Sunday, April 08, 2018

Today's ADN Opinion Pages Fodder For A Dozen Posts From Salmon To Bears To Legislators

One problem with blogging is picking something worth writing about from the many things out there.  Today I'll just do a quick take on several items from today's newspaper.

Stand For Salmon Or Stand For Alaska

A former member of the Alaska Board of Fisheries, Tom Kluberton, writes a column in favor of an initiative that would force resource developers (and others I assume) to prove that their projects won't hurt Alaska's salmon fisheries.

Next to that column is one by the vice chairman of the Doyon, Ltd. board of directors and a former chief of Allaket, PJ Simon.

Alaskan's won't vote on this until August or November*, so we have plenty of time to hear about this initiative, and we can be sure that we will.

*From Alaska Statute 15.45.190

Setting Dates For Ballot Initiatives in Alaska
The lieutenant governor shall direct the director to place the ballot title and proposition on the election ballot of the first statewide general, special, or primary election that is held after
(1) the petition has been filed;
 (2) a legislative session has convened and adjourned; and 
(3) a period of 120 days has expired since the adjournment of the legislative session. 

Our primary election is August 21, 2018.  So if the legislature adjourns (including special sessions) more than 120 days before that (roughly around April 27), it will be on the primary ballot.  Otherwise on the general election ballot in November.  That's a whole other issue - having important propositions on primary ballots when relatively few people vote.

As I say, we have time to learn more about this, but I was struck by PJ Simon's column which
portrayed him as a simple man -
" I am just a regular guy. I am not a high-powered lawyer or professional environmentalist paid by outside interest groups. I'm sandwich meat, the guy in the middle, the guy who works for wages to support my family."
But despite the fact that he says he can't read all that fine print, he knows for a fact the initiative will "kill construction jobs and hurt Alaska's economy."

Alaska has long been a colony for outside corporations to come in an exploit.  I've written about this in different posts, particularly The Vampire History of Alaska when we had another initiative on the ballot that would have taxed the oil companies more.

It's very easy for large corporations to come into a small (population) state or country and buy off some locals to push their mega projects. John Perkins outlines the process in his book Confessions of an Economic Hitman.  Alaskans will recognize the process when he spells it out.  You can see him explain it in this video.  So when self-professed common folks like JP Simon side with the big development corporations, I can't help but wonder what he gets out of it.  What Doyon gets out of it.  But that's another story.

In any case, I need to learn more about this initiative, but it reminds me of the law the legislature passed some years ago blocking public participation on development projects along the coast line.  My first assumption here is this is people fighting back for the power that's been taken from them.  But the devil is in the details.  We'll see.

"Undeveloped Anchorage Bowl Area Being Managed For Bears"

In a letter to the editor, Jim Lieb of Palmer rants against retired state biologist Rick Sinnott's commentary on keeping bears in mind in our wilderness areas.  I want to focus on the word "undeveloped" here.  He uses it again in the letter:
 "It's hard not to conclude that the undeveloped portion of the Anchorage Bowl is being primarily managed for bears and their well-being."
Think about it - the "undeveloped portion."  It's like that part of Anchorage isn't finished yet.  It doesn't have many roads, or buildings.  It's like trees and rivers and bushes and animals are there temporarily until we need their land.  I think about those areas as 'natural' or 'wilderness' or 'respites' from traffic and building and concrete.  And people have documented the benefits of nature to human health.

I wrote a post a while back about the meaning of the word 'empty lot' which pointed out that no lots were actually empty waiting to be developed.
Words matter.

"Voter Turnout Was Awesome"

In the same letter to the editor section (same link as above) Donna K. Daniels lauds Anchorage voters for dispelling her doubts about Anchorage's first 'vote by mail' election.  She's excited because 76,000 people voted.  Yes, that's more than any past Municipal election.  But it's technically only 35.6% of registered voters.  To me, that isn't awesome at all.  It's depressing.  Voter turnout like that is how democracies die.  (I said ' technically' because not all the people on the voter rolls are still living in Anchorage - some have moved, some have died, but they're still on the voter rolls.  But even if that number were 40%, it would mean that the election was decided by about 20% of the voters.   I think this is what people mean about 'the new normal.'  Compared to a 20% turnout, yeah, it's awesome.  But that's starting at a really low bar.

"Alaska Legislators Would be Fired By Now In the Real World"

I guess what Jim Bell means by "the real world" is the business world, or at least an organization that is hierarchical and someone has power to fire workers.  But the legislature is elected by voters (that same small portion in the previous section who vote).  They can be fired by the people in their districts.

My concern here is putting the blame on the legislators instead of the electorate.
I'm also concerned when everyone is blamed for the misdeeds of only some.  Republicans, supported by organizations like Koch Brothers funded Alaskans for Prosperity, complain about deficits, yet won't raise revenue.  They're obsessed with the notion that the less government the better.  But the less government simply means that rogue corporations get to do what they want because government doesn't have the capacity to monitor their behavior. Just read the book I mentioned above - Confessions of an Economic Hit Man. (I do strongly recommend it.) 

And that kids in foster care or in dysfunctional family situations can't count on the state to protect them from abusive situations because social worker case loads are way beyond what they can reasonably handle. More help for these kids means lower crime and fewer prison cells in the future.  I see the Democrats being much more responsible by calling for a modest income tax to start gaining more income.  And the Republicans are barricaded against an income tax.  In Oklahoma we are now seeing the results of Republican tax cutting, as schools only teach four days a week and teachers are on poverty level wages.  That's our future if we don't go to the polls and elect responsible legislators.  That means NOT firing the ones that are already responsible.  But people have to pat attention to more than party labels and propaganda and they need to vote.

That's just from one page in the Anchorage Daily News.  

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