Saturday, December 21, 2013

Pay Raids for Parnell and Co

He was for it before he was against it, but Gov Sean Parnell and cronies, despite huge budget deficits and declining oil productions, will get a nice pay raise for 2014 unless the legislature acts to prevent it. Representatives Gara from Anchorage and Kawasaki of Fairbanks have promised to do just that, but unless the bill they propose to write can be fast-tracked and pass both houses, the raises will be automatic.

I have an idea, let's tie executive salaries to performance.

Start with $0

If test scores for all of Alaskan children go up significantly, give him $25,000. Tack on an additional $25 K if dropout rates decline.

If there is a significant reduction in domestic violence, give him another $25K. If sexual assaults in villages can be reduced, throw in another $25K.

For every village that adds windmills to their power grid, that would be $5K.

For every village that gets water and sewage, give him another $5K.

For balancing the budget without tapping into savings, give him $25K.

For increasing production in the oil pipeline, that would be worth another $25K.

If he were to be paid for his accomplishments, he could earn well over $200K and it would be well-worth the money. But just how much would he be paid if his pay was tied to what he has actually accomplished so far? Well, $0.  And that's about what this Captain deserves. Each commissioner should also have their pay tied to benchmarks set for their departments too.

There has been one pleasant surprise when it comes to sneaky pay schemes our politicians manage to provide for themselves, legislatures will no longer be allowed to pocket their unspent office supply money. Mike Chenault was behind this back-door pay raise and he and our other central peninsula representative, Kurt Olson, have mysteriously had no office expense money for the past few years.  So the two just cashed these checks meant for pencils, staples and etc.  Oh, and it's not pocket change we're talking about. Both Chenault and Olson claimed all of $16,000 house members have been allotted - and have pocketed all of their 'office expenses' ever since Chenault and company allowed themselves to do so.

Tom Wagoner, our senator before Peter Micciche, claimed $10,000 of the $20,000 allotted to that branch. The figures for 2013 and the amount Micciche might have taken home, are not yet available.

And yet teachers have to dip into their pay to make up for supplies. Legislatures will still get reimbursed for expenses, but now must provide receipts that they actually spent the money on office supplies. I wonder if cigarettes, booze and big macs will be counted as office expenses.

Legislature creature comforts are still on tap. There's the newly renovated LIO office in Anchorage that will cost us over $280,000/month compared to the old offices which cost about a fifth of that, around $57,000/month.

And don't forget about Chenault's spiffy new outdoor smoking lounge he had installed in Juneau.

Why do we keep electing these guys?

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oily Politics - Breaking the Bank in Alaska

I don't think that anyone with a shred of integrity is at all surprised by the recent budget fiasco Alaska's republicans have brought about.

Let's start with Gov Parnell's oil tax giveaway spearheaded by our own state senator, Peter Micciche. According to the latest report by the Department of Revenue, the state will see a 38% decline of oil production for at least the next 10 years. So much for the oil tax giveaway spurring production.  And then the lower tax rate that the major oil companies were given have led to a near $2 Billion reduction in revenues just this year alone. Sure, the price of oil dipped a little, but not nearly to the extent to cause such a massive revenue hit. Read more here and here. Parnell got a little tripped up at a press conference last week when someone asked him to explain his statement that the new tax bill would bring about the same as ACES when oil is at the price it is now, over a hundred a barrel. The Department of Revenue said that the price would have to fall below $80. Parnell said someone showed him the figures, but he couldn't explain the math. Right.

Then there's the budget. The latest one for 2014 is operating at $3 Billion deficit. For 2013, Parnell had promised a $3.7 surplus. Wrong. Right now it's almost $400 Million in the red and all the bills are not in. How to make up for the difference? Well, tap the savings, of course. Gee, pretty much everyone who was opposed to the oil tax give-away figured out that busting the bank was what the Parnell's, Chenault's and Micciche's wanted to do. Lo, and behold. How long will it be before the PFD is tapped and a state tax is re-instated?

Still in the budget is seed money for some of Parnell's pet projects - $36 million for roads to the resources (the tab for these projects to proceed will be in the billions) and $10 million for the Susitina Dam (and that will be another billion+ dollar project if that goes through).

Cutting the University of Alaska system will be a priority. Can't be having educated people hanging around the state.

On the positive side, Parnell did say he wanted to begin paying down the state unfunded retirement obligation. But that too will come from savings.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

HB 77 - Fast Tracking the Destruction of a Salmon Stream

I'm willing to accept that reasonable people can disagree about most things and I think it's a good to be open to divergent ideas. On Monday evening, state senator Peter Micciche held a town-hall meeting at the borough building in Soldotna and brought along Ed Fogels, a deputy commissioner at the Alaska Department of Natural Resources and Cora Campbell, the commissioner of the department of Fish and Game to present the state's argument for trying to have HB 77 become state law.

But from the get-go, it was obvious that the concept of Integrity does not compute with many of our elected and appointed officials. 

Mr Fogels, stated that the bill came from the regular folks in the DNR in an attempt to streamline the permitting process to 'advance the public interest'. He talked about how backlogged the DNR was in granting permits, but almost in the next second, he admitted that they've been able to reduce the wait time quite a bit. What he didn't mention was that the court, responding to Gov. Parnell and the state's argument that it didn't have the personnel to deal with permitting was BS. I think that Mr. Fogel was hoping he was dealing with an ill-informed crowd as he glossed over the scary parts of HB 77. But every person who came forth to testify about 77, called him on the intent and the language of the bill. 

For her part, Cora Campbell, who does not have a background in fish or wildlife research or management, assured the crowd that just because HB 77 would allow for private citizens to be ignored and salmon streams to be raped, Fish and Game would at least do their part to review any permit that might allow that. 

Conspicuous by their absence were representatives Mike Chenault and Kurt Olson, who both voted for the bill. Neither really have the stones to face a crowd that might disagree with them - and that would be 100% of the folks in the audience. And it just wasn't tree-huggers out there. Yeah, both of them can be dismissive of people who disagree, but they both know that they can't support their views with logic or truth, so of course neither of them nor their spokespersons were there.

Paul Seaton, the representative from the southern peninsula did attend and spoke out about all the problems he had with 77. When a republican has problems with a proposal that fast-tracks development, you know the bill has flaws. Paul used up his allotted two minutes pointing out the nefarious language of the bill and he was just getting warmed up. I don't always agree with Paul, but he makes the short list of Alaskan Republicans who have integrity. 

Anyway - here's a list of the items in 77 that are particularly evil.

1) It's Racist. It does not recognize that tribal governments are governmental agencies and prohibits them from filing water reservation rights. 
2) It Takes away Individual Rights. Citizens will no longer be able to challenge government decisions. Marge Hayes made a good point at the meeting. Democracy is messy, but it's the foundation of our country. Dictatorships are efficient. Do we really want to give up our personal rights and let those with money and influence be in total control?
3)It lets the State Operate in Secret. Public meetings would be held concerning broad regional plans, but when a specific area plan is developed, there would be no public input.
4)It fast-tracks one of the most hideous business plans that exists on the planet. This is what the state wants to happen: put a surface strip coal mine on Chuitna River watershed, an anadromous salmon stream, mine a low-quality coal and sell it to China. China will use the coal to power their factories and take away jobs from the US. And of course, the additional pollution from burning this low-grade coal gets blown eastward, over the Pacific Ocean and would contribute to acid rain, global warming, mercury in fish, and all sorts of environmental damage.  The last I talked to Peter Micciche, he supported this plan. 
5) It grants too much power to political appointees. The director of DNR, who is appointed by the governor might not have any background in natural resources. Oh, someone like the current acting commissioner, Joe Balish, who has a degree in political science. Their decision on development would be final. 

HB 77 is simply state overreach. It takes away the rights of local communities and individuals to have a voice in how their regions will be developed.

The bill is before the senate and Mr Micciche may very well cast the deciding vote on 77. Anyone want to take any bets on what he'll do?

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Pimp My Ride: Micciche's (Fairly) New Rig

Micciche's New Ride
The ink is barely dry on SB 21, the Oil Tax restructuring bill passed by the slimmest margins this last legislative session and someone has been driving around all Soldotna in his big rig celebrating the victory for Big Oil. That slim margin was thanks to Peter Micciche, who despite his obvious conflict-of-interest (he is a mid-level manager for Conoco-Phillips), not only voted to pass the bill, but served on the committee that re-wrote the legislation.  Mr Micciche drives the largest SUV on the market, a GMC Yukon XL, with a MSRP of around $65,000.

Peter, doesn't quite connect the dots here.  As a senate candidate, he reported the required estimated wages he earned from Conoco Phillips, but did not disclose his stock holdings (not required).  But of course, Peter promised to be completely transparent, whatever that means to him.   I wonder how much his stock dividends were after the generous package he arranged for his bosses?

ADDENDUM:  It was pointed out to me that Mr Micciche acquired the Yukon XL BEFORE he became the Alaskan Senator representing the Kenai.  The only thing brand-spanking new about the rig are the custom AK Senate license plates.  I apologize for that inaccuracy in my first post.

Everything else in the post is accurate.  The conflict of interest, not reporting stock holdings (as mentioned, this was not required - but Micciche did promise to be completely transparent).  I still wonder how much his net worth went up after the new tax scheme passed. Peter still doesn't connect the dots here.  Most folks struggle to pay the over $4 for a gallon of gas - most everyone I know is cutting back and that's a good thing.  Not Micciche - he's doing his part to keep up the demand for more oil development (does he have to pay to fill that beast up, or is free gasoline a perk of his job?). Of course, not much happened in the legislature this session for schools, domestic violence problems, public safety, health care, affordable energy in the bush and etc., but we now are moving ahead with two gas pipelines and with the billion dollar give-away to the oil companies, I'm not going to hold my breath that the republican controlled house, senate and governorship will do anything for any of those other issues.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Smokin' in The Good Ol' Boys Room / Pay Cuts for Workers, Pay Raises for the OverLords

Just when you think that things down in Juneau couldn't get any more atrocious, Mike 'COS' Chenault had a personal $74,000 item approved by the House - a "capitol stair landing" AKA a covered outdoor smokers' lounge.  Seems that Mike and his COS, Tom Wright, both smokers, feel entitled to a few more perks and damn it, the state should support their nasty habits.

If you haven't read the OpEd by Andree McLeod about the recent pay raises that Gov Parnell has given his personal staff, please take a minute and do so.  Parnell has been calling for ordinary state workers to take a pay cut and, of course, is all about denying the working poor a chance to be covered by health insurance (that would mostly be paid for by the feds), but he's also all about doling out extravagant pay raises to his staff. Keep in mind that none of these folks even have a job description.  His four aids will now cost the state some $1 million is pay and benefits in one year.

The fiscally conservative, lead-by-example Republicans that we keep electing are doing such a good job giving our money away to each other and the oil companies. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

The Alaskan GOP: The Party of Bear-Shit Crazy

Being an Alaskan political blogger has become a full-time occupation since the current legislative session began in January. Our local republicans have been accused of conflicts of interest (Micciche); ignoring the US Constitution (Chenault); padding their paychecks by keeping office supply money (Chenault and Olson); reinventing history by exonerating Exxon from culpability in the Exxon Valdez oil spill (Olson); sending an email to a secretary with the message 'What a crock of shit'(Chenault); making fart jokes in the Alaska House of Representatives (Chenault) and explaining why he voted to override a citizens' initiative and thereby letting cruise ships dump sewage in coastal areas by saying that Anchorage already does so (Micciche).

In this breaking story, GOP Party Chairperson, Debbie Holle Brown has now barricaded herself in the Republican Party Headquarters in Anchorage, had the locks changed and has threatened to have anyone entering the building arrested. Apparently, she's doing this to keep the old guard (Randy Ruedrich) from re-taking control of the party after Brown and fellow teabagger, Russ Millete took over in the Ron Paul coup last year.  Ruedrich already out maneuvered Millette by exposing Russ's lack of fund-rasing experience and general incompetence and had Millette demoted...


April 9th Update:
Debbie's out.  The GOP executive committee voted to remove Brown as the chairperson citing that she had raised less than $1000 for the party.  Since expenses were around $4000/month, the executive board said it was business, not politics that guided their decision.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Crude Dreams/Crude Schemes

Jack Roderick, long-time Alaskan public servant, oil industry analyst and author of Crude Dreams which examines the often slimly roll that the gas and oil industry has had with Alaskan politicians (Veco/Corrupt Bastards Club) gave public testimony the other day about the House and Senate bills that takes billions of dollars out of the state's coffers and gives it to oil companies.  He's not afraid to tell it like it is.  The senate bill passed by the absolute narrowest margins, 11-9 and two of the votes for the break came from ConocoPhillips managers, now in the Alaskan Senate, Kevin Meyer and SOLDotna's own Peter Micciche.

Roderick just put out on OpEd in the Alaska Dispatch.  You can read it here.

It's been reported all around the state how it's an obvious conflict of interest that these two were not only allowed to vote, but they were both on committees that pushed the bill through the senate. Roderick imagines that the national press will soon have a good time (once again) ridiculing politics here in the 49th state.  Let's see, a governor that was an oil company lawyer and lobbyist, two senators on the payroll of a major oil company, and a dozen representatives with direct or family ties to the industry vote for a bill that will enrich every last one of them.  And of course, the Republican party had to engage in some gerrymandering to get their way.

Roderick is annoyed (as we all should be) about the conflict of interest, but what particularity annoys him is that the money has been given to the oil companies without any requirement that they produce more oil or hire more Alaskans.

As previously mentioned in this blog and elsewhere, is that Senator Gary Steven's rider that would sunset the new tax scheme after three years if the extra oil wasn't produced  was defeated by the same 9-11 vote.  If the point of the give-away is to spur production, shouldn't we have that clause as an incentive for the majors to actually spur production?

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Another Republican Makes Sense

I hope you all got to read Bert Stedman's Compass piece in today's ADN. If not take a few minutes to read it here.

Stedman, the Alaskan state senator from Craig and a Republican, is an accountant by trade and voted against Senate Bill 21 which gives multi-billion dollar tax breaks to oil companies without requiring  them to step up production.  Stedman makes several points and that I wish that our local legislatures, Peter Miciche, Mike Chenault and Kurt Olson would have the integrity and maybe the balls to respond to in detail.  Don't count on it.  Chenault and Olson have proven over and over again that the concept of integrity doesn't apply to them.  Micciche, a Conoco/Phillips manager, doesn't seem to know what the word means.

Questions that Senator Stedman has:
1) Why is the AK Dep't of Revenue's prediction of oil production in legacy fields twice the rate established by the major oil companies?
2) Why has the progressive tax rate been eliminated?  Alaskans own the oil, and progressive taxes are the compensation for the value of the oil at international rates. Otherwise we are selling our oil for 1990 prices.  That is insane! The progressive tax is just the way we Alaskans charge the market rate for oil coming out of the ground.
3) What drastic cuts are those who voted for the bill proposing to make up the monetary shortfall the state will now experience? Come on, let us know what you will fund (Knik Arm Bridge? Susitna Dam? Roads to Resources? Two gas pipelines?) and which you will cut (Education? Health Care? Rural energy? Mental health programs? Unfunded liability to state retirement systems?)

It's good that there are a few republicans left that ask honest questions and expect honest answers before selling out Alaska.  It's too bad that none of our local legislatures aren't that honest.

I have three additional questions:
Why not have the amendment that would revert that tax structure back to ACES if the oil companies didn't step up production?  If the goal is to step up production, why not make it mandatory?

If oil did drop to $40 a barrel as Kurt Olson mentioned at the recent town hall meeting in SOLdotna, how much more production would be needed to have the same amount of revenue come to the state as we are now getting and should we expect that much extra production with the new bill?

Why has Gov Parnell not allowed the experts he has hired to look into the tax law to testify to the legislature and why haven't the three oil-company stooges we have representing us demanded that information?

Well, Micciche, Chenault and Olson, got any honest answers?

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Micciche: Doing Something Stupid in Juneau

To nobody's surprise, the Alaska senate passed the massive tax break bill for the major oil companies.  The vote that will give these companies billions of dollars of extra profits was predictable.  All seven of the Democrats voted no along with two Republicans, Stedman and Stevens.  The remaining 11 Republicans voted in favor of the give-away, including two ConocoPhillips managers that serve on the Senate, Keven Meyer and SOLdotna's own Peter Micciche.  In most places on the planet, Meyer and Micciche wouldn't be allowed to vote because of conflict of interest, but Alaska law is very lax about that.  While both men declared that they did have that conflict, all it took was the objection of their fellow Republicans to override the declaration.  The best government money can buy.

When asked about restructuring oil taxes, Peter said last month, “I think we have enough votes to do something stupid. My job is to make sure we don’t,” he said. “If it’s fair and protects Alaskans, I’m likely to be for it. If it goes the governor’s way, I probably won’t.”  Well, basically the bill isn't fair and it doesn't protect Alaskans, but it does pad the already record profits of oil companies.  Stunningly, there is no requirement of any extra production from the oil companies.  That is simply stupid.  But what can you expect from people who get their paychecks from the folks that will gain the most from this legislation?

Micciche was able to get his amendment passed that kept the base rate at 35% rather than the 33% the finance committee recommended, but that 'compromise' does little more than placate his ego that he is the great compromiser.

The vote was also 11-9 opposed to Steven's amendment that would have sun-setted the new law if the oil companies didn't step up production.  There's the moment of truth.  If the bill is supposed to stimulate production according to the R's who supported it, why not make sure that it does?  By voting against Steven's amendment, there is no question that this bill is a sham and designed only to give away the resources that each and every one of us in Alaska owns.

Micciche has stated that no one can explain why a progressive tax is any good.  Well Pete, it's called capitalism: supply and demand.  What business would sell their product for a low price when they could easily get a whole lot more for it?

Well, it is what it is.  Next up it will be curious to see how the senate and our own former mayor will vote on spending bills.  How much will they spend on the Susitna Dam, the two gas pipelines, the Knik Arm Bridge, the Port of Anchorage, public funding of private schools and other such boondoggles being proposed?  Let's face it we're SOL n Alaska these days.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Mike Chenault: COS eats COS

Click to enlarge this COS
Mike Chenault is a hack-blogger's dream and this past weekend, has shown Alaskans what he is made of:  A steamy pile of Shit!

Here's what happened.  The secretary for the mayor of Valdez sends an email letter to Gov Parnell and all state legislatures that encourages them to consider moving forward with a large diameter natural gas pipeline that would have Valdez for its terminus.  Nothing wrong with advocating for your own home town, right?

Mike Chenault, or someone using Mike's email and signing off as Mike, replies to one and all,

"What a crock of shit"

SOL will refer to this reply as COS for expediency.

The email reply goes to the secretary who is mortified to received such a vulgar response from the Alaskan Speaker of the House.  The mayor of Valdez, Dave Cobb, is also a bit offended, but the guy has some dignity and wit.  He's quoted as saying "I'm not going to stoop to his level, but I'd like to."

Well, after the COS hit the fan, the brainiacs at Chenault headquarters went into spin control.  It was decided that Mike's Chief of Staff (SOL will use COS for expediency) would take the blame.  So an apology, not from Mike (who thinks he is hot shit or that his shit doesn't stink), but from Tom Wright (the COS) who says he accessed Mike's email and sent out the reply intended for Mike's peers and it was inadvertently sent out to the secretary.

Do you believe that COS?

So, Mike's COS is the fall guy for Mike's COS remark and has to eat the contents of the COS.  Mike might have a large body and even larger ego, but he must have the tiniest set of balls to not man up on this one.  If he let Wright access his email and send out a reply like that, he should fire the COS. The apology should have come from Chenault in any case, where exactly does the buck stop?

Can you belive that crock of shit?
Check out the story here in the Valdez Star and here on the Mudflats

The bigger issue, of course is the natural gas pipeline.  I'll have a post about that coming up.

Monday, February 04, 2013

SOL in Alaska

Oh, Crap, and I literally mean Oh, Crap. 

One of the first bits of legislation passed by the Republican controlled House of Representatives has been HB80 sponsored by Republican Governor S Parnell. It repeals the rest of the citizens initiative passed back in 2006 that prohibited cruise ships from pumping sewage into Alaskan waters.  Parnell had previously weakened the initiative by cutting back a cruise ship tax that was meant to finance the infrastructure in those towns that were impacted by cruise ship tourists. It was just COINCIDENCE that Parnell proposed the tax roll-back after the cruise industry treated the governor to a cruise.  Move along people, there's nothing to see here, just republicans serving their masters.  Oh, and that is not you, fine citizens of Alaska.

HB 80 pretty much give a green light to cruise ships to dump their sewage and waste water most anywhere and without having to bother to tell people where they took their dump.  I can see there will be a lot of happy commercial fishermen out in PWS, Glacier Bay and the gulf as they pull in nets filled with shit.

So, the voters of Alaska approve of an initiative, and Republicans feel that they can go around the desires of the people?  Obviously...

Unless it is something that they don't really want to do.

Quoted yesterday, House Speaker, Mike Chenault of Nikiski said "The voters have spoken..." voicing his reluctance to support resurrecting a coastal management program. A program he opposes because he doesn't want local communities to have a say in what might happen in their areas.

But from out of the other side of his mouth, Chenault has no problem ignoring what the voters have said about cruise ship sewage. 

Folks, it is only going to get worse!

Friday, February 01, 2013

The Brown Queen of the GOP: Through the Looking Glass, Comically

It's official, Russ Millette, the elected chair of the Alaska GOP was ousted last night by the Republican Party leadership and in his place, Kasilof's own Debbie Holle Brown has ascended the throne.

Former party chair, currently under investigation for various shenanigans, Randy Ruedrich led the coup.  Claiming that Millette was basically incompetent, a charge that no one disputes, the Republican Executive Committee decided to have Debbie Brown, the elected vice-chair, take over the top position.

Yes, THAT Debbie Brown who always had something (inane) to say at Kenai Borough Assembly meetings.  THAT Debbie Brown that asked to have the three-minute public testimony allowance expanded just for her because it took her at least three minutes to give her introduction to what she was going to say.  That Debbie Brown whose word salads make Sarah Plain seem like a Rhodes Scholar. THAT Debbie Brown who when serving on the Kenai school board, the rest of the board and school superintendent had to create a new rule to keep her from making unauthorized, and well, crazy statements on behalf of the board. 

Brown, who herself was under investigation for misusing Party funds apparently was cleared, but her husband, former borough assemblyman Jack Brown, faces over $30,000 in fines by APOC for misusing District 34 funds.

Well, does Ruedrich and the old republican guard think they can use Brown as a puppet?  Do they think she has the capacity to really lead the party?  Will she actually have any power?

Ruedrich and company are not taking chances.  They've already transferred the republican political war chest to a fund out of Brown's reach.

It will be fun watching to see how all of this will unfold. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Ethics 101 for Micciche

Former Soldotna mayor and now state senator, Peter Micciche made the front page of the ADN Wednesday in an article that addresses his possible conflict of interest.  It's common knowledge that Micciche is a superintendent at the Conoco Phillips LNG plant in Nikiski and he now serves on the senate resource committee and on two other senate committees that involve the gas and oil including acting as vice chairman of the special committee evaluating the governor's oil-tax bill.

It's reasonable then, that Alaskans might have some concerns of a possible conflict of interest. A mid-level executive for one of the big-three oil companies will now help make the rules that regulate and tax those very companies.

Peter dismisses the idea that there is a conflict and vows that his desire to serve honorably will be easy to track.  He cites the 2008 ethics committee's conclusion that let then Representative Kevin Meyer, another Conoco-Phillips employee, vote on matters involving oil production. If the ethics committee OK'd Meyers, he concludes that they would do the same for him. Meyers now also serves in the senate. The ethics committee cleared Meyers to vote on matters concerning the oil industry, but did Meyers serve on committees that might advance big oil agendas?

Let's take a look at the Alaska legislature's code of ethics:

(1) high moral and ethical standards among public servants in the legislative branch of government are essential to assure the trust, respect, and confidence of the people of this state;
(2) a fair and open government requires that legislators and legislative employees conduct the public's business in a manner that preserves the integrity of the legislative process and avoids conflicts of interest or even appearances of conflicts of interest;
(3) the public's commitment to a part-time citizen legislature requires legislators be drawn from all parts of society and the best way to attract competent people is to acknowledge that they provide their time and energy to the state, often at substantial personal and financial sacrifice;
(4) a part-time citizen legislature implies that legislators are expected and permitted to earn outside income and that the rules governing legislators' conduct during and after leaving public service must be clear, fair, and as complete as possible; the rules, however, should not impose unreasonable or unnecessary burdens that will discourage citizens from entering or staying in government service;

Point 1 is a given.  The rub is that what one person considers ethical, another might find immoral. It's essential to keep in mind that these ethics rules are set to assure the trust, respect, and confidence of the people of this state. I think that politicians need to understand that they have to be reasonably ethically responsible to all people in the state, not just to those who agree with their politics.

The second clause is also open to interpretation, but the closing few words, avoids conflicts of interest or even appearances of conflicts of interest, applies to Mr Micciche.  Certainly, Micciche can bring some knowledge of the oil and gas industry, especially an understanding of LNG, but as a mid-level manager, there does appear to be a conflict of interest with him serving on these committees.  If he pushes forward with Parnell's ACES overhaul, at least 40% of the voters are going to think he is in cahoots with his employers.  The ONLY way Peter can avoid the appearance of conflict of interest is to remove himself from these committees AND to go before the ethics board to see if he should recuse himself from even voting on oil and gas issues.

The third condition notes the difficulties citizen-legislatures have.  It is legitimate to have oil industry employees in the house and senate.  Their knowledge and insight to resource extraction is needed.

Peter dances around the fourth clause.  While he has provided the minimum amount of information in his financial disclosure, to be completely above suspicion, he should release a more detailed accounting of his salary and his stock holdings.  His backs off of his own pledge to serve honorably by being easy to track, by choosing to hide his complete financial ties to the oil/gas industry.

Peter has issues with how integrity and ethics apply to politicians. In the ADN article, he justifies his own committee memberships by (incorrectly) noting that Sen. Bill Wielechowski, a lawyer for the IBEW, served on the Labor and Commerce committee, but then withdraws that statement saying that he wasn't sure if Wielechowski actually was a member. Of course, the truth is that Wielechowski didn't and doesn't serve on that committee, well because in Bill's own words, "I just think it's inappropriate. It raises the appearance of impropriety. I work for the labor union. Sitting on the labor committee, it just didn't feel right to me."  But in his own mind, sitting on committees that will govern the hand that feeds him seems OK to Micciche.  He thinks that can justify his own ethics, we all should, well, trust him.  Who needs stinking ethics rules saying that there shouldn't be appearances of a conflict of interest?  It's not as if Alaskan legislatures have been found guilty of corruption any time recently, right?

That concept is lost on Peter. In his own mind, he can separate his professional life from his legislative life, but justifying ones own honor is not what the code of ethics is all about.

On his Facebook site, Peter slams the previous senate's bi-partisan makeup, which had a republican as the president and a fair mix of people from both parties on committees.  He touts the current senate majority's makeup as truly being bi-partisan.  Well, there are only two Dems that joined that coalition,  and Dems, who account for about 40% of the voters in Alaska, have been shut out as players.  Micciche likes to make up his own reality about what constitutes a balance of power. As long as you agree with Peter, you are fair and balanced.

If you're curious about how Peter and ethics sometime diverged when he was mayor of Soldotna, you can follow some links listed below.

Attempted Hutchings Building/Chamber of Commerce purchase:

May Day, May Day - Corporate Welfare in SOLdotna Day (Peter commented as FromSoldotnawithLove on this post)
May Day Vote Update
Central to the Debate (from the Redoubt Reporter)

The Soldotna Cemetery Debacle:
The Burial Plot Thickens



Thursday, January 17, 2013

State of the State: The Madness Begins

The Best Big Oil Can Buy  Chris Miller — Associated Press
The legislature has gaveled in and the Republican-led House, Senate and executive branch has begun what might be the craziest session in AK history.  Let's take a look at some of what is being proposed:

1) The Kenai's own Mike Chenault has introduced HB 9, legislation that could result in the arrest of federal agents if they tried to enforce any possible future national gun control laws.  The new federal proposals include ammo clips designed to hold more than 10 rounds as well as automatic weapons. Never mind that the Alaskan law would be void as it violates the US Constitution.   Alaska has the highest rate of all states per capita of deaths by guns, only DC has more gun-related deaths. One might think that our politicians might offer something to address the problem rather than ways of making it worse.

2) Not to be outdone, Republican Bob Lynn has introduced HB 55 that would allow teachers to carry concealed weapons in classrooms.  Hey, now that we have over 300 million guns in the US and we in Alaska are doing all we can to make it easy for everyone to pack heat, let's face it, there's going to be more and more school shootings. The Republican/NRA answer is to turn the country into an armed nightmare.

3) Republican Mark Neuman has offered up a stand-your-ground gun law that would make it legal to blow someone away anywhere you are legally allowed to be.  Seriously.  Anyone remember the shooting at The Sports Authority a few years back? Thanks to our already lax laws, two gangbangers were let free despite shooting and killing another doper in the parking lot there.  The dead guy, who had stolen some bling from a pusher, saw the hit men coming, pulled his gun, but was slow on the draw.  Since he had pulled down, it was OK for the other gangsters to shoot away. In the middle of the day with customers all around. I think some of these politicians have watched too many spaghetti westerns.

The logic behind both of these bills escapes me. It does seems that the 2nd amendment to our constitution has trumped the whole purpose of that document as stated in its preamble: to provide for domestic tranquility and promote the general welfare of citizens. I know of 20 kids and 5 teachers who no longer have life and liberty and I know that their families are not going to be able to pursue happiness for quite some time.

The first amendment guarantees freedom of speech and religion. As a nation, we have restricted speech in some cases. There are laws prohibiting libel, threats, and yelling fire in a crowded theater. We have restricted religious beliefs by outlawing polygamy and hallucinogenic drugs used in religious ceremonies.

But we'd rather bury children than confront the problems guns cause.

4) Republican Wes Keller has proposed a bill to allow the state to fund religious schools.  Cool - can't wait to see the reaction when a madrassa (Islamic relgious school) requests to be let in on the gravy train.

5)Republicans Eric Feige and Charisse Millett are trying to restrict local governments, native organizations, citizens and environmental groups from questioning resource development and would require these people/groups to post a bond which would be forfeited if they lost in court.

6) Republicans Neuman and Charlie Huggins have proposed legislation that would pump millions more into the Knik Arm Bridge.  Yes, Republicans, the party of fiscal conservatives (well only when Dems are spending), would throw money at this project that reeks of cronyism, cost-over runs and would primarily benefit their buddies with property near the project.

Of course, the Biggies are the Corporate Welfare Bills that the bi-partisan Senate had stymied the last two sessions:

7) Republicans House Speaker Mike Chenault and Rep. Mike Hawker have introduced HB 4, to fund a 24" natural pipeline from the slope.  Initially, there would be $335 million of state money appropriated, but the cost of that pipeline would be around $8 Billion and that's without considering overruns.  The stunning thing about this bill is that the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation work and reports would all be done in secret and with no oversight.  And then there's the competing large-bore pipeline that TransCanada/AGEA is now proposing instead of that original plan to pump natural gas through Canada and into the midwest. Alaska has already committed $500 million for that. Two in-state pipeline projects...?  Really?

8) Then there's the $2 Billion/year giveaway to the major oil companies that Governor Parnell is still trying to pitch.  It got nowhere with the bi-partisan in the past, but that safety net is no longer there.

I wonder how many of these bills will become law?  Thanks to gerrymandering and now with no opposition (despite 40% of the voters casting ballots for Dems last election), we could be about to witness the complete sell-out of Alaska.

Large Visitor Globe