What a busy week. With the government shutdown on Tuesday, I have mostly been focused on the shores of the Potomac and our nation’s capitol. That, and trying and failing to sign up for the federal health exchange. So, I thought that my Friday’s facts column would cover all the things this week that I wanted to write about, but didn’t get around to.
- Earlier this week, the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority – Alaska Energy Authority board of directors met and elected new officers. The two new leaders are among the three newest members of the board. The new chair is Dana Pruhs, President of Pruhs Construction and Meridian Investments. The vice-chair is Russell Dick of Juneau and is employed by Sealaska Corporation.
- The DOD decision to keep the F-16 squadron in Fairbanks was heralded by Alaska’s statewide officials and local officials in Fairbanks and North Pole. Another voice, who testified earlier in support of keeping the squadron in Fairbanks and praised the decision was Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan – – or should I say, Dan Sullivan for Lt. Governor. It’s funny how parochialism goes the way of the dodo when you’re running for statewide office.
- Tuesday was local election day for many. Probably the most covered race was the liquor tax referendum in the Matanuska-Susitna borough which failed overwhelmingly. While much of the coverage of this race was really good, solid reporting, I felt that a big piece of the story was never told. Conventional wisdom might suggest that the Valley is a hot bed of anti-tax sentiment; but, look what happened in this election alone – – Wasilla passed a tax increase, Houston voters had a chance to eliminate a sales tax on fireworks and didn’t , the borough voters approved a bond package and according to polls, 54 percent of Valley voters supported the proposed liquor tax increase referendum. Even the Frontiersmen and Anchorage Daily News provided editorial support to the referendum. So, what possessed voters to kill the liquor tax increase by a margin of 63.7 percent to 36.3 percent? My answer is that Republican campaign consultant Art Hackney enlisted an Obama style door-to-door campaign that identified and targeted voters. It is a quiet type campaign that flies under the radar, like a drone. The other side was totally outgunned. Its political consultant didn’t know what hit him. Until it did.
- Probably the other most interesting and watched race in the Valley was the Wasilla City Council race where former state Rep. Vic Kohring, a convicted felon, attempted a political comeback only to be rebuffed by his neighbors by a 2 to 1 margin.
- Other Valley races of note included the Palmer mayor’s race where incumbent DeLana Johnson narrowly defeated challenger Linda Combs, whose husband preceded Johnson as mayor. To many people’s surprise, former Green Party U.S. Senate candidate Jim Sykes appears to have narrowly won a seat on the Mat-Su borough assembly. Even with all the talk of patriotism that comes out of the Valley, less than 20 percent of the registered voters in the borough voted.
- In Fairbanks with one of the lowest turnouts for the city in at least a decade, John Eberhart, an attorney for the Tanana Chiefs Conference, appears to have a lead over downtown business owner and political conservative, Vivian Stiver, with plenty of absentee ballots that could still change the outcome of the election.
- In Homer, the electorate voted to repeal a city code banning plastic shopping bags and Juneau elected Kate Troll to their assembly. Troll has previously served on the Ketchikan borough assembly before relocating to Juneau. And finally with some sadness, I have to report that Lester Lunceford, who was the mayor of Whittier that got recalled just a few weeks ago, lost in his write-in bid for city council.
- For many Alaskans, receipt of their Permanent Fund Dividend checks was probably the most significant event of the week. A lot of checks worth $900 each hit mail boxes or were direct deposits for many Alaskans. Already many businesses are clamoring for our checks by advertising “special pfd offers”. Here’s a trivia data point about pfd offers: Neal Bergt’s Markair, which is now defunct, was the company that pioneered the first PFD deal. Many companies quickly followed suit that year and have continued to do so every October since. This year, even Slayer, an American thrash metal band known for their colorful lyrics, are offering a PFD special for their Sullivan arena concert scheduled for later this month and Alaska Airlines is offering all sorts of specials.
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