Welcome to the latest and sometimes greatest collection of Alaska political gossip and occasional rumor that’s released on Friday.
As always, read it with a grain of salt and know that your ever-so-humble editor is running on just a few hours of sleep so it might take a little while before he comes back to fix all the typos everyone points out each week (For real, I appreciate each every one of my dear crowdsourced copy editors).
That’s Representative Vance to you, you uneducated little snot-nosed brats
After a weekend of “standing tall”/echoing the governor’s talking points to irate town halls over the weekend, Rep. Sarah Vance held perhaps one of the most baffling, tone-deaf Facebook live sessions we’ve ever seen in Alaska politics.
With a handful of student-written letters as a prop, Vance starts off by reading a few of the letters in what at initially appears to be one of those sincere attempts to connect with the constituents. But just a few letters in her mission becomes clear. These aren’t compelling cases for supporting education, in her eyes. Activities? Sad face? Pfft.
“So, I would like to have your input if you feel that our education dollars are giving the output that you would like to see,” she said, smugly looking at the camera. “Now, a lot of my concern in reading these is none of them have addressed me as Representative or Representative Vance. Not a one.”
“And most of them, I would say 95 percent of them, did not include their name,” she said. “there’s no way that I can respond to the students in a personal way that lets them know I value their input and that I want to connect with them as their representative.”
She then spends the rest of the video bagging on the students and the education system.
“This is troubling to me. We have many opportunities to engage our students on the proper way to talk to their representatives, to have a listening ear with those who represent them in government,” she said. “We can talk to them in English class on, ‘This is how we write a letter, this is how we address it, this is how you can convey your ideas, your concerns and sign your name on the bottom.’”
“Please continue to reach out to me, but I would encourage you: Make sure that your work is legible and is filled with a thoughtful response and your name attached so that I can connect with you,” she said. “If there’s any of my constituents that I wanted to make sure that I was able to give a thoughtful reply, it would definitely be our students. I care about you very much, but I want you to tell me how you feel about the quality of education that you feel that our students are receiving with the dollars invested. We must look at the return on investment.”
That reminds me, it won’t be too long before we have to kick off our 2019 legislator rankings. We might have a front-runner to unseat the venerable Rep. David Eastman, who took home the prize as the worst legislator in our 2018 rankings.
That the composition of these letters bothered her is one thing, but that these letters were such an affront that she just had to sit down in front of a camera to dunk on them is a whole new level.
If you must, here’s the video. It’s still up. If it goes down, let us know. We already have a copy.
A FRANK defense
Perhaps our esteemed Representative Sarah “I won’t debate at liquor-serving establishments” Vance, would rather correct students’ grammar and writing face-to-face (or ours for that matter).
There’s a Republican-backed group pushing a voter initiative to move legislative sessions to Anchorage that got headlines last week, but it’s not going to be going to the ballot without a fight.
This is all a very labored way of saying, this week a group helmed by Fairbanks architect CB Bettisworth formed to begin the fundraising and organization needed to go toe-to-toe with the capitol move crowd.
Frustrated Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge appears to be angling to defend the 1994 voter initiative that requires the public be informed about the bondable costs of moving the capitol—or Legislature—out of Juneau. FRANK 2019 argues that citizens must know and approve of any costs to move the capitol or legislators.
The sponsors behind the session-move initiative have attempted to write it to explicitly circumvent the law, noting that “this initiative deals only with the location of meetings.” It also, for some inexplicable reason, would rewrite that law, too.
The worst appointee
Though we usually keep the ultra-scientific social media polling to our legislator rankings, I asked this week who the worst appointee is so far. There’s so many to pick from, especially after the stupendously terrible confirmation hearings for ghost-hunting John Francis and Trevor “To my own detriment” Shaw, but it’s foulmouthed jerk Art Chance that took the cake.
Follow the money
We heard the administration was none too pleased to see the House Health and Social Services Committee apply the intense pressure of, you know, reading publicly available documents. That’s where Rep. Ivy Spohnholz found the email inconsistencies where it seemed that the administration knew it would fail an inspection ahead of time or at the very least was preparing the justification for an emergency sole source contract a week before the emergency was declared.
We detailed it all over here, but there’s a plenty of other pieces about the process that stink, like:
- Why did Wellpath Recovery Solutions get a lobbyist back on Dec. 13 under its former name, Correct Care. And was it just a coincidence that the state asked a national organization for a private operator five days later on Dec. 18 and contacted Wellpath two days after that (according to this timeline from the Feb. 13 meeting with the Senate)?
- Why is it then that in a Feb. 5 email with National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors, the national organization that supposedly gave the glowing recommendation for Wellpath, that the expert had plenty to say about the other provider but would have to ask around on Wellpath?
- Why did the Jan. 22 email that outlined the case for a sole source emergency contract—again a week before the feds made a finding that was the basis of said emergency—come a day after Wellpath delivered its privatization pitch, dated Jan. 21, to the administration?
Still, setting all that aside—assuming the emergency was valid, assuming Wellpath really is the only company that could provide these services so quickly and assuming that everything else was above board—then why is it that the contract is positioned in a way for the for-profit company to continue on beyond July 1 without a competitive bid process? It’s unclear just what kind of performance goals Wellpath has at the time, but it appears that a deadline for a decision on the whole thing is due on April 15, in little over a month.
While some will attempt to waive off the concerns about the process to focus on the wellbeing of the patients, as Rep. Lance “My wife has a $15,417 a month communications contract with the Dunleavy administration” Pruitt attempted to do during the meeting, Spohnholz argued that the process shouldn’t be overlooked.
“I want to sort of back up a little bit to the process because I don’t think anybody disagrees that something seriously needs to be done at API. I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that doesn’t think something needs to be done,” she said. “But how you do something is often as important as what you do. When thinking about the ship that is API and needing to steer it in the right direction and right resources to do the important work that it does. There’s another group of people that are part of the process that we need to incorporate in the process.”
Those would be the employees of the Alaska Psychiatric Institute. She noted that their contracts require a feasibility study before major changes like this are proposed, which she reminded the committee had been already done and already showed it wouldn’t be a cost saver or improve care at the facility.
The administration said, oh yeah, they’re getting the study updated ahead of the April 15 deadline.
The enemy of my enemy
Here’s a thing that Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy said at the Alaska Forest Association meeting this week.
“Our operating budgets are the enemy of everything we want to do.”
One might ask, Dear Governor, what that might be, but we know it’s all about that PFD.
Speaking of that, it seems like last week’s meeting between two guys having some of their worst weeks has continued, though it’s perhaps a little one-sided. After getting a compliment about his body, one half of the duo sent the other 10 National Guard members and a promise not to sue over Planned Parenthood funding.
What’s next? A ptarmigan in a lowbush blueberry (tree)?
Somebody who should know better
That’s how one commissioner referred to the editor of a certain website with a PFD clock this week. Who could that be?
The comment was made during a line of questioning with the general thesis of, “The Governor can’t really repay PFDs unilaterally.”
We’d posit that that’s, perhaps, the point of the clock. Wherever that clock may be. We wouldn’t know because we certainly know better.
Either that or
we someone made a really ill-informed $6,700 pledge in a Kickstarter project for a dog-based VR kit and we are someone is really counting on the mega PFD coming through.
One free pass
Perhaps the Dunleavy administration had only read the economist Ed King’s blog post dunking on columnist Dermot Cole, The Fuzzy Logic of Columnists Writing about the Earnings Reserve, when it brought him on because legislators—and the public—sure think some of his other articles are pretty interesting.
Sen. Bill Wielechowski, the Anchorage Democrat who’s been grinning like it’s Christmas and he already snooped out the N64, wanted to know about King’s blog post from October that suggested Medicaid cuts would have “huge ramifications on the economy, the general population and the budget.”
“I’m in a tricky position because I’m wearing a hat for the administration and I would like to not answer that question,” King said.
To which Sen. Bertlocker said, sure, why not.
The Senate Finance Committee isn’t the only place where King wasn’t willing to answer questions. He also deleted his Twitter this week after trying to justify his budget work to a group of people who were less than accepting of “Nobody knows the answer to that question.”
A politico had this to say about it:
Ed King quit Twitter this week. Some people on Twitter showed sympathy for how “rough” his mentions must have been (ignoring the fact that he seemed to seek out those interactions and willfully participated in them). In reality, his mentions were far from rough. Unlike a lot of prominent women and people of color, Mr. King wasn’t on the receiving end of death threats, rape threats, racial slurs, or attacks on his personal appearance. He was criticized for the work (or lack thereof) he’s done to justify this administration’s budget and he was the butt of some jokes questioning just how he went from producing work showing minimal economic impacts from the PFD to justifying Governor Michael J. Dunleavy’s idea to decimate the budget while still paying a full PFD.
As far as I’m concerned, all of these Twitter critiques are fair game, even the jokes. Tone policing and calls for civility are strategies used to quiet the voices of minorities and marginalized communities. Policymakers should be willing to accept criticism of their work, even if it comes on a platform that many Olds don’t understand. Ed King’s retreat from Twitter is just one more example of this administration’s complete and utter lack of courage and leadership. Instead of hiding away on the top floor of the Spam Can, Mr. King, Ms. Arduin,and their team should be discussing their decisions with real Alaskans, where the real Alaskans are. (And there are dozens of us on Twitter! Dozens!) So, Ed, come back! Listen to our feedback on whether this budget is 🔥 or 💩.
Trickle-down economics it ain’t
And finally, this week we asked y’all to get creative after Sen. Peter Micciche pointed out that this budget isn’t even trickle-down economics because there’s nothing—like tax cuts for the rich and corporations—to trickle down in the budget. Here’s some of the suggestions about what to call what’s going on:
- “Spooky Action at a Distance” economics
- Underpants Gnome Economics
- Zombie Economics
- Nihilist Economics, because nothing we do matters apparently