Thursday, December 31, 2009

The New US Health Plan: Courtesy of Bob Bird

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Cook(ing) the Inlet Books

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

End of Noughty Times

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And that’s why I’m SOL in SOLdotna!

Happy New Year to All.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Stop Making Sense

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

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

Maybe that is the thing to do.

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

Yeah, right.

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

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

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

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

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

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

And it should.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Win-Lose-Win Situation

Mayor Carey (is his alias magoobird on the comments section of the PC?) has defended the pay raises, especially the pay raises he has given to his political appointees, by stating that you need those salaries to have competent people working for you. But if you buy that argument, shouldn't you at least get some basic competency from those folks? I agree with Assemblyman Gary Knopp, that there probably wasn't an intent to violate any laws when Scooter Chumley sold equipment to the borough without filing the proper conflict-of-interest paperwork, but it is not too much to expect that a highly-paid appointed political official might suspect that one should at least appear to be above-board when turning a personal profit from the government he is suppose to serve. He should have checked to make sure there wasn't a problem. It's just simple common sense.

So now the borough must figure out how to deal with the mess...should charges be filed?...should a fine be imposed?

I have the perfect solution. Scooter's fine should be the exact amount of the pay raise that he received. We obviously didn't get the competency Mayor Dave said we were getting.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Pay Raises Hackles

The PC has been busy with the latest news coming from Mayor Carey's office. It seems to me that one of the stories is a bit of a yawner - Scooter Chumley didn't file the proper paperwork regarding the sale of equipment to CES. Chumley's company has done business with the borough for quite some time, and in his new (and highly paid) position, he has been divesting his connections to the borough. According to the article, Chumley's Inc. no longer has any borough contracts. The paperwork problem seems to have been resolved and there's a happy ending: the equipment was donated to CES.

The pay raise issue is still a bit weird - especially with today's revelation that the Kachemak Bay Emergency Service Fire Assistant Chief was given a $5145 pay raise - before he even started the job, and after he had agreed to work for the lower pay! That's incredible. Who can have a problem with a pay raise AFTER someone proves up to the job, but shouldn't that come after a performance review? It should at least come after the person actually does some work!

The fact that Carey continues to give pay raises after the assembly smacked his hand after he was caught giving unwarranted and undisclosed pay raises last week is stunning. Despite the slight cut that Carey made to the pay of his chief of staff (the same Mr Chumley mentioned above) and his assistant after being taken to task by the taxpayers last week, Mayor Dave still treats the borough till as his own little money dispensary.

The PC lists some of the raises - they show 11 positions that received at least a 15% pay raise, but that list is only a small sample of the Mayor's largess. Take for instance the Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Manager - a person with no experience in forestry and a person who the state of Alaska let go in his last government appointed post with DMV - now makes over $7000 more than his highly-qualified predecessor and gets a car allowance. There are now 25 borough managers that make over $80,000 a year - only 15 made over $80K last year. Another 22 make in the $70-80K range. That includes the newly created Community and Fiscal Projects Manager who earns $75K, compared to the old grants manager who earned $68K.

And do keep in mind that these raises don't include the increased costs to the borough to the retirement programs of each manager. That is an additional $3,000-$4,000 for each manager. And it also does not include the $3600 car allowance given to Chumley, Wilcox, the Spruce Bark Beetle Director, and the General Service Director. Yes, they all justly receive additional mileage if they use their car on borough business. But does the Spruce Bark Beetle guy really need an additional car allowance? Does the Mayor get this too? He lives across the street from his office!

The borough assembly was caught napping during the last budget cycle as they didn't question the Mayor's budget for salaries. But I guess we were all caught napping. Carey has run as a fiscal conservative and a champion that would rein in the cost of borough government. What a joke. Given the mayor's reluctance to be up-front with these raises - indeed his attempts to hide them have been incredible - I hope that there's some full accounting of Scooter's divesting his business from the borough payroll.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Dirty Money?

It's not the first time the Peninsula Clarion has made this particular typo, but if you read today's paper and the article about the large pay raises some borough managers and political employees received, Mayor Carey admits to having nothing to hide because it was all 'pubic' money. C'mon you Clarion writers and editors, are you onto some scandal, have some Freudian issues or are we really getting screwed by the borough?

The pay raises are impressive - especially for the mayor's two assistants with each now bringing in some $90K. Carey says that you can't hire competent people for less. I think I know more than a handful of very qualified folks who could do the job for a measly $75K. And the mayor and his staff are competent? Morale at the borough building is low and lots of senior staff have left (or been replaced by political appointees). I thought people went into government to serve the people, not to get rich. Pay 'em a fair wage, and please, don't hide those enormous pay raises.

Sing Kum-Ba-Ya

To paraphrase Mayor Micciche's opinion piece in the Clarion this past Wednesday, let's be nice if and when Soldotnans disagree in the future. I thought he might lead the city council in singing the campy anthem of harmony at that evening's meeting. And just like that the council voted unanimously to approve the Redoubt cemetery site. An unsuccessful council candidate did stand and speak against the inevitable and predicted massive fish kills if the Redoubt site was approved and if a settling pond wasn't to be put in there. But that was not really a problem was the public works director's response. I don't know if it ever occured to the Mooring on the River folks to give actual and factual reasons not to locate the cemetery at the Redoubt site there, but it just might have helped their cause to be a bit more honest about their opposition and not make up so much stuff.

By the way, the council unanimously approved every item presented. Maybe they sung Kum Ba Ya during the executive session!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Definition of Cronyism

I hope that some of you tuned in to (or showed up at) the borough assembly meeting last week. Amid the mundane, the hot items of the month were the assembly's attempt to define management job descriptions and their questioning the unpublicized and extravagant pay raises the mayor's staff received.

Each and every new borough mayor thinks that he needs to replace at least some of the managers of borough departments and, on the surface, the argument sort of makes sense. You want loyal people carrying out your priorities. But we've seen some insanity ensue as competent and qualified mangers have been replaced by those who don't have experience or competence in that particular field and are just political hires rewarded for some favor owed by the mayor. Especially this particular mayor.

So, defining the job and setting qualifications is just a reminder that the loyalty of borough managers is to the citizens of the Kenai - not to the whims of any particular mayor. To give jobs to unqualified cronies just sets up the potential for abuse.

I was somewhat puzzled by Gary Knopp's assertions that a roads manager didn't have to have roads experience, but I am glad that most of the rest of the assembly thought it might be of value. And to Gary's credit, he did vote for the overall package. The only dissenting vote was by Charlie Pierce, who offered no explanation for his opposition to creating these job descriptions.

And it was Charlie who was the sole cheerleader of Mayor Dave when it came to questioning the back-door pay raises of nearly $25,000 each, to both of the mayor's special assistants. Both Hugh Chumley and Susan Wilcox now are paid over $92,000 a year.

What is particularly puzzling, and mentioned previously on this blog, is the unabashed way Mayor Dave and Charlie Pierce have defended these huge pay raises - especially when the mayor and Charlie present themselves as fiscal conservatives.

It was awkward when Mayor Williams sort of appointed Bill Popp to be one his special assistants and set the precedent for the mayor to have 2 such beasts. There was some howling over that deed. Is there really a need for the redundancy?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Bus Doesn't Stop Here

Alrighty, enough about local government politics for a while...well at least for today.

I've more-or-less left the school district alone on this blog. There is a new guy in charge, and first reports seem to indicate that he is sensible and competent. I hope that trend continues for a while.

While Mr Atwater is still beginning to make his way, there are some hold-over central office administrators that continue to make decisions that defy common sense and just might reflect a hostile attitude toward employees. One decision prohibits the children of teachers from using a school as a bus stop. The situation occurs mostly at Middle and High Schools. Starting times in those places are a bit earlier than at elementary schools, so buses are able to make two trips - the earlier one takes the older kids to school and then the buses leave those schools and begin their next rounds which takes the little kids to elementary schools. If a teacher takes their elementary-aged kid to the high school with them in the morning (as opposed to leaving the kids home alone and responsible for getting to the neighborhood bus stop on their own), they are not allowed to put their kids on those now empty buses at the middle/high schools. The parents must drive their kids to the next stop, where those same buses that have just left the school where the parent teaches, can now can pick up the kid. This silly rule is inconvenient and just takes away from a teacher's valuable time getting prepped for a class, working individually with a student, or maybe having that last chance for a couple of hours of using the bathroom.

I mean what is the point? Is the district afraid of showing teachers any favoritism? So what would it really matter if the kid could just get on the bus? Is there anyone in the community who would actually complain about this?

By now most of you have read about the 6-year-old cub scout in Delaware that was given a 45 day suspension that was to be served in a reform school because he brought his new and nifty eating utensil that included a spork and a small knife to school. The same district suspended another little-bitty when her aunt sent a birthday cake to school that also included a knife for cutting it. The kid promptly gave the cake and knife to the teacher, who then used the knife to cut the cake, but then reported it to the principal, who said the district's policy required suspension without discretion.

It's just an illustration of how those who are more interested in being the bureaucrat-in-charge make senseless rules that, at best, lack common sense, and at worse, are just mean and vindictive.

I hope to hear from school district employees about other such policies here on the Kenai.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Scott 'McNasty' McLane

SOLdotnans just received a political mailing entitled with the rather official sounding Soldotna City Council Voter Information. It offers a side-by-side comparison of the four city council seats up for selection this coming Tuesday.

But it is not an official brochure. It's from Scott McLane and it presents a bitter and warped perspective of the four candidates that are running to re-examine the Knight Drive cemetery location decision. Each and every one of the challengers are characterized as being unwilling to compromise on this issue. How would one compromise? Bury half of a corpse in Redoubt and the other half in Knight Drive? It is just as reasonable to conclude that each of the incumbents are unwilling to compromise as they refuse to consider the Redoubt site.

Three of the challengers are said to have been "coerced by Peggy Mullin to run at the last minute". If anyone thinks that Peggy could force Dale B or Nels A to do anything that they didn't want to do, there's a condo across from the police station that you should consider buying. I don't know much about Brenda H, but I hope that we are all adults here and can respect the decisions of other grown-ups.

To think that Dale or Nels will be one-issue candidates is also a joke. Nels has been involved in local politics for years and certainly has the experience, understanding and knowledge of the community that it is laughable to think that he will be only about the cemetery.

The same with Dale. He has been involved at many levels of local politics for years and years. It's actually kind of funny that he is running on a platform with Peggy Mullen as I would be willing to bet that the two of them will butt heads about almost every other issue to come before the council.

Each and every one of the incumbents has three or four community service accomplishment shout-outs listed (none of the opposition, according to McNasty, ever did one nice thing in their lives).

The small print at the bottom of the mailing mentions that no other candidate authorized the info on McLane's advertisement. That's a good thing. Participation in such a negative, slanted, and misleading campaign is reason enough not to vote for someone.

And in Scott's case, he has now lost any credibility and now has become a bit of a sleaze.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Soldotna City Council Showdown

I hope you all do get out to vote this Tuesday - it's your chance to have some influence on the direction that SOLdotna takes.

The big issue is the location of the cemetery. I've written about the absurdities of the search for the cemetery site often on this blog. For the record, I began with no particular notion of where it should be. As I've said before, I want my carcass placed on a pyre, Viking and Hindu style, and set adrift on a nearby bay. It would be way cool to throw some fireworks on the pile too. As far as a burial in SOLdotna, at least one close family member and a few friends have expressed their belief that being laid to rest here would be a guarantee that they would spend eternity in hell.

So, as a neutral side-liner, I need to be convinced by sound logic and analytic reason. Those opposed to the Redoubt site have done little to win me over. All of their arguments reek of NIMBY. There will be no excess pollution from embalming fluids; there will be no connecting road through the MOR (Mooring on the River) subdivision; the MORons' property value will not go down; funeral processions can be coordinated with school schedules to avoid traffic problems; and the 500' from a school demand that Councilman McLane made was quickly abandoned when someone pointed out that the Knight Drive property was also within that distance of a school (and besides, why is that even important?). The latest argument I heard is the desire to protect the integrity of the neighborhood. I see. Let's protect the integrity of the MOR subdivision by putting the cemetery in the neighborhood of someone else. Who cares about the integrity of THAT neighborhood.

If the Redoubt site was developed, the city could sell building sites and and collect taxes on what would surely be the McMansions that would spring up. That impact on the river would be a bit more than a cemetery, that's for sure. There's a few bucks to be made. Fair enough, but I we really need any more people here right now? Do we need more traffic? Do we need more people on the river? Maybe we should solve a few problems first.

And of course, we would have to pay over $300,000 to buy the Knight Drive site. We own the Redoubt site, so it would save some significant money to choose Redoubt.

Let's do a quickie side-by-side examination of the council candidates.

Seat A: Nels Anderson v Jim Stogsdill. I was disappointed when I heard Jim speak on KDLL's candidate segment and listened to him describe the cemetery site search. He conveniently left out how the committee could no longer bring up the Redoubt site in their discussions. In the election info booklet, Nels, while part of the Redoubt site slate, promises to be more than a single issue candidate.

Seat B: Brenda Hartman v Eugene Fowler. Eugene was recently appointed to finish out Shane Horan's term. Brenda is running on the Redoubt slate. While Fowler was on the Orwellian-named Unified Memorial Park Committee (unified meaning that to get on the committee, you couldn't bring up the Redoubt site)I wish Fowler had stated his point of view on the cemetery search as that is the main issue this election cycle.

Seat C: Dale Bagley v Jay Rohloff. As a former borough mayor, you would know what you are getting with Dale. Can't say I agreed with too many of his decisions in that role, but he is approachable. I don't know Jay, but friends say he really is a nice guy with some good ideas. But I can't understand his crusade against the Redoubt site as he has been one of the most vocal in the opposition of it - and all for reasons that have been discounted (see above). Jay did send out a nice postcard to SOLdotna voters. In one of his print ads, he pledges not to listen to just the vocal few. Does that mean he won't listen to himself?

Seat D: Peggy Mullen v Scott McLane. Scott did not submit any info for the election brochure, and that is troublesome. I can certainly understand a reluctance to do the whole baby-kissing, glad-handing election posturing, but I would like to know that a candidate cares enough to at least put the basics down. And I can't help but have tremendous respect for Peggy who has resided in the community since it became one. As a small business owner and as a concerned community member she has always had a sense of responsible and sustainable growth in mind. She has truly been one of the reasons why one is not completely SOL in Soldotna. At one point, Scott had some financial interest in the Knight Drive site and didn't vote on the issue because of it. He then said he divested that interest, but unless I missed it, he really didn't say how he did so.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Proposition 1 - Financial (Non)Disclosures

The only argument that has been presented in favor of approving Proposition 1, which would change what financial information elected and appointed officials in SOLdotna need to disclose, is that the current requirements are too restrictive and prevent people from running for office.

The fact that there are challengers to every city council seat this election cycle belies that claim.

There are 11 changes that would occur and I think most of them have the potential to lead to problems.

Prop 1 would raise the minimum of reported income from $1000 to $5000. Five large isn’t a lot of money, but you don’t need to have a fully functioning long-term memory to recall how cheaply some Alaska state officials sold out these past few years. And if a particular lobbying group had 5 members each pay $4999 to an official, that’s just a Lincoln short of 25 grand –serious money.

This measure would also allow officials in certain professions not to report clients who owe them ‘confidentiality obligations’. What exactly are confidentiality obligations? I don’t think we need to know who a doctor’s patients are, but in conflict-of-interest issues, it would be prudent to know who a lawyer’s clients are. And if confidentiality obligations include knowing who owes an official some money, this could also be important information in conflict-of-interest cases. To include real estate agents and financial advisers in the exemption seems to open the door to shenanigans.

The new rules would no longer require an official to report what they did to earn a specific income. Of all the changes, I have the most problem with this. Up in Anchorage, Ben Stevens received tons of money from various commercial fishing processors for…well, no ones know for what. The word on the street is that after his dad passed some sweetheart legislation, his son was rewarded. If an official receives money, I want to know what s/he did to earn it.

Another problematic change would be no longer reporting real estate property outside of the borough. Again, this opens some very real conflict-of-interest issues. If an official bought beach-front property for a few bucks in Hawaii from a developer who wanted to put a huge pig farm in Soldotna, we would never know with the new changes.

Prop 1 would no longer require officials to report close economic associations that don’t result in a source of income. So, if an official was a dues-paying member of and a major contributor to the Ku Klux Klan and financed the campaigns of folks like David Duke, well, that would be none of public’s business.

I don’t agree. While there might be some common-sense changes to the financial information we ask our city officials to disclose, these changes are not the ones we need. I think we should send this back to the council for a bit more thought and work.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Outer Limits of Term Limits

I was going to write separate pieces about the SOLdotna City Council elections and the borough-wide term-limits ballot proposition, but when I started to think about it, the fact that every council seat has a challenger running against an incumbent (or has two new candidates squaring off) completes the argument against any sort of need for term limits.

As you listen to ACT, they say we need term limits for several reasons: to oust entrenched politicians, to get fresh blood involved, and to have elected officials listen to the will of the people. Never mind that term limits are just another way to restrict your freedom by taking away your right to vote for the candidate of your choice; forget about the dedication and experience of those who have been involved in government; and please ignore that when we elect someone, that IS the will of the people in that district. Oh, and don't confuse them with the facts that in recent borough elections incumbents HAVE lost to challengers (John Williams, Betty Glick, John Davis, Mike Navarre to mention a few).

So, here in river city, there are folks who are unhappy with the way the mayor and city council have handled the cemetery issue. What is there to do? Challenge the status quo and present candidates for the city council that offer us a different perspective. Democracy at work. If people feel strongly enough about something, our system of government, especially on the local level, allows for people to get involved and be the change that they seek.

Have you noticed that ACT doesn't present candidates for office? Their excuse is that they don't present candidates. Oh, I see. They feel strongly about issues and want to unseat incumbents, but they don't want to bother actually running against an incumbent.

You may wonder why ACT has its no-candidate policy. Exhibit A would be Vicki Pate, one of ACT's loudest mouths in an organization of loud mouths. She ran for school board a few years ago and was thoroughly trounced in the election. Of course, she had to say a few words about why she was running and her reasons were simple: she wanted to do away with public schools and cut all of its funding. Those in ACT have one basic agenda - cut their taxes in order to cut government. But they do want all of the government services that someone else has to pay for: police, fire, health care, road repairs, snow plowing and etc. They just want the tooth fairy to pay for it all. Or you and me. Once they actually speak about what they want to accomplish, the only ones that are going to vote for them are those on the fringe.

ACT is all about having the minority rule. Remember the first borough initiative that they managed to pass? It required a super majority (61%) of the vote for the borough to authorize any spending over $1 million. That means that the minority (41%) controlled the will of the rest of the voters.

Rather than put a candidate against Gary Superman in Nikiski, they hope to term-limit him out so someone can run unopposed for that seat. Ron Long and Pete Sprague won their assembly seats by well over 60% of the votes in their districts, but Ron is now term-limited out and Pete will be out the next cycle. Clearly these candidates have the support of the citizens, but they don't agree with ACT's agenda. Since no candidate that espoused the ACT agenda would find much support in SOLdotna or Seward, ACT is trying to get their way by removing candidates that they don't agree with by term limits rather than by a direct challenge.

ACT is all about suppressing your vote and about taking away your freedoms as a way to accomplish their goals.

And that is exactly how tyranny works.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Kaladi's Censored Colors

The old Kaladi Brothers coffee house off of Kobuk is one of SOldotna's few gathering places where you can pretend that you live in an open-minded funky sort of town. The clientele does represent the community and is most certainly a mixture of right wingnuts and artsy free-thinkers and all points between.

Every month a featured artist displays some local art. This month, Adam Green has some of his prints adorning the walls and they are expressions of color and youth. A few are provocative: two women kissing, off-shore oil derricks and submerged trees. The one in pictured above is a silhouette of a dancing woman. Yep, as you might guess, she appears to be nude. Not that it matters, but it is less explicit than imaginative. Heck, sometimes some of the baristas here wear more revealing outfits. And no, that is NOT a complaint!

But SOLdotnans complained to Kaladi Cooperative headquarters (907.344.4480) and now the print is sashed with the 'Censored' banner.

You can buy coffee at any fast food place, or at either of the grocery stores or other such sterile environments throughout town. But K-Bros is the only place in town where you might relax, BS with friends and enjoy some local art. But those who would control your mind have now decided what should and should not be allowed here.

Exhibit 1,246 why you're SOL in SOLdotna.

Addendum: Another one for the cause - K-Bros let the censorship sash come down. Once again, the power of righteous indignation prevails.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Murky Waters

I used to have some respect for Senator Lisa Murkowski. Although she has had a (right of) centrist voting record she did seem to be more interested in having an honest and thorough take on issues. While there was a lot I didn’t agree with, it is the way politics should work. Things have changed since she has been elevated to a republican leadership position. I suppose she now has to engage in partisan politics to keep climbing that ladder, but it doesn’t serve the citizens of Alaska or of the US to engage in the tactics of fear, distortion, and outright lies as she did here in Soldotna on Saturday.

I do suggest that everyone visit the site, an independent organization that, well, checks the facts about various claims that both political parties make. Not surprisingly, Factcheck has been a bit busy refuting the misinformation about health care reform that the conservative media and the repubs have been spreading these past few months. They occasionally have caught President Obama stretching the truth too, but nowhere near the pace and toxicity of those from across the aisle and perpetuated by Murkowski.

About 400 folks showed up at the Soldotna Sports Center for Lisa Murkowski’s town hall meeting on Saturday. The Senator began with her observation of how polite the audiences have been in similar sessions around the state. With one exception, the crowd followed the rules set out – no interruptions and no shouting. There wasn’t a gun in sight, although one speaker did imply that an armed revolution was in the works.

Despite voting against letting a version of the bill out of her committee, Lisa said that she still had an open mind about health care reform, but aside from those words, the morning was more-or-less an opportunity to swiftboat health care reform and stifle any sort of meaningful debate.

The literature that was passed out was informative, but was slanted to lead the reader to one conclusion – that any sort of health care reform will break the bank and cut the level of care we have now. The first two charts demonstrated the exponential growth that the nation will spend on health care in general and government programs like Medicare if there were no reforms. So far, so good, these stats are not new; something has to be done. The population of the US is rapidly aging and no one argues the fact that health care costs, as high as they are now, will soon explode as the baby boomers become enfeebled.

The propaganda began on third graph that listed federal spending and the national debt. The stimulus, bailouts, TARP and cash for clunkers were highlighted as the big-ticket items, along with an estimate of the cost the proposed health care bill as the major contributors to the budget deficit. Absent from the list were the staggering costs of the Iraqi war, Homeland Security, the missile defense program (that doesn’t work), and the loss of revenue from the tax breaks given to the super rich. Upfront costs for the wars will exceed a trillion dollars by the end of this fiscal year – but that doesn’t include the costs of replenishing equipment, paying for health care of wounded veterans, paying the interest on the borrowing the money to fund the war. The estimates now are that by 2017,the wars will have cost $3.5 trillion dollars.

Using Murkowski’s estimates for the cost of health reform, for the price of Bush’s wars, we could have had complete coverage for all for the next 25 years without paying another dime. No wonder she left out that little detail.

The next section cherry-picked and out-of-context statements from the Congressional Budget Office about the costs implications of the health bill – federal spending will go up, the deficit will increase, some will lose their private coverage, and employers and small businesses will face higher taxes. Absent were quotes from the same office that noted that costs to individuals would go down, and that more people would be covered.

Another Murkowski graph takes issue with the estimate that 47 million Americans are uninsured. It grants that only 12 million of that 47 million cannot afford it. It claims that 6 million are eligible for a company sponsored plan, but haven’t purchased it (could it be that they too can’t afford it?), some 9 of those 47 million make over $75K/year (and implies that they can afford it, but are choosing not to?). Nearly 10 of the 47 million are already eligible for a government sponsored plan, but haven’t enrolled. Another 9 million are not citizens and may or may not be eligible. Of course, the implication is that these are illegals, but there are millions of legal aliens in the country that are entitled to receive services – think students, guest workers, refugees, legal immigrants and family members of citizens that have legally entered the country. This became an opening for the xenophobes in the audience and sure enough a person announced that the health bill covers illegals

Despite the very plain and clear language of the bill: Nothing in this bill shall allow federal payments for affordability credits on behalf of individuals who are not lawfully present in the US, Lisa agreed with the man who spoke. Lisa also completely ignored that current law already prohibits illegals from participating in government sponsored health programs. But Lisa chose to stir the crowd up and play into the fears and paranoia that so define too many of the residents of the Kenai.

As Murkowski answered questions, it removed any doubt that her mission, and the mission of republicans is to sabotage health reform. She kept saying that Obama was ramming this bill down our throats by insisting that we move forward with the bill this summer and fall. One attendee did point out that we’ve been trying to reform health care since Truman was president, so it really wasn’t like all of a sudden. Lisa owned up to the fact that unless some sort of deadline was put forth, probably nothing at all would be done –but that still didn’t change her tone or language.

Two of the random people chosen to ask questions told Lisa about their personal problems with the current system. One lady, a victim of a stroke, noted how difficult it was to see a new doctor as so many will no longer accept new medicare patients. She asked Lisa what she could do a she is not able to receive treatments for her condition. Lisa couldn’t/didn’t offer her any advice, but used the opportunity to deride Medicare and warn that this was in store for everyone if we went with the current bill. The other lady, a young mother, said that both she and her husband worked, but didn’t have health insurance. One of her children had severe allergies and that her family simply could not afford the medication. She spoke of the humiliation of being asked about payment before her child could be seen as she was holding her barely breathing kid. She asked Murkowski what she could do. Again, no actual answer from Murkowski. It took another person from the audience to stand up and tell the mother to see her after the meeting to let her know of the specific services available in the community.

We all know of how many of the local working families deal with these catastrophic medical costs – a spaghetti feed and a donation jar at the convenience store.

Let’s get this straight. Right now we have rationing of health care. If you are poor, if you are disabled, if you have a catastrophic illness, if you need long-term care, if you lost your job, or if you are elderly, there’s a good chance that you are not getting the treatment you need. Yet, Lisa, the republicans and the conservative media are telling us that the bill will ration health care. Of course, what they don’t say is that for 20 of the past 22 years, the Republicans have controlled congress and for 20 of the past 28 years, have had the presidency. It is because of their votes that Medicare and Medicaid have been underfunded. The only major health care bill passed during this time was the prescription drug provision that created a huge donut hole where retirees purchase prescription drug services and have minimal amounts and catastrophic costs covered, but leaves a huge gap in the middle that has to be paid out of pocket. The big winners have been the pharmaceutical industry. Has the public forgotten that the republican answer to health care reform has always been to cut services? But they are now pulling a tactic from the Democrats playbook and telling those who are easily frightened that these new reforms will cut services. Hmmm…only if republicans get their way.

Another person in the audience mentioned that essential services like fire and police protection are essentially a form of socialism. The public pays for it and we all receive services. The police and fire departments don’t ask you if you have insurance or how you are going to pay as they come around to help you out. The person said it just made sense to have that same sort of system for health care. Lisa responded by railing against the government bureaucracy – there’s no way that government could be more efficient than private industry. She must have forgotten about the Medicare Advantage program that Medicare contracts out to private business. Medicare Advantage offers the same care as Medicare. Oh, the cost? 14% more than Medicare.

This blog entry is way too long, but I have only given a brief overview of the meeting. What continues to be the most frightening is that the crowd – and that apparently would be the majority of the people in the central peninsula - have accepted as fact every lie and distortion the republicans and the conservative media have put out on this topic. I am not naïve and am quite aware that the Dems have done their share of propaganda too. As I said at the top of this blog, go to and check to see if those claims people are making really are true.

My own opinion is that we as individuals have caused a lot of our own problems. Many preventable illnesses have been brought around by our sedentary and gluttonous lifestyle. Why should my tax dollars go into treating those who smoke and now suffer from respiratory problems, heart disease and cancer? Diabetes and other debilitating illnesses can largely be prevented by diet and exercise. We all have a responsibility to live healthy. From there, why do we pay doctors by procedure? The more tests they perform, if needed or not, the more they make and the more the health industry makes and the more it costs us all.

As JFK said, “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” I would be willing to pay taxes for universal coverage for those who don’t smoke, stay within 15 % of their weight range, and exercise regularly. Aside from meeting the healthy lifestyle criteria, I think everyone who wants a national health policy needs to contribute to it – albeit on a sliding scale. I think those who volunteer for the military or Americorps or Peace Corps should have further reductions in costs. Full time students shouldn’t have to pay a dime. Anyone should be able to opt out and take care of your own insurance if that’s what you want. I think certain costs should be excluded – such as most cosmetic procedures (but including reconstructive costs for those disfigured by accidents and burns of course). Families should have up to two children covered for free, but then fees would kick in when families exceed that. After all, an increasing population is exacerbating the high costs of health. With all of that and with a restructuring of how we deliver services, it won’t solve all of the problems, but it would be a huge start and would add the notion of personal responsibility into the mix. Nothing more American than that.

And personally, I don’t want to end my life as a vegetable hooked up to obscene life-support mechanisms. Aside from the huge and wasted costs associated with it, don’t let the death panel scare tactics keep us from having discussions about dieing with dignity. How come the ‘Christian’ right wingers are so afraid of dieing a natural death? Are they having doubts about going to heaven? Maybe they have a good reason for they are Christian not by deed, only by cheap words. “JC is my personal savior, now can we get back to torturing, making war, polluting, cheating and imprisoning the poor and other such conservative values?” My mother, who has voted republican in every election and who has attended church religiously her whole life, and put her faith in action by volunteering at soup kitchens, put a death with dignity clause in her living will. She did this when she was in her 50s, well before this issue became such a scare tactic (she is in her late 80s and still with us). But we see how the radical right has made this a ‘moral’ issue with the Terri Schiavo case.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Town Hall With Sen. Murkowski

Lisa Murkowski will host a town-hall style meeting on health care this Saturday, Aug 29 from 10 AM-noon at the Soldotna Sports Center on K-Beach Road.

Murkowski released this statement on the meeting:

I have heard from thousands of Alaskans about the health care proposals currently being debated in Congress,” said Murkowski. “As a member of the Senate Health Committee, I voted against the Democrat bill that passed the committee last month. There were many problems with that bill, the biggest being the staggering cost – over $1 trillion dollars that would leave as many as 34 million people without coverage. Health care will be at the top of our agenda when Congress returns from recess in September and I want to meet with as many Alaskans as I can in August to hear their thoughts before returning to Washington.

What she doesn't address is the staggering costs of doing nothing - Medicare is facing a growing aging population, medicaid has been underfunded for years, and some 47 million Americans are currently without coverage. For those with insurance, we've seen copays grow and charges challenged.

A debate is needed and I just hope that this Saturday's debate is civil.

Ms. Murkowski rebuffed Sarah Palin's 'death panel' claim and called for all to stick to the facts. That's good advice, but as we all know you can spin anything by not only giving false information, but by conveniently leaving out information or by putting out misleading statements. Murkowski's opinion piece in the PC is an example.

She states that Medicare is broken - but leaves out that under the Bush Adminstration and the republican controlled congress (that she was a part of), they prohibited the government to negotiate for lower prices. In those 6 years, nothing was done to lower costs to taxpayers, but plenty was done to increase profits for private insurance companies. Murkowski notes that we don't buy a home without knowing the price. that's true, but it would sure be nice if that same sort of mentality went into questioning the need for the Iraq war which turned out to be a blank check for military industrials.

Let's hope we can avoid the socialism scares. If you are on medicare, medicaid, or a federal (including Lisa), state, borough or city employee, if you are a school district employee or a veteran or a native, you already receive some sort of 'socialized' medical coverage. If you are a taxpayer, you are already funding all of this and more. On the peninsula, taxpayers cover about $600,000 in unpaid/not covered medical bills for the 2 borough hospitals.

I encourage all those who intend to attend to do some homework beforehand. Get your news from more than one source. Learn the concern that the other side has. Paying for coverage IS a problem. Having millions without coverage is also unacceptable.

And how about walking or biking to the Sports Center? Do something healthy for yourself if you can. Just leaves your guns at home.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Politics not as Usual

It's good to see that there are challengers for every seat on the Soldotna City Council. Nels Anderson is running against Jim Stogsdill for Seat A, Brenda Hartman will attempt to oust the appointed Eugene Fowler for Seat B, former borough mayor Dale Bagley is taking on Jay Rohloff for Seat C and homesteader Peggy Mullen will try her luck against M. Scott McLane for Seat D.

Could it be that some SOLdotnans are not happy with the way the cemetery issue has been handled? I really don't know for sure, but certainly Dale and Peggy have been vocal proponents of the Redoubt site and of course, Jay R has been a leader in the Mooring on the River subdivision's NIMBY campaign against that location. Dr. Nels has long been involved in local politics as a former school board member and unsuccessful candidate for the state senate. I don't know Brenda at all. It will be interesting to see what issues will be brought up.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Time to Step Up

The deadline for becoming a candidate for the various borough and city offices and service area boards is this Monday, August 17. You can find out about how to file here.

It is good to see that Jane Stein is running for seat G on the Central Peninsula Hospital Board. This is the seat currently held by Norm Olson, an avowed racist and the anti-government former head of the Michigan Militia. As of today, Norm has not filed for the election.

If you have been following the SOLdotna Cemetery debacle, you might be interested that Jay Rohloff is the sole candidate for Seat C on the Soldotna City Council. Jay has been one the chief propagandists leading the fight against the Redoubt site. None of Jay's arguments have held up under any sort of rational light. If elected, Jay would represent those who promote their narrow, but well-connected and funded point of view over the wishes of the community.

So - if you are one of the 63% of the folks that voted for the Redoubt site for the cemetery, it's time to file for a seat on the council!

Saturday, August 08, 2009

Stars and Bars and Right Wing Conspiracies

Have you noticed the number of vehicles (mostly pickups) around town sporting confederate flags or decals? I don't quite know what to make of that - is it some sort of statement or just a bit of nostalgia for the ancestral homeland? If it's a statement, get over it. The civil war ended almost 150 years ago and it marked the beginning of the end of state supported oppression. Yes, it was about states' rights - but the one right that war was about was slavery, how can you be nostalgic for that? States' rights continues to be a rally cry for certain conservatives, but of course they only want states to have rights they agree with. If a state OKs gay marriage, tighter environmental laws and other such policies, those same conservatives are ready to pass federal legislation to take away those state rights.

I was enjoying some java at K-Bros the other day and at the next table there were some regulars (loudly) going on about the president and his attempt to reform health care. A few minutes of their conversation was devoted to their certainty that Obama was not born in the US (despite irrefutable evidence that he indeed was). Then a few minutes were consumed by hateful talk that linked the president to satanic/communist organizations. A couple (but not all) of people at this table made overtly racist comments. Some of the folks at the table regularly bring their bibles and I can't help but wonder how they then can tolerate so much hate. The thing is that none of their beliefs are at all accurate, and some are outright lies that are easily disproved by any sort of casual research. Their talk tends to feed upon itself and in the absence of another point of view to provide some checks and balances, it creates a hysteria that stymies the legitimate and needed debate of issues. Sarah Palin's recent Facebook post where she says the Obama health plan will have a death panel that decides who will receive care and who won't is an over-the-top example of the irresponsible propaganda that the radical right is using to scare those who are easily manipulated.

I am in no way suggesting that people shouldn't express their ideas - even if they are repulsive to me. Can a free country keep someone as extreme as Norm Olson (see related post) out of politics? I hope not, but I do hope that more balanced individuals then become motivated to get involved and refuse to let someone like him make decisions for the community.

New ideas need to be practical. Established practices need to be modified as new information comes to light. We all need to work together.

But with that said, I think it is important to stand in the place where you live and refuse to be intimidated and silenced by the voices of ignorance and hate.

Friday, August 07, 2009

Seward Highway Tragedy

Once again, an accident on the Seward Hwy around Turnagain Arm has claimed some lives. Once again the victims were from the central Kenai peninsula - two teens from Soldotna this time. Condolences to the family and friends of these young men.

The drive to and from Anchorage has always been a game of Russian roulette. Over the years the road has been widened and straightened. Passing lanes have been put in and additional troopers occasionally patrol this stretch. Time and several tons of money will be needed to widen the road and maybe create a divided highway in that section.

But the uncontrollable factor is the individual driver and how do you prevent someone from making an idiotic decision? Maybe passing in no-passing zones along certain areas should become a felony. Maybe have troopers arrest the unsafe passer on the spot and place offenders in the pokey. That might get the message through to folks.

Until something changes, the best bet is to drive defensively. Don't tailgate as you wait for a place to pass and then let the moron who tried to pass back in the traffic lane. Expect an on-coming car to be in your lane every time you come around a bend.

And just don't be in a hurry.

Redoubt Reporter 1 Year Anniversary

Congratulations to Jenny Neyman and the Redoubt Reporter for reaching the first year of publication. The Mouth of the Kenai presents some in-depth reporting - their multi-issue examination of the issues behind the SOLdotna cemetery offered a thorough examination of the history, personalities and politics behind the decisions that have been made.

If you haven't picked up a copy, they are free and available all around town (library, Kaladi Bros. etc)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

ACT Won: A Peninsula Travesty

At last night's borough assembly meeting, upon reconsideration, the assembly defeated the measure that would have put the mayor vs manager style of government on the ballot this fall. Homer's Bill Smith was the swing vote, as he changed his mind from last month. He noted that no one from the public came to an assembly meeting and spoke in favor of having a borough manager over a strong mayor.

ACT, however, testifies at every borough assembly meeting held in Soldotna and their message is that they are the voice of the people of Kenai.

They sure as hell don't speak for me. Here's a sampling of some of their testimony.

Viki Pate has no trouble justifying ACT's flip-flop on this issue (remember, ACT was for having a manager before they were against it). She stated that when ACT was for it, it was because they wanted competent government. But when the assembly tried to move the issue to the ballot for people to actually decide for themselves, Pate accused the assembly of being fascists. Huh?!?

Fred Sturman attempts to come across as a folksy voice of reason but is full of unsubstantiated statistics to support his idea that borough needs to cut the budget. He never offers any specific cut options and is blind to pay raises Mayor Carey gave to his staff and the deficit spending budget Carey proposes. Fred offers the occasional verbal gems like last night's declaration that the 80s were so like the.....80s.

Debbie Holle Brown only speaks to the assembly when something is very dearly important to her - but she seems to have something to say about everything even when she has noting to say. Well, maybe she has something to say, but darn if I've been able to figure out exactly what that is. She usually tries to make her point by yapping on about something else and then as her 3 minutes are winding down, rushes to tie together the loose ends that she spun. Last night she even had the audacity to ask for "A special eduction IEP for testifying"so that people like her could ramble on forever. So, she spent about 2 minutes saying that she couldn't get her point across in 3 minutes. Geez, just stick to what is pertinent and maybe you could.

The angry Kasilof woman who sometimes is in too much of a hurry to put all of her clothes on is another example of those speaking as the voice of the Kenai. When I hear her rage, I wonder if there should be a metal detector at these meetings.

These folks have become the most powerful force on the Kenai - but just what are they promoting? Viki Pate would do away with all public schools, Fred Sturman would eliminate most all borough services. It's a mystery what Debbie Brown wants as she is not capable of articulating a clear thought. Those who have followed her political career when she was a member of the school board know that she doesn't know much of anything. And those whose nuts are about to slip off of the remaining threads of their sanity are easily manipulated. The Kenai is not immune to crazed gun-wielding whackos.

In other assembly news, the ordinance that would have put the sports dome on the ballot this fall was tabled after the group that brought the measure forward withdrew their support for now. Despite being tabled (and any attempt to bring it back would have to start the process anew), Debbie Brown and others spoke against it, maybe just to hear themselves talk. I don't think the ordinance would stand a chance to pass and I wouldn't support it because there are so many winter sports to enjoy here - why create an expensive artificial indoor environment in these days of high fuel costs. We are a northern state with tremendous winter sport opportunities.

Oh no, did I just agree with ACT on something?

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Pay Day at the Borough Building

One thing I don't get about Mayor Carey's support by ACT is Dave's generosity with the tax-payer's money when it comes to pay for staff. Both Hugh Chumley and Susan Wilcox pull in over $90K a year - in comparison, William's Chief of Staff, Tim Navarre, drew a salary in the $70K range. In addition, his Administrative assistant, draws a salary about $10K more than anyone in the borough that does a similar job.

How can ACT champion Mayor Dave as a fiscal conservative, while ignoring this administrative excess?

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Summer in SOLdotna

Ahhh...the second of August and king fishing and dip netting are done for the season By the end of the day, the exodus of tourists and pukers (visitors from Anchorage) starts and we begin to slowly reclaim our town. But it's not like the old days before traffic lights and FM when SOLdotna really slowed down. I kinda miss those days.
I've been a blogging slacker these last few weeks. Too much fun to be had, fish to be caught and processed and too many chores to do on the home front. There certainly has been a few things to note on this site however.

Dip Netting
Fish allocation issues continue to divide the community. Commercial fishermen might have a legitimate point when they are closed down for escapement while the dip netters are allowed to continue to harvest fish.
21 reds swam into my dip net this season and I can easily defend this personal use fishery. But when I look around and see the waste and destruction more than a few dip-netters are a part of, I know that the process needs to be made a bit more responsible. Look for a post soon that will examine this issue in more detail.

Progress Days Parade
I am not a parade kinda person, but I make it a point to watch this one for the entertainment that the MC, Merrill Sikorski provides. Merrill thinks it is the duty of an MC to make funny and Merrill thinks he is a comedian and while he makes me laugh out loud, I am not laughing at his jokes. In the vernacular of the internet, I am LMAO at what he considers to be appropriate humor at this family function.

Classic Merrills from the past include informing Alan A of KDLL that he was dragging his pickle. As a young horsewoman from the rodeo went by, Merrill cautioned the crowd not to confuse pole racers to pole dancers. Who can forget the vulgar slang he used when he referred to classic mustang cars that drove by?

This year did not disappoint. As the wiener dogs marched by, Merril offered some double entendres. "We SOLdotnans are proud to show off our wieners" and "It just goes to show that size really doesn't matter". My favorite this year was when the race cars went by. A mini drag racer was on a trailer and there were two teen aged girls sitting on the trailer. Merrill announced that a mini drag racer and a mini drag queen were going by the reviewing stand.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Post-Palin Post

I usually let the other Alaskan bloggers take on Sarah Palin, and the news of her resignation this past weekend has certainly given them a lot to write about (see the sidebar on this site for links). She has blamed the bloggers for her decision and her accusations have made national and international news.

The only thing I am going to say is that after the presidential election, I wish she had simply went back to being the governor of Alaska and put any further aspirations aside for the time being. While I didn't agree with everything she did, I sort of liked the pre-Monegan/Troopergate/VP Palin.

Her decisions to grandstand, to make political points, to be absent from the state during crucial times in this last legislative session did not serve the citizens of Alaska. Her spins in defense of some questionable behavior have been unbecoming. During the national campaign, she demonstrated that she could dish it out, but that is just an invitation for others to do the same back. And I guess the ensuing criticism she received was too much for her to handle.

So Sarah, pick some salmon from your set net site, tend to your kids and family, get your life back. Take some time off and out of the spotlight. The best thing to do might be to find someone that you trust but that doesn't necessarily agree with you on everything. Get that person's advice and then sleep on any comments that you might otherwise impulsively have to say.

Seating Chart

Borough Mayor Dave Carey is making a list (and checking it a few times every week), of employees who are sitting down at their desks. Apparently this holdover from his teacher days, is his way of checking that borough employees are doing their job serving the citizens of the Kenai. So, if you are looking up a file, checking out a map, attending a meeting, of good heavens, using the restroom, your lack of dedication is noted.

No word if red licorice is given to those sitting at their desks.

The Fate of the Borough

Mike Nesper, the cub reporter for the PC, opened his article about tonight's assembly meeting with a bit of hyperbole and declared that our fate rested on if voters should decide if we want a manager or mayor.

Really - like, are we gonna die if we do something?

C'mon Mike. You're supposed to be a real reporter - just the facts, man. Leave the slant for us bloggers, the news comedians like Jon Stewart, or the propagandists like Fox News or Rush Limbaugh.

What's really the motivation behind this ordinance?

It's kinda funny that groups like ACT are so opposed to letting voters decide this issue especially when ACT was all about having a borough manager a couple of years ago. ACT has also been adamant that voters should decide things. For ACT and their ilk, it depends on which way the wind blows. If it is something they don't like, they declare the borough is thwarting the will of the people. If it is something they don't want, they are all about suppressing debate.

The vote will probably come down to Gary Knopp, who introduced the ordinance, but has shown that he will wilt under pressure. During the last assembly meeting, he changed his vote which originally supported an appeals process for borough department heads who sometimes get axed for only dubious reasons, and failed to support the override of Carey's veto that would have established a way for folks who are doing a good job to challenge politically motivated termination.

And maybe that's the reason to move to a manager form of government. The last few borough mayors have brought in their political cronies to do jobs that some are unqualified for - how does that make for better government?

Duane Bannock, the appointed head of the Spruce Bark Beetle program is the most blatant example of the Mayor Carey's cronyism. Duane, a car salesman, replaced a person fully qualified to run such a program, and by all accounts, the former head was doing a fine job. Duane then had the brass to speak up at last month's assembly meeting to voice his support for the mayor.

Of course he did - he owes his job to the mayor, what else is he going to say? It did come across as more than a bit self-serving.

Apparently there are 8 disgruntled former employees that may have been darn good workers who have been let go and replaced by folks not-so-qualified. Certainly, a new mayor should be able to bring in his/her own staff, but one might hope that politics would not interfere with competence.

I dunno, I sure would like to avoid the political grandstanding that the current mayor is so very good at. And why not just let the voters decide?

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Kenai River Classic

The Kenai River Classic is happening this weekend and you may have noticed that this fishing derby gets listed under "The Bad" about SOLdotna.


In the past, the Classic was nothing more than a chance to get powerful lobbyists representing defense contractors and the oil companies together with influential state and national politicians to work their behind-the-scene magic and secure profits. Sure, some money was tossed back to the Kenai River Sportfishing Association under the guise of river conservation, but used for more river access (with some fishing platforms and bank preservation projects)and to fund KRSA's crusade against commercial fishing.

Uncle Ted is absent from this year's Classic - but Don "Mr Clean" Young heads up the celebrity draw. No word on the lobbyists attending this year.

It would be nice to see some transparent accounting of what actually transpires and where the money actually goes.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The Michigan Militia - coming to a hospital near you!

No one else applied to be on the Central Peninsula Hospital advisory board, so Norm Olson, the former commander of the Michigan Militia, was appointed to fill the open slot this past Monday. This is the same guy who claimed that the FBI and the Japanese government were behind the Oklahoma City Federal Building bombing and then later tried to organize militias in the south to storm the hospital in Florida where Terri Shiavo was a patient. Ms Shiavo was the comatose woman who attracted national attention when her husband wanted to remove her from life support. Olson’s plans were thwarted when he contacted Shiavo’s father about this plan, but rather than acquiescing to the insanity of Olson, the father contacted the FBI instead.

And he wants to be on a hospital advisory board?!?

Mr. Olson, a contributor to white supremacy groups, has some of the most extreme anti-government views around, so it’s strange that he is now getting involved in area politics – but according to a statement he made when he moved to the Kenai a couple of years ago, one of his goals is to overturn ‘silly laws’.

Hal Smalley, the Kenai representative on the borough assembly, is looking into the appointment. More on this appointment as information becomes available.

Carey Prevails – For Now

By one vote, the borough assembly failed to override Mayor Carey’s veto of the ordinance that would have given borough middle-level management an appeals process when they felt they were fired for unfair reasons. Mili Martin and Gary Knopp originally had supported this ordinance, but decided not to overturn the veto. Ms. Martin did have strong words for Mayor Dave and warned him to address concerns of his mistreatment of long-term borough employees before the August assembly meeting or she would re-introduce the ordinance. Apparently there are 9 disgruntled former employees.

Earlier in the meeting, several members of ACT pleaded with the assembly to prevent the ordinance to move to a borough manager system from being presented to the voters. Before they were against this, ACT was a big proponent of a borough manager system. Members of ACT seemed completely oblivious to their flip-flops, but any borough resident with some memory cells intact can recall other times when ACT was for something before the were against it - like taking issues directly to the voters.

Several ACT members also spoke against establishing a recreational area service board, in this case to look into a new multi-sport complex, and asked that their districts be exempt if that district voted against the establishment of one. Ms Martin pointed out that that several assembly members, who were overwhelmingly re-elected by their districts and whose districts voted against term limits, were bound by the term limit ordinance passed by the ACT initiative.

ACT wants rules to be arbitrary – let the voters decide, unless it is about something that ACT doesn’t like, change the rules, unless ACT changes its mind, and that ordinances should be applied borough-wide, unless the ordinance is something that ACT doesn’t like.

And this group makes Mayor Dave dance. They show up in force at assembly meetings. They visit the mayor in his office. They rant on Sound-Off. They write to the PC.

Souldotna has no issues with fiscal conservatives - who can be in favor of waste? But ACT is being played by Mayor Dave as much as they are gaming the mayor and residents of the peninsula. Dave postures and pretends to cut the budget and becomes ACT's champion. ACT then protects the mayor as he practices cronyism - putting his political friends in borough positions that some are unqualified to fill. Dave then increases his own staff's budget and not one member of ACT cries foul.

Kudos to assembly members Long, Sprague, Superman, Smith and Smalley for understanding that having integrity means to be consistantly fair and honest.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Showdown: Carey vs the Borough Assembly

Has the weather been great or what? Who wants to blog when it's 70+ and sunny? But just because SOL has been out in the Sol, it doesn't mean that there isn't a lot going on around town.

Mayor Carey vetoed Ordinance 2009-23 which had provided an appeals process to upper management positions in the borough, claiming the law would take away his right " to have loyal, able and competent staff."

Yeah, an able and competent staff is his right - it's not like he would appoint a used car salesman to run the spruce bark beetle mitigation program or anything of the sort, right?

And maybe not so coincidentally, the PC ran a story about Bonnie Golden, the Grant's Manager that Dave fired for no apparent reason. Mr Fiscal Conservative now proposes to hire someone for that position for $10K more than what Bonnie was being paid.

And speaking of looking out for the taxpayer's dollars, Mr Carey submitted a $60K increase to the budget for his personal staff. When questioned about this increase by Hal Smalley, Carey conveniently couldn't recall any details.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Carey Nation: T2ATF's Carry Day - Goin' Postal?

Was it a warning or an announcement?

Yesterday, Carisa Rodriguez, the mayor's admin assistant, alerted KPB employees that the 2nd Amendment Task Force(T2ATF) was mobilizing in the borough parking lot to 'visit'.

If you remember back a few weeks ago, T2ATF met at the SOLdotna Sports Center to insist that they be able to stick loaded pistols in their pants (see related blog posting). Or maybe they were happy to see Mayor Dave Carey and Senator Tom Wagoner join their panel. Your guess is as good as mine.

Mayor Dave welcomed the gun-waving activists that gathered yesterday in the borough's parking lot and he said a lot of patriotic words. Maybe he forgot when T2ATF's main organizer at the Sports Center, Schaeffer Cox, refused to say the Pledge of Allegiance and didn't remove his hat when others did so. And I wonder if Dave has read the group's manifesto of armed rebellion they would mount if another gun-control law was passed? No matter, guns and God ruled the day.

But it kinda made some local businesses and governmental offices a bit nervous. The sign pictured in this posting was from the post office located across the street from the borough building and it reminded patrons that guns weren't allowed inside. It's a reasonable stance for an agency that has been notorious for disgruntled gun-toting employees going postal in the past (but not in SOLdotna!).

I'm just glad some local punk didn't set off some firecrackers behind the T2ATFers as they were flashing their firearms...

I do wonder about the group's motives. With no pending gun-control legislation being proposed in Alaska, and with nothing really shaking on the national level except removing the law that President Reagan signed that outlawed loaded weapons in national parks, I wonder just what point the group is really making...

Friday, May 22, 2009

Answering to the Truth - Is Carey Capable?

I couldn't help but be more than a little skeptical when I read Mayor Carey’s opinion piece in last week’s PC (see the blog posting below). Irked by the borough assembly’s recent actions to propose an ordinance to let voters decide if the borough should have a professional manager, Dave let a few loose cannonballs fly. He accused the assembly president, Milli Martin, of arrogantly closing the borough building to TOPS, the weight-loss support group, because they didn't live in her district. He cited Milli's supposed callousness as an example of the need for an elected official who represents the entire borough population, rather than a borough manager, a position he feels would be answerable to only the assembly.

But is Mayor Dave answerable to the truth?

After the shooting incident at the hospital, the borough examined some safety concerns that might exist. Carey was adamant that the borough building only be used for governmental purposes and he was very uncomfortable with the practice of leaving these buildings - especially the white house on Binkley which contains all sort of records and equipment - unlocked after business hours.

But his memory conveniently became selective and in his self-aggrandizing posting in the Clarion, he slammed Ms. Martin to score political points.

Is it any wonder that there is growing grass-roots desire to check Mr Carey's ego? The assembly passed two ordinances at last week's meeting that would create job descriptions for mid-management positions in the borough and to give personnel that have been dismissed an appeals process.

Carey sees these measures as a challenge to his authority. But maybe it's just a way to keep checks and balances in government and to keep crony politics out of the borough's daily operation.

I imagine Mayor Carey envisions himself as a man of honor. I think Ms. Martin deserves a very public apology. Dave, are you man enough?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Palin: Obama Closes Soldotna GM Dealership

I've been laying off of our governor since the election - there are plenty of other Alaskan bloggers who have fun with Sarah, and Lord knows, she gives them plenty of material.

And she just keeps on giving. I'll jump in because she mentions Soldotna in her most recent press release.

According to Governor Palin, "Today, we learned that Obama’s decisions continue to impact Alaskans; while we as taxpayers now own General Motors, Obama closes another dealership – this time in Soldotna as more of Alaskans’ hard-earned money and jobs are lost to big government."

I got to thinking. Didn't the Peninsula Clarion run a story about Hutchings GM just a few days ago? Yep, May 10 in fact. It seems the Governor's statement isn't quite accurate. While Hutchings lost its franchise, it isn't closing. The dealership did employ around 75 workers back in the fall, 10 days before today's statement, its workforce was down to 28.

GM has been having difficulty since way before Obama became president as their last profitable year was in 2004. Since then they have lost $82 billion dollars. Any company bleeding that much red ink might just cut back their workforce - especially those franchises that aren't as profitable as others. The auto industry has lost some 400,000 this past year - some of that was bound to trickle down to the Kenai.

So, despite Palin's rhetoric, the dealership isn't closing, and the local layoffs occurred because of financial difficulty GM has been having for 5 years. Layoffs are a natural part of what happens when there is a downturn in the economy or if a company like GM makes bad business decisions.

So just how is that Obama's fault?

The debate whether the US Government should be bailing out a business won't be addressed here - there are plenty of pundits who can provide you with that entertainment.

But if the US doesn't bail out GM, wouldn't that mean that the company would go bankrupt and close ALL of their dealerships? And is that a better choice? What would Sarah say then - that Obama's inactions continue to impact Alaskans?

If she had offered an alternative suggestion on what should be done, that would have been helpful, but of course she provided nothing of the sort. I've yet to hear any thanks to Obama from her as Alaska has accepted millions of dollars in federal stimulus funds to create jobs here.

The GM rescue is not strictly Democrat/Republican thing, here's a statement in support of GM's bailout from Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the ranking member on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform and maybe with a bit more understanding of the problem than Sarah. "We all recognize the role these companies play in the overall composition of our economy and we want them to succeed. It has become abundantly clear that in order to remain viable and competitive, these companies must re-organize, revamp and restructure."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mayor Murders Milli: A Character Assassination

It might just be the most over the top bit of writing a local politician has ever produced. Borough Mayor (and self-proclaimed CEO)Dave Carey's Voices of the Peninsula article in Tuesday's PC blasted the Borough Assembly President, Milli Martin, for denying the local chapter of TOPS, the weight loss support group, the use of the borough building for their meetings. TOPS had previously been using the building for a good long time.

Dave has divined Milli's motivation for not responding to TOPS request for reconsideration and for not permitting the group the use of the white house:

"The TOPS chapter was denied use of the people's building because the assembly president was not elected by anyone in their areas of Nikiski-Kenai-Soldotna-Sterling-Kalifornsky Beach-Kasilof. She knew it was unlikely she would ever see them and they could not hold her politically accountable. The other eight assembly members must make up their own answers for not responding to the TOPS women."

Wow - Dave, just where did you get that insight from? Did Milli tell you that? Or might there have been some jumping involved to reach your conclusion?

Ms. Martin doesn't represent SOLdotna, but she's been on the assembly for a while and she's like your favorite grandmother - mostly kind and nice and willing to listen to anyone with something to say.

I think I would like to hear what Milli has to say about this. I can't imagine that she arbitrarily and capriciously denied TOPS access. Non-profit groups have always been able to use borough meeting rooms as long as the room is not scheduled for government purposes. Could it be that some committee is now meeting at the time TOPS had scheduled their meeting?

And did the mayor really command the other eight assembly members to "make up their own answers"!?! Do we want to encourage politicians to spin any more than they already do? Dave, you're a retired teacher. Are you encouraging cheating or are you assuming that no matter what they say, their answers will be "made up"? I know that one of the assembly members was preparing for and then attempting to climb Denali during the time frame of the TOPS email request.

And are you saying that you "made up" Milli's answer for her? Now that seems plausible.

Dave has his licorice in a twist because the assembly has introduced legislation that would relegate the borough mayor to a figurehead position and hire a professional manager to oversee the daily operations. But Gary Knopp and Pete Sprague - not Milli - introduced the legislation.

There was a borough assembly meeting Tuesday night and unfortunately my work schedule has me out of town for what will undoubtedly be interesting interactions between hizonner and the assembly.

More to follow...

Monday, May 18, 2009

Whole Lot of Compromise

The SOLdotna Creek Park development plan has been formally changed to include a compromise to the 120 car parking lot that had been proposed last week. The new plan calls for two lots - one that could accommodate 60 cars and an overflow lot with space for about 25. The redesigned proposal would also eliminate an existing smaller lot located by the playground.

It's not a bad thing to live in a place where the two major issues are parking lots and a cemetery location. Look how easy it was to affect sensible change in SOLdotna Creek Park.

The cemetery will be much tougher to figure out. Well technically, it's been decided that the city will purchase the Knight Drive property. I don't think those whom favor the Redoubt site, and that would be the majority of those who voted on the issue back in the fall, are done.

There is something that could be done to convince SOLdotnans why we should pony up and buy the Knight Drive property and that's some legitimate reasons why the Redoubt site is not appropriate. From what I've seen and heard, there isn't one good reason. No, it won't cause more pollution, the traffic impact would be minimal, property values won't go down (but aren't those same folks complaining that their property assessments are too high?), vandalism is unlikely to be a major concern, and of course, the whole 500' from a school issue has nothing to do with anything.

So Mayor Pete and all who voted to spend more money and buy the Knight Drive property, please do give us the truth.

Friday, May 15, 2009

The Burial Plot Thickens

Small town politics and cemeteries - it's like finding buried treasure as it gives this hack writer the opportunity to try to bury the reader alive with dead-end puns and cliches!

It's dead certain that you're still SOL in SOLdotna if you want a place to RIP.

Councilman Scott McLane had previously abstained from voting on the Unified Community Memorial Park Committee's most recent site proposal on Knight Drive, citing some grave concerns. Scott had deeded one of the parcels in the proposed site to a local church, but had included a clause that would have given him a percentage of the take if the property was sold for non-church use: a dead ringer for a conflict of interest.

Declaring that he has since divested his interest in the property, Scott cast the vote that deadlocked the council in a 3-3 tie this past Wednesday.

Mayor Pete Micciche, who has been dead-set against the Redoubt site, was able to drive the final nail in the coffin and break the dead-even vote, thus approving the Knight Drive site.

But you shouldn't think the issue is now dead and buried. The Redoubt location just might be resurrected.

While the SOLdotnans that favor the Redoubt site might now have one foot in the grave, some promised a legal challenge to Scott's decision to vote. A cemetery task force member claimed to have checked with the state recorder's office and found no evidence that Scott had actually divested himself.

And then there's the small detail of finances. SOLdotnans already own the Redoubt property, but would have to buy the Knight Drive properties. Estimates for the purchase of those properties range from $300,000- $500,000.

Then there is the advisory vote where SOLdotnas recently favored the Redoubt site 531-310. With a simple twist of logic (or perhaps some dead reckoning), Mayor Pete interpreted the vote as being against a previously considered site at the SOLdotna airport. Although the city council had at one time favored the airport, an independent consultant concluded that the airport had too much clay and contamination to be a contender. Other problems, including a high concentration of bears and airplane traffic noise also doomed the airport location.

The need for a cemetery for SOLdotnans became official back in 2001 when the SOLdotna Historical Society approached then city mayor Dave Carey. Since then, there has been has been a series of controversies involving land swap proposals with the borough and NIMBY attitudes of rich and powerful residents of the Mooring on the River (MOR) subdivision that borders the Redoubt property (which is drop dead gorgeous, by the way). Wasn't it a hoot when one of the the major concerns the MORons' had with the Redoubt property was that it was within 500' of a school (as if that really matters), then it turns out that the Knight Drive property they favored is also that close to a school. Whoops!

I do have a way to make everyone happy. Let's charge the MORons and anyone else who is in favor of spending money on the Knight Drive properties a special tax to pay for it. if the final cost is $300,000, than each of the 300 or so folks who voted against the Redoubt site would be charged $1000.

I wonder how many would still put their money where their mouth is?

If you're not dead tired of this whole matter, do read some previous postings in SOL (4/9/09 and 1/24/08)

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Parkin' That Lot

Ahhh...the power of righteous indignation.

Good news for us SOLdotnans. At last night's meeting, the city council did not approve the latest plan to turn 1/2 of the Soldotna Creek Park's green space into a parking lot (see the blog report below).

The entire park plan is going to re-evaluated.

Thanks to all of the SOLdotnans who let the mayor and councilmen know that there are limits to being SOL in SOLdotna!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

SOLdotna's Proposed Park for Cars

All right, I am fan of parks, and a community can't have enough places for kids to play and others to walk and relax. Have a few barbecue grills set up for people to have a family gathering, maybe a gazebo and band shell for outdoor concerts or plays. Landscape it with lots of trees and flowers. It just makes a town more livable.

SOLdotna has some sweet property right in town and behind Don Jose's. Bordering the Kenai River, the former site of a DOT station was converted into a park area a few years ago. It's mostly lawn and it's played host to the annual Kenai River Festival and a bi-weekly farmers' market and craft booths. It's a great place to fly a kite or play ultimate Frisbee.

Nancy Casey has been the principal designer and the plans have evolved over the past two years. From a relatively simple proposal, the plans have grown to include a veterans memorial (although that was a bit controversial), a pavilion, a plaza square, a refurbished playground, and the possibility of an ice-skating rink.

What's there not to like?

Nancy's first couple of designs also included a small parking lot on the west end of the property; a sensible accommodation for the relaxed use the park has for most of the year.

But the latest plan calls for 1/2 of the existing green space to be turned into 120 parking spaces complete with a center aisle and parking access road.


That's right, take one of one the few free public access points to the Kenai River in the SOLdotna city limits and make a car lot out of half of it so there would be enough parking for those who want to enjoy it.

And if each car had three people in it, that would be 360 folks plus those of us who would walk or bike to the park. It could essentially squeeze 500 or more folks into a fraction of the existing space.

There are access issues for the Soldotna Creek Park. As it is now, you have to cross the five-lane Sterling Hwy from the residential part of town. Because we are SOL in this town, you know how bad summer traffic is right there. Many parents have a legitimate concern about their children biking or walking across the intersection there. Heck, I'm concerned about my own safety when I bike over there. A lot of SOLdotnans still think you get points for clipping a cyclist.

So we will give cars more access and we will destroy 1/2 of the park in the process for the one or two events a year that there might be a need for parking? It's not clear if the city of SOLdotna intends to pave the parking area, but isn't it a bad idea to pave so much area so close to the river? Doesn't the river's health depend on the ground absorbing and filtering run-off before it drains into the river?

I've got a better idea. Keep the original plan for a small parking lot and build a pedestrian bridge across the highway or a culvert tunnel under (like Anchorage's coastal trail access by the lagoon). For those big events, limit parking to the handicapped and elderly. There's plenty of weekend parking across the street and couldn't most SOLdotnan's use a bit of exercise?

Joni M got it right a few years ago, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

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