Monthly Archives: April 2014

Mallot points out irony in Parnell’s call for a federal balanced budget

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallot also caught the irony in Gov. Sean Parnell’s signing of a resolution that calls on the federal government to balance its budget, at a time when state is on the cusp of passing a budget that will put it in unprecedented deficit spending. The resolution was sponsored by Republicans Rep. Wes Keller and Sen. John Coghill. It passed the House 22 to 12, and the Senate 14 to 6.

From Mallott’s statement:

Gov. Parnell appeared unaware of the irony in castigating the federal government while Parnell himself has overseen an unprecedented deterioration in state finances. While the federal budget deficit has gone down more than 50% since 2008, Gov. Parnell has taken Alaska’s state budget into massive deficits. After entering office with a $5 billion annual surplus, Parnell has wrecked the state budget with spending increases, creating a $2 billion annual deficit that is draining Alaska’s savings. Parnell went from a $5.8 billion operating budget to an $8.9 (billion) operating budget last year.  This year’s total is still uncertain, but is likely to top $9 billion. According to the Washington Post, Alaska had the worst fiscal performance in America last year, and was one of only two states to lose revenue.

To be fair, the Washington Post piece Mallot is referring to was sloppy in its facts. The article was about the fiscal situation between 2012 and 2013, which it attributed to the oil tax break signed into law in 2013. That law wasn’t even in effect until 2014. In fact, under ACES, the old tax regime, the decline in total unrestricted petroleum revenue went from $8.9 billion to $6.4 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2013.

It’s hard to say for sure because the budget’s a moving target and so much depends on the price of oil. But it appears that current deficit has as much if not more to do with declining oil production, lower oil prices, and the state’s increased spending than with the tax break.

But regardless of the causes, the point remains that the current budget is a buster and is nowhere near balanced.

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Irony alert: State calls on feds to stop deficit spending

As the Alaska state Legislature is on the cusp of passing a budget that will force the state into unprecedented deficit spending, Gov. Sean Parnell signed legislation on Tuesday sponsored by Republicans Rep. Wes Keller, and Sen. John Coghill, calling for a Balanced Budget Amendment to the United States Constitution.

From a statement issued by Parnell:

We have worked hard to get Alaska’s financial house in order by addressing our largest budget cost driver – the state’s pension liability. Now it is time the federal government takes the necessary steps to address its out-of-control debt. America remains on an unsustainable spending path and we cannot rely on Congress or the president to fix this problem. A Balanced Budget Amendment will be an effective tool to rein in federal spending and not saddle future generations with our country’s debt.

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BP’s asset sale to Hilcorp signals new era of independent oil in Alaska

On Tuesday BP announced that it’s selling, for an undisclosed price, 15 percent of its Alaska assets to Hilcorp, one of the largest independent, privately-held oil companies in the United States. The fields it’s selling are Endicott and Northstar. It’s also selling half of its interests in the Liberty and Milne Point fields.

All told, the fields currently produce about 20,000 barrels of oil a day, only a fraction of the 520,000 or so daily barrels of oil produced from all North Slope fields, including Prudhoe Bay.  But it’s a lot for a smaller company like Hilcorp, which all told produces about 85,000 barrels a day.

Hilcorp is not a stranger to the state. It made a big move into Alaska in 2011 and 2012, acquiring assets in the Cook Inlet from Chevron and Marathon Oil.

In a statement, Janet Weiss, President of BP Alaska, said that the deal would free up BP to focus on Prudhoe Bay, still the largest oil field in North America, and to advance “the Alaska LNG opportunity.”

The Alaska state Legislature just passed legislation to advance the up-to-$65 billion large diameter natural gas pipeline, which would carry gas from the Slope some 800 miles to tidewater in Southcentral Alaska.

The assets were likely more attractive to Hilcorp after the Legislature passed oil tax reform last session, which significantly lowers the state take on oil when prices are high. The sale will likely provide fodder for those who are working to repeal the oil tax, which voters will vote on in August. So far, the oil companies, including BP, ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips have spent more than $6 million campaigning against the repeal.

Shortly after the announcement, state Sen. Hollis French, who is running for lieutenant governor and has been one of the most vocal advocates of repeal, said that BP “cashed out in Alaska, proving once again that oil taxes do not dictate the operations of global energy producers.”

Others see it differently. Several elected officials issued press releases and made statements in support of the sale. Bill Walker, who is running for governor as an independent, was also positive about the sale. “We need a whole bunch more companies like Hilcorp,” he said.

For one, they are committed to local hire, Walker said. Secondly, they’re likely to be more aggressive in producing oil.

Independents are generally more nimble and quicker than major oil companies, which can sit on assets to work on other, more attractive oil plays in other parts of the world.

Too, many have long argued that the three major oil companies’ stronghold on the North Slope has hindered development by scaring independents away. After BP acquired ARCOs’ assets in 1999, a Charter Agreement signed by BP was supposed to help give independents access to the Slope. But the majors are still not known for being particularly friendly in allowing access to their facilities.

Last year, during legislative testimony on the new oil tax regime, Bill Armstrong, president of Armstrong Oil & Gas — a North Slope lease holder that has attracted Pioneer, ENI and Repsol to the Slope — was asked about his company’s relationship with the majors. Armstrong likened it to the abusive relationship between Ike and Tina Turner. “We’re Tina,” he said.

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U.S. Senate candidate Joe Miller draws large crowd for campaign kickoff

Redemption makes for a powerful story. So does being an underdog who claims to speak truth to power. Of the three candidates running to be the Republican nominee in the U.S. Senate race–Joe Miller, Mead Treadwell and Dan Sullivan–only Miller can claim both. Both Treadwell and Sullivan have much going for them, but they don’t have the power of those two stories.

This wasn’t lost on the fired up crowd of as many as 200 on Monday night at the Wasilla Lake Resort where they gathered for Miller’s official campaign kickoff. As most know, Miller ran in 2010, won the primary, and then suffered a devastating loss to Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s write-in bid. It was a brutal campaign, and Miller’s reputation took a beating.

But some things are different this time. Miller’s official campaign kickoff in 2010 was in the town square in Anchorage. About 12 people showed, said Mark Fish, who has been one of Miller’s main volunteers from the beginning. “I think I begged six of my libertarian friends to come,” Fish said.

And Miller appears to be softer and more relaxed this time around. On the stage on Monday, he was even able to poke fun of the fact that in 2010, a member of his “security” detail handcuffed Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger at a campaign event. Referring to his young children who were sitting next to him who are taking martial arts, Miller said that this time “we decided to have in-house security.”

It was probably the loudest laugh line of the night from a crowd that wasn’t shy about laughing, as well as yelling out an occasional “Amen,” or “Say it like it is Joe.”

The event lasted more than 2 hours, and featured national radio talk show host Lars Larson. Tim Macy, vice chairman of the Gun Owners of America, flew up that morning from California for the event. Adele Morgan and Paul Wainamo sang songs about God and country. Speeches about liberty, guns and God were made. It was a classic Wasilla tea party, with some beer on tap.

Before Miller spoke, they showed the above three minute video about Miller and his life. It’s easy to forget that Miller actually has an impressive resume. He went to West Point and has a law degree from Yale. He was awarded the Bronze Star in Desert Storm. He has a masters in economics from UAF. And he was raised by poor parents in Kansas. He has eight kids, and is now a grandfather. And he now will have run twice for U.S. Senate and has developed a large following.

Another thing that’s changed since 2010: Miller has developed a stump speech that is actually digestible. He still talks with passion about repealing ObamaCare, abolishing the IRS, and federal overreach. But he doesn’t go on and on. And on Monday, he peppered his speech with the personal. He told a story about being a little boy with a disfigured lip from a fall. He alluded to being bullied because of it. He talked about working for his father’s bookstore and mowing lawns to get enough money to pay for an operation to fix it. He raised the money, took the bus to Wichita, and got his lip fixed.

He was only in 7th grade.

The money is going to be tight for Miller. Although all told he has about $300,000 cash on hand, he only raised $101,000 last quarter. Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has less cash on hand, but he has name recognition and long history in the state. The big money is on former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, who raised $1.4 million last quarter alone and has about $2 million on hand.

But then again, Miller won the last primary with only $300,000 against Murkowski’s huge war chest.

Miller didn’t mention Sullivan in his speech, but it’s clear that he’s going to attack him as the establishment candidate who is supported by those partaking in “generational theft,” and by the “same forces” that fought him so hard in the last election.

I asked him what’s different since the last election and why he thinks he can win now when he didn’t then.

He pointed to the crowd. “Look at this,” he said. “This is different.”

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Education and KABATA still on table as Legislature goes into 92nd day

Going past the regularly scheduled 90-day legislative session and into the 92nd legislative day, lawmakers continue to be far apart on the specifics of the governor’s education bill, forcing a conference committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate.

The House conferees are Reps. Mike Hawker, Lynn Gattis, and Sam Kito III. The senators are Mike Dunleavy, Kevin Meyer, and Lyman Hoffman. They have been given limited power of free conference. In other words, they are being given more flexibility than is normally granted to a first-time appointed conference committee. They are scheduled to meet Tuesday at 10 a.m.

The capital appropriations bill is being held on the House floor pending an agreement on the education bill so that the fiscal costs of what is agreed upon can be provided for in the appropriations bill.  The only other high profile issue remaining is a concurrence vote in the House on KABATA.

Legislators are said to be optimistic that they can expect to wind up their work on Tuesday.

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Pro-Begich super-PAC ad ties Koch brothers to GOP challenger Sullivan

Put Alaska First, a super-PAC which supports U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, released another TV ad over the weekend focused on the Koch brothers and GOP challenger Dan Sullivan. This one is narrated by Alaska resident Todd Hoener, who lives in Ester, a small community outside of Fairbanks. The ad talks about how the Koch brothers, who own Flint Hills Refinery in Fairbanks, are shutting the refinery down and costing about 80 jobs. It claims that the Koch brothers are supporting Sullivan.

The claim is a stretch. Although the Kochs do support a group that has been attacking Begich on healthcare and a carbon tax, Continue reading


Alaska state Legislature works overtime

UPDATED: Monday, 7:30 a.m.: A bill which would make 20 Alaska Native languages official languages of the state of Alaska passed after 3 a.m. The vote was 17-2, with Sens. Pete Kelly and John Coghill voting against it. Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka, was the bill’s prime sponsor. However, the education bill and the capital budget, which are linked, did not. The Senate adjourned at about 5 a.m. and will be back this afternoon to debate what’s remaining. Here’s ADN’s Rich Mauer explaining what happens next:

Under the deal reached by the House and Senate leaders, (Sen. Lesil) McGuire said, the House will immediately vote on whether to accept the Senate version. If the answer is no, as is likely, a House-Senate conference committee would be quickly convened. If the conference committee couldn’t resolve the difference — McGuire said the leaders expected the versions to be irreconcilable — the House and Senate would appoint a free conference committee, which would have more authority to craft a completely new version acceptable to both bodies. McGuire said the House was keeping the capital budget in its chamber and would use it as the vehicle to absorb whatever funding changes was called for in the education bill. If the conference committee version and the capital budget were accepted by House and Senate, the Legislature could wrap up and adjourn. That could happen Monday night, she said.

ORIGINAL STORY: Alaska Legislature went past the midnight deadline on Sunday to push the Legislature into an extended session, which, among other things, means that ballot measures legalizing marijuana, raising the minimum wage, and making it more difficult to mine in Bristol Bay will be moved from the August primary ballot to the general election. It’s unclear how long the Legislature will continue. They could gavel out on Monday. It could be days. According to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, extending the session costs up to $30,000 a day.

At 11 p.m., the Senate concurred with the House on the operating budget, which all told, is $9.1 billion, made up of $5.8 billion in state general funds, $2 billion in federal funds and $1.3 billion in other funds. That one is heading to the governor for his signature. It also passed a bill that is supposed to advance the large diameter natural gas pipeline. Still at play early Monday morning was the capital budget, which will be upwards of $2.2 billion. Although it can get blurred, the operating budget generally funds the operation of state government, and the capital budget generally covers infrastructure.

In the Senate, the mammoth education bill still had to be voted on, and it appeared that a controversial bill to give tax subsidies to refineries was also still in play.

Perhaps the bill with the largest constituency in the halls of Juneau was one which would make 20 Alaska Native languages official languages of the state of Alaska. On Sunday tribes from all across the state staged a sit-in waiting for the Senate to convene, which didn’t happen until 10 p.m. on Sunday night. That bill had yet to be voted on by Monday at 12:30 a.m., when the Senate called a 30 minute recess. APRN reporter Alexandra Gutierrez tweeted that she overheard one supporter in the gallery say, “What is wrong with these people?”

Moving the initiatives from the primary to the general ballot is said to be good for another referendum to repeal an oil tax break that was passed last session. The thinking is that those who would vote for marijuana and minimum wage would also be likely to vote to repeal the tax break. Conversely, some say that moving those initiatives to the general election benefits U.S. Sen. Mark Begich.

To bed now. More tomorrow.


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‘Sexy’ breastfeeding, fiscal conservatives, and dysfunctional Republicans

Let’s just look straight at that elephant in the room. It’s not easy but sometimes being in and around politics requires asking tough questions. And here’s the question everyone in Juneau, and much of the rest of the country, was grappling with this week: “Is breast-feeding sexy?”

The question was spawned by a press release dashed off by Palmer Republican Rep. Shelly Hughes, about a House resolution encouraging the practice. In its title, the release called breast feeding “Smart and Sexy.”

The boys working the House majority press room either didn’t read it before sending it out or didn’t feel in a position to edit the release. What, they might have thought, do we know? Maybe that’s what the ladies are saying these days. Who can keep up? Any time a Republican mentions women, something goes all bad and viral anyhow.

So they pressed the “send” button, and sure enough, it all went bad and viral. Lefty outlets all across the country used it as evidence of a pattern. Of what, it was hard to say. The problem was that because the phrase originated with a woman, it didn’t exactly fit.

Anyway, the colorful and playful Hughes apologized and House Speaker Mike Chenault had to take full responsibility for calling breast-feeding sexy, which has to top Sen. Fred Dyson giving a speech on the Senate floor about the research he had done on the price of condoms, or Sen. Pete Kelly’s remark about birth control being for people who don’t act responsibly.

More could have been made of those remarks, the ones that did matter and did follow a pattern — that is, if the women in the Legislature organized, forgot their differences and banded together to form their own caucus. There’s enough of them now to constitute a force to be reckoned with, if some of them, two House members in particular — one Dem and one Republican — would stop perpetuating stereotypes by crying, throwing fits and terrorizing their staffs.

Speaking of caucuses: Word is that some of the more moderate legislators are tiring of their more socially conservative brethren (and sistren), and are thinking of forming something different next session, depending on who gets elected. For the record: Sen. John Coghill, although about as right as you can be, is highly respected by most and would be offered coffee in most anyone’s caucus.

And speaking of avoiding the elephant: I’m writing this on Good Friday from Anchorage, and there’s no telling what bills are or aren’t going to pass in Juneau by Sunday night. They’ve left the big ones for last: the gas line, education, minimum wage and of course, the budget.

One thing is for sure: The fiscally conservative bunch, led by the fiscally conservative governor, won’t be spending conservatively. Au contraire! It’s not the largest budget in the state’s history — Parnell signed that one in fiscal year 2013 — but it will usher in the biggest period of deficit spending — nearly $2 billion — in state history.

Nevertheless, Parnell continues to talk about responsible spending and applauds those legislators who are intent on giving hundreds of millions away to refineries, say, to study energy projects that everyone knows aren’t going to produce energy, to softball fields and university buildings, for a bridge that isn’t going to get built … It goes on. The good folks at the Alaska Policy Forum are keeping a list.

Amazing, how our politicians can call themselves fiscal conservatives when they’re anything but. Just another big elephant in that little room. Some had hoped that Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott might take on the elephant. But his campaign appears to be listless. Maybe when the session is over, Sen. Hollis French, who’s running for lite gov and whose bête noire is listless ennui, can fire up the troops.

Anchorage lawyer Brad Keithley had played around with jumping in the race but now he tells me he’s decided against it. He will continue to write and to keep track of things on his own blog, and on a new site called Alaska Politics & Elections, created by former Rep. Tom Anderson.

Now some good news: Did you hear that Russ Millette, the short-lived former chair of Alaska’s Republican Party, has a job? Yes! He’s the chair of the Republican Party! Or at least that’s how he signed a highly distributed email about school choice. Word from the Alaska Libertarian Party is that he’s also considering a run for governor on their ticket. Some might remember how Millette was voted in in 2012 after longtime chair Randy Ruedrich resigned, and when the Joe Miller people met the Ron Paul people, and formed a fomenting family. He was given the boot shortly thereafter but he didn’t go very far. Elephants are hard to move.

It’s so much fun when Republicans get dysfunctional. When Democrats get dysfunctional, they “hear” one another and try to “work their differences out” by creating “boundaries,” fostering “mutual respect.” While they’re doing that, they lose elections.

More good news: Most of you will likely be reading this on Easter. Here’s to new beginnings and to the start of a big campaign season. Here’s to forgiveness, which I ask of Reps. Lora Reinbold and Les Gara, and Sen. Cathy Giessel, for poking at them all session. Here’s to redemption, which Cathy will need a lot of if she’s going to win. Les: Here’s to meditation and the sound of silence. Lora: Here’s to accepting one another’s differences. Here’s to love and hoping that once the session dies down, House Minority Speaker Chris Tuck, the most eligible bachelor in Alaska, finds some.

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This column first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News


Treadwell announces another poor fundraising quarter

On Friday, GOP Senate candidate Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell announced that he raised $124,000 during the first quarter of the year, which runs from January through March. He also put in $175,000 of his own money because, “Alaskans deserve a Senator who has worked in and served our state for four decades, and one who understands the unique challenges we face,” he said in a release.

The Alaska Dispatch reported that Treadwell had $140,000 cash on hand. Joe Miller, another GOP candidate, announced that he raised $101,000 during the same quarter and has $300,000 cash on hand, much of which is money rolled over from his 2010 run. Miller is running a much different, much more grassroots campaign than is Treadwell, and has the tea party faithful faithfully behind him. Miller officially announces his candidacy on Monday.

The other Republican candidate, former DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan, clearly the establishment’s choice, raised a whopping $1.4 million and has just under $2 million cash on hand, even though he’s been in the race for far less time than has Treadwell. Treadwell set up an exploratory committee in December 2012, and officially announced last June. Sullivan skipped the exploratory phase and officially announced in October.

Fundraising has not been Treadwell’s strong suit. And it’s not for lack of trying. He crisscrossed the country in 2013 trying to raise money. According to documents given to me, he had at least 15 fundraisers in the Lower 48, not including the numerous events he’s had in Alaska. In September, he hired high-powered, D.C.-based Lisa Spies to help him raise funds. She is now said to have left the campaign, as has most of Treadwell’s paid staff, including a campaign manager and two spokespeople. Most recently, Fred Brown left the campaign to work for the RNC in Arkansas.

Word is that Treadwell is getting pressure from some national Republicans to drop out of the race, and to support Sullivan. However, he has said that he has no plans to do so, and that he’s convinced that if he can get through the primary, he can leverage his 40 years of experience in Alaska and win the race.

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GOP Senate candidate Sullivan releases new campaign ad

U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan released a TV ad on Friday morning, claiming he’s the “conservative choice for U.S. Senate,” who has been endorsed by the Club for Growth, fought the EPA, ObamaCare, and for “pro-growth tax reform.” The ad isn’t going to make your heart melt. It’s not going to raise your blood pressure. It might not even capture your attention for 30 seconds. It’s a decidedly unexciting ad, from which Sullivan himself appears detached. However, the campaign has been polling, and maybe the buzz words will stick with some.


Joe Miller’s fundraising is looking up–reports $101,000 in 1st quarter

GOP Senate candidate Joe Miller reported raising $101,000 in the first quarter of the year, which ran from January to March. It’s a significant increase from the $30,490 he raised in the last fundraising quarter. No loans have been made to the campaign, he says, and he has $300,000 cash on hand, much of which was rolled over from his 2010 run.

Miller will make an official campaign announcement on April 21.

Dan Sullivan, his primary challenger, reported raising $1.4 million in the quarter. Mead Treadwell has yet to release his numbers. Sen. Mark Begich raised a little more than a $1 million.

Unlike Sullivan, Miller is running a grassroots campaign. He’s meeting with small groups, mostly in Fairbanks, were he lives, and in the Valley, where his support is strong.

In a press release, Miller’s campaign reminds people that money doesn’t buy elections. “In the 2010 primary election, Miller won the Republican Party nomination against the incumbent senator with approximately $300,000,” the release says. “In mid-July of 2010, about a month from Election Day, the senator reported over $2 million on-hand to Miller’s $125,000.”

That incumbent senator is Lisa Murkowski, who lost to Miller in the primary, but won in the general in a write-in campaign.

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Dan Sullivan or Dan Sullivan? Alaskans are confused.

Sullivan v Sullivan KTUU 5This should have been a good morning for GOP Senate candidate Dan Sullivan. FEC filings show that he brought in $1.4 million in the first quarter of this year, which runs from January to March. He raised $100,000 more than he announced last week. This means that he bested U.S. Sen. Mark Begich in the quarter by about $400,000, which is no small feat. Sullivan has filed two quarterly reports, and he’s beat Begich’s fundraising totals in both. He still has just under $2 million cash on hand. But fundraising prowess doesn’t guarantee success, particularly if the public doesn’t know who you are.

The KTUU Channel 2 screenshot was captured on Thursday morning. KTUU has been the number one watched news program in Anchorage for decades. It features a photo not of Sullivan the Senate candidate, but of Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who’s running for lieutenant governor. Mistakes like this are made all the time, even by much bigger outlets, and this one is a particularly easy one to make. It was fixed shortly after it was posted.

That said, it speaks to a larger problem: If KTUU’s webmaster is confused about the two Dan Sullivans, then most of the public is too. And Senate candidate Sullivan’s campaign, which has released few ads so far, doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to change that. This confusion likely won’t hurt him in the primary, where the name recognition could serve both of them well. It’ll be a different story, however, in the general election, particularly if Mayor Dan wins his primary. As the mayor of the state’s largest city, a city that many Alaskans feel resentment towards, Sullivan has high negative numbers in some places in the state. And you can bet that U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, who is likely one of that state’s best living politicians, can and will make use of the confusion.

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Group makes media buy in Alaska to draft Sarah Palin for U.S. Senate

palinAccording to an FEC filing made on Wednesday, a group called the Tea Party Leadership Fund is spending $10,000 on a radio buy in Alaska opposing U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and urging Sarah Palin to run for his seat. Washington D.C. lawyer Dan Backer is the treasurer of the group, which as of February has raised $3.8 million this election cycle.

Backer is also one of the lawyers behind the most recent Supreme Court decision to strike down a slate of campaign finance restrictions.

According to Mother Jones, Backer’s group has already blasted out an email headlined “Palin for Senate” to supporters. “Sarah’s the proven leader we need,” it says. “She has a better grasp on world politics, and she knows what it means to cherish and protect our American freedoms far better than THE MAN WHO IS SUPPOSED TO BE LEADING THE FREE WORLD.” The email asked people to sign a petition, urging her to jump in the race.

Backer told Mother Jones that 100,000 people had signed it.

Palin has indicated in the past that she is considering a run for Senate, which most Alaskans, including this one, didn’t take seriously. Begich, however, has used it in fundraising pleas. It must work because until recently, he had continued to do so.

This media buy will likely provide his campaign with fresh fundraising fodder.

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The homes that KABATA plans to demolish

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The larger of the two Government Hill houses KABATA plans to demolish.

Sometime before Sunday night when the Legislature adjourns, the House is expected to take up a concurrence vote on the Senate version of the Knik Arm bridge project that would build a bridge between Anchorage and Point McKenzie. It’s currently in what’s known as the “limbo file.” The House can take it up any time.

The idea for a bridge spanning the Knik Arm to open up access to that enticing plot of land across the water has been around for 100 years. The current plan has been in the works since 2003, and has seen multiple iterations. With a construction cost of about $900 million, it was initially going to be a government-funded project, with toll revenue paying back loans. Then it turned into a private-public partnership. Private sector involvement was supposed to be a guarantee, boosters said, that the project was viable. Now it’s back to being public, or completely government funded. When Gov. Sean Parnell announced the change, he spun it as a positive development.


Photo taken through a dirty window: The interior of a home KABATA plans to demolish. The floors are cherry and were refinished by former Rep. Pete Kott.

So far, the agency has spent roughly $100 million dollars on planning, design, environmental work, right-of-way acquisition and salaries. Parnell has requested that $55 million be put in the current budget for the project, $50 million of which are federal funds.

The caveat this time is that the project go through the process of getting a federal loan before it can sell bonds. It’s tried, and failed, to get that loan five times throughout the years. Many legislators have doubts that it will succeed now, but they’re voting on it anyway, in large part because the bridge is a priority for the powerful Valley delegation, including Co-Chair of House Finance Bill Stoltze and Senate President Charlie Huggins.

Another amendment in the Senate dictates that the agency in charge of the project, the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority, or KABATA, cannot destroy property it acquires unless it gets the loan. However, it is allowed to destroy the four Government Hill properties it already acquired, at a cost of about $3 million. KABATA spokesperson Shannon McCarthy, said demolition probably wouldn’t happen until next year.

Maybe the bridge is a good thing for Anchorage and the Valley. Maybe it’s just a huge waste of money that will suck the life, and ideas of smart land-use, out of Anchorage. In any case, houses that are homes with history will be razed.

One of those Government Hill properties is a piano store, which is still being used as such. One was a hotel, the other two were houses. All of them were occupied. Now KABATA owns them and they are empty, which would appear to be a waste given the rental shortage in Anchorage.


Home that KABATA plans to demolish. It was formerly owned by Charles Wohlforth, who spent years remodeling it.

However, McCarthy said that federal regulation, which the agency abides by, dictates that if they rent those properties, they would be required to bring the properties up to federal safety standards and to move the residents when they had to leave.

So the plan now is that the houses will sit empty until they are razed.

By most standards, the two houses are nice. Many, including me, would think they are very nice. The city appraised the larger of the two houses at $402,100 in 2013. The smaller was appraised at $297,300.

That smaller one was the former home of Anchorage writer Charles Wohlforth. The house, built in the 1950s, was designed to look like a picture from a house that was featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Wohlforth said. Wohlforth lived in the 2,400 square foot house for 14 years. He moved out in 2002. He and his family completely gutted and remodeled it. They tore down and sheet-rocked walls and ceilings. They put in the fireplace, and a banister. They redid the bathrooms. He built a new Arctic entry. Cherry wood flooring covers much of the house. Former Rep. Pete Kott redid the floors after about 10 years of use.

On Wednesday, I drove over to the house and took pictures of the living room through a dirty window. It’s still gorgeous. The paint looks news. The floors still gleam. Even the fireplace has style.

“It’s sad,” Wohlforth said. “What a great place it was.”

I also took some pictures of the outside of the other house that is going to be razed. From the outside at least, this one doesn’t look as lovingly cared for as the Wohlforth house. But it’s
still a lovely home.

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