Category Archives: Uncategorized

Quinhagak sings the Hallelujah Chorus

If you haven’t seen this yet, you should. I think it’s the best holiday video to come out of Alaska. It was made in 2010 by the 5th grade class of Kuinerrarmiut Elitnaurviat in Quinhagak, with the supervision of teacher James Barthelman. As of Christmas Eve, the video had more than 1.6 million hits on YouTube.


Comment of the day: We need more than ‘politically expedient smoke and mirrors’

Courtesy of Lynn Willis on the story about four Democratic legislators calling on Gov. Bill Walker to re-appropriate $20 million that was budgeted for Anchorage’s U-Med road:

Memo to these four legislators: Good idea to maintain infrastructure we already have built or actually use the money to replenish our cash reserves; however, simply re-apportioning funds for maintenance or other expense is not preventing them from being spent and therefore does not reduce state spending.

Notice that there is a strong sentiment against actually saving the $20 million, as opposed to just not spending it on this particular road. Is this what we can expect this session as we attempt to live within our means – partisan bickering over individual projects without actually cutting spending significantly? If all this does is spend the money on something else, is it now the Republican’s turn to re-apportion $20 million in an equally meaningless gesture meant to confuse motion with progress?

While I encourage this step in the right direction to save the money, if they actually wanted to cut this amount of spending between the two parties they need to find another 49 projects worth $20 million then they will have saved a billion dollars. Next go find another 100 projects worth $20 million each and you have saved the three billion we need to cut.

We need comprehensive solutions to provide the maximum benefit to Alaskans over time, not politically expedient smoke and mirrors.




Quote of the day: Should we cut Alaska’s space program?

From Democratic Rep. Les Gara’s newsletter:

At a time of $3 billion budget deficits, continuing the spending of $58 million in state funds over the past five years, on a nearly idle Kodiak Rocket Launch facility which has LAUNCHED ONLY 2 successful rockets since 2010, is not fiscally prudent. Three days of successful and failed launches in nearly 2,000 days is not a model of success. I’ve listened to five years of promises by proponents telling the Legislature they are about to turn the corner, sign big contracts, and stop losing money. The “we’re about to sign a big contract” line is getting old, and expensive.  I hope this facility has value.  If it does, the private sector can measure that, and, in my personal view, purchase it and run it more successfully.

Read more about the state’s space program here. Also read about the new plans for the facility here. 


Chart of the day: Uber in trouble?

Uber, the car service with an app that is  conditionally in business in Anchorage, sort of, has had some major problems lately. Per CNBC:

A day after city officials in Portland, Oregon, sued Uber, on Tuesday prosecutors in Los Angeles and San Francisco slapped a lawsuit on the company, accusing the ride-sharing app of gouging customers, among other claims. Portland sued the now $40 billion taxi-hailing service for allegedly failing to meet local regulations…The problems don’t stop at stateside legal trouble. Uber operations have been halted in New Delhi after a rape accusation. Spain and Thailand also ordered operations stop in their countries.

Here’s a chart composed by Bloomberg that tells the story:

chart of the day uber


Is land owned by Alaska Native corporations private land?

The Alaska chapter of Americans For Prosperity had a dinner on Thursday night. One of the featured speakers was Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan, who talked about the possibility–given the state’s current fiscal crisis– of having a state constitutional convention to rethink the concept of the “owner state,” a Wally Hickel concept that, as I understand it, basically envisions collective ownership, funneled through the state, of resources. Sullivan pointed out that the concept was at its heart either socialistic, or communistic. He said that it has kept the land and the resources under government control, and that at the very least, it was time to talk about opening up the land to private ownership. He said that as it is, only about 1 percent of Alaska’s land is privately owned.

In a comment, reader Pamela Brodie took issue with the 1 percent claim, pointing out that Alaska Native corporations own 12 percent of the land. Another reader, who seems to know the subject pretty well, claims that Native corporation land acts more like federally-owned land than land owned by the private sector. Read on:

(T)he Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act established Native corporations with 44 million acres of federal and state land. It also gave the corporations $1 billion. In return the Act “extinguish(ed) all aboriginal hunting and fishing rights that may exist,” and removed all claims that attorneys for Alaska Natives might have been able to use to further delay the oil pipeline. The land was set up in a special, exclusive, protected quasi-governmental status that cannot be taxed by the state and municipalities except if developed in specific ways and it removed the land from the reach of creditors, even in bankruptcy. Profits generated by the land, when distributed to stockholders, are beyond the reach of the Internal Revenue Code. So the case can be made that it is not private land but a special class of federal land.

Moreover, shares in the corporate land cannot be bought or sold Continue reading


Walker meeting with Obama and Cabinet today

Gov. Bill Walker and other new governors are meeting today with President Obama and members of his Cabinet.  According to news accounts, he will join six other newly elected governors, both Republican and Democrat, at the White House. Walker is the only independent governor elected last month and the only one who has been sworn in so far.

Here’s a description of the meeting that I received from Walker’s spokesperson:

The day will begin with lunch and discussion with the Vice President, followed by 30 minute briefings and discussions with Cabinet Members. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, Secretary of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy, among others, will participate. The day will conclude with a discussion with the President and other senior White House officials.



Comment of the day: Should state workers fly first class?

This, from reader Ah Ha,  is something I’ve often noticed and wondered about:

It seems to me that there ought to be a law, any airline ticket purchased by the State of Alaska for travel between Anchorage and Juneau or vice versa should only be valid for seats in rows 14 and higher. It also seems to me that there are a lot of State employee’s who are piling up miles and gold member benefits paid for by the State. What gives?

To take the discussion further: Why should state workers earn airline miles on their personal accounts when traveling on the state dime? How much money would it save if those miles went into a state pot and were used for travel?


Comment of the day: How to solve illegal immigration problem

A reader responds to the story about the GOP’s response to Obama’s executive action plan on illegal immigration:

Republicans are so full of crap. For the most part, they have spent the last six years actively trying to prevent anything that could be even remotely construed as beneficial for the country from happening because a Democrat sits in the White House. So their complaints of “executive overreach”, however warranted they may be, seem like little more than sniveling tantrums to me. A fairly sizeable chunk of our economy is supported by the labor of illegal immigrants, and those enterprises that employ them are much more profitable than they would otherwise be, because it is understood that illegals can/will be exploited under the current paradigm. This tidy arrangement, where illegals quietly work for fractional wages because the ominous threat of deportation is always looming, works out quite nicely for those at the top. For the system to work, there must be both a pool of illegal labor to draw from (hence the porous borders), and the pretense of “patriotic nationalism”, bordering on xenophobia, which sustains the anti-illegal immigrant sentiment throughout the country. Republicans HAVE to jump up and down and feign moral outrage at the state of things, because it is the only way to keep the charade going.

If anybody, from any political party, really wanted to change the status quo Continue reading


Comments are not the Amy Carroll from Fish and Game

Apparently someone named Amy Carroll is writing comments that another Amy Carroll,  who works for the the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, doesn’t want attributed to her. Fish and Game Amy Carroll is pretty emphatic about it. (I would be too.) She has posted the below on numerous stories. So I thought it deserved attention:

To the many people at work and around town who have asked if the above comment is mine: NO. It’s someone else with the same name.

Amy Carroll (from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in Juneau Alaska)


Parnell concedes to Walker

Gov. Sean Parnell conceded the race to Gov. Elect Bill Walker on Saturday evening. (Read my take on why he lost the race here.) The email that he sent addressed to Alaskans announcing his concession should serve as a model for all politicians. Here’s the email in full:

Dear Alaskan,

It has been an honor to serve as Governor of Alaska for more than five years. Sandy and I will always remain thankful and humble that we could work for you to create opportunities for every Alaskan.

After Friday’s vote counting by the Division of Elections, it became clear that while a win for the Parnell-Sullivan ticket was numerically possible, it is highly improbable. Where Alaska’s swearing-in date this year for the governor-elect is December 1st and where some ballots still must be counted, I deemed it in Alaskans’ interest to begin coordinating transition activities now with the Walker-Mallott ticket in the event the vote count holds.

I met this morning with Bill Walker to pledge an orderly transition. In line with this pledge, I offered office space for transition activities to the Walker-Mallott ticket as well as resources to accomplish the transition. We had what I believe to be a very productive discussion about how to work together for the benefit of Alaskans in this time of change in administration.

It is my fervent hope that Alaska’s trajectory for economic growth and individual safety and opportunity will be maintained. From bringing the Alaska LNG Project further than ever before; to creating Alaska Performance Scholarships for our young people; to being on track for natural gas to Fairbanks by 2016; to a Cook Inlet gas and economic resurgence; to reforming Alaska’s oil tax system to bring more North Slope investment and job activity than we’ve seen in decades (and more state revenue at these lower oil prices); to resolving the Point Thomson dispute and gaining first production there by 2016; and to leading our state in fighting the epidemic of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and sex trafficking – we have achieved a great deal for our state.

We respect the will of the voters, and offer Bill Walker, Byron Mallott and their families our sincere congratulations. Again, I want to thank our citizens for the honor of a lifetime.


Sean Parnell