Thursday, September 24, 2015
At Least Ten Legislators attend Alaska Fiscal Forum
While some legislators and their staff are getting bad press for spending $400 and more per night in Seattle hotels and $90,000 altogether for the conference, other legislators are getting their education right here in Anchorage. There's nothing wrong with going to conferences Outside. That's how you connect with others and learn new ideas. But it seems there should be a limit on hotel costs that the state pays and there are questions about why so many needed to go.
That said, I want to at least give credit to the legislators who took advantage of the Alaska Common Ground/ISER forum on Alaska's fiscal future last weekend. I was able to count ten who were there - that's 1/6 of the whole legislature, about 17%. (I didn't try tracking staff members so I don't know how many of them were there.
Here are the legislators I saw:
Rep. David Guttenberg (Fairbanks area)
Sen. John Coghill (Fairbanks area)
Sen. Berta Gardner (Anchorage)
Rep. Shelley Hughes (Palmer)
Rep. Matt Claman (Anchorage)
Rep. Bryce Edgmon (Dillingham)
Rep. Max Gruenberg (Anchorage)
Rep. Andy Josephson (Anchorage)
Rep. Harriet Drummond (Anchorage)
Rep. Lynn Gattis (Wasilla)
There may have been more. But those are the ones I was able to identify while I was there. (If you were there and want to be listed here, just email me.)
[Note: I saw Matt Claman early, before I thought about taking pictures of the legislators present. Later, when I looked for him I couldn't find him. So I used an old photo I had of him and photoshopped it so it didn't look like I was slipping it in as a current picture. The original one of Berta Gardner was even more out of focus and so I played with it a bit in photoshop too.]
Shelley Hughes started talking about her reaction to what had happened already, so I asked if I could get it on video.
You can see Sen. Wilkin's handout to get the precise point Rep. Hughes is referring to in the video about how a slight reduction in the Permanent Fund yields the biggest bang for our bucks. In fact, you can find links to videos and all the handouts at the Forum here at the Alaska Common Ground website. [I'd note that link goes to their main page, so it might have other stuff up after a while, but probably you could poke around and find their links to the Forum materials.]
So I just want to thank these legislators for coming to the forum and showing their interest and being where constituents and non-constituents can talk to them easily. And some came from outside of Anchorage. And there were five from the Majority caucuses and five from the Minority caucuses.
And here's a picture of Cliff Groh who was a key player making the Forum happen, along with
BTW, I'd note that there was another article in the ADN about the legislators' trip to Seattle. This one features Sen. Lesil McGuire saying she didn't approve the trips her staff members made and put all the blame on the staff. The staff members are reported as reimbursing the state. While she may be technically correct, the article does say the staff member had signature authority. Good bosses don't throw their staff under the bus like that. She could have just said that there was a misunderstanding and the money had been repaid without publicly reprimanding her staff. She even could have taken some of the blame. Since most people aren't bosses, they'll identify with the staff and think of bosses they've had who have dumped on them. Either way, readers will wonder what really happened. If she had taken the high road, she would have at least gotten credit for standing up for her staff.
Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom, in contrast, took the blame for a letter that most probably was written by her staff member. I can't be sure what happened, but the link explains why I think the staff member wrote the original letter. But Dalhstrom, as the boss, accepted responsibility for what her staff did. Showed some class there.