Tuesday, September 22, 2015

"Alaska is like a billionaire facing a horrific future as a millionaire."

So said Liz Medicine Crow, the President/CEO of First Alaskans Institute at the Fiscal Forum last Saturday.   I was only able to catch a couple of hours in the morning.  And I only had the back of a Moose's Tooth receipt to take notes on.  I'd also note my quotes are rough paraphrases, not exact quotes.  (I think English needs a paraphrase mark in addition to quotation marks.)  This will just be notes on things that caught my attention.  For an overview of the forum, see Devin Kelly's ADN piece.  And I'll do one more on this covering the legislators I saw at the forum. 

John Havelock, Brad Keithly, Liz Medicine Crow, Gary Wilkin (l-r)

Medicine Crow also said a number of things that don't usually get said at forums on money and budgets.  Some examples:  

I assumed that she was referring to the Alaska constitution's directions in Article VII Section 4
"Fish, forests, wildlife, grasslands, and all other replenishable resources belonging to the State shall be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle, subject to preferences among beneficial uses" [emphasis added]
When she pointed out an oft overlooked resource:
"Preserve the resource of our humanity."   
Not a resource that's calculated too often in corporate annual reports or even most government reports, but certainly the most important factor of all.

She politely reminded us all that the terms sourdough* and cheechako* are relative as she gave a traditional Alaska Native introduction which places the speaker into context:
"My parents and grandparents are Tlingit-Haida from Kake.  . .  We've been here for hundreds of generations."
She also politely reminded us that cooperation offers more hope than conflict. 
 "In hard times we come together to make do, not for our own interests, but in the community interests."
And that rather than fight tribal power as the previous administration did, everyone would be better off working together. 
"Respectful government to government relations between tribes and state.  Tribes have access to resources, such as through the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, which is internationally recognized for how efficiently it provides health care. 

Tribes have access to resources as tribes.  Some examples she gave were for justice and corrections.  Let's look at things differently.  We can find savings, not just cuts."

I found Keith Bradley's comment on multiplier effects interesting, but limited.
"Multiplier effect of spending means while PFD is mostly spent in Alaska, things like construction projects send money outside for things like cement and steel." 
The statement seemed to be an argument for why we should keep the Permanent Fund Dividend in spite of our budget problems.  I thought that pointing out how little money stays in the state when we do construction projects was interesting.  I hadn't thought about that.  But it seems that spending on education and health care and social services do keep money in the state.  Did he use construction as his example because he wants to cut the budget and education didn't support that point?  I don't know.

Gary Wilkin put our dire condition, as did Medicine Crow's billionaire statement, into context:

 "We're the only state with a portfolio of $73,000 per resident."

He got a few chuckles with this analogy: 
"PFD is like a self licking ice cream cone."  
I'm still trying to visualize a self licking cone so I can figure out what he meant. 

*For non-Alaskans, sourdoughs are folks who have lived in Alaska a long time. ("A long time" means generally as "as long as I've been here" and in my mind certainly over 20 years.)  Cheechako's are newcomers. 

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