Tag Archives: anchorage daily news

‘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.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


This column first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News


The weekly wrap in Alaska politics: School of hard knocks, sucker punches, and Colorado cigarettes

Below is an excerpt from my weekly column in the Anchorage Daily News:

Are advocates of changing our constitution to allow for vouchers getting a lesson in the school of hard knocks? “Kids not Cuts” signs are sprouting like weeds. Protests all across the state are being organized. Supporters are working the phones, hard.

But fear not: The education privateers have a plan, says a trusted source who overheard two of them discussing the issue at a Midtown sandwich shop. The plan involves using capital projects to land the vote of a certain rural Democratic lawmaker.

Vouchers might not be a bad thing, and no doubt for democratic reasons we should allow the vote and the conversation. But if the people who’d talk loudly in a Midtown sandwich shop are involved, I’d rather entrust the education of our youths to any number of tenured, burned-out, atheistic teachers.

Frankly, the kids seem plenty all right to me, at least if UAA’s debate team is any kind of barometer. On Tuesday, the team took on the thorny gas line issue before Commonwealth North at the Hilton Anchorage, schooling about 100 community and business leaders on whether or not the state should invest in the line. Wiley Cason, the future governor of Alaska, and Matthieu Ostrander argued against investment. Amy Parrent and Jonathan Taylor argued for it.

Legislators have spent countless hours and millions of dollars with consultants trying to explain the pros and the cons of a state investment in the pipeline. Who knew that all they needed was the UAA debate team?

Judy Brady, Karen Hunt and Fran Ulmer were the judges. By a very slight margin, the no-investment team won. What probably cinched it was Cason’s line that the state spending its saving trying to get into the gas business “fills me with dread,” particularly given the state’s history of trying to act like the private sector.

Well, now that you put it that way, you could hear the crowd thinking.

Read the rest here.



Fracas in Legislature over online notices

A bill that would put public notices online, and would decrease the ad revenue of newspapers, has gotten an inordinate amount of attention. It’s become such a hot-button that the bill was pulled off the floor and sent back to House Rules, where bills like this go to die.

A little background: As it is, state agencies and some local governments are required to publish some legal notices, such as meetings, foreclosures, and certain court notices. They do so often in their local newspapers. A bill introduced by Rep. Mike Hawker would allow certain notices, such as housing foreclosure notices, to be put online. Legal notices from state agencies would not be affected, but some of those agencies would be allowed to put some reports, like annual reports, online instead of in print. Allowing Anchorage to put foreclosure notices online would save the city about $20,000, the muni said. Annual reports cost the state about $1.6 million in 2011. Both Anchorage and the Alaska Municipal League wrote letters in support of the bill.

It’s pretty innocuous on the face of it. However, if it passed and worked well, it would likely lead to all state agency notices bypassing newspapers. Then, the situation wouldn’t be so innocuous and it would very much effect the revenue of newspapers.

At a press conference, Anchorage Daily News reporter Rich Mauer accused Hawker of introducing the bill in order to seek retribution on the paper for its coverage of Hawker’s roll in the Legislative Office Building. Hawker called the charged ludicrous.

Rep. Ben Nageak of Barrow, who also supported the bill, was also accused of trying to get retribution on the Daily News, something that he denied also. Jenny Canfield, a Juneau Empire reporter got caught in the mess and was fired.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com


The weekly wrap in Alaska politics

Below is an excerpt from my weekly column in the Anchorage Daily News. Coming soon: a few tidbits that I wasn’t able to include in the column:

Many lawmakers spent the week sitting on committees, soothed by the drone of shaved-to-within-an-inch-of-their-lives oil company executives telling us how best to get our natural gas to market. They’re there to help, they assured lawmakers. Just sign on the dotted line, they all but said. Think what a 48-inch line will do for the state, they said.

Chair of House Resources Rep. Eric Feige’s all like: a big pipe for a big man! Sen. Lesil McGuire’s like, I love big projects! Rep. Geran Tarr is worried that the pipeline might be built out of genetically modified material, and no doubt when it’s her turn, Rep. Lora Reinbold will be worried that gays, with same-sex benefits, will work on it.

That was a joke, but seriously, we all share gas line fatigue. But this proposed legislation begins to set the terms for one of the biggest projects in the world, certainly in the history of Alaska. And with it comes a big, thick, complicated contract, negotiated by DNR Commissioner Joe Balash, Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell and Mike Pawlowski, aka “Fish.”

God love ’em but none of the three have any experience with this kind of contract. And with few exceptions — among them Reps. Peggy Wilson, Mike Hawker and Eric Feige — lawmakers appear to be abdicating their responsibility to ask questions to the gods in charge of passing gas.

Democrats could be helping. But apparently “gas line” doesn’t fire up the base like “oil tax repeal” does. Besides, they waved the white flag when Sen. Bill Wielechowski, perhaps borrowing a term from Sen. Hollis French, said passage of the gas line bill was a “fait accompli.”

And while the oilies soothed our legislators, there were several social do’s. On Wednesday in Juneau, more than 50 women gathered at the Annual Women in Resources shindig. Among them: Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell; and Reps. Peggy Wilson, Tammy Wilson, Lynn Gattis and Lindsey Holmes. Wendy Lindskoog from the Alaska Railroad, Deantha Crockett from the Alaska Miners Association and Kara Moriarty from AOGA were also there.

If you’re wondering where the men in resources meet, look no further than those who are testifying in the resource committees.

Read the rest here.

Contact Amanda Coyne at amandamcoyne@yahoo.com 


The week in Alaska politics: Lily Stevens speaks out, Parnell charms and oilies don’t.

From my column that was published in the Anchorage Daily News on Sunday:

Republicans in their finery gathered a week ago Saturday night at the Bridge Restaurant in Anchorage to celebrate Lincoln Day, courtesy of the Anchorage Republican Women’s Club. All the usual suspects gathered: Gov. Sean Parnell, former Lt. Gov. Loren Leman, who — with a top hat and a fake beard — looks amazingly like Lincoln. Lt. Gov. and Senate candidate Mead Treadwell sat with the governor, while his primary opponent, Dan Sullivan, sat with Rev. Jerry Prevo and his lieutenant, Glenn Clary. Even Joe Miller, the third member of the primary faceoff, showed. A certain low-level buzz follows Miller wherever he goes. Blame it on magnetism. Star power. Black helicopters.

Whatever it is, this was the pleasant Joe Miller. And he was well-dressed, more than can be said for at least one other politician in the room. Apparently, someone told mayoral candidate Dan Coffey that because he co-owns the Alaska ACES and was in charge of the ACES auction item, he should dress in ACES super-fan regalia. The gold beads for the games of “heads and tails” rounded out the image.

“This is embarrassing,” he said as someone in a tux walked by.

Parnell introduced Lily Stevens, daughter of the late U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, as the keynote speaker. Before that, if someone had told me Parnell could melt hearts, I’d have said the pot campaign must be going well. But there was a collective sigh when he quoted Lincoln: “(I)f all that has been said by orators and poets, since the creation of the world, in praise of women were applied to the women of America, it would not do them justice.”

Even Judy Eledge, one of the Alaska GOP’s grande dames, who’s likely heard all the praise and other things that a woman could hear, seemed to flutter.

Then it was Lily’s turn. The room erupted when she said, “I’m not going to mince words, my father should have never lost his seat.”

Another very different kind of fundraiser was held Thursday night at Cafe Del Mundo: This one for Anchorage Assembly candidate Pete Petersen, who used to be a Democratic state representative and doesn’t forget it. You can read all about what he did and what he would do if he were back in the House on his website.

Read the rest here. 

Contact Amanda Coyne at amanamcoyne@yahoo.com