Friday, February 12, 2010

Acting Chief of Stuff: Duane Bannock

There they were just a couple of days ago, Charlie Pierce and Duane Bannock, parked in one of the handicapped spaces at the OEM Building and deep in conversation.

And the Press Release today maybe reveals what that conversation might have been about: Duane is the new acting Chief of Staff, replacing Scooter Chumley who resigned a couple of weeks ago.

Mr. Bannock is a former car salesman, who served on the Kenai City council, was fired as Director of Alaska's DMV, and most recently, the political appointee in charge of the Spruce Bark Beetle Mitigation Program. In the shuffle, Michael Fastabend will act as head of the SBBMP, and Susan Wilcox will be the Admistrative Officer for the KPB.

Some of Mr. Bannock's political views have included his support of industrial pig farms for the Kenai, state issued ID cards, private prisons, Moms, Apple Pie, and Dodge trucks.

Included in his business views was selling cars "to not very smart people". But this practice came to a legal halt, when a developmentally impaired man, under the legal guardianship of his parents, bought a car from Kenai Chrysler when Duane was the general manger. When the parents tried to return the undamaged car the next day, Mr. Bannock refused to recognize the validity of the guardianship and would neither cancel the sale nor return the man's trade-in. The parents took Mr. Bannock to court where Duane lost the verdict and the appeal.
But maybe it explains why he was parked in a handicapped parking space.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

No Walk To The Park: The Soldotna Community Playground

What’s not to like about the Soldotna Community Playground? A group of moms saw a need in the area, so they got together and are making something good happen. Inspired by the custom playground in Seward, some local parents contacted the private enterprise that sold that playground equipment in Seward and several other locations around the state (and nation) and began to raise the needed funding to begin construction. The community has generously responded and ground breaking is scheduled to begin this May.

The location seems ideal. Soldotna Creek Park has become a showcase for our town, especially after the DOT exchanged the land adjacent to the old park for their present location adjacent to ARC Lake. The expanded park now offers boardwalk fishing, hosts the Kenai River Festival, weekly farmers’ markets, and will be the site of the Kenai Watershed Forum’s headquarters. A new park plan is in the works and it will feature a gazebo, a veterans’ memorial, a (not nearly as big as the first revision) parking lot and some needed landscaping.

But what is not included is access across the highway for the kids who might want to go play in the soon-to-be very cool playground. There is no crosswalk and no traffic light, nor is there a ramp over or tunnel under the Sterling. The closest protected crossing is either by the Y or on Binkley St.

Just about all of the kids in town live on the other side of the highway, don't they?

Do you think that the new kiddie park might attract the attention of those 7-12 year-olds, some who are just learning to ride their bikes, who probably have not yet developed sane unprotected-highway crossing skills. While Soldotna Creek Park already gets unsupervised youngsters, the number of those free-range kids will undoubtedly increase.

Soldotna has been lucky that no child (to my knowledge) has been hit by a car or truck while crossing the Sterling or Spur Highways, but the odds of that happening will increase as we offer an attraction that makes them dodge our crazy summer traffic. To not have a safe highway crossing plan in place the day the new playground opens up is simply flirting with disaster.

The residential area of our town is very friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians. One of the goals of the city-sponsored Envision Soldotna 2030 is to promote walking and bike riding – it’s a good idea for everyone’s health, for relieving traffic congestion, and for making the city more livable. For kids, having parks where they can safely walk or bike to gives them some fun, freedom and exercise. It gets them out of the house and out from underfoot.

The only way to get to the proposed playground safely will require that someone drive the kids there – completely contrary to SOLdotna’s grand development plan.

Not every parent has the time or means to get their kids there when the youngster might have some time to play. And isn’t it a better idea that when the parents do have the time to take the kids to the park, that the family walks or bikes there together?

It’s hard to believe that the planning department, parks and rec, and the playground group asked themselves the basic question: Where is the best place for this new playground? While Soldotna Creek Park might be the most aesthetic, it isn’t the most practical and without a controlled crossing, it isn’t the safest.

Wouldn’t a central Soldotna location be a better choice? Why not close Park Ave between Binkley and Fireweed to traffic, remove the blacktop, and put the playground there? It would be less than a mile from most every home in the residential area, there would be no unprotected major roads to cross, kids from both Soldotna ad Redoubt Elementary could take mini-field trips with their classes and the residents of the nearby senior housing could watch the great-grand kids romp around.

Of course, there’s no guarantee that a car, no matter where the playground is located, won’t clip some boy or girl, but I don’t like the odds of that happening if the playground is installed at SCP without some sort of traffic control at Birch Ave.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


SOL has been getting a lot of comment posting lately, and that's great. But there are so many anonymous postings, it's tough to keep everyone straight. So, I've just changed the settings requiring you to create an online name to make a comment. You can still be anonymous, but now you have to at least have a fictitious name.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Lisa’s Murky-Air Proposal: Let’s Create Some Jobs By Killing Thousands Each Year

I know, I know…SOL rarely takes on state or national figures, but Lisa Murkowski has written a few opinion pieces in the local rags lately that offer poorly thought through ideas. Since Lisa has invaded my turf, I think a SOL response is order.

I wish I could say that I was using a bit of hyperbole with my headline, but unfortunately that’s what will happen if the US goes along with Lisa Murkowski’s proposal that’s before the Senate. Lisa wants to relax the EPA’s toxic emissions standards regarding greenhouse gasses and then give politicians, you know, those folks that you love and trust so much, the ability to decide how many American lives we can eliminate so that big business can become even bigger. That’s right, Lisa wants to create a real-life Senate death panel that will determine what the proper balance is between preserving fossil-fuel related jobs with the number of people who will die or become sick due to the increasing amount of hazardous gasses emitted into the atmosphere.

Lisa, what ratio do you propose? Create two jobs per death? Ten new asthma cases for each new job?

While greenhouse gasses alone don’t immediately kill people, according to the World Health Organization, they are directly responsible for the nearly 140,000 annual worldwide deaths.

Let’s connect some dots.

The more fossil fuels we burn – especially coal, the more toxins like mercury we put in the air. By reducing the greenhouse gas emissions, we also reduce those amounts of dangerous particulates that are also produced in the process. There’s no dispute that the increased incidents of asthma, bronchitis, and other lung diseases go along with releasing poisonous toxins into the atmosphere. And then consider the brain damage to kids that is caused by the increased mercury levels in the air that we breathe.

Worldwide, illnesses that cause death such as dysentery, malaria, and dengue are on the rise as the pathogens that trigger these diseases and the carriers that transmit them and are all increasing their range due to global warming. One Alaskan example is the number of deaths and hospitalizations due to allergic reaction to yellow jacket stings. These incidents have increased as dramatically as the yellow jacket population has.

And then there are the increased world-wide deaths from malnutrition as the number of areas experiencing severe droughts expands. The resulting crop failures and the loss of arable land is causing tremendous suffering in Africa right now.

The limits that the EPA wants to set would cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 13 % and annually stave off 64,000 premature deaths according to a study conducted by Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh. The regulations would also prevent over 60,000 cases of chronic bronchitis and 37 million days of work loss by 2020.

Lisa says that the proposed EPA emission limits, currently based on indisputable scientific evidence, will eliminate jobs and destroy the economy. The coal and petro-chemical industries would certainly have to adjust, but won’t those jobs be absorbed by the increased demand for truly clean energy and those industries such as solar, wind, tidal, and etc?

But Lisa says that permitting even more greenhouse gasses emissions will create jobs.

What jobs?

More undertakers? More coffin and tombstone makers? More health workers to take care of the increasing numbers of people suffering from the effects of these gasses? More pharmaceutical and health-insurance executives?

And the costs? She speaks of the added costs of cleaning up the fossil-fuel industries, but is silent about skyrocketing medical costs that those industries cause.

It’s also curious that in Gov. Parnell’s State of the State address (you know the speech where he announced that Alaska is at War with the Feds) he says that the TransCanadian Pipeline needs to be built because Alaska gas burns cleaner (and would be better able to meet the EPA Guidelines than natural gas produced from oil shale fields). If Lisa gets her way, there will be less of a need for that clean, Alaskan gas. Lisa, Sean…do you guys talk?

Save me from the denials of those that loudly shout that global warming is a hoax. Despite the noise, there is scant evidence to the contrary. But even if it turns out that the consequences of climate change aren’t as dire as they probably will be, let’s say we create a country and a planet that provides for energy independence through the development of clean renewables, creates sustainability with green jobs, provides for more clean water and air for all, and reduces the costs of medical care due to toxins in our environment.

In other words, what if we create a better world – even if the consequences of global warming are exaggerated (and they are not).

Would that be such a bad thing?

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