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Letter: Risk aversion

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:43

I read in the Jan. 19 paper about how legislators are “risk-averse” when it comes to solving our state’s fiscal crisis. This independent voter is extremely frustrated. Our risk-averse legislators will again do nothing to solve our fiscal crisis and continue to put the futures of young Alaskans and Alaska’s future at risk.  

It sounds like the Legislature will spend the session talking about how to spend the infrastructure windfall but do nothing to develop a long-term fiscal policy. I believe the infrastructure federal monies require a state match. Finding millions of dollars of state money to match millions of federal dollars over the next five years is a necessary part of a fiscal plan — they should do a thorough job.

We elected legislators to do a job, not sit around and worry about taking a risk that only puts their job at risk. Their inaction continues to put many other Alaskans’ jobs at risk. I believe they work for us — Alaskans. I ask them to please do their jobs.

— Marka Brooks

Anchorage

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Letter: Flying and COVID-19

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:41

I’m not a public health scientist, nor am I affiliated with any airline. But I am a traveler, and I gobble up all COVID-19 information I can find. I’d like to try to answer Eric Olenick’s question, “Is it safe to fly or not?”

The messaging is not actually mixed. Flying is still safer than going to the movies or shopping in stores that do not require masks. “Safer” doesn’t mean your safety is guaranteed. In the face of omicron’s ridiculous transmissibility, so many airline staff were getting sick that flights had to be canceled. You can be sure there is COVID-19 on every flight. The airlines’ response is, understandably, to limit “mask down” time.

The new protocols for limited food and drink serve three purposes, 1. to protect staff, and therefore, revenue, 2. to protect passengers, and therefore, revenue, and 3. to continue to be able to say flying is safe, relative to other activities.

I’m so grateful for the waived cancellation fees, so I can make my own safety decisions. And, to state the obvious, when I do decide the risk to travel is acceptable, I bring my own snacks.

— Jen Huvar

Anchorage

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Letter: Selling veterans short

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:38

House Resolution 1836 would have expanded educational assistance for members of the National Guard and Reserves.

Alaska has the highest per capita population of veterans. The National Guard performs many important functions at home and abroad.Rep. Don Young voted no on this benefit to those who serve. I hope active military/veteran/National Guard voters remember this on election day this November.

— Mark Steen

Cordova

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Letter: Elect more Democrats

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:37

I read Beverly Churchill’s Jan. 18 letter in which she wrote that we need campaign finance reform. I agree 100%. She also said we should demand our U.S. senators, Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, and representative, Don Young, take action. I say, don’t waste your time.  

I have written many letters and all I get back are platitudes, especially from Sullivan and Young. They won’t do anything on campaign finance reform — just like they won’t do anything on health care for all; on COVID-19; on voting rights; on climate change; on the Build Back Better Act and so many issues important to the future of the country and the planet.  

They belong to the party of Donald Trump; the Republican Party. The party of no, the party of the wealthy. If we want change and a government that works for all citizens, we must work to elect more Democrats.

— Phil Brna

Anchorage

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Letter: A word of caution about rapid tests

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:35

I purchased the rapid COVID-19 test and had it delivered. Unfortunately the postal carrier left them in my outside mail box. The cold ruins them.

Leave your carrier a note not to do this when you order your free tests from the government.

— Diana Bauman

Anchorage

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Letter: Real representation

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:34

As a resident of East Anchorage, I followed the recent once-a-decade redistricting process with great interest. This process, which redraws our state political district boundaries every 10 years to align with the U.S. census, has an impact on the everyday lives of Alaskans from Ketchikan to Utqiagvik and everywhere in between.

We in East Anchorage know this better than most. In prior redistricting cycles, East Anchorage has gotten the short end of the stick. Our Senate district in 2012 temporarily paired us with Eagle River, which resulted in us losing our longtime and beloved senator from East Anchorage. Ever since, we have been paired with the South Anchorage Hillside and Girdwood. Nothing against those communities or people who call them home, but it is an objective fact that we have different local issues, and thus disparate wants and needs from our elected officials.

When the Alaska Redistricting Board finalized its new maps for the next decade in early November, East Anchorage once again received the short end of the stick. South Muldoon, Nunaka Valley, Scenic Foothills and other parts of East Anchorage were paired with Eagle River to form a Senate district that has me and many of my neighbors proclaiming, “Not again!”

To traverse our new Senate district, one must travel through two other House districts. There is no populated area of land that makes my neighborhood of East Anchorage and Eagle River contiguous. I can say with certainty that I rarely travel to the Eagle River area, and it would surprise me greatly if people from Eagle River frequented the residential area of East Anchorage with which they now share a Senate district.

The other perplexing component of this redistricting decision involved placing a North Eagle River-Chugiak house district with a JBER-Government Hill-far northeast Muldoon house district to form an additional Senate district. To illustrate, 49th State Brewing and the Knik River Bridge, which are separated by roughly 30 miles, now share a Senate district.

I am happy to see that there is a group challenging these Senate pairings. The group argues that the Senate pairings adopted by the Alaska Redistricting Board have the effect of “muffling the voices” of voters in “the lowest income, most racially diverse parts of our community and our state.” I couldn’t agree more.

It’s time East Anchorage got a fair shake. I hope that the trial will result in Senate districts that are more fully contiguous, economically integrated, and demographically similar. Luckily, there is an easy fix to this — by pairing Eagle River with Eagle River and East Anchorage with East Anchorage. Sometimes the easiest and most obvious solution is also the right one.

— Dawn Bundick

East Anchorage

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Letter: Blatant gerrymandering

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:30

Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines gerrymandering as: “to divide or arrange (an area) into political units to give special advantages to one group.”

Let’s call it like it is. The Alaska Redistricting board gerrymandered the map to give Eagle River an outsized influence, coming at the expense of East Anchorage. Board member Bethany Marcum admitted as much on the record, saying that the proposed map, “actually gives Eagle River the opportunity to have more representation.”

I hope that the upcoming trial results in the reversal of this blatant gerrymander.

—Paul Robarge

Anchorage

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Letter: Gara helps those in need

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:28

As the mother of a son who had disabilities, there were times where I was frustrated with the lack of services available for him. I became aware of Rep. Les Gara as I saw him addressing the needs of others who often go unnoticed, such as teenagers aging out of foster care. It is especially good when state leadership responds to the unspoken needs of others.

When I became aware of a young adult in need of a life-sustaining medical procedure that wasn’t available in Alaska and insurance had denied it, I was appalled. I called Mr. Gara and explained the urgent situation and he immediately worked on it. Shortly thereafter, the individual received the procedure out of state and insurance did cover it. The person returned home, later married and contributes to their community today.

Mr. Gara’s experience as an elected official, a small-business owner, an attorney, and an Alaskan who enjoys the beauty our state places him in a unique position to lead our state. I want a governor who will respond to all sides of the political spectrum and has a heart for all Alaskans, which is why Les Gara has my vote.

— Laurel Pfanmiller-Azegami

Anchorage

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Letter: Democrats are to blame

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 21:22

In response to Jean M. Watson’s recent letter: What party supported or turned a blind eye to four years of riots causing more than $20 million in damage and more than 10 deaths, assaults against conservatives in Portland, Oregon, Seattle and other cities for wearing hats supporting our president, the takeover of six city blocks of Capitol Hill in Seattle, the attempted burning of a federal courthouse, elected Democrats who publicly said, “confront them,” the riot, disruption and hinderance of supporters of Trump during his inauguration? Who tore up their copy of the State of the Union speech given by President Donald Trump?

In Saul Alinsky’s book “Rules for Radicals,” it says, “Blame others for that which you are doing.”

— Charles Edwin Brobst

Anchorage

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Tongans in Anchorage are starting to hear from their relatives in the Pacific

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 19:43

Sela Ofiu recently heard from her sister who is living in Tonga. Photographed on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2022. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Sela Ofiu was trying to reach her sister in Tonga for days, but with no luck. After a massive volcanic eruption, communication with the islands remains inconsistent, but with the help from her relatives in Australia and New Zealand, Ofiu finally spoke with her family on Saturday night.

“We were all talking and laughing, but me — I’m very emotional: I talk and cry ... I said to my sister, ‘I’m just glad that you guys made it.’ But the big thing about it — There is not a lot of life lost. That’s why I was so grateful.”

An undersea volcano, Hunga-Tonga-Hunga-Ha’apai, brought havoc to the islands of Tonga, but there have been only a few injuries or deaths reported. For days, communication with the islands remained cut off, worrying Tongans across the world and in Alaska.

“It had an impact on everybody, even on us here. We felt what they feel.” Ofiu said.

She explained that lines of communication were restored but quickly became overwhelmed. Fortunately for Ofiu, her relatives in countries closer to Tonga were able to initiate a group call with family members in Nuku’alofa, the capital of Tonga. Since then, most people have been able to contact their families, she added.

[Alaskans with roots in South Pacific wait to hear from relatives after massive volcano eruption]

Alisi Taufa was also able to make sure her daughter was safe two days ago.

“I tried to call how many times, but for me the lines were busy,” she said. “I finally talked to her on Facebook, on Messenger.”

While some Tongan families will have to relocate from their house or island, Ofiu’s family is lucky that their house is intact, she said.

“And we are close to the shore,” she added, waiving to the other side of the street from her window to show the proximity of the ocean to her family’s house in Tonga. “We are so lucky.”

Ofiu’s Tongan family members are still in shock and “in the process of trying to get themselves together,” she added.

“It’s going to take them a long time to come to clear up their mind, and then, it’s gonna be a lot of work to do.”

She said that processing might be especially difficult for little children.

“I hope and pray that they get to do something to teach the school kids what’s happening,” she said, “just explain to them in the right way, make them think, ‘It’s like that: we don’t plan it, but it’s happening.’”

Not everyone in the Anchorage Tongan community has had a chance to talk to their family members yet.

Fehoko Pulu still can’t reach his brother who has a disability. He explained that Tonga has over 160 islands, and little islands are still restoring their communication lines.

“We’re still hoping,” Pulu said. “Hopefully, everything is going to be okay at home.”

In the meantime, Pulu and other members of the Tongan community in Anchorage are preparing to organize a food drive in Anchorage to send help back home. The idea is to send communities in Tonga water, dry food — such as rice, sugar, flour and canned produce — as well as toilet paper, sanitizing wipes and tents.

“Some of the people, they are leaving the houses that were (wiped out) and they are looking for somewhere they can stay.”

Pulu said his community is meeting with Anchorage Mayor Bronson’s administration this Wednesday to discuss the details of the donation.

Letter: Rapid test issue

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 18:14

Like many Alaskans, I just received an email from Congressman Don Young’s office, letting me know about new options to acquire antigen test kits for at-home COVID-19 testing. I’ve left a message with Rep. Young and our senators about this, but want to alert other Alaskans to the fact that the National Institute of Health has found a high rate of false negatives when these rapid tests are used after being exposed to temperatures below 2 degrees C, or about 35º F. That will be likely for many kits mailed to home addresses in most of Alaska in January. Below-freezing exposure of the tests could not only render the results meaningless, but dangerous, because a false negative will lead many people to assume they are not infected when in fact they are.

While I appreciate the work done by the federal government and our delegation to get these tests into consumers’ hands, we need a way to ensure the tests are kept consistently above 35 degrees F before they are used. My own mailbox is more than a mile from my house, and on a cold day, it’s unlikely I will be able to retrieve mailed kits before they freeze.

— Cassie Thomas

Anchorage

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Letter: A national shame hiding in plain sight

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 18:13

In well-appointed homes, on farms, in factories and in restaurants in the U.S., thousands of people, even children, work long days cleaning homes, picking crops, making products, and washing dishes, busing tables and serving customers.

They toil for little or no pay for heartless employers unconcerned for their safety or health and, in some cases, ready to use threats or worse to keep them obedient. These are the faces of labor trafficking in the U.S., tens of thousands of people condemned to modern-day slavery in our cities and towns.

Ridding the nation of this scourge is difficult. Investigations need overlapping financial, economic and criminal actions to unravel the many bad actors involved.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a central role in eliminating slavery here and abroad. We work tirelessly to prevent, protect and prosecute those responsible. The department’s Wage and Hour Division recently engaged in a public dialogue on the topic of human trafficking, and we encourage everyone to read these engaging ideas from diverse range of stakeholders.

In December 2021, the White House released the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking. The plan re-emphasized the three pillars to address human trafficking — Prevention, Protection, Prosecution — and added Partnerships as the nexus to enable crosscutting approaches and institutional effectiveness. The plan aims to address the root causes of human trafficking by taking action against the systemic injustices that communities, including underserved populations, experience.

If you are or know someone who is a victim of labor trafficking, please contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by phone at 1-888-373-7888, or by texting “HELP” or “INFO” to BeFree (233733).

Anyone with questions about workers’ rights can email the Wage and Hour Division or call 866-4US-WAGE to speak confidentially with a trained professional. We are able to communicate with callers in more than 200 languages.

— Paul Chang

U.S. Department of Labor

San Francisco

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Letter: None dare call it treason

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 18:10

Seditious conspiracy involving a violent attack against the United States is a very serious charge. The Anchorage Daily News reported on Jan. 12 that 11 members or associates of the Oath Keepers militia group have been charged with seditious conspiracy in the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol.

At what point does current State Rep. David Eastman, a self-proclaimed life member of the Oath Keepers and tax-funded graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, who took the oath of a commissioned officer in the U.S. Army, have to explain to Alaskans why this article in the Alaska Constitution should not apply to him?

Alaska State Constitution Article XII (General Provisions) § 4. Disqualification for Disloyalty. “No person who advocates, or who aids or belongs to any party or organization or association which advocates, the overthrow by force or violence of the government of the United States or of the State shall be qualified to hold any public office of trust or profit under this constitution.”

— Lynn Willis

Eagle River

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Letter: Ranked-choice pitfalls

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 18:08

After reading the article in ADN Jan. 17 concerning ranked-choice voting where the ringleader Jason Grenn was quoted as saying that voters will be “empowered in a different way,” one thought came to mind. In a basic communication class, one of the first things they teach you is to know your audience. This audience is the eligible voter.

These voters have never had a better then 75% turnout for an election, with many of the them being misinformed about the issues, and they are now expected to rank four different candidates? This looks like a fiasco waiting to happen.

— Jay Lawrence

Anchorage

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Letter: Questions for all elected officials

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 18:06

Two questions should be asked of any elected official. First, do you support the Jan. 6 insurrection on the Capitol? Second, do you believe the 2020 presidential election was stolen?

If their answer is yes to either or both of these questions, then they need to be voted out. No exceptions.

— Larry Turner

Big Lake

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Letter: On workers organizing

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 17:59

The “Parable of the CEO and the 12 Cookies” offered by Jackie Endsley in the ADN Jan. 17 pretty much sums up the struggle which workers must face in our country and others whose fortunes are tightly linked to the multinational corporate economy.

I appreciated her consequent analysis of the strongly biased workings of this economic model and the clarity with which she exposed the practical and psychological mechanisms utilized to discourage workers from organizing.During the 1970s, I lived in one of the five most successfully industrialized countries of the world. 

At the time, trash collection by the department of sanitation in its capital city was still organized on a virtually medieval basis, using wheeled handcarts and men on foot in the narrow cobbled streets of the city center. 

The work was partly compensated on a piece-work basis, which caused the men to literally race up and down the stairs of the old apartment buildings they were servicing. It was grueling, stinky and nasty work which paid practically nothing in wages or benefits to the workers. It was only after a long series of organized strikes by these workers, who earned nothing during the sometimes monthslong strikes, that the sanitation system was finally reorganized and the workers obtained more humane working conditions. Today, even the smallest villages strive to develop effective recycling and collection services for residents.

I will never forget the growing heaps of trash collecting in the streets, the smell and the demoralizing sensation of living in a garbage dump, fighting back nausea,  as I hurried down the street with my two small sons to attend to shopping and school obligations. 

It was only thanks to the collective efforts of these workers that change was finally brought about, to the benefit not only of the working category, but obviously also to the benefit of the residents of these areas and the health of the general population. Whenever I read of corporate and governmental resistance to the unionization of workers, I recall this experience.  

I applaud Jackie Endsley’s analysis of the arrogance of some parts of corporate America in the manipulation and exploitation of workers, and thank her for reminding me that the battle for equality and dignity in the workplace is still ongoing for millions worldwide and in our own very wealthy, well-blessed nation.

— Carol R. Dee

Homer

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Letter: Messaging discrepancy

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 17:51

Alaska Airlines recently announced that it is dropping fresh meals and all but one-beverage service on flights for the rest of January, for starters. Apparently in response to its flight attendants, Alaska Airlines will be cutting back beverage service to one per flight no matter how long the flight is. Alaska Airlines will also be dropping fresh meals on medium-haul flights and reducing the number of pre-order meals available on transcontinental flights and legs to Hawaii.

Alaska Airlines said that the changes would help limit flight crews’ exposure to passengers and exposure to COVID-19. Forgive me, but if I am not mistaken, hasn’t Alaska Airlines been boasting for well over a year that it is much, much safer to fly regarding the exposure to COVID-19 variants than going shopping or to the movies or work or spending time out in the general public because the airlines uses those fantastic HEPA filters in the planes air filtration system? So which is it? Is it safe to fly Alaska Airlines and other carriers, or not?

— Eric Olenick

Anchorage

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Letter: Governing vs. complaining

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 17:35

The difference between the Legislature’s governing coalition and the rump caucus is that the first takes governing seriously and the second does not. Rep. Chris Kurka spoke for his caucus last summer when he said, in a statement to the Frontiersman newspaper: ”All 18 of us in the minority … will do whatever we can to be obstructionists … in the minority in the House that’s virtually all we can do is be obstructionists.”

Rep. Kurka’s whining and saying all they can do is obstruct reveals the failure of his caucus. They falsely believe they cannot work for their constituents unless they are in power. I remember when the members of the current coalition only had a dozen members. They didn’t obstruct and delay. They worked hard and built coalitions for school funding, ferries and Village Public Safety Officers. The minority caucus members have committee seats, access to legislative research and legislative legal resources. They have nice offices and plenty of staff. Rep. David Eastman even had enough money in his office travel budget to fly down to Arizona and meet the Cyber Ninjas and the leaders of the “Big Lie” election audit farce.

So what exactly is preventing the minority caucus from doing the work needed to build roads, fund good schools and deliver jobs and pandemic relief to the Mat-Su residents? The answer is nothing except their willingness to do the hard work it takes to get things done.

There is an election coming up that will decide whether Alaskans buy into the idea that obstruction is a substitute for hard work.

— Elstun Lauesen

Anchorage

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Letter: Who’s pleased?

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 17:33

With regard to the recent article “Alaska businesses largely pleased with court ruling on vaccine requirements,” published in the ADN Jan. 16: I noticed a lot of input from businesses, business organizations and right-wing politicians on how happy they are with not having to have any vaccine or mask requirements. It makes sense they would want minimize their expense; after all, they want to maximize profits and Republicans will always side with big business. It would have been nice if the article’s author had talked with the workers who do the actual work, and will now get sick (and some will die). They call it government overreach and a “liberty” issue; meanwhile, workers suffer.

— David R. McCorkell

Wasilla

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Letter: Mental health care

Sun, 01/23/2022 - 17:30

I read the letter by Marty Margeson, “APH VS. API,” published in the ADN on Jan. 17. I agree that individuals with a dual diagnosis of dementia and mental illness with violent tendencies should not be housed with other dementia patients.

It is my belief that the Department of Health and Social Services moved individuals with dementia and mental illness with violent tendencies from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute to the Pioneer Home to save the state money. Every day, DHSS is faced with a question: How to save money and how to care for individuals with a disability. It is not a debate a state wants a single state agency to be conducting with itself. But that is what is happening in Alaska.

Alaska has very few organizations, state-run or otherwise, that have the resources and can advocate for the improvements of the rights for the disabled. There are plenty of organizations that advocate for creating new programs, but that is not the same as adding needed rights for the disabled.

— Dorrance Collins

Anchorage

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