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Updated: 1 hour 58 min ago

State will pull new ferry from shipyard to help cut-off Southeast towns

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 18:13

The M/V Tazlina is seen at the Vigor Industrial Shipyard in Ketchikan. It's first of two "Alaska class" ferries and the largest ever built in the state. (Photo/Courtesy/Vigor Industrial)

The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has found some temporary help for Southeast Alaska towns cut off by maintenance problems afflicting two of its older ships.

On Friday, the agency said it will pull the new ferry Tazlina from a shipyard in Ketchikan and will press it into service. The Tazlina had been awaiting the installation of side-loading doors and crew quarters not included in the original design for the new ship or its sister, the Hubbard.

Even without that work, the Department of Transportation said the Tazlina can be used “to provide as much service to the northern Panhandle as regulations will allow, and will call on Haines, Skagway, Gustavus, and Hoonah.”

Without crew quarters, Coast Guard operating restrictions mean the ship can sail for only 12 hours per day.

That’s still an improvement over current conditions. Earlier this month, the state learned the ferry LeConte needs more work than budgeted, so the state cannot afford to fix both the LeConte and a separate ship, the Aurora. Both of those ships are used in northern Southeast Alaska. The state is planning to repair the least-damaged ship.

After word of the LeConte’s situation spread, state legislators, mayors and chambers of commerce urged the state to press the Tazlina into service. That ship lacked a crew but is mechanically sound.

According to the Department of Transportation, parent agency of the Alaska Marine Highway System, collaboration with various ferry workers’ unions made it possible to sail the Tazlina.

“This doesn’t quite get us back to the inadequate schedule that was published, but it beats starving communities and villages,” said Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, who represents northern Southeast Alaska.

Kiehl said he was speaking of economic starvation, but for some communities, the starvation has been uncomfortably close to literal. In the town of Pelican — which will not be served by the Tazlina — residents have hired a salmon-fishing vessel to carry food and supplies from Juneau, CoastAlaska public radio reported. In Gustavus, residents used a landing craft.

Weather conditions over the past few weeks have halted air travel across the region, and even when air service has been available, shipping is $1 per pound. Other communities in Alaska have long coped with similar hurdles, but Southeast’s coastal communities weren’t expecting it and aren’t prepared.

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, represents much of northern Southeast Alaska and said that while the Tazlina’s arrival will bring some relief, it will only serve until Jan. 5 at best, and there is still no help available for Prince William Sound communities like Cordova.

“This is not a fix that gets us through to spring service, but for the people who are stranded right now, it helps them,” she said.

Related stories:

Aging fleet and declining ridership plague Alaska’s public ferry system

For Cordova, a winter without ferry service and heavy questions about the future

Man shot in Spenard during meeting over gun sale, police say

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 18:09

A man was shot during the sale of a firearm in Spenard on Friday afternoon, police said in an alert.

Patrol officers responded to a report of a shooting near West 36th Avenue and Iowa Street around 4:20 p.m. Police say they believe one man was shot in the upper body during a gun sale involving at least two adults. The man was taken to a hospital with injuries described as not life-threatening, according to police.

No additional injuries were reported and police have not made any arrests, the alert said.

West 36th Avenue was closed between Iowa Street and Northwood Drive while detectives investigated the shooting.

Police asked anyone with information about the shooting or related surveillance video to contact dispatch at 311. To remain anonymous, contact Crime Stoppers at 907-561-7867 or anchoragecrimestoppers.com.

I’m leaving my post as Revenue Commissioner. Alaska’s budget-balancing work should continue.

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 17:14

From left to right, Department of Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman, Office of Management and Budget economist Ed King, and Office of Management and Budget director Donna Arduin testify Wednesday, March 6, 2019 in the Senate Finance Committee. (James Brooks / ADN)

I know this message may be getting old for some, but many Alaskans have lost perspective on the positive position we find ourselves in. Yes, we’ve suffered through some serious “political paralysis” during the past year, but the message is worth repeating.

Alaska truly is blessed with amazing resources and a healthy balance sheet. Our Permanent Fund is approaching $70 billion and spins off annual revenue supporting 50% of government spending, as well as a cash dividend to every Alaskan that qualifies. We are expecting final investment decisions in the near future on two projects that will add 250,000-300,000 barrels of oil per day to the trans-Alaska oil pipeline. We are the envy of most states and many small countries for that matter! The frantic, sometimes unhinged debate that has taken place over the past year would lead outsiders to think our economy is on par with many of the bankrupt states in the Lower 48. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While painful, this healthy debate over the past year is necessary and was a long time coming. Like it or not, Gov. Mike Dunleavy did exactly what he campaigned on: reduce the massive size of government, fight for a full Permanent Fund dividend and not take hard-earned cash from your pocket through new tax schemes. Gov. Dunleavy still believes in these principles. During the past several decades, we have been blessed with the ability — and cash! — to be all things to all people. Many have come to realize that we had one helluva run, but things must change. Many others think this gravy train can just keep on chugging. However, Alaska can no longer afford the budgets that were constructed and funded through one revenue stream over the past 30-plus years.

The discussion is turning more and more toward taxes. I’ll admit that I’m on the record stating that someday Alaska will have a broad-based tax. However, I always followed up that opinion by stating this decision should be years if not decades down the road, well past my tenure as Commissioner of Revenue. Step one must continue to be fiscal discipline in order to get our spending habits adjusted. That must be accomplished well before we implement any sort of tax. My concern is that once a tax is on the books, the budget in place at that time will be the new base going forward. Cutting below that will be nearly impossible and the budget will only go up from there. I believe our population and workforce is far too small to provide the level of revenue we would need to extract from working Alaskans in order to continue a “business as usual” approach to budgeting, which includes the PFD. We’ve all heard the many angles and perspectives on the PFD: it’s a God-given right; it’s a welfare check; it’s free money; reducing it is a “tax;” it’s our birthright. Regardless of where you stand on the PFD issue or government spending in general, it all comes down to math. The math is simple, but unfortunately does not balance despite the governor’s best efforts: Government spending/services plus the PFD does not equal currently available revenue. I give Gov. Dunleavy tremendous kudos for tackling the government spending issue and trust he will keep up the battle he has undertaken.

As the Commissioner of Revenue, I look at any potential tax implementation and its interaction with the current revenue streams and budget expenditures as a fairly simple exercise. The politics and policy are extremely difficult, but the math is simple. A new tax means the department I’m responsible for will have to stand up a bureaucracy in order to extract revenue from the private sector. Or, in the case of an oil tax change, it will take more money from the companies that are willing to invest the billions we as a state do not have, yet is required to monetize our resources. Any new tax will be used to sustain this unsustainable budget, as well as provide the revenue to distribute PFD checks every October, as the Department of Revenue has done for 38 years.

When I accepted the job of Revenue Commissioner, I did so based on a path forward in which the math equation allowed for the available revenues to be split between a healthy but reduced government and provide net-positive revenue to Alaskans through the PFD. It is apparent that many have not accepted the realization that our three decades of spending patterns cannot continue.

I have loved serving the state of Alaska and Gov. Dunleavy as Commissioner of Revenue. I’ll never forget the very sage advice Gov. Dunleavy gave to his commissioners at one of our first cabinet meetings. To paraphrase, he said, just run our departments. Don’t let the policy/politics swirling around get in the way of us doing our most important job — serving Alaskans. I have been blessed with the best department in the entire state and really wish it was that simple. But my department will be at the heart of all discussions this session as it usually is and I want the governor to have someone who is 100% aligned with his vision. I have therefore notified the governor that I will be resigning from his cabinet. I will continue in my position for as long as he needs so a smooth transition can take place. I will remain optimistic about Alaska’s future, but we must agree to start walking down this path together — not for our own perceived immediate needs, but for the tremendous future that I believe Alaska will continue to have.

Bruce Tangeman serves as Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Revenue.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Trump issues pardons in war-crimes cases, despite Pentagon opposition to the move

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:59

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump intervened in three military justice cases involving war-crimes accusations Friday, issuing at least two full pardons that will prevent the Pentagon from pursuing future charges against the individuals involved, according to two of their lawyers and a U.S. official.

The service members involved were notified by Trump over the phone late Friday afternoon, said the lawyers, who represent Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn and former Special Warfare Operator Chief Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL. Golsteyn faced a murder trial scheduled for next year, while Gallagher recently was acquitted of murder and convicted of posing with the corpse of an Islamic State fighter in Iraq.

The third service member involved, former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, was expected to be released from the U.S. Military Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas as soon as Friday night. He was convicted of second-degree murder in 2013, and sentenced to 19 years in prison for ordering his soldiers to open fire on three men in Afghanistan.

It was not immediately clear whether Lorance will receive a full pardon or have his sentence shortened through commutation.

The calls were made at the tail end of a day dominated by impeachment hearings against Trump, and after days of efforts by some senior Pentagon officials to change his mind, according to three U.S. officials. The officials, who also spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that some commanders have raised concerns that Trump's move will undermine the military justice system.

Other U.S. officials and advocates for the service members involved have said that adopting the president's desires in the military justice system should not be difficult. It typically has commanders overseeing the process in the military's chain of command, with Trump serving at the top of that system as commander in chief.

In all three cases, advocates for the service members had blasted the Pentagon for its handling of their cases, detailing what they saw as questionable actions by prosecutors and investigators. Their cases have been featured on conservative media frequently in recent months, as they also prepared cases for the president behind the scenes.

Golsteyn, who went from being decorated with a Silver Star for valor in Afghanistan to facing years of investigation and a court-martial in the 2010 death of a suspected bomb maker on the same deployment, said in a statement that his family is "profoundly grateful" for Trump's action, and that they have lived in "constant fear of this runaway prosecution" by the Army.

"Thanks to President Trump, we now have a chance to rebuild our family and lives," Golsteyn said. "With time, I hope to regain my immense pride in having served in our military. In the meantime, we are so thankful for the support of family members, friends and supporters from around the nation, and our legal team."

Gallagher's lawyer, Tim Parlatore, said that his client received a phone call from the president with Vice President Mike Pence also on the line.

“He told Eddie that he had certainly watched the case and that this was certainly the right thing to do given his years of service,” Parlatore said. “The president was very familiar with the prosecutorial misconduct associated with the case. I think that certainly plays into his decision.”

Alaska group seeking to raise oil taxes sues state, claiming ‘inaccuracies’ in review

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:54

The group behind a ballot measure aiming to boost taxes paid by major oil producers in Alaska is suing the state, asserting that officials did not provide a “true and impartial” summary of the proposal it certified.

Vote Yes for Alaska’s Fair Share filed the 12-page complaint in Anchorage Superior Court on Thursday. It names the Division of Elections and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, who last month certified the ballot measure, allowing backers to begin gathering signatures needed to put it on the 2020 election ballot.

The suit was filed by Robin Brena, chair of the initiative committee and an oil and gas attorney who has provided most of the group’s funding.

The complaint argues that in a summary of the measure, Meyer relied on an opinion from Attorney General Kevin Clarkson that went beyond helping determine whether it meets constitutional and statutory requirements.

The complaint says the summary contains “inaccuracies” that improperly describe the proposed act, including using language suggesting it could impact more companies than it is designed to affect.

“This (lawsuit) is about correcting this language so when people go into the ballot box they have a true and impartial summary of the act,” Brena said.

The disputed language is found on the front page of petition booklets, but signature gatherers are showing people the proposed act itself and the group’s accurate description of it, Brena said.

The complaint argues that “with often contradictory and confused analyses, the attorney general’s opinion raises and then refuses to opine on several potential, future constitutional and legal issues unrelated to whether the Fair Share Act meets the constitutional and statutory requirements to advance the ballot.”

If approved by voters, the “Fair Share Act" would bring in about $1 billion extra in production taxes, supporters say. They say it would apply to companies that produce oil from the North Slope’s large, legacy fields — currently Prudhoe Bay, Kuparuk and Alpine. The supporters are trying to garner 28,501 signatures from election districts across Alaska to meet the deadline for next year’s election.

The Fair Share group unsuccessfully tried to correct the summary, the complaint says. It adds that Meyer and the Division of Elections declined to meet or discuss the review with the group.

Cori Mills, a spokeswoman with the state Department of Law, said Friday afternoon the state has “not been served with the complaint yet and only just found out about the lawsuit.”

"We will need to review the complaint before determining a response,” she said.

Alaska Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman will resign

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 16:16

Revenue Commissioner Bruce Tangeman speaks at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage on April 22, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Alaska state revenue commissioner Bruce Tangeman will resign from his position as the state’s top tax collector, the office of Gov. Mike Dunleavy announced Friday afternoon. In an opinion column in the Daily News published Friday, Tangeman implied that his departure is related to differences between himself and the governor on state taxes.

In a statement, the governor’s office said Tangeman “will oversee the rollout of the upcoming Fall Revenue Forecast and the FY2021 budget, and continue in his role until a replacement is found to ensure a smooth transition.”

Tangeman did not immediately answer a call and text message to his cellphone, but his opinion column provides some insight.

“The discussion is turning more and more towards taxes,” Tangeman wrote. “I’ll admit that I’m on the record stating that someday Alaska will have a broad-based tax. However, I always followed up that opinion by stating this decision should be years if not decades down the road, well past my tenure as Commissioner of Revenue.”

[I’m leaving my post as Revenue Commissioner. Alaska’s budget-balancing work should continue.]

Saying that his department will be at the center of any taxation discussions, Tangeman wrote, “I want the Governor to have someone who is 100% aligned with his vision. I have therefore notified the governor that I will be resigning from his cabinet.”

The governor’s office did not immediately respond to questions about whether Tangeman’s departure was related to differences over taxation.

“Bruce has dedicated a significant portion of his life to public service and I thank him for the outstanding work he has done within my administration," Dunleavy said in a written statement. "His leadership and oversight of the Department of Revenue enabled many lasting changes and efficiencies. His character and strong work ethic have been a valuable asset to our team. I wish him all the best for his future endeavors.”

This is a developing story and will be updated.

Commercial airline flights resume between Anchorage and Unalaska after fatal crash

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 13:48

A PenAir plane that flew from Anchorage to Dutch Harbor, pictured off the runway at the Unalaska-Dutch Harbor airport on Oct. 17. (Jennifer Wynn)

Commercial airline service is back between Anchorage and Unalaska after a fatal crash nearly a month ago shut down scheduled flights at the city’s notoriously challenging airport.

But Alaska Airlines, which serviced that route for years, has no immediate plans to sell tickets again.

Ravn started commercial service Thursday with the de Havilland Dash 8, a different type of aircraft from the one involved in the fatal flight last month.

That flight, operated by a Ravn Air Group subsidiary, crashed Oct. 17 with 29 passengers and three crew, killing one passenger and injuring four others. The pilot overran the runway on his second landing attempt.

People in the plane described shrapnel and parts of a propeller slicing through the cabin.

The Saab 2000 twin-engine turboprop crashed through the airport’s perimeter fence, crossed a road and came to rest on rocks at the Bering Sea shore, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the National Transportation Safety Board.

The agency sent a major investigations team from Washington, D.C., to look into the incident, which marked the first commercial airline fatality in the United States in the last decade.

The last fatal crash in the U.S. involving a commercial airline was in February 2009, when a Continental Connection flight from Newark crashed into a home on approach to the airport in Buffalo, New York. Two pilots, two flight attendants and all 45 passengers died, as did one person on the ground.

It could be more than a year before federal investigators determine a probable cause for the Unalaska event.


Rescue crews respond to a plane crash at the end of the runway at the Unalaska airport on Oct. 17. (Photo by Erin Enlow) (Erin Enlow/)

Killed in the crash was 38-year-old David Allan Oltman, a Washington state resident who residents said came to Unalaska for his work as co-owner of a construction company. Oltman is survived by his parents, wife and two young children, according to an obituary the family provided to KUCB. They described him as the kind of person who connected easily with others and worked various jobs from ski patrol and commercial fishing to technology plant manager and orthopedic implant representative.

Ten people were originally checked for injuries described as ranging from minor to critical. Members of the Cordova High School swim team were on the flight; one swimmer needed metal removed from his leg.

The crash halted all commercial airline service for the Unalaska airport that serves an average of 58,000 ticketed passengers.

Until Thursday, the absence of regular, scheduled service between Anchorage and Unalaska led to stranded travelers and a rush for crowded, pricey charter flights that can be difficult to book. The shutdown came as Bering Sea crab and pollock seasons wound down in Unalaska’s Dutch Harbor, the nation’s largest seafood port by volume.

Alaska Airlines has been flying into Unalaska for decades, a spokesman said.

Before the crash, the Seattle-based airline marketed up to three flights a day between Anchorage and Unalaska, where temperamental Aleutian weather batters a relatively short runway tucked against a mountain.

The crash flight was marketed under the name PenAir, short for longtime Alaska carrier Peninsula Airways. But the flight was operated by Ravn Air Group subsidiary Peninsula Aviation Services Inc., which bought PenAir’s name and assets in a bankruptcy proceeding last year.

Alaska Airlines can’t market the flights because the capacity agreement with Ravn/PenAir was for the Saab 2000, Alaska spokesman Tim Thompson said this week.

“You can’t substitute planes as the agreement was with PenAir, and not Ravn. We do not have an agreement in this market with Ravn,” Thompson said in an email. “Additionally, our current fleet of jets cannot land at this airport.”

Alaska Airlines told the Unalaska city manager Thursday that the carrier is working with Ravn on “a potential solution” for travelers with Alaska Airlines tickets on the route, according to a city update Friday. An update was expected in coming days.

Representatives of both airlines told the city they plan to hold a community meeting in Unalaska next month.

The city got emergency permission to run short-term public charters to get residents on and off the island.

Ravn executives said at a meeting in Unalaska last month that they planned to resume Saab 2000 flights at a future date after implementing any necessary safety measures. A Ravn spokeswoman did not respond to questions asking for more details.

“At this time we don’t know if the two airlines will enter into a capacity agreement for the Dash 8 allowing for tickets to be purchased through Alaska Airlines,” the Unalaska update states. “The City acknowledges there are many remaining questions and concerns.”

Anchorage police officer pleads not guilty to assault charges

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 13:20

Anchorage Police officer Cornelius Aaron Pettus, right, is arraigned on assault charges in Anchorage on Friday. Attorney Clint Campion is at left. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

An Anchorage police officer pleaded not guilty Friday in Anchorage District Court to charges of assaulting a man while the officer was on duty in September.


Sam Allen speaks to reporters after the arraignment for Cornelius Aaron Pettus on Friday. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Officer Cornelius Aaron Pettus, 32, has been charged with two counts of fourth-degree assault — a Class A misdemeanor — after he punched and kicked 49-year-old Sam Allen on the evening of Sept. 30, charging documents state. Pettus and another officer had given Allen a bicycle citation at the time of the incident, according to the charges.

When the charges were announced Oct. 11, Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll said he believed some department officers were familiar with Allen — who posts videos of his interactions with police to a YouTube account titled "Northern Corruption Monitor 907” — but was unsure if Pettus or the other officer knew Allen before Sept. 30.

Allen had used his cellphone to record an interaction with Pettus earlier that evening when Pettus first contacted him about riding his bicycle at night without lights or a reflector, the charges state. That same day, Allen had also recorded an Anchorage officer dragging a police K-9 out of police headquarters by its leash.

Allen attended the arraignment Friday and told reporters he is still healing from his injuries.

“I forgive the dude. In my heart, I’m trying to. I’m in the process of doing that so I can move forward," Allen said.

Pettus remains on paid administrative leave pending the results of the police department’s own internal investigation, police spokesman MJ Thim said in an email.

Dunleavy turned his back on our veterans and pioneers

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 13:07

The Alaska Veterans and Pioneers Home in Palmer, Alaska on Tuesday, April 11, 2017, is a target in the political budget battle. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News) (Bill Roth/)

When my dad got the letter telling him that he’d need to find $12,000 a month to stay at the Pioneers and Veterans Home, he had no idea what to make of it. At 90, he has dementia and is easily confused, and became upset when he understood that there was no way in the world he could come up with that much money, about twice the monthly rate he pays now. Some folks at Pioneer Homes were told that their monthly bill could go above $15,000 per month. No matter what their letters said, every one of those residents—the folks that saw our state through statehood and helped to build Alaska—didn’t feel as safe after they got those letters than they felt before they got them.

As his daughter, I don’t feel very safe either. The Dunleavy administration said that nobody is going to get thrown out of Pioneer Homes but his track record on caring about Alaska’s older folks fails to reassure me. We watched while he suggested that the state could save money by cutting the senior benefits program, and only backed off when people made it clear the impact this cruel cut would have on seniors whose ability to afford housing, medication and food rested on that small monthly check.

Dunleavy’s administration claims that nobody currently in Pioneer Homes will have to leave, although the state will now take all but a few dollars of their life savings to pay the increased bills. Like many lifelong Alaskans, my dad took pride in working hard and living frugally so he could save those dollars. We know he’d hoped to pass some of the fruits of all that work down to support his grandchildren’s education, but this won’t happen now. One of the only blessings of Mom no longer being alive is she doesn’t have to turn over most of their shared life savings before the state would support Dad, leaving her more dependent on us, her kids and other state and federal programs. Families can’t pass help along from generation to generation if the state takes everything they’d saved for that future to pay the 140% hike in bills for elder care. Spouses, children, grandchildren—this decision ripples far into the future.

We’re all trying not to get too stressed. After all, with the cuts to mental health programs in the state, we’d have a hard time finding a therapist.

They say you can tell how civilized a nation is by looking at how it treats its most powerless members. If that’s true, Governor Dunleavy is missing the compassion to be a good leader. While I agree that some price increases may be needed, the method and execution of the policy was unnecessary and thoughtless.

Chris Vaughan is a lifelong Alaskan. She lives in Soldotna, Alaska.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Gov. Dunleavy is under siege for... governing

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 12:38

FILE - In this May 29, 2019, file photo, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters in his office at the state Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. A fight is brewing over whether Dunleavy, a Republican who took office in Dec. 2018, should be recalled. Critics say he’s incompetent and has recklessly tried to cut spending while supporters see a politically motivated attempt to undo the last election. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File) (Becky Bohrer/)

In 2018, Alaska elected conservative State Sen. Mike Dunleavy as the state’s 12th governor. Dunleavy’s story is pretty straightforward: he legislated as a conservative, campaigned as a conservative, and for the last year has governed as a conservative.

In Alaska in 2019, “governing” has meant fiscal seriousness. Everyone knows the story. As the price of oil has fallen, so have tax revenues derived from oil leases. The state’s larger-than-expected budget shortfall is not anyone’s fault, but it is elected officials’ responsibility to deal with it. Like most legislatures – very much including the U.S. Congress – the Alaska Legislature was reluctant to restore fiscal discipline if it meant spending cuts, even though the state’s damaged credit rating demanded it.

And so, Gov. Dunleavy did exactly what he promised to do and exactly what Alaska’s governor – empowered with a line-item veto for this very purpose – is supposed to do: He led. He first worked with the Legislature to find savings. But in politics, no one wants to be proverbial skunk at the garden party. And so, when legislators refused to deal with the budget crisis, Gov. Dunleavy used his line-item veto power to cut spending himself.

Alaska partisans, who launched a campaign to recall Gov. Dunleavy within months of his being sworn into office, used the budget reductions to inflame and co-opt public opinion in support of their politically motivated attempt to nullify the results of the 2018 election.

On Nov. 4, the Division of Elections rejected the recall petition because it failed to meet even the most basic standards required under the law. The recall process is designed to protect the state from corrupt or unfit officials; there is no such case against Gov. Dunleavy. The recall petition does not accuse Dunleavy of malfeasance, just fiscal discipline. Improving the state’s economic climate and plummeting credit rating are not crimes.

As John F. Kennedy famously said, “to govern is to choose.” Too many politicians – in Washington, in Juneau and every elected government around the world – prefer not to choose. They prefer to avoid difficult decisions. They prefer to talk rather than act. They prefer to be like pundits on TV, criticizing other people’s decisions rather than making their own. I served in Congress for 15 years, and I know. With responsibility comes accountability – angry phone calls, rowdy town halls, difficult re-election campaigns. The Founders understood this was a fatal temptation of democracy. That’s why the Constitution they wrote requires the men and women who win elections to take an oath – a solemn promise – to fulfill the duties of their new job.

Gov. Dunleavy used his line-item veto not simply to cut the state’s budget, but to finally draw state legislators toward bipartisan compromise on overdue reforms. His efforts resulted in a significant cut in the state’s budget deficit in one year.

Fiscal discipline, like physical therapy after a necessary surgery, can hurt. But it pays manifold dividends in the long run. In response to Gov. Dunleavy’s budget leadership, the Alaska economy has added jobs, family income is rising quickly and the state’s unemployment rate is falling to historic lows.

The budget crisis presents Alaska with a challenge. Gov. Dunleavy met that challenge with transparency and honesty. While his critics sought to exploit the situation, he worked to solve it. That kind of leadership deserves respect, not recall.

Jim DeMint is a national conservative leader who is the Chairman of the Conservative Partnership Institute. DeMint represented South Carolina in the U.S. House (1999-2005) and U.S. Senate (2005-2013).

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Alaska Stalker - the best and worst of this week’s political social media and gossip

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 11:47

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Alaska Stalker, a lighthearted round up of the best and worst of Alaska’s social media landscape.

***

Monday was Veterans Day and politicos on the national, state, and municipal level all posted touching tributes and sincere thanks to those who serve and have served. It was a great day to be online. In case you missed it, here’s a feel-good moment via occasional #akleg tweeter, Stephanie Quinn-Davidson. Be sure to turn your sound on for this one.

Alaska Airlines agent, Denise, in Anchorage gives a beautiful tribute to the veterans headed to Fairbanks. Her voice stopped everyone in the terminal their tracks. @AlaskaAir #IFlyAlaska #alaska #veteransday #thankyouvets pic.twitter.com/w61552n0EL

— Steph Quinn-Davidson (@SalmonStephAK) November 12, 2019

***

While things are slowing down in local politics for the holidays, in D.C., the impeachment hearings are in full swig, I mean swing. Take it easy, Jeanne!

Letter: Bird hunting is depraved

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:35

I must take issue with the ADN and Steve Meyer’s column on Sept. 25. The ADN seems to be enamored of any sport involving the killing of animals. Are the animals and birds only there to be hunted? Is the only way to appreciate wildlife by killing it?

Mr. Meyer laments there are fewer bird hunters. Could it be he doesn’t get it? That there are fewer bird hunters because they realize how depraved it is? One could buy duck at the meat market and save the cost of flying out to the flats, setting up camp, braving the weather, taking dead birds back, cleaning them and removing the steel pellets. Wow, great hunting!

And Meyer’s depiction of his dog. The critter is only good to hunt or retrieve dead birds? What about companionship? Meyer only describes the dog’s value in the context of hunting. He treats his gun as a friend! As though it has a personality. The “killing field” is destroyed by progress and he is saddened because there are fewer good guys out there blasting away at the birds. Poor Mr. Meyer.

— Ron West

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Impeachment sham

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:33

In his letter to the editor Nov. 6, Lars Opland of Wasilla wrote how awful our elected President Donald J. Trump is by misleading our country into chaos and corruption. It seems clear that the impeachable offense lacks so much credibility that impeaching our president will be difficult.

Donald Trump did not break any law; all he did was stand up against the tyrannical Hillary Clinton. After reading Mr. Opland’s letter, I’m not so sure he understood the whole situation either.

— Bill Tritt

Anchorage

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Letter: Dunleavy’s impact on education

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:31

As a student wanting to attend the elementary education program at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, the ongoing issues on teacher’s benefits and budget cuts discourages attendance in teacher programs. Many students who are in Alaska’s universities wonder if their program is going to be cut after the closing of the School of Education at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Alaska universities’ overall enrollment dropped by 11% in the past year. High schoolers are discouraged to attend Alaska’s universities due to their unstable programs. Students are having to ask why should they study at Alaska’s universities and why they should become a teacher in Alaska.

Teachers in Alaska might have the eighth highest rank when it comes to pay compared to the Lower 48, but with its poor benefits, low student academic scores and high turnover rate, many teachers are moving out of Alaska, and students are not attending Alaska’s universities.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget cut proposal has immense implications for graduating students remaining in Alaska to teach. Recalling Dunleavy’s budget cuts means putting income back into Alaska’s schools, and students desiring to attend Alaska’s universities and teach in Alaska. Let’s recall Dunleavy.

— Talisha Daly

Anchorage

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Letter: Directionless GOP

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:25

It’s dizzying. President Donald Trump, the con artist I voted for, declaring he is literally above the law, can’t be indicted, and that there is a “political” process, impeachment, to remedy any wrongs.

The Democrats then answer by beginning impeachment. Republicans then shift gears, quickly dismiss impeachment itself as flawed because of it being “political.” Republicans shift smoke and mirror strategies again, declaring the impeachment process invalid because it was not officially voted on.

Then, once it was voted on, the complaint rapidly changed and became “no transparency, because it’s not public.” Then, when Democrats announce public hearings, our president says they should not be allowed to take place (get ready) “in public.”

Republicans said for weeks there was no quid pro quo, and if there was, that would be a big issue, damning, deeply troubling! Then they admitted on live television there unequivocally was — then declared in the same long breath that “this is done all the time.”

I am embarrassed for my party. There is no Democratic National Committee server hidden away in the Ukraine. And the moon landing really did occur. And Barack Obama really was born in Hawaii. And the Sandy Hook massacre really happened. And the Republican Party, sadly, has become a rudderless, shameless cult subjugating itself to a single amoral personality. We deserve the beating we are about to take.

— Allen Jorgenson

Anchorage

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Letter: Recall the governor

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:18

I know Mike Dunleavy. I’ve known him for over a decade. We joke with each other. I tease him him about being an unsuccessful hunter. In short, I like Mike Dunleavy.

With that said, I believe the governor deserves to be recalled. His callous and unconcerned ax work on the budget demonstrates a knowing detachment from his constituents and a blatant disregard for the people of Alaska. His metaphorical middle finger to the rule of law — failing to nominate a judge in the prescribed time period — speaks loudly to his delusion of being above the law. Time and the courts will further prove the governor’s lawlessness. In short, this governor and his great lies need to go. In fact, I stood outside of Wasilla Middle School holding a sign that espoused just that point. This governor deserves to be recalled.

But don’t get me wrong. I still believe Mike is a great guy. The person acting on orders from the Koch brothers and the American Legislative Exchange Council playbook is separate from Mike.

— Matt Welk

Chugiak

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

(April 16, 2005) Ruling rejects race-based law enforcement claims

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 10:08

The state of Alaska did not deliberately create a race-based law enforcement system in the Bush and does not now allocate police resources to discriminate against predominantly Native communities, the Alaska Supreme Court ruled Friday.

The differences in the availability and quality of law enforcement between rural and urban Alaska are reasonably based on the problems encountered in serving communities on the road system and those off the road system, the court concluded in a unanimous decision.

The court rejected claims by the Alaska Inter-Tribal Council, the Alaska Native Justice Center and 10 rural villages that a segregated system “for providing law enforcement services has existed in Alaska since the 1800s.” The villages argued that the current Village Public Safety Officer program is a direct descendant of territorial race-based systems and is used to achieve a continuing objective of denying equal protection to Native villages.

VPSOs are unarmed peace officers who are supervised by the Alaska State Troopers, but are employees of regional nonprofits. Most are Native and work in off-road villages where no regular troopers are assigned. They are less rigorously trained and paid less than sworn troopers. The challenging villages claimed they constitute a “dual system” used to substitute for real troopers, which the state would have to assign if VPSOs were not available.

The court disagreed.

VPSOs are a “supplemental” service, the court said. “That VPSO services were mainly available in off-road communities that were predominantly Alaska Native does not establish that the allocation of trooper services was racially motivated,” wrote Justice Robert Eastaugh for the court. “It simply reflects demographic reality in Alaska.”

A press release from Attorney General David Marquez’s office welcomed the decision, but Natalie Landreth, a staff attorney for Native American Rights Fund in Anchorage and one of two attorneys who argued against the state, said her side was “profoundly disappointed.”

The people in Alaska’s villages “do live under a separate and unequal rural public safety system, and I guess this decision means that system is going to continue,” she said.

But the issue was not whether villagers get as much police protection as urban Alaskans, or even if all villages get the same protection. Those are legislative and administrative questions, the courts have said. The issue was whether the state was using race as a basis for allocating police resources among "similarly situated" communities.

They are not, the court concluded.

“Instead, the evidence permits a logical conclusion that the state developed its system of rural law enforcement based on financial and geographical constraints, and an evaluation of crime rates in those locations,” the court said.

Mike Williams, a lifelong resident of the Kuskokwim River village of Akiak and one of the plaintiffs, suggested the outcome might have been different “if those justices would take some time off and live in Akiak or in a place where there’s no police. Then they would realize what we live with.”

The state should be required to provide better protection than is currently available, Williams said. Only a portion of rural communities have VPSOs, and those are underpaid, he said.

The suicide last week of the VPSO in Russian Mission illustrated the depth of the funding issue, Williams added. “He was paying for his own heat and phones. How can police officers live like that? They won’t do it in Anchorage.”

Friday’s decision, which upheld a lower court decision, may be the end of this case, but it is not the end of the issue. A commission of rural residents, mandated by federal law, has been meeting over the past year and is expected to make recommendations soon to Congress and the Alaska Legislature on improving village public safety.

In the meantime, the plaintiffs are considering their legal options, Landreth said. They include seeking another state Supreme Court review, or asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear it.

Daily News reporter Sheila Toomey can be reached at stoomey@adn.com. Reporter Joel Gay can be reached at jgay@adn.com.

(Sept. 17, 2003) Court to rule on shortage of VPSOs

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 09:58

Does the chronic shortage of public safety officers in dozens of communities in rural Alaska mean the state discriminates against Alaska Natives? Villagers say yes, the state says no. Now it’s up to the Alaska Supreme Court to decide.

The high court heard arguments Tuesday in a case filed four years ago in Dillingham, but whose roots go back far earlier, that said the state has historically short-changed villages in the realm of public safety. They claimed that village officers are underpaid, undertrained and underarmed compared with their Alaska State Trooper counterparts.

They failed to persuade Superior Court Judge Sharon Gleason, however. She agreed that urban and rural communities receive different levels of service, “but this court finds these discrepancies are due principally to ... geographic isolation, weather conditions and transportation difficulties ... and not to an unconstitutional under-allocation of trooper resources” to the Bush.

Even as funding and policy changes in the rural justice system are looming at both the state and federal levels, the 1999 lawsuit pressed toward conclusion Tuesday. In his appeal, attorney Lawrence Aschenbrenner of the Native American Rights Fund argued that police services in rural Alaska are racially based and numerically inferior to what urban Alaskans receive.

“The state intended to establish a lower standard of police protection for Native villages” when it created the village public safety officer, or VPSO, program as an offshoot of the Alaska State Troopers in the late 1970s, he said.

The VPSO program was designed to put officers in rural villages who could provide first response before troopers could arrive from the nearest hub community, such as Bethel or Kotzebue. VPSOs are trained by the troopers but do not carry weapons. They are on call around the clock and are often called upon to subdue friends, neighbors and relatives who disrupt the peace, leading to high turnover rates in many villages.

But the program has never extended to all of Alaska’s off-road villages. When the VPSO suit was filed, only 75 of 165 off-road communities had officers. The number fell even lower this year when Gov. Frank Murkowski eliminated funding for 15 other positions.

Aschenbrenner turned around Gleason’s reasoning, saying that the geographic, weather and distance limitations inherent in rural Alaska are reasons to expand the public safety program, not to justify its minimal funding. Various Legislatures and administrations have agreed, he pointed out, when they sought more money for the VPSO program.

State assistant attorney general Jim Baldwin countered Aschenbrenner’s claims that public safety is shorted in the Bush. Between the allocation of troopers around Alaska and how much time the troopers and VPSOs spend on duty, he said, “you find no disparity. What you find is the off-road communities receive slightly more time than the road communities. It’s even.”

Baldwin downplayed Aschenbrenner’s contention that the VPSO program was racially based because numerous state officials had said it was for “Native” communities. Officials may have used that term, Baldwin said, but as a descriptor. “It’s not racial at all, it’s political,” he said, and he asked the justices to “put aside this claim of racial discrimination once and for all.

”It’s true that the state can’t afford to put troopers in every village, Baldwin said. And if there aren’t enough troopers to go around, it makes sense to put them in the regional hubs, not spread them among the villages. It’s not the Supreme Court’s job to determine where to put troopers and VPSOs, he said.

The justices are expected to take several months to decide the case.

In the meantime, the rural justice system is in line for major changes. Last week, Sen. Ted Stevens announced a plan to eliminate federal funding for tribal courts and police officers and redirect the funds to the state. The bill, which still must pass Congress and President Bush, would give Alaska $2 million for the VPSO program.

On Tuesday, Public Safety Commissioner Bill Tandeske said the Murkowski administration is planning a massive overhaul of the state’s rural police program."

We’re not locked into the VPSO program as a vehicle for those services," he said. “The primary issue is the number of communities we have to consider.”

At least 100 villages have lost or never had VPSOs, and the state’s ongoing budget crisis is likely to require additional cuts in the future, Tandeske said.

“We’re redefining and recreating the rural justice system,” he said. “If it turns out VPSOs are the best thing, fine. But something has to change to be able to provide more service to more communities, and the answer can’t be ‘if only we had more money.’ “Possible areas of reform include putting one officer in a cluster of villages or trimming administrative costs. Currently the VPSO program is administered by nine regional Native nonprofit agencies. “Seems like a lot of overhead,” Tandeske said.

The administration hopes to have a new village public safety program in place next year, he said, adding that he doubts the upcoming Supreme Court decision will affect it.

”We’re operating under the assumption that we’re going to rethink how we do business and get the most services for the money that we can provide.”

It’s the heart of pumpkin spice season, and these cookie butter-crumble pie bars are at your service

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 08:09

Cookie-butter crumble pumpkin pie bars (Julia O'Malley)

The idea for this recipe started at Black Cup Coffee a month ago, where one day I decided to order their pumpkin-spice latte. They make it with sweetened condensed milk that’s been infused with pumpkin and serve it with nutmeg, sourced from Summit Spice across the street. It is so fantastically subtle and miles away from the cloying, aftertasty Starbucks PSL.

Later that day, on a pumpkin bender, I decided to buy a cute sugar-pie pumpkin at the grocery store. Later on, I poked it with a fork and put in it a 325-degree oven for an hour or so until it got really soft. Then I cut it in half, scraped out the seeds, and piled the meat in a bowl. It was exactly 2 cups, just like a can of pumpkin.

Then began an obsessive couple weeks of pie-bar making. I’m a late comer to cookie butter, which is a delicious, jarred emulsion made of Biscoff cookies. But that flavor combined with not-too-sweet pumpkin and a little sea salt is really something. You can use roasted sugar-pie pumpkin or canned for this recipe. If you want the bars less sweet, reduce the condensed milk by a quarter-cup and sub in cream. The bars will slice after cooling completely but they slice best after being refrigerated. A little dollop of whipped cream on top is optional.

Cookie-butter crumble pumpkin pie bars

1 8.8-ounce package Biscoff cookies, finely crushed

6 tablespoons salted butter, melted

1 15-ounce can pumpkin or 2 cups of roasted sugar pie-pumpkin, packed

3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk

1/2 cup heavy cream

2 eggs

1/4 teaspoon sea salt plus a pinch for the pan

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 9-by-13-inch pan with cooking spray and sprinkle the bottom with a pinch of sea salt. Mix the Biscoff crumbs with butter and press into the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the pan for the crust for the bars. Bake for 5 minutes, remove from oven and set aside. In a bowl, combine pumpkin, condensed milk, cream, eggs, salt and spice. Mix well. (If using fresh pumpkin, you should combine the ingredients in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender.) Spread the filling into the crust. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the center of the bars has set. Refrigerate for at least an hour before slicing with a sharp knife.

Roger Stone found guilty of witness tampering and lying to Congress in case related to WikiLeaks

Fri, 11/15/2019 - 08:04

In this Nov. 12, 2019 file photo, Roger Stone, a longtime Republican provocateur and former confidant of President Donald Trump, waits in line at the federal court in Washington. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta/)

WASHINGTON — Roger Stone, a longtime friend and ally of President Donald Trump, was found guilty Friday of witness tampering and lying to Congress about his pursuit of Russian-hacked emails damaging to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 election bid.

Stone was convicted of all seven counts in an indictment that accused him of lying to Congress, tampering with a witness and obstructing the House investigation into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to tip the 2016 election.

He is the sixth Trump aide or adviser to be convicted of charges brought as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation.

Stone has denied wrongdoing and consistently criticized the case against him as politically motivated. He did not take the stand during the trial and his lawyers did not call any witnesses in his defense.

Scheduling was sentenced for Feb. 6. Stone, 67, could face up to 20 years in prison.

In a trial that lasted about a week, witnesses highlighted how Trump campaign associates were eager to gather information about emails the U.S. says were hacked by Russia and then provided to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks.

Steve Bannon, who served as the campaign’s chief executive, testified during the trial the trial that Stone had boasted about his ties to WikiLeaks and its founder Julian Assange, alerting them to pending new batches of damaging emails. Campaign officials saw Stone as the “access point” to WikiLeaks, he said.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors used Stone's own text messages and emails — some of which appeared to contradict his congressional testimony — to lay out their case that he lied to Congress and threatened a witness. Stone did not testify, and his lawyers called no witnesses in his defense.

On Tuesday, a top former Trump campaign official, Rick Gates, who was a key cooperator in the Mueller probe, testified that that Stone tried to contact Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law, to "debrief" him about developments on the hacked emails.

Prosecutors alleged Stone lied to Congress about his conversations about WikiLeaks with New York radio host and comedian Randy Credico — who scored an interview with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange in 2016, when he was avoiding prosecution by sheltering in the Ecuadoran embassy in London — and conservative writer and conspiracy theorist Jerome Corsi.

During the 2016 campaign, Stone had mentioned in interviews and public appearances that he was in contact with Assange through a trusted intermediary and hinted at inside knowledge of WikiLeaks' plans. But he started pressing Credico to broker a contact, and Credico testified that he told Stone to work through his own intermediary.

Earlier testimony revealed that Stone, while appearing before the House Intelligence Committee, named Credico as his intermediary to Assange and pressured Credico not to contradict him.

After Credico was contacted by Congress, he reached out to Stone, who told him he should "stonewall it" and "plead the fifth," he testified. Credico also testified during Stone’s trial that Stone repeatedly told him to “do a ‘Frank Pentangeli,’” a reference to a character in “The Godfather: Part II” who lies before Congress.

Prosecutors said Stone had also threatened Credico’s therapy dog, Bianca, saying he was “going to take that dog away from you.”


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