she inspired – the first in the United States – nearly 20 years before the federal Civil Rights Act. You can read it here. In 2020, the U.S. Mint will commemorate her on a $1 coin as part of The Native American $1 Coin Program instituted under President George W. Bush. “In 2009, the United States Mint began minting and issuing $1 coins featuring designs celebrating the important contributions made by Indian tribes and individual Native Americans to the history and development of the United States,” it says on the U.S. Mint’s website. This will be the eleventh in a series of US dollar coins paying tribute to Native Americans. They are being produced as “collectibles” according to the U.S. Mint, but can still be used as legal tender. Rep. David Eastman (R-Wasilla) who votes whenever possible against anything having to do with Native Alaskans, or African-Americans, and pretty much thinks the word “racist” is reverse-racist, took this moment to whine on his blog about how the legislature is “bowing to political correctness” and showing “solidarity against racism.” He also claims that “This proposal would see millions spent on yet another failed campaign trying to convince Americans to act more like their European neighbors who choose coins in place of dollar bills.” Nice try. And of course he was the ONLY no vote in asking Congress to include Elizabeth Peratrovich in the series of coins.

 

 

SHHHHHH… BE VEWY QUIET!

Rumors continue to swirl about Dunleavy’s popularity numbers crashing. We have nothing official yet, but let’s just say you can’t feel very popular if you have to sneak to your office in the Capitol up the fire escape.

 

 

SHE SAID WHAT?!

Juneau shenanigans have nothing on the local Anchorage races this cycle. And there’s nothing like getting a mailer from a candidate with photos schmoozing up to people who would never in a bazillion years endorse them. Such is the case with Christine Hill who is running for Anchorage Assembly against the mighty Meg Zaletel. A quick look through Ms. Hill’s Facebook musings should tell you that she is not, I repeat NOT endorsed by the Crofts, Dick Traini, or hopefully any other person on your kindred spirit list. Check out this nonsense. First is the mailer that Democrats in the district got. And then… oh boy.

So, what do you think Midtown Anchorage? Is she the one for you? YIKES!

Please, please don’t forget to mail in your ballots, Anchorage! They have to be postmarked by April 2. The Anchorage Democrats have endorsed: Meg Zaletell, Kameron Perez-Verdia, Forrest Dunbar, John Weddleton, and Oliver Schiess for the Anchorage Assembly; and Starr Marsett and Margo Bellamy for School Board. Anchorage generally has TERRIBLE turnout for Municipal elections, so your vote is one of fewer, and therefore SUPERSIZED! Go do it!

Onward and upward,

Jeanne

PS: Have you subscribed to our weekday PRESS CLIPS? You’ll get a smattering of political news from Alaska, the nation, and the 2020 election, plus a couple opinion articles AND NEW – a breakdown of the highlights of the legislature’s upcoming events that you may want to catch on 360north.org! I get up early and scour the news so you don’t have to!

This article is reprinted with permission from the Alaska Democratic Party

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