Thursday, December 06, 2012

TrooperGate Sequel: The Brother-In-Law

For the record, I didn't vote for SP, but I have to admit I was more-or-less impressed with the first few months of her term as governor. Her downhill slide began with Troopergate and if you remember that scandal, it involved the Kenai when she appointed Chuck Kopp as the head of the Dep't of Public Safety.  Chuck had a few skeletons in his closet, namely having several sex harassment charges brought against him by women who worked for the city of Kenai. He lasted about two weeks on that new job when the news about the charges escaped the gravitational abyss of the Kenai City Council .  I'm not writing now to rehash those memories, but it seems that the current governor has now appointed a former Pennsylvania judge to a state job. That non-Alaskan seems to have used his connection to Chuck Kopp and the christian right in Alaska to get the appointment. Oh, and that ex-judge is under investigation for illegally destroying evidence in a drug case and 16 other criminal cases and has a domestic violence restraining order against him. He was removed as a criminal court judge as a result and resigned shortly afterward. The PA judge in question, Paul Pozonsky, is married to Chuck Kopp's sister, Sarah

Alrighty, let's check out the chain of events.

1) Chuck Kopp was asked to step down as head of DOS after 2 weeks and given $10,000 for the bother.  He then took a law enforcement position in King Salmon for a while.

2) Chuck and his wife are hired by AK Senator Fred Dyson.  Chuck is Dyson's Chief of Staff.

3) There's an opening for a state job, a hearing officer for the AK Dep't of Labor.  Yes, the department that is suppose to promote Alaskan hires.

4) The application process for that job closes.  Interviews are conducted and maybe even some qualified Alaskan was about to be hired.

5) For some reason, the hiring process was re-opened and there was one more applicant, Paul Pozonsky. He got the job despite being from out-of-state, despite being under criminal investigation and despite being in violation of the ethical standards listed for employment for the position.

I guess the Alaska Republican Party is really all about family values, well if you are in the right family.

Check out a PA TV News spot about him here.

Read more about the story at the ADN here or at the Mudflats, here and here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Post Election Post

Alright, SOL has been AWOL, well away on leave actually, but away nonetheless.  I happily missed the whole pre-election madness, but returned in time to vote.  The results were mixed.  Obviously, if you've read any of the posts here before, I was pleased with the way the national election went.  Obama did more than squeak by and dominated the electoral vote.  The Dems added Senate seats and picked up a few House seats.  All of the Republicans who made idiotic comments about rape and female body parts were defeated.

In Alaska, the news wasn't as good.  Redistricting favoring electing Republicans in some areas worked - more republicans were elected to the AK senate. Here on the Peninsula, redistricting wasn't a big factor in the senate race, but the election was over in the primary when Peter Micciche defeated Tom Wagoner.  Of course, most voters here thought that Joe Miller should have won the US Senate seat the last election.

So, the senate coalition of Ds and Rs that held power for the past few sessions is gone and that body is firmly in the grips of Sean Parnell, the oil companies and maybe even the religious right-wing.

It will be interesting to see what Micciche does in Juneau.  Will he be a tool of Conoco-Phillips, the folks that pay him?  Will he support Parnell's no-strings-attached give-away of billions of dollars to the oil companies?  Or will he insist, like the previous coalition, that there should be no breaks without commitments to actually produce.  It will be curious to see what Peter thinks about the future version of HB 9 that would build a very expensive and impractical small-diameter gas line from the slope (and pass the high costs on to consumers)as well as remove any sort of oversight in the planning or construction of it.  Sensibly, the previous senate coalition also opposed that boondoggle.

There's no hope for either Chenault or Olson.  They are both shills for big oil.

There are a couple of curious reads in the electronic world.

The first is a well-written piece by a white, middle-class christian woman and why she voted for Obama.  Read it here.

The next is a fun article in the ADN.  Seems that Canada, our socialist neighbor, is hiring oil field workers.  The country that is pro-union, that has universal health care, that outlawed handguns and has strict gun-control laws, a country that tightly regulates banks and avoided the current recession, that makes the rich pay their fair share of taxes (everyone pays their fair share in fact), where immigrants are welcome, a place where Obama's policies would be aligned with the CONSERVATIVE party, actually has a thriving economy.

So, that about blows all of the right wing hate that I've been seeing on the social media out of the water, doesn't it?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Billy Narkiewicz for State Senate

Reason # 213 while we’re SOL here in SOLdotna is the race for the Alaskan senate seat here in our district.  Only two republicans filed, incumbent Tom Wagoner from Kenai and our own mayor, Peter Micciche from SOLdotna. Democrats were AWOL, so the primary will essentially decide who will represent Big Oil in Juneau. 

Tom has been efficient in his inefficiency as our current guy in Juneau.  Since he refused to join the coalition, he’s been left out of having much influence in the senate, but to his credit, he didn’t completely roll over to the whims of Governor Parnell and Mike Chenault, the Speaker of the CBC. Their assault on ACES failed due to lack of any credible evidence that giving back some $2billion/year to the oil companies would do the state any good and a ton of evidence that things are darn good right now, despite the whine of Big Oil and teabag Rs. 

The race is close as Micciche has campaigned long and hard. He’s almost single-handedly resurrected the timber industry by planting his signs on every bit of bare ground on the Kenai.

Both men are gaffe-prone and that’s good business for bloggers.  Wagoner let himself be photographed palling around with a convicted terrorist, Schaeffer Cox, when that miscreant was down on the peninsula trying to start a well-armed red-neck insurrection a few years ago.  Tom’s campaign flier has him in a cowboy hat with oil derricks in the background. After redistricting, he has to convince Homer that oil is our salvation, he might not understand that the folks south of us kinda like K-Bay as it is.  He hasn't exactly been a friend of the lower peninsula and their quest to get natural gas piped down there either.
Not to be out-done, PM has vowed to take down the senate coalition.  He needs every vote and has been courting Ns and Is to ask for the R ballot when voting and has asked Ds to switch to some other affiliation so they can vote the R ballot.  What is his main priority? To dismantle the senate coalition.  Yes, he has the audacity to say vote for me so I won’t cooperate with you.  Um, Peter, take off your oil-industry glasses.  The coalition is the only check and balance we now have in Alaska.  They are the only ones asking tough questions and not taking malarkey as answers.  Oh, that’s right.  He works for Conoco-Philips. Those oil-industry glasses are permanently attached.

Peter has a nice family and lives on the Peninsula year-round. He's active in fundraising for good causes like the Boys and Girls' Club and Rotary.  Tom likes to play golf Outside for most of the year and signs up for every junket when the senate is in session so he can swing the clubs anywhere but Alaska.

I wonder if Peter is receiving money from Governor Parnellquasi-legal slush fund established to unseat senators who joined the coalition.

I attended a meet and greet for hizzoner, Mr. Micciche the other day and as much as I like the guy and the sincerity he has as mayor, however often misguided (Cemetery & Hutchings Chevrolet), to make SOLdotna a better place to live, there was little common ground. He’s rah-rah for Chenault and Wackers’s HB 9 that would run a bullet line from the slope to tidewater with a spur to Fairbanks. Oh, the state would kick in about $10bilion in corporate welfare to make that happen, then the costs would be passed on to the consumers on the Kenai, Anchorage and the railbelt.  The citizens bear the brunt of the risk and Big Oil reaps the profits.  Oh, Chenault also wants no government oversight for the project, and that was one of the senate coalition’s big objections to the bill.  Thanks goodness.  Look what happened to the budgets of the Port of Anchorage and the valley prison with the absence of oversight. 

Peter supports Parnell’s decision to refuse federal funds to help low-income folks access Medicare.  I truly don’t understand this.  Let’s see, we should restrict the working poor from getting health care? I think we should no longer subsidize the health care of politicians who oppose health care for those who work but are paid low wages.  Maybe no one who makes over $100, 000/year should get state-sponsored health care. If the poor don’t need it, the rich maybe should pay their own way. Peter’s rationale is that he doesn’t want to be told by government he has to pay for something.  Does that mean we shouldn’t pay any taxes, have insurance for our house and car, register our vehicles?  Or does it just mean that you are pandering for the teabag vote and the mentality that we should have it all, but pay for nothing? 

Anyway, unless you’re a registered republican, an independent or non-partisan, you can’t vote in the republican primary.  If you can’t vote in that primary, you have no vote in deciding who will represent you in the state senate..

Well, that’s where Billy Narkiewicz comes in. If you can’t bring yourself to vote for either of the industry tools that are running, vote for BN.  His name is as least as hard to spell as Lisa Murcowskee and she kicked some Tea Bag ass as a write-in candidate. They are still pissed at her.

 And Billy is no RINO.  Well, he’s not a DINO, but rather a KINO. It’s all political theater.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Just Sayin' No

The polls are closed and with just under 600 ballots cast,  60% of the votes were opposed to the City of SOLdotna buying the Hutchings building.  There's about 100 absentee ballots yet to be counted, but even if all of those were in favor of the purchase, it wouldn't make a difference in the outcome.

If any one reason mattered, the rush to vote was probably the issue that torqued quite a few residents: too many questions, not enough time to get all of the answers.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Debbie Brown and the A-Pauling Republicans

So, Randy Ruedrich retired and the CBC Republicans have been ousted from leadership roles by a union of Paulbots and Teabaggers.   Russ Millette is now the Republican Party Chairman.

And now, please sit down and pour yourself a stiff drink, Kasilof's Debbie Brown is co-Chair.
Debbie, who makes former Gov Sarah Palin's word-salad rants seem erudite, somehow convinced the Ron Paul/Joe Miller/TeaBag coalition that she is leadership material.

Or maybe they were aware of the bard's warning:
“Dispute not with her: she is lunatic.” 
 William Shakespeare, Richard III

Anyway, it seems that Ruedrich drained the remaining $100,000 from the Repub's bank account before Russ or Debbie could put their names on the checkbook.

More details can be found here and here.

Debbie has appeared in SOL a few time before.  Check out what she did to earn that notoriety here.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Mike Chenault and Kurt Olson Get Spanked and Sent Home

This year's legislative special session has been very amusing.  The stunning news is that Gov. Parnell abandoned ship after the senate had the audacity to ask some tough questions of Bryan Butcher from the Dep't of Revenue about the Gov's oil tax plan (which was nearly identical to the plan that Chenault and the republicans of the house offered).  Well, Butcher was totally unprepared for almost all of the questions.  No kidding, Parnell said that the senate bullied Butcher when senators wondered what might actually happen if Parnell and the house had their way.

So, Parnell, sulking a bit like his predecessor was so apt to do, yanked the measure from the special session agenda.

The senate, and keep in mind that this body is made up of an across-the-aisle coalition headed by Republican Gary Stevens, responding to this unprecedented action by the governor, decided to gavel out and not even address HB9, Chenault's baby, that would sink about 10 billion state dollars into a natural gas bullet line from the north slope to some point in south central.

Wait a minute, you might wonder, the state is awash in money, shouldn't we help out Alaskan consumers and provide cheap natural gas to the masses?

Well, that's the line of bull that Mike and his peninsula partner in crime, Kurt Olson, would like for you to believe.  The Kenai is awash in voters who think that Joe Miller should be emperor, so Mike and Kurt can and have done whatever they've wanted under the guise of being conservative, pro-development republicans.

The bullet line that Mike and Kurt (and Mike Hawker from Anchorage) are hustling is just another boondoggle.  Mike, the conservative republican, is the boondoggle king of Alaska (Goose Creek Prison, Knik Arm Bridge, Port of Anchorage, the Susitna Dam are just a few of the multi-million and sometimes billion dollar fiascos that have come or are being developed under his watch as Speaker of the House).

Just how is the bullet line a disaster?  Let me count the ways:

1) It bypasses Fairbanks where arguably the need for natural gas is the greatest.  Funny, Parnell is now whining that because HB 9 won't be addressed this session, those in F'banks won't get the gas.  Well, to do so under HB 9, another line would have to be built, and a cleaning station would also have to be built as the gas from the slope is 'wet'. A good overview of the problem is offered here.

2) The state has been investing in natural gas exploration and production in Cook Inlet (Mike's and Kurt's home base).  It seems that the untapped reserves here could be huge.  Having the Fairbanks market would make local development more profitable and still beat the price consumers would have to pay for north slope gas. Oh, and Cook Inlet natural gas is 'dry' and doesn't need a cleansing station.

3) Even conservative estimates of how much consumers would have to be charged for north slope gas from HB 9 is considerably more than either a large diameter pipeline or a line from Cook Inlet to Fairbanks.

4) Mike and Kurt wanted to give the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation a blank check and no legislative oversight - basically an unlimited giveaway of state money.  During the regular session, the senate took its fiduciary responsibilities a bit more seriously and stripped the bill of that provision and others that would have prevented anyone from examining the records of AGDC. Seriously, Mike and Kurt were ready to give away billions and take away the ability of the state to even ask questions about where the money was going.

So, it's done for another year.  Sean, Mike and Kurt got spanked and sent home.

Thankfully there are some smart folks in the senate.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

May Day Vote Update

Addendum: The Redoubt Reporter article about the Hutchings Property and Chamber of Commerce Building is worth reading.

After talking to some folks in the know, I am less inclined to believe that a sweetheart deal was made between the City of Soldotna, the Chamber of Commerce and the Hutchings family for the purchase of the dealership building.

When the Hutchings property came up for sale and the Chamber decided that this might be a good place to expand, they approached the city of Soldotna with the idea of buying it.  The original asking price was beyond what the council and mayor could support.  The next step gets a little fuzzy, but from what I understand, the Hutchings family offered the property in the range of the $2.1 million that the city eventually agreed to accept with voter consent.

Understandably so, when a small town negotiates for property, it is difficult to maintain transparency but not tip off a potential seller what the maximum amount the buyer (in this case the city) is willing to spend.

What has been lost on the City (the council and the mayor) and the Chamber, is that in their zeal to acquire the Hutchings building, perhaps there were some missteps.

1) Should another appraisal have been done considering the price difference between the borough assessment and the only appraisal actually done (which was $2.8 million, pretty much exactly the original price that the Hutchings family wanted)?

2) The city engineer did an estimate of how much it would cost to bring the building up to code, but this wasn't finished until 3 weeks ago.  If the Hutchings building has been considered for at least a year and half, wouldn't this have been good info to have a while ago? Did this repair estimate come before the price of purchase was fixed?  I don't know.

3) I still have had no official explanation of why there is a need of a special election.  While the building may have been considered for a while, movement on it didn't happen until recently.  Is there a bank foreclosing? Not to be too callous, but if this is the case, the city might have been able to get the building for a lower price from either the Hutchings or from the bank.  Is there another potential buyer? Well, maybe having another business come to Soldotna is better than having some commercial property taken off of the market.  It does seem that the hurried special election makes for a low voter turnout and keeps people from getting all of the information needed to make an informed decision.

4) How serious have the city and the chamber really been to find a new site?  Didn't the chamber sell some land over by Good Time Charlie's not too long ago?  Heck, what about just buying Good Time Charlie's - it's the perfect location for the VC?  Not too long ago, the Mullins family was looking at selling the bookstore property  - that could be a good site and there's already a traffic light there. A little while ago, the former Nightwatch/Tides Restaurant was sold.  The building next to Beemans is vacant.  For that matter, why not figure out how to better use the Sports Center?  It is certainly big enough for a convention and visitor center, there's plenty of parking and it's in a nice setting. The 2.8 million that the city (and including the $250K the chamber has offered to kick in) is going to spend on the Hutchings building can buy and build/remodel a lot. At the very least, the city should have designed what it wanted, got some figures, and with that ballpark figure, see what could be bought and remodeled for an equivalent price.  If there was nothing, maybe put the plans before the voters and build something new.

While I am not convinced that the city has made the best deal, I am more comfortable with the knowledge that it wasn't a back-door deal.  After the financial fiasco of the Sports Center (that costs the city around $1000 a day in lost revenues), we should be careful how we spend our money.

So, for me, the decision on how to vote comes down to weighing the benefits of what we will get: a spiffy hall that can double as the visitor center and as a cultural/meeting center vs, well, not having a cultural/meeting center at this time.

By the way, if there are CoC folks reading this, your newsletter describing fallout for a NO vote are all kind of lame.  Not one fact at all and maybe a bit of misinformation:

No change..?  Well, sometimes no change is good.
No future expansion of a community conference center..? Really,  if we don't buy this now, like never in a million years will be able to buy, remodel or build something?
No revitalization of the proposed property..? Again, like never in a million years?
No additional parking and infrastructure at the Soldotna Creek Park? Well, shuttle buses and legs still are an option.  When the traffic light is put in, that will open up parking on Birch St. What more infrastructure is needed at the park?

Actually,  a No vote just means 
1) That the city doesn't spend upwards of $2.8 million at this time.
2) The CoC deals with the small space and access issues (did anyone ask DOT to take the VC into consideration when it redid that intersection?  A traffic circle might have been the best option). 
3) If the city and CoC wants a convention/cultural center, that it goes through a more rigorous public process.

Monday, April 16, 2012

May Day, May Day - Corporate Welfare in SOLdotna Day?

There's a special election on May 1.  We SOLdotnans get to vote to give the city permission to buy the Hutchings' dealership on the Sterling Hwy for $2.1 million.  If we vote to buy the property, the SOldotna Visitor center will be moved from the cabin on south side of the bridge to the dealership.

Above and beyond the price of purchase, the city engineer did an analysis of estimated costs to bring the building up to code, to fix some things that are needing repaired, and to ready the building for occupancy.  That figure comes in around $570K for the upper estimate just to bring the building up to code. That does not include up to $170K more to put in a sprinkler system and to cover unknown problems that might come up.  The total price could be in the neighborhood $2.8 million.  The Chamber of Commerce says that they will pay up to $250K for repairs needed for occupancy.

Some things to consider.

1) The borough assessment for the property is $1.4 million.  Should we be paying almost a million dollars more than assessment for a building that could need $3/4 million dollars in repairs?  To be fair, a private company appraised the value of the property to be close to the selling price.  Does that mean that I should expect to sell my house in Soldotna for 50% more than the borough assesment? Maybe we need another couple of opinions.  Are there are other interested buyers?  Hutchings is a failed business, we are essentially bailing them out of that business.  If we wanted this property, wouldn't it be a better business practice to offer something below borough appraisal and see what happens?

2) Why are we voting on this so soon?  Shouldn't there be some public question and answer sessions town hall style meetings so the public can become more informed?  We have some other elections coming up soon (maybe you've heard that there's a presidential race this fall), why not schedule the vote during an already scheduled voting session?  Just how much is it going to cost to hold the special election? Having a special election in early May guarantees a low voter turnout and with a handful of folks going to the polls, it's much easier to sway the results.

3) What is the plan for the existing Visitor Center property?  It's prime river-front/highway property and the borough assessment is about $390K.  Will that property be sold (for a million dollars more than the borough assessment?) and the funds used to offset the purchase price of the Hutchings property? Is there already a potential buyer?

4)There are advantages to relocating the Visitor Center to the center of town - more visibility and proximity to the Soldotna Creek Park, but the Hutchings site poses just as many access problems as the current site.  Those exiting the site and wishing to turn south will have difficulties crossing the northbound traffic lanes in the summer.

5)The Hutchings building does offer some potential benefits aside from an expanded visitors' center. It's large enough to double as an arts and cultural showcase.

The Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, the beneficiaries of the move,  will offer an overview of this proposal tomorrow (Tuesday April 17) at noon at Frosos.  Work prevents me from showing up, but if you are at all concerned, consider attending.

The Chamber has an info sheet about the purchase buried on their website.  You can get see it by clicking here.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Click To Enlarge Mike Chenault's Ego

I think I need the click to reduce option

It's the end of another legislative session and there's another showdown between the Alaska Senate and the House on ACES reform.  House Speaker, Mike Chenault, had the bill his branch of the legislature passed,  re-worked by the senate.  The house bill was the $2 billion/year giveaway to the major oil companies; the senate throwback to him just addressed giving credits to companies that would increase production but the senate version kept most of the rest of ACES intact.

Armstrong Oil & Gas Inc., one of Alaska’s new independent oil producers was in favor of the Senate version.  Mike didn't even allow the house to vote on the bill the senate sent over, but rather used a procedural ruse that prevented it from even getting out of the Rules Committee. Soldotna's representative in the house, Kurt Olson, was Chenault's partner in this latest attempt to give away state money to the richest corporations in the world.

A few years back, Mike proudly wore his CBC  (Corrupt Bastards' Club) cap.  He's presided over the House during some of the most stunning financial fiascoes in state history (Goose Creek Prison, the Port of Anchorage, the Knik Arm bridge, etc).  He gave himself a back-door raise with a bill that let legislatures pocket the money that was allocated for office expenses, and has gone golfing in the lower 48 on the state dime.

Just what are his qualifications to have such a powerful position in the state?  Well, he's got a high school diploma.

He has no background in finances, in petroleum engineering, or economics.  Well, he does represent Nikiski and I guess that might explain it all. 

Mike is simply a tool for Conoco Phillips.  The version of tax reform he is trying to push through comes with no strings attached.  The majors have pledged to do some development if the House version passes, but aside from loose figures far below the credit they would be given, there is no language requiring them to invest the money back in Alaska.

And Chenault (and Olson and Gov Parnell) think this is reform?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Ray Southwell: I Need Big Government to Help Fight Big Government

AP photo
So, Alaska Citizens' Militias second-in-command, Ray Southwell, and sworn enemy of Big Government and anything not in the Constitution, got his ass fired a while ago from CPGH. He was a constant cry-baby according to SOLdotnans working there.

What's a whacked conspiracy nut to do?

Well, go to the National Labor Relations Board, a branch of the despised Big Government that Ray wants to take down, and ask them to take up your cause. Read about it here.

WTF?!? So, Ray, you need big government protection so you can take down big government?  Stand tall, Patriot.  You don't need no stinking federal regulations. No, Sir.  Let the market decide.

Well, unless the market decides that you make a lousy employee.  Then it's time to thank your camo bible that the Supreme Commander in the Sky works in mysterious ways. Oh, or maybe it's just your way of infiltrating the commie pinko, tree-hugging NLRB.  Do you wear your strap-on device (aka peace maker), when you meet with your advocate?  Do you want to plug him as he plugs for you?

It's not unlike the ACT folks who decry every penny of tax, yet are the first to call up Soundoff to whine when their roads aren't plowed.  Or like Mrs Ted Spraker who publicly denounces Obamacare while she is covered by socialized medical insurance.

Folks here on the Kenai are against government until they need it.

Then they are against it when someone else might legitimately need it.

Or in Ray's case, he wants to destroy it.

But first, he needs it.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Politics and Oil. Why We Pay So Much At the Pump

Remember Walt Kelly, the creator of the comic strip Pogo? 
Resolve then, that on this very ground, with small flags waving and tinny blast on tiny trumpets, we shall meet the enemy, and not only may he be ours, he may be us. (1953)

Gas Prices are high?

1) Aside from countries that are mega oil producers like Venezuela where the price is kept ridiculously low so that corrupt politicians and populist dictators will get the vote/support of the masses, the US still pays some of the lowest gasoline prices in the developed world.

2) The US consumes more oil per capita than any other nation.  Really, where else on the planet do you see the general populace use huge V-8s and 10s as commuting vehicles, not take public transport, refuse to walk or ride a bike and live so far from where they work? How many folks here in AK leave their car running when they go into a store to shop? Why are there still tax breaks for companies that buy gas-guzzlers? Why do we give tax breaks to those with huge houses and the resulting excess fuel consumption? Where else does recreation mean fill the tank of my (fill in the blank)?  We get charged so much because we will pay it.  Somehow we Americans have developed this sense of entitlement.  We're suppose to have it all - but no one anywhere else on the planet is allowed to participate in such wanton waste. That fantasy is over. Forever. 

I saw a lady with a "Don't Tread on Me" decal on the largest Suburban I've ever seen, pumping gas at Fred Meyers not too long ago. Maybe that rig got 6 MPG. Maybe. She had a little baby in the car seat. No one else was with her.  It was a classic "What's Wrong With America?" moment. Don't let the feds mess with me was her decal's message, yet she griped that the gov't wasn't doing anything about the high price of gas as she was wasting gas.  WTF?!?

3)We elect politicians who are quick to go to war - especially in the middle east. So, exactly why did we invade Iraq? Raise your hand if you think it's a good idea for the US or Israel to bomb Iran. 

4) The US is becoming less and less a factor on the global market.  How fast are the Chinese and Indian economies growing?  How many cars did they have 20 years ago? 

5) Capitalism is all about making money.  Those who are making a fortune are just doing what the market lets them do. Of course, by not regulating speculation, by letting oil companies dictate our foreign policy, by cutting the companies every tax break possible and by feeding our addictions as if the fantasy could go on forever, we game the system to our own disadvantage.

But, somehow giving the oil companies in AK $2 billion/year kickbacks with absolutely no commitment for anything is our duty?  OK, raise your hand other hand if you voted for Sean Parnell, Tom Wagoner, Mike Chenault, or Kurt Olsen because that is what they are all about.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The Three Oil Stooges of the Kenai

I think it might be cheaper if we sent all of the legislatures out of state during the short 90 day session.

Especially the 3 that represent the north central Kenai Peninsula. The more they are away, the less damage they will do. 

Tom is in DC now, preaching to the Drill, Baby Drill crowd.  No new converts.

The few hundred thousand we spend sending these guys to far away places, means the fewer corporate giveaways these guys love to create. The republicans also spend like crazy too - the Port of Anchorage, the valley prison, the Knik Arm bridge and the Susitna dam are just a few of the projects with costs projected (or already spent) in the billions.  Go figure, there had have been cost over-runs and no oversight. How is this a good business for Alaska?  

Once again, there's a showdown over ACES. The senate, with a coalition of several old-school republicans and most all of the democrats, are reluctant to bend over for the bill the governor and house wants - the one that will give $2 Billion/year back to the oil companies with no promise of production. Well, aside from a vague pledge to invest $5 billion if we gave them $10 billion. Trying to make a wise decision, the senate is relying on figures from the AK Dep't of Revenue and by recommendations of independent oil tax specialists.

Read this expose about oil tax myths by the Ak Dispatch Here for Part 1 and here for Part 2.

Tom Wagoner has been sitting the fence - he didn't vote in favor of the Senate's proposal, which would have modestly decreased the profit tax in exchange for minimal rates if prices ever go down. But he's also on record saying he wouldn't vote for a 2 billion dollar giveaway that didn't come with significant development promises by the major players.

Mike and Kurt are tools of the industry of course.  Despite the sane and objective evidence that the current tax structure is not really a problem, they want to gift the industry.

Seriously, I think they should go to Nigeria and see what the reality of what they want really looks like: corruption, pollution and exploitation.

90 days might be the right amount of time. I'm sure there's a well-guarded golf course there.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Kenai Sucks (off of the Federal Gov't Teat)

In case you haven't figured it out, there's a slight left-of-center bent to the ramblings on this blog. Yep, I'm a do-good, bleedin'-heart, tree-huggin' liberal.  Treating others like you want to be treated and cleaning up your mess are the basic philosophies that guide what I say and do.  What's so funny about peace, love and understanding?

And here I am smack in middle of the land of ACT,  the Nikiski Militia, SoundOff and KSRM, tea-baggers galore and a population that voted overwhelmingly for Joe Miller, one of the sleaziest, most hypocritical, bullies to come around these parts since Jerry Ward. You know, Joe the lawyer and tea bag favorite who applied for a hardship hunting and fishing license while he was paying a contractor $280,000 to build his house.  The same Joe who was collecting a federal gov't subsidy for farmland in Kansas while blasting federal spending. (BTW, did you see that Joe is going to run for Mark B's US Senate seat in 2014?)

Anyhoo, one would think my fellow Kenai Peninsula residents would spit in the eye of taking any sort of federal aid.  Don't Tread On Me! Cut the entitlements to welfare queens and illegal immigrants.

But then I saw this chart published in the NYTimes that broke down the amount of Federal assistance we Americans receive by county.

Well, seems a lot of the welfare queens are right here in river city and the rest of the peninsula. 

Nationwide, the average person receives around 17.5% of their personal income from federal handouts.  Here on the Kenai, it's 19.25% of the per capita income for a total of more than $7,800 each per man, woman and child. 

Wait, you might think that because we have a high percentage of retirees, it's just the old folks getting back the money they paid in. Actually, local SSI  payouts come in just under the national average.

I don't begrudge anyone who is desperately in need of assistance. Remember, I'm a liberal and I'm down with what Jesus said: What you do to the least of these, you do to me.

But I guess I have a problem with the folks who collect the dough and then shoot their mouths off about how we have a welfare state.  I'm reminded of Mrs Ted Spraker who stood up during Murkowski's town hall meeting at the Sports Center about the health care bill. She railed against the socialism of government health care, but carefully omitted the fact that she herself has health care funded by taxpayers. 

The accompanying news story in the NYTimes also notes that an increasing number of people who accept government handouts are the same ones who complain about all of the people getting government handouts. And a lot of them claim they don't really need it.

Just for the record, this liberal, tree-hugging leftie receives exactly $0 in federal handouts.   My taxes are carrying a lot of your asses.  If you are truly in need, good luck to you and I hope your life gets better.

If you are raking in the handouts and are voting for Republicans, supporting the tea party, and bashing Obamacare, have some dignity and integrity and don't bite the hand that feeds you.  Of course, the official republican motto in Alaska is the same one they have at 'Koot's bar in Anchorage: We cheat the other guy and pass the savings on to you.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Junkets and Taxes: The Politics of Juneau

By law, the legislative session is just 90 days long and once again, Mike Chenault has scheduled another golf trip, oh, I mean lobbying trip to DC during a week of that already short session.  You might remember that last year, just before the crucial vote on oil taxes, Mike skipped out to play golf in Atlanta, saying he was attending some country-wide state leadership conference. Um, there's no evidence that he attended any meetings that weren't held on the links. 

The leadership group really doesn't schedule any meetings, well meetings that the various state legislatures from around the country actually attend. It's a vacation club on the government dime.  Golf last year, fishing and sight-seeing ANWR this year.

The DC junket that Chenault is going on this time is officially to lobby to open ANWR, but of course, Alaska pays lobbyists to do just that.  Mike and the other legislatures that are going are not talking to the press about what they did or will actually do. When's T-time Mike?

SOL has not been kind to another of our local politicos, Tom Wagoner.  But maybe that attitude will change  a little. Tom is working on the senate re-write of the ACES tax scheme.  Much to his credit, he didn't roll over like the industry lapdogs, Chenault and Kurt Olson during last year's session.  It will be curious to see the bill that does come out of the senate.  I'm sure you've all aware of the record profits the big 3 oil companies made last year, despite being taxed to death like the governor insists.

The ADN has a good piece about the debate here. Stay informed.  The oil in the ground belongs to us, not the oil companies.  I don't understand why we need to charge less than the going rate to companies that are so, so profitable.  That is not a good business decision and don't we want government run like a business?

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Hospital/Kahtnu Problem: Either Way We're SOL

I was having a hard time trying to make up my mind about the Kahtnu/CPGH  situation.  I can easily see the merits of both sides.  Competition does help the consumer’s bottom line.  But there is the truth that the hospital is able to offer a full service, including those procedures that will never be profitable, because other services might be more profitable and can cover those other costs. Lose those profitable services and the price of everything else either goes up, or the service goes away.

Maybe it’s easy to be callous.  If you don’t need the service, why pay?  But it is often luck that calls those shots.  Every time someone has to hold a bake sale, spaghetti feed or something to help out someone with medical needs (and often that person in need is a child), I am embarrassed that we live in a society that accepts that practice as being just fine.

Oh, and then there's insistence that tax rates are lower for the rich than what we working people pay.  The result..?

More bake sales. We all know that the proceeds of these fund-raisers don't make a dent in the staggering debt people incur.

We are forced to seek out bargains and places like Kahtnu make sense.  But it is shortsighted to then make it harder for those, who through no fault of their own, can’t afford treatment, so the hospital point of view is also valid.

There is only one solution.  Medicine should not be a for-profit business; just like police, firefighters and paramedics are not for-profit.  The cost of medical care is never going to be manageable as long as everyone at the top in the trade, from doctors to pharmaceuticals to insurers, can make huge profits.

And it comes at our expense.  We pay for it with exorbitant health insurance costs, high deductibles, huge medical bills and taxes.  One way or another we pay for it all.

I can chose not to buy a stereo if I think prices are too high.  We have no choice with medicine. What’s the option when you are in pain or sick… to die or to be in pain?  Of course we’ll pay. Or we’ll be in pain or we’ll die and that does happen here.

Pulling numbers from the thin air just for example, say CPGH total expenses are $20 million a year, that includes all salaries and benefits, supply and maintenance costs and whatever, they have to charge at least that much in fees.  If they lose one component that makes more money than another, they would have to raise the fees charged for those procedures.  The price of services keeps spiraling up and we are forced to pay even more insurance premiums, higher fees and higher deductibles.  Each and everyone of us has had this happen to us already.

Until there is universal, single-payer health coverage in the US and until medicine is run like the service it morally should be - -equally for all - - those who stand to profit from our vulnerability will screw the consumer. 

It already happens.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Board of Gaming the System: Managing Wildlife for the 1%

Before you dismiss this post as the opinion of a Bambi-loving extremest greenie,  just for the record I'm a multiple gun owner who has hunted caribou, moose, deer and various winged critters. I think that if you eat meat or wear any sort of animal product (including leather), it is nothing sort of hypocritical to be opposed to hunting.  Fine if you choose not to do so, but don't expect me to do the same.  I believe in the freedom of and from any sort of religion and that includes most any rigid political or social dogma.

There is a certain tragic beauty in the natural balance of nature. No matter if the predator is human or beast, hunting is essential to that balance.

On the Kenai right now there's an overpopulation of arctic hares and feral bunnies.  Besides making it darn near impossible to take your dog for a walk off-leash, there's plenty of snacks for predators - - especially lynx.  As this year's lynx have a feast, these well-fed cats will lose few of their own kind to starvation. Since more lynx will survive, there will be more offspring.  This trend will continue for a couple of years until enough fluffy bunnies have been consumed that there aren't enough of them to sustain the lynx. Some of these predators will begin to starve and the downward spiral begins again until there aren't enough lynx to keep the little hoppers from breeding, well, like rabbits. And the cycle goes on and on. 

That same pattern is part of the balance of predators and moose. Because moose breed, well, like moose, the cycle of feast and famine takes longer to phase through.

Humans are part of that natural cycle; we have been since we evolved. 

If there is something beyond nourishment, warmth and art that comes from harvesting wild game, it is the challenge of matching ones skills to the terrain, the weather, and the deadly smarts of our wolf and bear competitors.  Some years are lean for all involved. We humans have the luxury of stopping off at a store on the way home, so unsuccessful hunts don't thin our ranks.  If you haven't noticed, there's an overpopulation thing happening on the planet. With more people, there are more hunters and more of a demand for prey.  Not everyone will be successful. Get over it. Those who aren’t successful have a few options. They can keep at it and hone their skills and patience. They can find another hobby and in that way thin the ranks of human predators, or they can get appointed to the Board of Game and game the system, so that their big-game hunting guide cronies can bring in rich outside trophy hunters and guarantee them a kill.

That is the agenda of the Board of Game with their recent decisions to expedite aerial predator control on the Kenai and many other places around the state.

In making their decision about the Kenai, the BoG chose to ignore the 300+ moose killed in traffic collisions here.  Meat harvested from these accidents is eaten by Alaskans.  Although not hunted with a gun or bow, a dead and harvested moose is a dead and harvested moose.  When these moose are added to the numbers that hunters get, the yield for the Kenai is very plentiful.

The Rossi scandal is exposing the depths of how political cronyism coupled with blatant personal unethical practices have made Alaska wildlife management decisions become based on what is best for big game guides of rich outsiders.

Let’s begin with Ted Spraker, a central peninsula resident, former Fish and Game biologist and Safari Club member.  Ted admits that habitat is the most important factor when it comes to moose populations; in the log run, a habitat can only support so many moose.  In area 15A the moose population is slightly lower than the habitat can support, and in Area 15C there are slightly more than average as the habitat is much better there. Both well within what is normal for their different stages of habitat flux.  15A hasn’t had a major wildfire for decades and there just isn’t enough browse to support significantly more moose.

Despite Spraker’s awareness of this, he is looking for a short-term boost to the moose populations.  Why?  Well, the spin is that they want more moose meat on the table of Alaskans.  Ted knows that that the aerial hunting of predators will not significantly increase the success of Alaskan hunters. 

If there was a concern about the number of moose for ordinary Alaskans, how come the Board of Game has never considered reducing the number of rich Outside game and trophy hunters that guides bring in? Professional hunting guides do have skills and their clients are more successful than the average Alaskan.  And make no mistake, non-subsistence urban and Outside hunters take most of the game in any given management area.

There’s certainly a legitimate debate if subsistence users should have priority with hunting rights.  In my mind, they absolutely should.  In bush Alaska, the grocery store is nature.  In Kenai and Anchorage, we have Fred Meyers and Safeway. 

Preserving ones way of life is a legitimate consideration however, but ethical decisions must be made. I don’t understand the arrogance of thinking that someone who does not depend on hunting to survive should have as much access to the resource as someone whose life does.  Once subsistence needs are met and then if there is enough game left to satisfy recreational Alaskan hunters, only then you should you allow rich Outside sport and trophy hunters to get their trigger locks off.

Each and every current Board of Game member is tied in some way or another to big game hunting guides.  There is no balance on the board – each and every one was appointed by governors as a favor to the big game guide lobbyists.

The recent Corey Rossi scandal is exposing some of the arrogance that these political appointees practice.  While Rossi is not on the BoG, he was the director of the Alaska Division of Wildlife Conservation and just got busted for violating hunting rules and lying about it. In addition, Rossi and current BoG Chairman Cliff Judkins and then-Game Board member Bob Bell of Anchorage went on a subsistence musk ox hunt. Yeah, that’s right, none of these nimrods depend on musk ox to live, but they had a subsistence permit.  The permit rules state that you must destroy the  horns.  That rule is there to keep those just interested in a trophy from killing the animal under the guise of subsistence.  Well Judkins and crew tried to bully a lowly F&G biologist to make an exception for them. They wanted trophies.  The biologist refused to play along. They tried to use their power to break the rules. 

Rossi and his kind have abused their special perks of obtaining trophy permits by giving them to Outside hunting lobby groups such as the Sarfari Club to auction off for fund raisers for those organization.  More meat for rich outsiders, less for Alaskans. 

The BoG is about special privileges for guides,  the connected and the rich. 

The BoG took public input about introducing aerial predator control on the Kenai and a whopping 92% of the testimony was against the practice.  Yet the Board’s decision to expedite the slaughter  was unanimous. 
The BoG has an agenda that isn’t tied to facts, ethics, public opinion or sound wildlife management practices. Why does that seem acceptable to the Governor? Why is this OK?

Reason 738 why we’re SOL.

The Alaska Dispatch has had an excellent series of reports about these scandals.  I hope you are reading them:

Smart Alaska Game Board decisions drowned out by bad calls

New allegations surface against disgraced former Alaska wildlife chief

Alaska Board of Game shows affection for any predator control program

State is playing an unscientific game

And some related links:

Aerial control

Political science at Alaska Fish and Game

Rossi investigators examine signature of Kenai hunting guide

This is old, but still applies:

End Aerial Wolf Hunting

Read more here:

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Dems: Let's Save some $; The Reps: Let's be Somewhat Frugal

Oh, the crazy world of Alaskan politics.  We elect republicans because they are fiscal conservatives and scorn democrats because they love to spend.

There are a series of bills before the new legislative session and included are several, all sponsored by democrats, that would force the state to save a sizable chunk of the state's growing wealth.  Included in the bills is SB142 sponsored by Johnny Ellis of ANC which would transfer $2 billion additional dollars into the Permanent Fund and another $2 Billion to a fund whose investment gains would then pay down the state's pension debt.  While there is some bipartisan support in the senate, there seems to be no traction among Republicans in the state house, including Mike Chenault and Curt Olson, the central peninsula's representatives in the state house.  Mike's comment was simply that he didn't think that lawmakers should be mandated to put money aside.

WTF?  The last time the politicians added anything to the PFD that they weren't already mandated to do, it was 1985.  If they are not required to save, and Mike's a great example of why this happens, money goes to boondoggles. I've written about the tremendous wastes at the Goose Creek Prison and the Port of Anchorage that came while Mike was in the leadership role in the state house.  Better grab your Xtratufs because the slime will continue when the money gets released for the Susitna Dam and the Knik Arm Bridge.  Mike feels entitled to go play golf and go on international junkets on the government dime.  And what do we get?  We're just SOL.

So, do you want the politicians to spend the money, or do you think it might be better if the citizens spent it?  More $ in the Permanent Fund = more $ for us. If you think it might be better for us to have money to spend, start voting for some Democrats.

Hey, the Dems HAVE to prove that they are really fiscally conservative in this state, or else they couldn't get elected in a union hall. The republicans, especially the ones we elect from the peninsula are all about talking the R talk, but playing good-ole-boys (or corrupt bastards) and enriching their friends at our expense.

Mike Doogan, another D, has a bill that would put a one-time $10 Billion deposit in the PF. Another bill sponsored by Bill Wielechowski, a D from Anchorage, would cap the spending from oil-generated funds each year and mandate that 2/3 of the excess would have to be saved.  If Wielechowski's bill passes, the proposal to save would go before the voters. 

Remember Steve Cowper - he was governor quite a few years back and he proposed an educational permanent fund.  The state would set that up like the PFD, but the profits from that would have been used for education.  Forever.  What happened to that?  The Rs that controlled both the Alaskan senate and house shot that down.

Because they are fiscal conservatives?

Yeah, right...

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Trophy Hunt!

Back in November, I wrote about Bob Ermold's opinion piece in the PC about predator control.  Bob got all slobbery about the wisdom of Corey Rossi, the unqualified director of the State of Alaska's Division of Wildlife Conservation. Corey was originally selected by then Gov Sarah Palin to run the AK Dep't of Fish and Game, but he was not appointed after a near-revolution in the department based on his lack of a degree or appropriate experience.  So, the special job he has now was created for just him.  Since then, he's been sort of promoting his own big-game guide services. Apparently conflicts of interests mean nothing to those who approve of his desire to kill every wolf and bear in AK.

Well, ole Corey is in a heap of trouble.  Apparently, an independent investigation by the state troopers has shown that this guy, who is suppose to conserve wildlife, has violated state hunting laws and lying to the cops and has just been slapped with 12 counts of illegal guiding.

Read more about the charges at the Alaska Dispatch and Craig Medred's follow-up piece here. Seems that one of the things Rossi lied about in the investigation was that he was working for Kenai guide, Joe Dilley.

I wonder if there are bag limits on unqualified head of state departments?  Well, since the Murkowski/Palin/Parnell governorships, that would be the head of nearly every department.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Updated:Things That Don't Suck in Soldotna

New Year's Day, 2012: a time to appreciate the place where I live.  Please add your comments about the good things Soldotna has going for it..Here's my start:

1) Tsalteshi Trails - this winter cross-country ski/summer running and biking trail system is a gem not only for Soldotna, but for Alaska.  Get out there and get fit!
2) Maybe it's just me, but I love the bridge and the lights - the color-changing side lights in the winter just make me happy every time I cross.  I think the DOT should have a volunteer light-controller who can creatively program the lights...
3) Kaladi Brothers Coffee Shops- both are great places to sip and chat.
4) The Kenai River Brewery - stop and have a pint with Inebriata!
5) St Elias Brewpub - Soldotna became so much more livable when St Elias opened! I usually boycott businesses which overtly push ultra-conservative politics, but the food and beer are good.
6) River City Books - they have a good collection of books and it's a great spot for lunch.
7) Soldotna Creek Park - the annual Kenai RiverFest is held here, there's a weekly farmers and craft market in the summer  new kiddie park and now the Kenai Watershed Forum has its office there too.  Once the Birch St light and crossing is improved, this will be even a better place to visit.
8) The Moose Refuge - trail system and Headquarters Lake.  If you haven't snow shoed or skied out here, you are missing out on one of Soldotna's prettiest places!

C'mon now...what makes Soldotna special for you?

Large Visitor Globe