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October 22, 2021

Headlines:

Mayor Pulls Security AND Spit Guard -

Friday, October 8, 2021

GOP “leadership” & Alaska’s COVID catastrophe -

Saturday, September 25, 2021

The Whole State Has Gone Mad – a Tour. -

Friday, August 27, 2021

GOP Senator Says Firearm Might Help Pass Agenda

FINANCE FIREWORKS

About the most exciting thing to happen so far in the current special session was the fireworks display in the Senate Finance Committee this week. Granted ‘fireworks’ by Senate Finance Committee standards sounds to most people like ‘stern words’ but for the Senate Finance Committee, that’s FIREWORKS.

The purpose of the meeting was to hear from Alexei Painter, the Director of Legislative Finance, to summarize the fiscal situation of the state and to go over the governor’s heinous hacking of the budget. The governor got uniformly raked over the coals for his vetoes. 

[Sen. Bert Stedman, Finance Committee co-Chair]

Donny Olson (D-Golovin) was extremely concerned about education in general. First, he spoke up about the WWAMI program which, as of this writing, has no funds at all. WWAMI is a collaborative medical school among universities in five northwestern states including Alaska, and allows Alaskans to attend medical school and serve the state through the University of Washington. Even if the funding comes, this is another gut punch to higher education and the university system which leaves Alaska students wondering where they stand and seeking opportunity elsewhere.

Olson also brought up REAA school funds – these are funds for regional attendance areas where there is no local tax base. The Department of Education rates in order of urgency projects that need to happen and the REAA funds pay for as many of those as possible. Over the last three years, Olson said, they’ve gotten the equivalent of only one year of funding. Painter noted that usually when governors have vetoed school funds they have vetoed urban and rural schools in equal proportion. But with Dunleavy’s cuts, rural schools are hit harder. “It’s very concerning that the governor has been doing that to rural schools,” he said.

[Sen. Donny Olson (D-Golovin)]

The governor has also vetoed $220 million in federal funds for capital projects. Kickstart the economy, year-round high paying jobs to boost local economies, with benefits. We’re denying this for what?  Allocations within highway money, Vetoed exceleration and contingency, Reduces flexibility. Supply chain uncertainty, worker shortages, cost of materials, weather, etc.

“The short-sightedness of this administration is really astounding,” noted Sen. von Imhof.

The governor also vetoed millions in public broadcasting, pre-K, frontline social workers, nursing, personnel for HSS, transportation, the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, civil air patrol, and more that were approved by the legislature. Also, there was a $10 million cut by the governor which zeroes out the Alaska Travel Industry Association leaving them with nothing for 2022 after more than 25 years of funding in the past. 

The legislature did manage to stop some of the cuts by overriding some of the governor’s vetoed items like oil spill response, behavioral health recovery, library and museum funds, foster care, childrens’ services, and large cuts to Medicaid and rural schools.

Finance co-Chair Bert Stedman pointed out that the governor had called the legislature in to special session and then vetoed their per diem payments while there.  “Clearly this veto is punitive for the legislature because the governor is not getting support.” He went on to call the move “a petty political game that serves no purpose other than a sound bite to the press.” Several Senators also noted that the executive branch’s per diem was not vetoed, and Stedman pointed out that the governor also gets per diem payments. He pointedly said that the finance committee would “have that information pulled and brought to the committee to see what the flow of funds are.” 🔥🔥🔥

If watching Senate Finance meetings is your jam, you can watch the whole thing (an hour and 16 minutes) HERE.

**And this just in: At the very last moment, when legislators threatened to leave Juneau, the governor finally added another item to the agenda which will allow the legislature to vote on a PFD for Alaskans this year (which the governor had ALSO previously vetoed) and it could allow the reinstatement of funds for WWAMI and college performance scholarships. Stay tuned.


REPUBLICAN LAWMAKER SAYS HUNTING RIFLE WOULD GET LEGISLATION PASSED. 

Before heading to Juneau for the third special session Rep. Mike Cronk (R-Tok) made a fairly normal-for-Alaska “look at my gun” Facebook post about wanting to go hunting before he left. 

But then, freshman Senator Robb Myers (R-North Pole) decided to chime in… and things went rapidly downhill.

Myers’ hamfisted post-1/6 comment about getting the Republican agenda passedi n the Capitol with the help of a firearm has now been deleted, but apparently it took a little public prodding from Sen. President Peter Micchiche for Cronk to do so. 

Micchiche’s edits (which are visible to everyone who clicks) show him dialing back from calling Myers’ thinly-veiled threats of violence “thoughtless.” That apparently was just too harsh, so he decided to stick with the “triggeringing” language, a smiley face, and “Keep being you, man.” 


HE’S RUNNING AGAIN, AND GET A LOAD OF THIS…

HINKY MONEY

Last week, Dunleavy announced he’s running for reelection. He’s got a boatload of hinky cash (state money that he’s funneling to political allies in the media) to advertise for his gubernatorial campaign under the guise of “educating the public” about current events. Mike Porcaro, the right wing radio host who was the bright idea behind asking Alaskans to send red pens to the governor’s office to encourage him to decimate education, health care, and the ferry system will receive $125,000 of state money to help Dunleavy hawk his ideas.

Another $125,000 will go to yet another right wing radio host and former legislator, Tom Anderson. Those who’ve been here more than a minute remember he was the first legislator to go to prison over the Corrupt Bastards Club scandal. He was sentenced to five years on seven federal counts of conspiracy and bribery. Anderson’s radio show was originally called”Ethically Speaking” but he decided to change it.

COVID? YOU’RE ON YOUR OWN

The COVID-19 pandemic, epidemiology, and science in general continue to be politicized by the right. This week Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services reported exactly ZERO ICU beds available in Anchorage (representing about half the state’s population). On the very same day, Governor Mike Dunleavy had some things to say about the crisis.

I mean, we all gotta die of something, RIGHT? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯  You’re on your own, Alaska.

The mind-boggling quotes above came from an interview with Nat Herz of Alaska Public Media. If you want to listen to a half hour of the governor straining truth, bending history, and dodging questions, the link is HERE.

MATH IS HARD

Herz went right on to the meat of things on the budget:

HERZ: The first year of your term, there was a pretty significant backlash that came with the recall campaign around some of the aggressive things you did in your first year — namely, some of your proposed budget cuts and your vetoes, some of the actions with the court system. In retrospect, were some of those moves too aggressive?

DUNLEAVY: I would say that I could have communicated a lot more, I could have communicated to more groups. I made the assumption that people understood there was a budget problem. I made the assumption that people could see the math. That was a mistake on my part.

So apparently the Governor’s cross-state budget road show with Donna Arduin, and the full force of the bully pulpit of governorship wasn’t enough to make Alaskans understand math. It’s OUR fault, apparently, because we just couldn’t see why basic programs, and the university, and the ferry system, and healthcare, and the arts had to be cut, and the court system had to be punished by a cut in exactly the same amount as the money he says was spent on medically necessary abortions. 

That’s what they call “adding insult to injury.”

“NONE OF US MAKES IT OUT OF THIS EVENTUALLY” PART 2

Another notable quote from the governor came on the subject of climate change.

HERZ: Earlier this week, the United Nations released a big scientific report on climate change. Its chief called it a “code red for humanity.” It says there’s no remaining scientific doubt that humans are feeling climate change, and that the planet is facing catastrophic impacts without dramatic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions. How urgent of a problem do you see global warming as being for Alaska right now?

DUNLEAVY: So, there’s a lot that you packed into that statement. You said that the U.N. report says there’s no room for what on science?

HERZ: They say that it’s unequivocal.

DUNLEAVY: Then they need to make sure that all of the scientists agree with them, because there are some that don’t. Now, with that said, if you believe in the different epochs in the world’s history, ice ages, then no ice ages, then very warm periods of time, it would appear that, you know, we’ve come out of the Pleistocene, which means we’ve warmed considerably. We’re in what they refer to as the Holocene, is where we are now. Does that mean that it’s not continuing to get warmer? Some would say it appears to. I’m not trying to sidestep this, but it’s like the virus: There are differing opinions.

I’m sure there are many willing to bet that the Governor’s extensive knowledge of epochs and “what they refer to as the Holocene” didn’t come from a science textbook, but from a paid talking head he heard on Fox News.

So Alaska, located squarely on the front lines of climate change, has a chief executive who’s a science denier and an administration that goes along with it.

NO WAY TO SAY HELLO

The governor met with Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm last week, and amazingly didn’t insult her on Twitter in the process! The Secretary came for the 15th Annual Renewable Energy Fair at Chena Hot Springs and was met by… Dunleavy droplets. 

Sorry about our governor, Madam Secretary, please don’t hold it against us!


THE RACE IS HEATING UP!

Dunleavy isn’t the only one who’s tossed his hat in the ring for the 2022 gubernatorial race. Former Governor Bill Walker is back in it again, apparently believing that there are enough socially conservative but not insane Republicans who didn’t want that PFD anyway left to put him back in the Governor’s mansion. Or enough Democrats who still think he’s not a socially conservative Republican. (Check out his endorsement letter below)

SPOILER: There aren’t.

AND, we now have a Democrat in the race! Veteran legislator Les Gara of Anchorage just declared he’ll be in the running too. More soon as this is fresh off the presses.

“Alaskans deserve better than a Governor who’s attacked our schools, damaged our University, and emptied $17 billion in state savings as a state senator and Governor. I want an Alaska people can believe in again, where we create good paying jobs and provide good job training instead of taking it away. As a fisherman I want to protect our wild salmon and trout from the toxic Pebble Mine. Governor Dunleavy has sided with foreign mine owners instead of our own commercial, sport and subsistence fishermen and women,” said Gara in his official announcement today.


MAYOR DAVE BRONSON REALLY KNOWS HOW TO PICK ‘EM!

The slow-motion trainwreck in Anchorage, under the new leadership of Dave Bronson continues unabated. His beleaguered Health Director, pandemic conspiracy theorist Dave Morgan, has resigned as financial scandal emerged from his past. 

THE GUY WHO SHOULD NEVER BE AROUND MONEY

Another scandal-plagued nominee is up before the Assembly this coming Tuesday. This time it’s Mike Robbins, the other conservative in the mayor’s race who lost handily to Bronson. Robbins had touted his business acumen during the race, saying that his financial savvy and business experience were the reasons Anchorage should trust him with the keys to City Hall.

“I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of different kinds of businesses over the years, and so that gives me a unique perspective, having run my own business and having made a payroll and having basically started from nothing and built it to something — it’s also given me a perspective in the way that I look at life,” he told the Anchorage Daily News in March.

It takes about five seconds on the internet to figure out that the entire foundation of Robbins’ mayoral campaign was built on sand, and he has NO business handling his own business affairs, never mind large sums of money for the Municipality.

That’s right, he’s been appointed by Bronson as Executive Director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority, the position formerly held by Andrew Halcro.

Robbins’ past business experience includes a majority interest in two right wing radio stations, and a brief foray as president and director of “Romanian American Matrimonial Introduction Services,” which was dissolved two years after its formation.

Robbins over the years has been the majority owner of two local companies dedicated to radio and media – Tati Broadcasting and Alaska Integrated Media. State records show that between 2010 and 2018, the IRS placed at least FOURTEEN liens on Robbins’ businesses for a total of $744,000+ in unpaid federal taxes. He paid them off after selling off the station.

Both businesses were also involved in multiple lawsuits over the years. One particularly notable suit came from Neilson, the company that measures radio audiences (Neilson ratings) which radio stations use to set and justify their ad prices. It claimed that Robbins and his partner attempted to defraud them, First National Bank of Alaska, and the IRS.

“The lawsuit claims that Robbins and his business partner formed Alaska Integrated Media in order to transfer Tati’s assets “out of the reach of creditors of Tati, including but not limited to FNBA and the IRS. The lawsuit claims all income and assets were stripped from Tati and sold to AIM for just $200, though Tati had purchased radio station assets worth $1.5 million just a few years before.”

Ummm… Wow. Just the kind of guy you want holding the reins at the Anchorage Community Development Authority! 😳

Alaska court and state records reveal Robbins has a hefty history of debt and lawsuits. 

Also up on Tuesday’s 5:00 Anchorage Assembly meeting are: 

  • Sami Graham, the homophobic Municipal librarian who just lost a School Board race and… wait for it… isn’t a librarian. She doesn’t even qualify for the position to which she’s been appointed. Apparently, lots of Bronson supporters have been sending emails in full support of the non-librarian, though. The Blue Alaskan dissects this one HERE and HERE.

And guess who just wrote a glowing letter of recommendation for said homophobic unqualified librarian? None other than newly-declared gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker who reminds us that he’s still a socially conservative Republican and because Graham is part of a “friend group” of his, that the Assembly should overlook the fact that she’s completely not qualified and “give her the benefit of the doubt.” 

*SPOILER: There is no “doubt.” She really actually is unqualified.

  • Retired physicians assistant and active internet troll James Wojciehowski who likes to testify at Assembly meetings minimizing covid dangers and pops up on fringe right-wing Facebook groups calling mask wearing “theater;” the Assembly’s concerns over the pandemic, “panic porn;” and CDC mask recommendations “comedy gold.” He’s been nominated to serve on the public health advisory board.
  • Anesthesiologist and anti-masker (how does that even happen?) Dr. Shawn Degler who testifies at Assembly meetings calling mask requirements and lockdowns “unconstitutional overreach.” He’s worked in several states over the last five years and moved to Anchorage in 2019. And yes, he too is a nominee for the public health advisory board. 

If you have feelings about Mike Robbins, Sami Graham, James Wojciehowski and/or Dr. Shawn Degler and live in Anchorage, you may want to contact the Assembly before Tuesday and share those. Email: wwmas@muni.org

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