Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.20

  • Tonight’s the night where Obama is showing some immigration love in a speech The Hill refers to as confrontational. If what the Huffington Post reports is true, if no major networks air the speech, does it matter?
  • Yesterday’s meeting between the U.S. Air Force and our Congressional delegation revealed that Eielson’s F-16’s are once again under review. There’s talk that they be moved Outside or to Anchorage, according to the Fairbanks News Miner.
  • The Dispatch reports that Sen. Anna Fairclough emailed all legislators and their staff that they must sign a pledge not to release confidential information in order to attend an executive meeting whereby gasline terms will be discussed and information will be shared. In response, the director of legal services for the Alaska Legislature wrote to Fairclough that internal rules prohibit legislators from being excluded from executive sessions. Fairclough’s letter was fodder for outrage. Some maybe justified. Some not. Remember, there is always going to be some confidentially in business decisions. Just ask the municipality-funded Gasline Port Authority, say nothing of the film credit program. Lawmakers even signed confidentially agreements before voting on the “transparent” AGIA legislation. In fact, it might be a good thing the legislators are invited to peek under the hood. To my knowledge, they can’t even do that with the film tax credits. That said, it was a dumb PR move right before a new administration that’s been critical of “secret negotiations” takes over.

  • As with any story that elicits self-righteous indignation (like the one above), the story about Uber’s threat to smear critical journalists is more complicated than it appears. Read here for a first-hand account of the situation, and a smack-down of the journalist who reported it. The takeaway: Business executives should never ever drink where reporters are lurking.
  • The CIA is considering wide ranging organizational change according to the Washington Post.
  • The Hill reports that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi lost in a very public way her prominent position as ranking member on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee to Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ). Over on the Senate side, the momentum for change continues with how Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (NV) runs their weekly caucus meetingsYou better start swimmin’ or you’ll sink like a stone for the times they are a-changin’.
  • The Alaska Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding a Tlingit-Haida suit at Ketchikan High School as part of a new program that brings the court to communities around the state for various cases, according to the Ketchikan Daily News.
  • The Republic details the finalized sale of interests in four North Slope oil fields from BP to Hilcorp.
  • Today’s implementation of the Blue Canoe’s (the state ferries) updated unaccompanied minor policy that would have prevented any minor under the age of 18 to travel without a legal or documented guardian, has unexpectedly been postponed by the Alaska Marine Highway System. The Kodiak Daily Mirror has the details.
  • Let’s get ready to rumble for 2016’s presidential race! In this corner, weighing in with a long conservative rap sheet is Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and in this corner touting experience as a former Democratic Senator from the great state of Virginia is Jim Webb, author Fields of Fire, of one of the best novels about Vietnam ever.
  • Shakespeare once asked, “What’s in a name?” According to the Peninsula Clarion, APOC is asking the same question regarding Kelly Hepler’s  Hempler’s title. Is this person an “assistant commissioner” Fish and Game or a “special projects coordinator?” While the implications might not lead to an operatic death by apothecary’s poison, it will certainly create precedent for the future “working title” section on APOC reports.
  • The Juneau Empire has the latest on the League of Women Voters in Juneau and it’s cheesy-in the best way possible. On Nov. 20, they will be hosting a pizza and politics forum that is open to the public to learn not only what the league has accomplished this election cycle, but also more about this dynamic organization.
  • The University of Alaska Fairbanks has chosen an Outside engineering firm to design their new $245 million power plant. The Fairbanks News Miner explains that the Iowa-based company will bring 75 years of global power plant design work to the table that will be shared with a Fairbanks-based business to ensure the most efficient 22-megawatt project possible.
  • The state currently has a backlog of 55 oil and gas tax and credit audits that need to be completed before the statute of limitations runs out. A sharply worded letter from the Alaska Legislative Budget and Audit Committee warns that inaction could cost the state and our PFD hundreds of millions in back taxes. The Dispatch explains the possible reasons for why our legislature is turning its back on revenue, i.e. one major audit required more than 10,540 hours of staff time, which according to the Dispatch is the equivalent of 5.5 years for one auditor.
  • Yesterday, it was announced that KTUU’s political reporter Grace Jang has been tapped to become Bill Walker’s spokesperson. This would explain why her Twitter feed went dark as of November 5th and suddenly disappeared early yesterday morning. Hopefully we will get to enjoy her infectious charm through tweets while down in Juneau.
  • The Fairbanks Metropolitan Area Transportation System wants you! Actually, they just want public input on their ideas for the estimated 150 road, sidewalk and bike path projects for the next 25 years. The Fairbanks News Miner has the details, but step up because life is a highway and we want to drive it all night long-or at least until the road ends.
  • Only in Alaska would the firefighters hold a raffle with guns as the prizes, per the Seward City News.



22 thoughts on “Inside/Outside morning news roundup for 11.20

  1. Crude is Rude - Gas is gold

    The state currently has a backlog of 55 oil and gas tax and credit audits that need to be completed before the statute of limitations runs out…….

    When I was a kid growing up in tinytown-AK my dad used to ration the toiletpaper tightly,
    because the closest store was 100 miles away…

    …..inaction could cost the state and our PFD hundreds of millions in back taxes.

    >>The idiots who have been running this state into the ground are the same morons who think SECRECY & CONFIDENTIALITY should be the normal way to run state affairs.

    “”DEAR GOD, PLEASE GIVE US ANOTHER PIPELINE, WE PROMISE WE WON’T PISS THIS ONE AWAY TOO !!….. and while you’re at it make this one cost $65billion because we want some cocaine with our alcohol””

    …….TAR & FEATHERS for all them damn Oilies who stink more than they think.

  2. Lynn Willis

    And all we had to lose then was tax revenue, now we jeopardize profit and that is a whole different motive. Also, as to this great investment in Cook Inlet, Enstar is requesting yet another 7.6% rate increase to be effective January 2015. Ain’t this relationship great?

  3. Lynn Willis

    Being a fiscal conservative with my own money and expecting my elected officials to be protective stewards of the public treasury, I certainly would not support risking public funds unless I was convinced that this or any other fromal partnership was the best option for Alaska.
    The Alaska Legislature is hardly a paragon of sound judgment as our current fiscal situation seems to prove beyond a doubt. Perhaps a portion of frozen fish served with a side of barley in the Mark Air Hangar in Bethel might jog your memory regarding the business acumen of the Alaska Legislature.
    How interesting that you mention Cathy Forester of the AOGCC who, by the way, was not invited to testify in a debate controlled by a single party in the legislature. I found little comfort in that vote to pass SB138; besides, as I pointed out earlier, who of them would vote against “jobs”, “revenues” and the rest especially when the promise is years away and the fall election was bearing down on them.
    In retrospect, perhaps I can now even more appreciate a motive for secrecy by legislators openly supporting this effort.

  4. Jon k

    Lynn the state has a looooong history of separating its proprietary interest from its regulatory function. We own the oil and minerals, yet the state requires companies to spend years getting permits before drilling and developing. Some companies cannot get permits from state agencies even though the state would benefit monetarily if it issued the permit. There are too many examples to cite.

  5. Jon k

    Well said Amanda. I would add that most information about the project isn’t going to be kept confidential and most questions Alaskans have about the project can and will be answered by the state or the AK LNG team. It would be really nice if Dermott would write one article explaining just how much information is going to be shared.

    It is extremely aggravating to see proponents of AGIA playing the transparency card.

  6. Amanda Post author

    Lynn. I don’t know if being an equity partner is good or not for the state.(I know that many I respect, including Marty Rutherford, have argued in the past that it wasn’t a good thing. Others who I respect argue convincingly that it is.) But I do know that there are silos in state government that really do work independently of each other and make decisions and often deny permits accordingly. (For instance, I don’t think that there’s anything you could do to Cathy Foerster to make her approve of a project that deviating from her mission. She’s only one. There’s a lot more. We just don’t hear from them much.) But a larger point is that this is the route we’ve decided to go–the legislature passed a go-ahead last session overwhelmingly (I think one person voted against it?) which included approval of work being done, some of which would remain confidential. For any one of them who voted on it then to now act like there’s something wrong with it is either dishonest or weren’t doing their jobs then. But again, my larger point: because we’ve decided that we’re going to be an equity partner, then we need to act like an equity partner and expect normal business negotiations, which nearly always demand confidentiality. Hell, the person who built this site signed a confidentially waver.

  7. Lynn Willis

    My point is that we are not serious equity partners with these agencies and others who approach the state for permits, licenses, etc. That completely changes the dynamic of the relationship. For example, how could the State permitting process maintain even the appearance of objectivity when now placed in the position that denial of any permit for AKLNG would jeopardize not only substantial future state revenue but also expose us to increased financial obligation as a business partner?
    We didn’t even have the good sense to put this gas line project at “arms length” from the legislative process. This is a legislative and executive branch project with them having direct oversight. I remember Rep. Eric Feige’s (who supported AKLNG yet is no longer in the legislature) warning about the tremendous pressure that will be placed on the legislature to approve the contracts that may result from the “pre-feed” and “feed” processes. I can appreciate his warning, because whom in their right political mind will vote to “kill jobs for Alaskans” and “deny future generations income from our resources”. I would hope you would smell fresh air from opening the window to this process.

  8. Amanda Post author

    Lynn. My point is that there’s confidentiality in nearly single business decision ever, and in every deal we have with nearly every company that business in Alaska that goes to the state for licensing, permits, etc. I smell demagoguery in the “secrecy” meme.

  9. Lynn Willis

    Regarding the appointment of a spokesperson, what value is the ability to practice objective journalism to anyone hired as a spokesperson for an elected official? The job is primarily to turn road apples into applesauce – not necessarily glean the truth.
    Regarding secrecy of the AKLNG project, this gas line is a bit more important than the film tax credit or other examples. In this endeavor we are going to be an equity partner which raises the stakes considerably. How convenient for my legislator to now claim that my concerns are not important or worthy because he or she has seen the “big picture” and that I should “trust them” to now do the right thing. And exactly what happens to a legislator, staff member, or other official who is suspected of “spilling the beans”? What is the penalty for disclosure and how do you convict the accused without holding some sort of secret tribunal if you have to prove the disclosure of specific classified material?
    Regarding the coal fired plant in Fairbanks. What other affordable and available source of energy can supply both electricity and space heating by steam to the campus in time to insure service? Remember you need both forms of energy and we have pretty much spent our savings.

  10. Alaska Cod Piece

    Regarding UAF hiring an Iowa engineering firm to design its new $245m power plant — that will be powered by coal, while at the same time UAF ocean researchers travel all over educating people how the burning of fossil fuels (by far coal over oil) is causing ocean chemistry to go quirky and dissolve our sea creatures at a faster rate than anyone anticipated.

    Very disappointing and hypocritical on both fronts, UAF.

    While we are on the subject: why the hell aren’t ocean and fishery scientists located near the ocean and fish they are studying – instead of landlocked Fairbanks?? At a time when all we hear is the need for budget cutting, I bet UAF could save a bundle by not having to pay the travel expenses to get people to/from the ocean sites. What a travesty.

  11. Andy

    In charge? LOL… deep breath.. continuance of LOL.

    Where is James Matoon Scott when we need him?
    Why are the lame ducks discussing this behind closed doors anyway?
    Remember the utterances eluding to the crazy concept that the State will do
    the project alone if the private sector won’t jump in.

    Get your parachute boots on, its going to be a hard landing.

  12. Jon K

    Andy, the state isn’t leading the AK LNG effort. We are an equity participant. Exxon’s top LNG guy is the project lead. This project has nothing in common with the Port project. That said, if Walker gets his way, we will be “in control.”

  13. Jerry Hood

    All one has to do is look at Grace’s reporting over the last year, or her entire career for that matter, and you will find her to be unbiased and fair. She’s tough – but fair. I wish her the best in her new endeavor.

  14. Andy

    Wow, yet another deja vu political moment. The Port debacle is being blamed on poor engineering, yet the testimony relating to the “errors and omissions” claim is being redacted.

    The many entities involved were told what to do, literally, by a bunch of self-appointed , egotistical , has been politicians. It would be fascinating for the public to see the incompetence and corruption that is standard procedure for governmental managed projects.

    The guy in charge proclaimed himself to the ” God of the project”. Construction credentials you ask…nada, zip, zero. Political ties you ask….huge, wide spread, influential. If you think the gas pipeline project will be any different, you are kidding yourself. The only difference is this fiscal time bomb is so big it can take the whole State down. Things going on behind closed doors is certainly justifiable for various national security secrets , not a State sponsored gas line project.

    Follow the money, and the corresponding corruption. This impending disaster , being managed by posers-in-charge, will make the venal LIO decision smell like a rose. Oh I forgot, each opulent office gets fresh flowers daily to overcome the stink

  15. Garand Fellow

    No one should be surprised that the f16s are in play again now that Begich lost his race. I was skeptical that Fairbanks had actually dodged the bullet, and an expectation of this current news occurred to me each time I heard a Begich campaign ad say he had saved the f16s.

    I was in high school when Bob Dylan first sang that the times were changing. Nothing really changed.

    Senator James Webb also wrote a very prescient autobiographical book called Born Fighting. In that book he predicted that some of the Americans he calls his people would discover transfer payments such as food stamps and Social Security disability because the the stigma had disappeared and people in small towns no longer watch everyone else’s business. That is, he said that white people would begin getting on the dole. That happened of course. He also predicted that would end the ability to fight wars through the draft as his people would stop fighting all the wars and paying all the taxes without asking for anything in return. He also said some of his people would not get on the dole but instead would protest the entire political system, and in that he predicted formation of the Tea Party. If Webb was a Republican the book would have been called racist. Webb is a Democrat that Alaskans might be able to support.

  16. Straitlaced Radical

    Thank you. Your comment about her Twitter going dark on Nov 5 and then disappearing is what sparked my question. As with all things, time will tell, I suppose.

  17. Amanda Post author

    @Straighlaced: It depends. There’s a long tradition in AK and elsewhere of journalists working for politicians, particularly it seems from KTUU. A few that come to mind: Julie Hasquet, Jason Moore, Meg Stapleton, and Bill McCallister. Matt Felling, who works for Lisa Murkowski, worked for KTVA. So much depends on how they reported, and if they were negotiating for a job while reporting. The latter is worth 40 lashes.

  18. Straitlaced Radical

    Honest question: is it a conflict of interest for a political reporter who has been active in shaping public opinion in the most recent election cycle to immediately jump in as paid staff for a winning candidate? She’s clearly more classy than Charlo Green (who isn’t?), but could it potentially be seen as a similar situation, calling into question whether she was reporting with an undisclosed agenda?

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