Special election guide

May 2, 2022 at 8:04 am | Posted in alaska, politics, satire, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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It’s not often that we receive a ballot with 48 candidates for one office! Never voted in a California “jungle primary” or anything like one. It can be confusing if you are undecided — so as a public service, a quick take and brief candidate statement from each of them.

Note: the order was determined by starting with a letter blindly drawn from a Scrabble game, and alphabetical henceforth.

Ornelas, Robert
Party affiliation: American Independent
Quick take: fundie carpetbagger
Candidate Statement: “This election is about what voters consider important, from CRT to abortion to second amendment rights to freedom to inflict your religious beliefs on others. My experience running in high-profile races in several states will help me to win this! Heh — kidding! I’ll be ecstatic to get 0.5%! That would be righteous!”

Palin, Sarah
Party Affiliation: Republican
Quick take: yesterday’s papers
Candidate Statement: “If you’re not in it you’re out of it and while I have not been in it I’ve actually stayed in it, very active in thoughts and prayers for the state of our state and great country the greatest on earth and constantly under attack by the unhinged left and their minions such as AOC and Joe Biden and all of the Hollywood elite and I will counter all that and never — or, maybe, it depends — quit.”

Pellegrini, Silvio
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: cipher
Candidate Statement: “Some transmission systems contain multipliers, which amplify a signal prior to re-transmission, or regenerators, which attempt to reconstruct and re-shape the coded message before re-transmission. In a crisis, military officials send a coded message to the bunkers, switching on the dead hand.”

Peltola, Mary
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Bush Dem
Candidate Statement: “The Yup’ik have a word for conflicted but didn’t have time to dwell on it. Is Lisa Murkowski one of the greatest leaders of her generation, or the best we can do under the circumstances? Is some amount of compromise worthwhile in pursuit of recognition and the destiny of our culture and region? Or is it more, give them an inch and they’ll take a mile?”

Revak, Joshua
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Reddest of the red
Candidate Statement: “When you’re looking to replace the rudest, crudest, slavishly incoherent, larger than life and longest-serving buffoon the US House has ever seen with more of the same — I’m your man! I’ll kick those Blueheads to the curb every two years for the next 24 elections! I interned in Young’s office and when I take over everything will remain just as it is! Alaskans are fans of continuity. And bumbling and red-hot rhetoric!”

Sumner, Maxwell
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: No camo required
Candidate Statement: “The drunken sailors in Juneau will return to port someday to find their sad shanties and the corpus of representative government have been moved to where the people of the Mat-Su — the meth-heads, rednecks, gun-toting, government-hating, God-fearing, truck-driving monsters and soccer mommies — can keep an eye on them and their nefarious agenda.”

Sweeney, Tara
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: DC insider
Candidate Statement: “I’m here to explain the difference between the real Alaska and the idea of Alaska. Dependency vs self-reliance, pristine and unspoiled vs open for development, connected to the landscape vs exploitation. Whose side am I on, anyway? The real Alaskans, and all those who appreciate the idea of Alaska and whatever that may mean to them — the qualities it instills — all the insanity and breathtaking grandeur.”

Thistle, David
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Wind generator
Candidate Statement: “GOD bless you. GOD bless TEXAS.  GOD bless California. GOD bless Alaska except for the bears and the Democrats. And, GOD bless the United States of America.”

Thomas, Ernest
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Scrappy
Candidate Statement: “Alaska’s a young state; still, it doesn’t take long to accumulate piles of obsolete approaches. Politics is messy. We need to clearly know what to keep and what to throw away. The traditional role of our delegation as the hoarder of the state’s resources and our national standing is at stake.”

Trotter, Richard
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Fundie burgher
Candidate Statement: “Some say Alaska is one of the top five least religious states in the country, and its multicultural array is the opposite of a Christian mono-culture. Our response at Alaska Family Council is: let’s not get carried away.”

Welter, Bradley
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Beyond obscure
Candidate Statement: “I am an enigma wrapped in a conundrum and trumped by an opt-out clause. Campaign website? Social media? Bwaaa-ha-haa! I dare you to try to find out anything about me.”

Williams, Jason
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Almost nonexistent
Candidate Statement: “I do have a campaign website but it is a blank page! Either I am an open blank book, or the website is still under development, or the website developers were not paid. Check back later to find out which it is, or move along to somebody else.”

Woodward, Jo
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Bone to pick
Candidate Statement: “I do not want to witness ALASKA becoming another lower forty eight state. With old, vacant, dilapadated buildings, polluted waters, etc. — especially if it is New Jersey and we have to put up with a fat, ignorant douche of a governor for eight years.”

Wool, Adam
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Maybe a little bull
Candidate Statement: “For many years I owned a bar in Ester that was famous for having a gigantic frickin’ wood stove that could burn a half-chord of wood at a time. In all things, moderation, right? Sometimes you just have to let your freak flag fly!”

Wright, Stephen
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Wingnut
Candidate Statement: “There’s a fine line between fishing and just standing on the shore like an idiot. I live on a one-way street that’s also a dead end — not sure how I got there? I have a friend who is a radio DJ — when we drive through a tunnel I can’t hear him talk.”

Aguayo, Dennis
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Wait, what?
Candidate Statement: “We flew with the tribe of fur babies — in 2006 we arrived in Alaska, first Anchorage then made are way to the Kenai Peninsula, where we purchased are home in Nikiski. My wife is a great practical joker and there have been a bunch of people calling and congratulating me for running for office — something I would never do in a million years! I’m simple country folk, not ready for taking the country back in DC.”

Armstrong, Jay
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: wingnut
Candidate Statement: “Just like ALL Western States, Alaska has been ‘captured’ by the Feds not Constitutional Statehood agreements and are in fact States in ‘Waiting’. Elect me and be free! I’ll be free as well, since there’s no way I’m going to be part of an illegitimate government.”

Beal, Brian
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: another empty flannel
Candidate Statement: “Running for office is a passionate pastime for me. Some go to the rifle range, some blow up the News-Minus comments section. Me, I file another candidate declaration. What is it this time? Congressman for all of Alaska? Sure, that suits me to a T.”

Beck, Tim
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: OK, boomer
Candidate Statement: “The bridges to nowhere got a bum rap. That’s treehugger nonsense! All of our plans involve making inroads to little nowhere-villes, for nobody. That’s what built America from the ground up!”

Begich, Nick
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Wingnut
Candidate Statement: “Yes, I’m part of the Begich family, perhaps the most well-known Democratic political dynasty in the state. I’m not a Democrat, though. Seriously! Current projects — working on the links between Scientology, chemtrails and extraterrestrials. Did I mention I am a Republican?”

Brelsford, Gregg
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Makes sense [shudder]
Candidate Statement: “I’m hoping that a few well-placed bromides and the headshot with white hair will be enough for Alaskans on the fence and they won’t scroll to the end where I profess support for the Arts.”

Brown, Robert
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Waiting to jell
Candidate Statement: “Campaign, shmampaign. Signs, mailers, web presence, talking to the media — all dealing with Liberals who only want to distort what I’m saying and bend me to their agenda! Nope, sorry, not going there!”

Bye, Chris
Party affiliation: Libertarian
Quick take: Textbook Libertarian dogma
Candidate Statement: “Libertarianism is one part fantasy, one part outsider and one part anarchist. If you wonder how all this co-exists and thrives — it has its issues. On my campaign site I acknowledge impending environmental collapse [sort of] by saying we ought to double-down on oil, coal and nuclear. At least I put more than a single paragraph on the site, as weird as it gets.”

Callahan, John
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Just kidding
Candidate Statement: “My one-sentence website only has that General Sherman quote: ‘If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.’ Not sure what it has to do with this special election, in which there is not a nomination process and one only has to file an intent to run — which I have done. What happens next? I guess we will have to wait and find out!”

Carle, Arlene
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Winging it
Candidate Statement: “How about a car that runs on Liberal tears? What happens to the escalator when the basement fills up with stairs? I wanted to buy an electric car but I needed a longer extension cord. Let’s talk about Global Cooling for a minute. Give me a break!”

Claus, Santa
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Democratic Socialist
Candidate Statement: “I know what you’re thinking, but if one lives here one goes with the theme, and the name and white beard and jelly belly are de rigeur. I don’t have to tell you what to do — wishing for something? Anything? World peace, an end to tyranny, sharing the wealth, saving our home? Just put it in a letter and drop it in the mail to me here at North Pole. One of my elven bros will read it to me and I will direct an appropriate policy initiative.”

Coghill, John
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: R-mod
Candidate Statement: “Nenana, oh bama, cabana Bananarama — I can never remember all the words. We have a wonderful railroad depot building, a 100-year old trestle flung high above a deep-running river, a tripod ice breakup guessing game around longer than that, and my family’s grocery store that is preserved in ether. Not sure what more one could want or expect except if it’s fiscal sanity.”

Constant, Christopher
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Dogged persistence
Candidate Statement: “If you show up to the Assembly with an axe to grind, a posse of church ladies and a belligerent stupor, we just might table debate indefinitely. The last two years have sent me willy-nilly back to my canine companions after meeting’s end. You know that cat Mayor of Talkeetna? My staff are all going to be dogs. A German Shepherd for Press Secretary [pays attention like nobody’s business], Doberman Pinscher Chief of Staff [unquestionable loyalty and follow-through] and Special Assistant Labrador-Husky. How could it be anybody else? About 20 times as effective as any human being.”

Dutchess, Lady Donna
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Marianne Williamson minus intellectual rigor
Candidate Statement: “We are ourselves capable of resisting those who want to limit our potential. We have to learn to fly in the rain and the dark. We have to dare to dream of a better world where we are all one! All-one!”

Florshutz, Otto
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: second effort
Candidate Statement: “I’m running a grassroots campaign, and it’s kind of a word-of-mouth campaign. I do not have a lot of money. I’m not even accepting money from people. Is this because I want to fail or am I philosophically opposed to fundraising? Or some other reason I’m still trying to figure out?”

Foster, Laurel
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Captain Obvious
Candidate Statement: “The state of our political climate is in dire need of change. Focus has shifted from the needs of everyday, ordinary Alaskans to the political parties who serve agendas not always in line with the needs of the people. And wait until I find out the rest of what’s really going on!”

Gibbons, Thomas
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Man of mystery
Candidate Statement: “When in the course of human events it becomes unnecessary to explain oneself, a dystopian landscape will unfold for all to behold and exist without trifle or unwanted interference. For some of us, that time is already upon us.”

Griffin, Karyn
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Sincere, standoffish
Candidate Statement: “I know in all honesty, I don’t have a shot in the dark at this. Or a shot in the light. Wouldn’t it be weird if I could flip the script, though? Woah!”

Gross, Al
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Hunting for votes
Candidate Statement: “Are you aware? I shot that bear. You mean with a tranquilizer dart, and then helicoptered it out to the base of Mt. Susitna? No, Dad — I shot it, DEAD! KA-BLAAAM!! And it does not get more Alaskan than that, try as you may, come as you are, hell-bent for weather.”

Halcro, Andrew
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: R-mod, erudite
Candidate Statement: “‘And let he who is without sin cast the first stone,’ they said unto the air and all present. And you know — we chucked that mother! With no hesitation, grief, or reconsideration.”

Heintz, Ted
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Wingnut
Candidate Statement: “Booting Biden will be top priority. Impeachment proceedings begin in the House. Bring on the dancing horses and the subpoenas!”

Hibler, William
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: mole from the ministry
Candidate statement: “This is no way to run a democracy. I’m a Truman Democrat [voted for him, in fact] turned Republican plant. My best friend is a dog and I’m joining him in barking up all the wrong trees, trying to convince Congress that Climate Change is a real thing.”

Howe, John
Party affiliation: Alaskan Independence
Quick take: wingnut
Candidate Statement: “The government; Federal, State, borough, city, all are thieves.  Even when the spending comes from a vote of the people it is stealing, the only difference is those that voted for spending are now also guilty. That’s my story and I am sticking to it.”

Hughes, David
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: gone, daddy, gone
Candidate Statement: “I’m either a Christian Counselor in Raleigh, NC; a retired UAF professor with a ham radio hobby or I died in 1930 at age 52. Or maybe all three. It’s for me to know and you to try to find out.”

Knight, Don
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: Same as the old Don
Candidate Statement: “My email address is A New Don for Alaska. I can’t be bothered with any other outreach for this hopeless, lackluster attempt to impress my relatives and friends. Be charitable.”

Lowenfels, Jeff
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: One for the compost bin
Candidate Statement: “I know the garden very well. I have worked in it all of my life. It’s a good garden and a healthy one; its trees are healthy and so are its shrubs and flowers, as long as they are trimmed and watered in the right seasons. I do agree with the President: everything in it will grow strong in due course. And there is still plenty of room in it for new trees and new flowers of all kinds.”

Courtesy alskansvotebob.com

Lyons, Robert
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Wingnut
Candidate Statement: “I’m an honest day of hard work, fighting words and true Patriot taking back my country from the special interests at the barrel of a gun if necessary candidate — yours truly — so humble and able even when I’m goofing around with selfies or just fucking the dog.”

McCabe, Anne
Party affiliation: Nonpartisan
Quick take: R-mod
Candidate Statement: “What really motivated me to run this year is how divided our country has become. I’m really passionate about bringing people together to solve problems. Not that we can agree about what’s a problem and what isn’t. Or why, or how much or whether the world is four billion years old or 6,000. Well, have to start somewhere! Or else you will run from the room screaming!”

Melander, Mikel
Party affiliation: Republican
Quick take: Rancher without a cause
Candidate Statement: “What’s a guy who runs a bison ranch doing in the race? It’s got to be about more than run-ins with federal meat inspectors, doesn’t it? Well, not necessarily.”

Mettler, Sherry
Party affiliation: Undeclared
Quick take: Wingnut
Candidate Statement: “She really has the most amazing ability to write testimonials for herself.”

Milligan, Mike
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Road to nowhere
Candidate Statement: “I firmly believe that going into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is a mistake not only for Alaska’s reputation, but will ultimately hurt our Alaskan oil industry. Saying this used to be considered political suicide in this state. Maybe it still is, but it shouldn’t be.”

Myers, J.R.
Party affiliation: Libertarian
Quick take: Libertarian’s Libertarian
Candidate Statement: “My website has it all, from a news blog of national Libertarians and other splinter party activities to a humorous, self-effacing biography with none of the misspellings, tortured writing, sophomoric ramblings that characterize wingnut sites. The anti-war stance is of course, admirable. And just when you think this all sounds reasonable, I’ll start talking about limited government and the economy and it becomes a sort of descent into madness.”

Notti, Emil
Party affiliation: Democrat
Quick take: Remarkable
Candidate Statement: “I ran against Don Young the last time Alaska had a special election for the lone congressional seat, 49 years ago and almost beat him. I should have. Sometimes life gives you second chances.”


Renewal of faith in city planning? Maybe?

July 30, 2015 at 5:46 am | Posted in anchorage, politics | 7 Comments
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I guess I grew cynical over the last several election cycles, and was surprised and unprepared when Ethan Berkowitz won the Mayoral race earlier this year.  Berkowitz, a Democrat [the Municipal elections are ostensibly non-partisan] has now teamed up with Andrew Halcro, one of his Republican opponents in the primary and since taking office earlier this month completed a transition plan that identifies several course changes for the city.

Like new Alaska Governor Bill Walker, Berkowitz reached out to the public for ideas on how to deliver government services more efficiently.  I wrote to both of them.

To Walker, I suggested cancelling the five largest transportation projects now in the planning stages [including the Knik Arm Bridge; the Anchorage Highway to Highway project; and the Bragaw St. extension], and at the same time implementing sweeping changes in Statewide and Regional Transportation Planning processes, in order to prevent such ill-conceived debacles from coming to the forefront in the future.  While he hasn’t been able to halt any of them, at least the climate has changed enough that policymakers are questioning the party line and how priorities are established.  Tiny steps!

In the letter to Berkowitz I suggested that Anchorage’s failure to change its dominant development pattern [despite an effort to move that way, evidenced by the Anchorage 2020 Comprehensive Plan and early efforts to rewrite the Title 21 Land Use Code, before it was co-opted by the Dan Sullivan administration beginning in 2009] is having an ill effect overall, and if left unchecked will destroy what is great about the city.

It doesn’t sound like a budget issue on the face of it, but bear with me.  The more one looks into it, the more apparent it becomes that there are costs to sprawl development that are not being accounted for.  In the big picture, it’s obvious what is happening — there are not walk-able commercial blocks outside of Downtown, so in order to shop, go to an appointment with a service provider or go out to restaurants and nightclubs all but the most ambitious [and blessed with the most free time] are forced into their cars [since there is also not a robust system of Public Transit].  Thus, the traffic is more congested, with all of the associated drawbacks [danger, noise, pollution, frustration, devaluing of property alongside major roadways] — not to mention loss of habitat/open space.

Sprawl — if you want a more specific term with local relevance, let’s call it suburban strip development — accommodates population growth, but in the least efficient manner possible.  Left that way [lacking incentives or directives for anything else], its low density mat will spread far and wide, and unless the city’s boundaries expand with it, the tax base will remain flat.  In Anchorage’s case it has led to the siren song of developers, that Anchorage is “out of develop-able land” [and thus we need to throw that bridge over to Pt. McKenzie and build more of the same over there].  To paraphrase the American Legion motto: all of that Free Parking is NOT FREE!!

The presentation of an alternative scenario will be built on the following basic tenet [courtesy Occupy Wall St.]:
this is not the way

Communities in other parts of the country and in other nations figured out long ago that sprawl is not the way to go.  Sometimes this epiphany came after decades going down the wrong path.  Anchorage is far enough down that path to come to its collective senses and turn around.  Mayor Berkowitz said in a Chamber of Commerce speech this week, “There are times when we should care how they do it Outside.”

We also should stop making policy based on the opinions and public positions of those with an axe to grind, and rely more on sound planning and proven principles than on local folklore.  We’ve got to get past the current mentality, where long term goals are routinely sacrificed for short term gain, without a firm grasp on true consequences.

Planners, urbanists and academics for more than six decades have argued that a more complex, less segregated pattern [with people living in all areas of a town, in random mixture of income level and cultural identity] is a healthier environment that results in more supervision and fewer rampant social ills.  We have some of the ingredients but none of the purpose and vision, and the results are becoming a catastrophe, with Anchorage bubbling near the top on several lists of The Most Dangerous Cities in the USA.  I’d argue that the lousy development pattern is a major contributing factor — for all the reasons Jane Jacobs would cite — and, conversely if you give a place vibrance, purpose and meaning the required sense of ownership and protection of people and assets naturally follows.

Anchorage has been successful in some important ways — there’s a great network of non-motorized trails; wilderness access is still first-rate; and there’s mostly a lack of the most egregious sorts of visual pollution such as billboards and 200 ft tall signs.  There are great parks, playgrounds and recreational facilities.

In order to build on this and provide for future generations, at this point we should embrace Smart Growth principles; Complete Streets; and reconsider long- and short-term planning goals in regards to protecting and enhancing existing established neighborhoods.

The blow-back is inevitable and will be strong.  Home builders already publicly state that any new regulations that don’t exist will add to the already high cost of housing [when actually, prices are always set by what the market will bear].  Quasi-public agencies like housing authorities will come down on the side of less regulation too — they see it as something they should control and direct.  [In the letter to Mayor Berkowitz, I suggested part of the problem in Anchorage is that major players such as the Alaska Railroad, the State Dept of Transportation and Public Facilities, the Ted Stevens International Airport, the School District and others now operate largely autonomously, are guided by an internal culture and consider themselves affiliated with but not accountable to Anchorage.]

In most other U.S. cities the size of Anchorage, there are numerous commercial centers in neighborhoods outside of town where one can, on a single block find small shops of all kinds, restaurants and bars and other sorts of venues in a dense arrangement, with apartments mixed in on second and third floors, and minimal or no on-site parking available.  Many of these are fantastic, desirable destinations.  There are cars and traffic, but not overwhelming… big trees, sidewalk tables, vibrant scenes with a mixture of culture and socio-economic status.  We do not have anything like this here — but we have many blocks, in many parts of town where a redevelopment pattern like this could be incubated.

There would be numerous advantages gained.  Let’s say you’re an entrepreneur with a food cart or a food truck, and want to make the jump to a restaurant.  It’s easier downtown, but rents are prohibitively high and availability limited.  Outside of downtown, you are almost surely stuck in a strip mall [that also may not be affordable] if you want any advantage of a shared endeavor [parking and the presence of spillover customers who came there for other reasons].  With just a few tables, you will need parking for several cars — more expensive than it sounds, because it has to include the dimensions of the parking spaces, access aisles and driveways, drainage infrastructure, landscaping, lighting and so forth; and all this has to be reviewed and permitted by the city, and maintained.  It’s a huge and unnecessary burden.

The stores in a typical mid-sized strip mall could be placed on a city block in less than 1/3 the total area, and have a floor or two of apartments above, with parking provided on-street instead of on-site [or, in larger developments also in multi-level garages and in other ways including diagonal back-out stalls on internal collector roads].  There’s every advantage to the small independent business owner, the general public and the city at large [drastically increased tax base combined with greater availability of adjacent land for other uses].

We have lots of need for housing, and more of it of a specialized sort — housing for seniors; for artists; for chronically homeless, addicted or mentally ill.

The Millennial generation is quickly abandoning the car in favor of walking and transit, and the rest of us should support this trend.  Anchorage has a long tradition of advocacy, by several prominent locals including Suzan Nightingale [1950-96], Ruth Moulton [1931-2006], Laine Fleischer, Walt Parker [1926-2014] and many others.  Cheryl Richardson and Anchorage Citizens Coalition are doing great work in recent years to keep the issues I’ve been writing about here at the forefront, and helping to educate the public.

We have, in Mayor Berkowitz a sympathetic ear [evidenced by his appointment of Halcro as head of the Municipal Development Authority and Chris Schutte as Community and Economic Development Director] and the time is now to voice your concerns to your Municipal and State elected officials!  Tell them what you would like to see, and why.  Developers and major landholders always have the ear of any administration — it’s more rare that the general population has a chance to be heard, too.

Anchorage Mayoral race hits the fan

March 17, 2015 at 5:36 am | Posted in alaska, anchorage, politics | Leave a comment
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It’s not as much of a clown show as six years ago, when 15 candidates [some of ’em completely crazy] were cleanly outdistanced by Dan Sullivan.  Sullivan coasted to a victory again in 2012 and is now termed out.

A somewhat crowded field going into this year’s contest, with the usual fringe oriented also-rans vying for attention along with the front runners.  In ’09, fresh from two terms of Mayor Mark Begich [almost — he had to leave a few months early to succeed Ted Stevens in the US Senate] and shortly after President Obama started his first term, the mayor’s race was crowded with left leaning candidates.  Today three of the leading four are trying to out-Republican each other, leaving Ethan Berkowitz the sole representative of the left.  Berkowitz and Halcro are both veteran campaigners who served in the AK State House and haven’t had much luck running for Governor or in other tries.

Rounding out the Republican front runner field are Amy Demboski and Dan Coffey.

Demboski seems to be in trouble early on, having trouble spinning a story and coddling the far right too literally.

I predict Coffey will nail it after a runoff.  He is the kind of pro-business, go along to get along, not much personality, dull enough to fit in, enough acumen to play the game, dead fish kind of a candidate the majority of us [not including this writer] always prefer.  He comes off as a used car salesman, in a way perfect for the task at hand.  Halcro is the sort of one in a million Republican for whom I would be tempted to vote for — but there’s no way he makes it to the runoff.  And then I recall that even though he’s the smartest one in the group by far, he’s still in it for business interests over regular people, the same as the other two.  They’re like a casino where the house always wins.  Or like 35 years of Lynne Curry columns, where in 1,000 hypothetical employer-employee disputes, management prevails in all but three.

Predictably, Koch Brothers money is infiltrating the race with anti-Berkowitz ads.  The people likely to vote for him are the least likely to be influenced by PAC attack ads, ironically.

The Sullivan administration is still running the election, so who knows if it will be immune from problems, intentional or not?  We’ll find out soon enough — and whether or not more than 20% of the eligible voters will even bother to show up for this.  If they only would — how different the results could be!

Dream on, brothers and sisters.

Fiscally inept, socially bankrupt

March 3, 2015 at 4:36 am | Posted in anchorage, politics | Leave a comment
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Some rants and reactions subsequent to reading the Halcro cover story in last week’s Anchorage Press.

Assemblymember Patrick Flynn sticks it to Halcro [discreetly, politey] in the article: “…the term ‘fiscal conservative’ gets thrown around a lot, and whether or not that’s a valid claim really depends on the prism through which you’re viewing it.”  And he goes on to sketch some common assumptions of what the term means and whether or not Halcro matches the definitions.

Since I’m never as tactful or subtle as Flynn, I’d take it a step further.  I’ve heard all kinds of people for years now going around saying they are “fiscally conservative and socially liberal”, and not one of them has any fucking idea what it means.  It’s a nebulous term, it’s pandering at its finest.  It is a way to still associate with a group or philosophy you know is toxic and dangerous, while giving yourself an out.  It’s in effect saying, “See?  I’m as Republican as they are, but they are assholes and don’t care about people!”

Halcro spends a lot of time trying to convince us of his independent critical thinking skills and policies that aren’t tied to Republican or Democratic agendas, while at the same time reminding us he is a lifelong registered Republican.  The cognitive dissonance is strong in this one!

Flynn again: “Andrew pulls from a demographic similar to what supported Lisa Murkowski in her re-election bid four years ago.”  Will the results be the same, too?  The day after the election tally’s certified, any notion of “dancing with the one that brung you” will vanish?  Just kidding!  I was the President of the Chamber of Commerce, FFS!  You thought I was going to throw out the Good Old Boy Network in favor of good public policy that benefits all of the citizenry?  How naive of you!  Well, it wouldn’t be the first or last time the public is taken in by an Establishment candidate standing behind an anti-Establishment banner.

Just once I wish some reporter would follow up with the “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” credo, by asking for an example or something.  They might find just opportunistic doublespeak behind the curtain, eh?

The plain old people who are never going to run for office may wish to think more deeply about such sloganeering also.  What does it really mean?  It always sounds a bit immature to me — I used to think more that way as a young adult, before I realized what was happening all around me and how injustice is baked into the cake.

It was interesting how new Alaska Governor Bill Walker solicited budget cutting ideas from the general public.  On one hand, nobody who stands to suffer from cuts ought to say anything, right? — and in fact, it’s doubtful anything meaningful will come out of such a process.  At least, it’s a long shot, an unlikely scenario.  I wrote in and said, start with KABATA and also suspend and review the five next most expensive transportation projects — and during the moratorium, figure out how to improve the way transportation projects are prioritized — based more on real Planning, and try to take politics out of it.  I would say a lot more, but since I make a living in a profession that’s involved in development, it can be problematic to say too much sometimes.

Sooner or later, though one has to try to stop equivocating and be clear about one’s vision and its implications.

Walker and Mallott AK gubernatorial campaigns merge

September 3, 2014 at 6:41 am | Posted in alaska, politics | Leave a comment
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Big news today!  When I heard rumors about it three days ago, thought: no way is this ever going to happen.  It is unprecedented, or nearly so.  [And it makes too much sense!]  I can think of times when campaigns folded, or faded away due to scandal but not anything like this, where two strong candidates, and the Democratic Party backing one of them decided to merge in order to better compete against a Republican incumbent.

It strikes me as positive, pragmatic and goal-directed.  Who knows what sort of negotiations took place in order to bring it about?  But I suppose that doesn’t matter now.

Walker was more competitive than Mallott, but Walker and Mallott together have a real shot at victory.

AK politics will be in the national spotlight again this week, I predict.

Loving the bully

May 12, 2012 at 5:06 pm | Posted in politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Mitt Romney’s high school days, so so long ago are getting a lot of scrutiny the last couple of days.  This writer of this NYT opinion piece makes it pretty clear that Romney’s response to criticism should be carefully considered by the voting public, and asks a lot of tough questions.

Reading through a few of the top rated comments attached to the column, this one by scottnesich caught my eye:

Step back and think about this man, Romney, and his conscious plan, repeated over and over at many once thriving companies to: Buy the company, run up debt, destroy the company, breaking contracts and faith with long time workers. Busting their union. Stomping on the dignity, the self-respect and the modest comfort and security of so many families. Just to get as rich as possible.

I’ve seen these Romney types at my high school reunions. We all have. Smug. Arrogant. Removed completely from the reality of working hard, paying bills, worrying about jobs, bills, kids, and the future. And in some of them you can see the smirk, the gleam in the eyes, the slick talk. The Bully. 

The kid who leads a pack of his peers to forcibly hold another person down and violate their space and their body isn’t someone who just “changes for the better” in adulthood. This malicious streak simply finds a new outlet. Teenagers who humiliate and degrade others lack the compassion and the essential decency required in a civilized society. In adulthood they will often find their way into jobs that require seeing other people as just “digits”, which are there, as “an advantage” or as “an obstacle” to maximizing monetary gain.

This is Mitt Romney. His story is all of one piece. 1965. 1989. 2000. 2012. It doesn’t matter. The story is the same: “Just let me do what I want regardless of the consequences for others.”

I wouldn’t vote for this type of person. Would you?

Maybe I would.

[Well, in this case I was not going to vote for Romney regardless of anything he did in high school.  I have voted in every Presidential election beginning in 1980, for the Democratic candidate each time.  If this one goes the way I expect, I will be four for nine.]

I take a more optimistic view [however naive or unfounded] of human nature than this commenter, and believe some people do change.  And those who are bullies in one way or another, after they reach full adulthood can turn into reasonable people with a healthy amount of compassion and ability to interact productively.

I’ve noticed some examples of this, getting reacquainted with people from the past [one of the opportunities presented by still living in the town where you grew up].

It’s always a good idea to pay close attention, listen carefully and think about whether responses are appropriate.  It’s also nice to give the benefit of the doubt and allow people the chance to change and mature.  Whether or not Romney has actually done so is a question for the voters to contemplate.

Costco trip

April 12, 2012 at 4:46 am | Posted in anchorage, photo du jour, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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dirty subie

Michele sent me to Costco for a couple items today.  I snapped the picture of the dirty Subaru in the parking lot.  We tend to buy a lot from Costco because they have such great prices.  And I know they take care of their employees fairly well compared to the norm these days.  My mom and stepfather were big fans and even both worked there in Sequim, WA in their retirement years.

I have such mixed feelings about the place, though.  I don’t know for sure, but guessing they drug test every employee.  This is something that probably 75% of society doesn’t find objectionable.  But there are problems with it — especially with public opinion on drug laws beginning to turn.  I always wonder why its necessary to delve so deeply into people’s private lives, lacking due suspicion.  Shouldn’t we limit drug testing to critical aspects and job positions, and for everybody else just flag problems in normal performance evaluation procedures?

20 years ago when he was running for President, Ross Perot said something to the effect of, he wanted to get all those pot  smokers in jail where they could make license plates and bust rocks all day.  Haven’t we moved forward from that point of view a little bit by now?  Most of the time I think the only positive accomplishment of the proliferation of drug testing has been to create a whole new testing industry.

The other aspect of Costco I don’t like is having to stop on the way out and have somebody go over the items in my cart and compare them to the receipt.  The corporate culture of Costco seems to be that all employees are presumed to have drug problems and all customers are presumed to be shoplifters [subject to verification].  And it would be nice to treat both employees and customers with greater dignity and respect, if it didn’t affect their bottom line [potentially; subject to verification].

Most days I just forget about all that.  I guess the dirty, filthy Anchorage Spring breakup just has me in a funk today!

KUDO 1080 AM, 2004-10

December 14, 2010 at 10:24 am | Posted in alaska, anchorage, politics, Uncategorized | 3 Comments
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Anchorage’s KUDO 1080 AM radio ceased to operate yesterday after 6-1/2 years of struggling.  Phil Munger, writing at his blog Progressive Alaska said: “The fact that the station lasted as long as it did has been a triumph of sorts.”  That’s about right.

From around 1980 until 2004 I supplemented my music radio listening with public radio, listening to KSKA and its national news via NPR and PRI.  In ’04 NPR committed the unpardonable sin of sacking longtime ‘Morning Edition’ host Bob Edwards [a thoughtful anchor with a capability of probing questioning] with a rotating combo of the milquetoast Steve Innskeep and breezy but vacant Renee Montagne [the latter had been Edwards’s faithful substitute host for years].

The timing of the firing was troubling — two months before George W. Bush was reelected.  I always wondered if public opinion was tilted just slightly by the changes at NPR.  The CPB, which oversees NPR and PBS was at the time being run by Kevin Tomlinson, a Bush appointee who also went after PBS host Bill Moyers.

Edwards and Moyers ran afoul of a changing political climate that was coming increasingly under corporate control.  The Bush administration wisely decided to stop threatening to cut off the CPB’s funding and instead began working on it from the inside, to ‘balance’ its coverage.  The blog NPR Check continues to document the insertion of right wing propaganda into NPR’s news shows, that continues to this day in thousands of subtle and not so subtle ways.

Only alt-public network Pacifica, and a handful of independent programs remained with a left wing viewpoint.  Meanwhile, right wing talk radio had ramped up to a 90% share of the talk radio market.

Into this concept of a void, Air America Radio launched on the ironic date April 1, 2004.  The privately funded, NYC-based startup was ambitious and artistically successful, sort of against all odds.  Only Randi Rhodes [can’t recall if she was on from day one, or soon afterwards] and Mike Malloy [who began there in late ’04] had a wealth of previous experience.  Newcomers Sam Seder, Marc Maron and Rachel Maddow had strong starts.  A weekend show, Ring of Fire — hosted by Mike Papantonio and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. — was a particularly riveting and timely program covering politics and environmental issues, and like many of the original shows, it survived Air America’s demise and continues to this day.  Each and every episode of Ring aired on KUDO.

Air America suffered a series of buyouts and management changes, was scaled back in ’06 and ’07, losing its show co-hosts and most of its original shows, but it continued to be well worth listening to as it picked up new talent like Thom Hartmann, the Young Turks and others.

KUDO signed on in Summer ’04 as one of the first batch of Air America affiliates, but it was never exclusively about Air America.  I hadn’t heard of Rich McClear before KUDO, but I understand he was a pioneer of Alaska public broadcasting in Anchorage, Sitka and other places.  He was also involved in the reconstruction of Croatia and Bosnia, and had many interesting life experiences that he spun into interesting radio bits.

McClear managed to counter razor-sharp national programming with an upbeat, homespun local backdrop.  He employed his wife Susie and son Kevin to read local news headlines and community calendars, and himself recorded a series of ‘KUDO Commentary’ spots that were inserted within commercial breaks and where he sketched various local and state political and social topics.  There were other commenters, including Geoff Kennedy and Mr. Whitekeys.

He included NY Yankees baseball and offbeat programs like Joey Reynolds and Lionel.

McClear’s playful lampooning of ’02-’06 Alaska governor Frank Murkowski and his taxpayer funded private jet was legendary, pointing out that the jet couldn’t land in most places in Alaska, as Frank Sinatra raged in the background [“Fly me to the moon!  Let me play among the stars…”].  Some of those spots were played on Hartmann’s Air America show when he interviewed McClear.  I also once heard McClear call into The Lionel Show about a discussion of ‘English only’ laws — he talked about Barrow and Bethel and other places where Yupik and Inupiaq are spoken.  “It’s not English — but it’s also not a foreign language — so should we cut off funds for bilingual education in those places?”

McClear began to experiment with local shows when he became uncertain whether Air America would go out of business and leave him scrambling without a backup plan to fill the air time.  McClear hosted at first, then experimented with a couple other local hosts including Joe Princiotta.  Either McClear or longtime voice of New Sagaya commercials Jack Frost [Frost was also hosting an afternoon conservative talk program on KUDO] discovered Aaron Selbig, an ambitious recent UAA grad who had been doing a weekly public affairs program ‘Insurgent Radio’ on KRUA and publishing an underground newspaper, Insurgent 49.

Selbig followed in the tradition of past Anchorage alt-scene kingpins like Frank Harlan and B-Mac, but he was more serious and more in tune politically.  He was paired with Jack Frost at first, but it was soon made clear that Frost would step down and his protege would continue on his own.

Around the same time, McClear cooked up a plan to unload his struggling startup to a local chapter of the IBEW union.  The union saw it as an opportunity to publicize the benefits of union organizing to a somewhat skeptical local audience.  [And there was probably a lot more to it than that, but I’d just be speculating, wouldn’t I?]

Meanwhile, somebody at KUDO [Selbig?] made a command decision to put Shannyn Moore on the air with her own show.  She had zero previous experience, working as a house painter and contractor, but from the very beginning she was witty, confident, cutting and sort of ironically precious, while tackling diverse socio-politcal issues and scandal from a well-researched basis.  Her slogan, “I’m just a girl from Homer, painting a red state blue one stroke at a time” is both a intentionally self-effacing and a recognition of the complexity and persistence of the task at hand — getting people to quit advocating and voting against their self-interest, regardless of left-right paradigms, political parties and other alignments that exist.

Moore and Selbig, along with Anchorage radio vet Camille Conte maintained a daily solid block of local programs between 11:00 and 5:00 for a year or so, until IBEW became dissatisfied with the direction and replaced Selbig [by then the Program Director] with Cary Carrigan, kept Conte and fired Shannyn.  Carrigan, who had been a lovable but goofy weatherman on Channel 13 news in the ’80s, was pretty much a flop as a liberal talk radio host.  He babbled nonsense gibberish, his saving grace being his guest lineup and regular co-host Linda Kellen Biegel, who provided content and guidance.

Selbig moved to Homer and worked for both weekly newspapers before becoming News Director for Homer public radio, KBBI.

I threatened to stop listening when the Carrigan regime began, but I came back soon.  I also discovered KWMD radio, a public radio station with its HQ in Kasilof, AK that was rebroadcast in Anchorage, Eagle River, Mat-Su and maybe a few other places on various FM dial locations.  KWMD carried Pacifica programs and various national and locally produced music shows, including Friday and Saturday nights from the Spenard domicile of the Rev. Less More and the Spenard Fruit Fly.  Love at first listen!  KWMD was owned and co-managed by Jeremy Lansman, 1980s co-owner of muisc video UHF TV station Catch 22, and currnet owner of KYES Channel 5.  Lansman’s humorous and riveting style was in full flower in KWMD’s station IDs/announcements and atmosphere.

KUDO changed management again, rehired Shannyn [by then she was doing a weekly show on otherwise conservative talk-oriented KBYR; and had began a Lansman-produced weekly TV talk show] and made other positive changes including reshuffling the lineup of national shows and incubating a number of junior local hosts in an array of short shows concerned with politics, medicine, business, adult beverages and advocacy.  Studio 1080 was a kind of catch-all local show that gave various state and local Democratic politicians a platform, and was hosted by new KUDO P.D. Kathy Phillips and occasionally also by Christy Harvey, an Anchorage transplant who previously appeared in an ongoing segment in Al Franken’s Air America program as a representative of the think tank, the Center for American Progress.  Shannyn’s new show now included regular hour-long chats with Jeanne Devon, blogger and editor of The Mudflats, an Alaska politics blog that gained national notoriety in the ’08 campaign by getting the word out about Palin’s incompetence and malice.

Thom Hartmann, Mike Malloy, Randi Rhodes and most of the others survived the caving of Air America and continued on other networks or as indies on KUDO.  Sam Seder recently launched a new version of his first Air America program, The Majority Report via podcast.  Marc Maron has produced about 150 episodes, two weekly of his new podcast WTF — deftly deploying his usual self-loathing bits as a vehicle to getting into his guests’ [comedians and pop culture icons] psyches.

Maddow became and anchor show on MSNBC, and lately Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks has run the substitute circuit there and seems on the cusp of getting his own show.  Ed Shultz, who also now does a weeknight MSNBC hour recorded one of his radio shows in Anchorage in ’09, and this year Maddow filmed a segment of her show where she chased AK-Sen Republican candidate Joe Miller down two escalators while asking him probing questions about DADT.  And talked to his supporters and managed to point out the dichotomy between his stated positioning [constitutional scholar/proponent and fiscal conservative] vs his supporters’ motivations [god, gays and guns].

When KUDO ceased operations yesterday, Shannyn’s show and a few of the other local programs on KUDO moved down the dial a short ways to KOAN 1020 AM, an Eagle River-based station that mostly broadcasts Fox News Radio!  Oh, the irony!!  It is nice that Shannyn’s show lives, but I feel sort of like she is trapped at a Thanksgiving Dinner, only the crazy right wing uncles and in-laws don’t pack up and go home on Saturday.

I tuned into KOAN, straining to hear the dialogue over hisses and pops and white noise three times today when Shannyn wasn’t on.  I heard three hodads in the morning gushing over the potential of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee in ’12.  Later, a smarmy host sketching Obama and Bill Clinton, dazed and confused and wandering the back hallways of the White House looking for the Press Room, late for a presser.  Then finally, an interview with liberal foil Ralph Nader, attempting to clarify his non-support of a third party Bloomberg candidacy by saying how wonderful it would be.

Fantastic!  And this is better than listening to Hartmann, Rhodes and Malloy?  Not even close!  I hope KOAN dies a quick and merciful death.  There’s no chance it will be enshrined alongside KUDO, the original KABN, KWMD, KBBI, KJZZ, KRUA, KBRW, Whole Wheat Radio and a few others that will be recalled as pioneering Alaska broadcasters.

I intend to follow the podcasts of the dispatched national shows, but my ISP, GCI is not making this easy.  Their cable internet network in Anchorage is string together with bailing wire, duct tape and hamster wheels, and they continue to neglect their customers and core mission while they donate $900,000 to Lisa Murkowski’s AK-Sen campaign, and who knows what else.  And they can get away with it because their competition is even worse!

So it’s too bad that something like KUDO won’t be wafting over the regular airwaves for the time being.  KWMD, off the air since early summer is threatening a comeback, and Out North has an FM license, even a frequency and call letters assigned, but funding shortfalls seem to preclude the possibility of their radio startup for now, lacking a benefactor with deep pockets.

Maybe because I had previous radio experience [producing/hosting punk, new wave and even retro-alternative music shows on KABN-AM 1984-86; and KRUA 1992-98] I was especially captivated and fascinated by the developments at KUDO and radio in general.  More than a general inerest, though, KUDO was a gift, an exceptional and unexpected development.  May it live on in memory and infamy!

An adoring fan,


October 26, 2010 at 3:30 pm | Posted in anchorage, photo du jour, politics | Leave a comment
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Signs advertising meatloaf and Joe Miller, Glenn Hwy.


September 2, 2010 at 3:48 am | Posted in alaska, politics, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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