Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New US Health Plan: Courtesy of Bob Bird

I'd take a bet that not one of the 13,113 Alaskans who voted for Nikiski's Bob Bird would have voted for Mark Begich. But if Bob didn't run, most of his votes would have gone to Ted Stevens who trailed his opponent by a little over 3000 votes.

Without Mark Begich in the US Senate, the Democrats would not have had the 60th vote needed to quell Republican efforts to filibuster. The defeat would have been,as the Republicans pledged, President Obama's Waterloo.

No matter your political bent, it's way too early to evaluate what the new policy will bring, after all there has been no melding of the House and Senate bills yet. I've yet to see a (sane) critique of the either proposal that doesn't have a both a good/bad position. Well, maybe more bad than good, but that argument is for another post.

Regardless, Bob Bird will have had the most important role in passing whatever health care legislation that does become law. Has it ever happened in US History when one so insignificant on the national scale, might change the course of the nation?

And can you imagine that Bob, a history teacher at Nikiski High and one of the most conservative gentlemen that you will ever meet, might not appreciate his place in the books?

I think I will rub it in the next time I see him!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cook(ing) the Inlet Books

Does anyone lament the loss of the snow geese that used to use the flats as a feeding ground on their yearly migration? KSRM used to have a contest to spot their first arrival in the spring. And what about the caribou? I didn’t see a single one there this past summer.

It wasn’t too long ago that you could often spot beluga whales in the lower Kenai. You still might get lucky and see a few come up the mouth chasing hooligan or salmon, but it’s obvious that their numbers are way down.

NOAA may list the Cook Inlet belugas as endangered and designate Cook Inlet as critical habitat and the local pols are pounding their chests in protest.

Dave Carey and Pat Porter have called for public hearings on the Kenai. NOAA says it doesn’t have the resources to do so, but you can do so electronically here. The comment period is over on January 31, 2010. The National Marine Fisheries Service will present information on Jan 14 at KCHS about the process and the current state of the whales.

The Kenai Borough accepted a $700,000 grant from NOAA this summer to help study the whale and habitiat. No word from Mayor Carey just how that money is being spent. Of course, for anything meaningful to be learned, that amount of money would barely get ideas off of the board. Is the Kenai Borough really the proper venue needed to conduct serious research?

Mike Chenault is one of many state legislatures in a panic about the proposed listing. Not surprisingly, Don Young’s opinion is worth more than any scientific finding. Governor Parnell is threatening to sue the feds.

The Mayor of Anchorage is on the soapbox too. But I hope you all read Kenai Peninsula College's Alan Boraas’s ADN op-ed piece about the absence of sewage treatment in Anchorage. Maybe Mr. Sullivan should be a bit more concerned about what Anchorage flushes into the inlet. Or maybe that is why he is a bit worried.

What do all of the Pols have in common? Let's see...they want to discount every study that has concerns about the beluga population, they want to treat Cook Inlet as Anchorage's toilet, and they want the inlet to be the industrial waste dump of the oil and coal industry. Yes, these are the people we elect. Are these also the people that we are?

And the benefit of their reactions? Well, I'm still working on that. Best I can figure out is that they each think the critical habitat listing will be the end of development in the area. And unless we continue to pollute and destroy, that Alaska won't be a worthwhile place to live.

That is speculation and there is a difference of opinion. Do read G. Haskett's, the regional US F&W Director's piece in the ADN as well as Alaska's War On Science by Rick Steiner.

What's wrong with expecting industries and municipalities to be clean? Those of us who have been around for a few years and still have a functioning memory remember the flaming Cuyahoga River, the Bhopal incident, and closer to home, the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. I could devote the entire blog to industrial accidents and never cover them all.

Alaska is hardly the pristine place of imagination, but it is the best place we have left. Really - where else is there on the planet? Do we really need to destroy what we have?

End of Noughty Times

This coming weekend is the end of the triple-noughts - not that 2010 is anything but an arbitrary designation of our transience. But as tradition warrants, the coming new year makes us think about what sort of person we want to be and what sort of world we want to live in.

Living in a small town does give us all a very real opportunity to enact change in our community. We know our politicians and most are accessible to the public; it’s easy (if sometimes painfully boring) to attend meetings and get involved; and there are many local non-profit organizations that welcome volunteers with the energy to do something other than winge about what is wrong.

Being an informed citizen is not necessarily a prerequisite for becoming involved. Just maybe, by becoming involved, a person comes to understand the complexities that sometimes make it difficult to make progress.

Why does one live in SOLdotna and the Kenai Peninsula? If it’s just for a job or because taxes are low or there aren’t too many rules and regulations, that’s unfortunate. Not that these are necessarily bad things, but they aren’t the ONLY things that matter.

It should be about the quality of life here. Parts of the Kenai are stunningly beautiful. There’s adventure to be found close-by. There are, for now, healthy wild salmon stocks in our rivers. There is still plenty of wildlife – although that may change.

There are lots of outdoor activities available all year: hiking, skiing, fishing, biking rafting, kayaking, canoeing, skating, hunting, snowmachining, star-gazing, snowshoeing, climbing, berry-picking…

I am puzzled by those who still possess the ability, but rarely venture beyond a few hundred feet beyond their car door. I am puzzled by those who like to fish or hunt, but view environmentalists as extremists. But mostly I am puzzled by those who want to transform the area into some Outside suburban scrawl.

And that’s why I’m SOL in SOLdotna!

Happy New Year to All.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Stop Making Sense

It's been nearly a week since the Borough Assembly tried to figure out what to do with Mayor Carey's Chief of Staff, Scooter Chumley's conflict-of-interest mis-step and I am still a bit puzzled by how the (not-so) grown-ups are handling the incident.

The Assembly is made up a few from the good ol' boys club and they know that making money off of the government is good business. And, of course, there are perfectly legal and sometimes ethical ways of doing so. Pierce, Knopp and Fischer have always been for government contracts to help out their friends' construction businesses. And now those three want to accept that the oversight had no malice and for us all to forgive and forget.

Maybe that is the thing to do.

I am OK with Chumley's plea of ignorance - he just didn't know that a sole-source, no-bid deal with the borough might not be a good idea for someone appointed to well-paid government post. In this day and age of squeaky-clean Alaskan politicians, who could possibly think there might be a problem?

Yeah, right.

Ignorance is the key word here. How can we justify paying Scooter $90,000+? As I've mentioned several times on this blog, Carey has justified the high salary by saying that is what you have to pay for competence. So, according to Dave, ignorance is competence? What am I missing here?

The PC reports that Chumley may not be all that divested from his business that contract with the borough. Mayor Carey cries about the coverage the newspaper has given. But what did the PC do but report the facts? That is what newspapers are supposed to do - inform the public. Dave, blaming the news media for doing their job is a cheap shot.

So Chumley brought in his cheering session at the last assembly meeting: A finer fellow couldn't possibly exist. But I've heard from others that the roads he has been paid to plow don't get plowed as frequently as they should. Hearsay, of course. But Scooter does a have a few folks that he has crossed.

He and the Mayor should apologize and accept whatever wrist-slap that comes with the transgression. And I am sure all would be happy with that wrist-slap. It is about accepting responsibility.

If CES needs a tire-changing rig, they need to put out a bid request. This is just common-sense. I agree that the borough should give the equipment back to Chumley.

The good-ol' boy method of bypassing the process and having a political appointee making a few bucks on the side just invites trouble.

And it should.

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