Welcome to another edition of Friday in the Sun, your latest and sometimes greatest Friday column rounding up all the gossip and rumors that stick around long enough in our scatterbrained heads to be put down in column format.
As always, take everything with a grain of salt because we can’t be bothered to verify anything beyond asking ourselves “Is this source a known liar?” and then putting it in here regardless of what that answer might be.
Guys, it’s been a week.
Hell has frozen over
Politicos across the anti-Dunleavy spectrum fell over themselves this week to fawn over the scorching editorial penned by conservative Alaska Journal of Commerce Editor Andrew Jensen with the sweet, sweet headline “The messianic arrogance of isolation.”
Filled with lines about “messianic righteousness,” about how Dunleavy and Chief of Staff Tuckerman Babcock have “not governed like the cool-headed and savvy Michael Corleone but as a combination of Sonny and Fredo mixing vindictiveness with incompetence,” and how Dunleavy and Babcock are “mixing the punch with their Valley cohort and intending to force it down everyone’s throats if they don’t get what they want in spite of their lack of popular support,” it’s a stunning turn for someone who had been one of the mainstream Alaska media’s few—if not only—defenders of Dunleavy.
Of course, there’s a dash of scorn aimed at the Legislature and a “Dunleavy deserves credit” line in there because why not.
And, of course, it comes as the cherry atop of the mountain of Dunleavy regret that’s been building since everyone got a good look at the governor’s budget.
Looking back over the last seven months in office, the scope and scale of the governor’s failure to hold together his coalition has been stunning. His budget split the House into a bipartisan coalition. And we have a Senate that’s headed up by anti-abortion zealots in Senate President Cathy Giessel and Rules Committee Chair John Coghill, but the chamber spent the entire session running opposition against Dunleavy instead of singing kumbaya over rolling back women’s reproductive rights.
Dunleavy’s seen the still-independent business groups to shy away and the oil and mining industries to stick with a “no comment” evaluation of his time in office (though perhaps they’ll be rethinking things after the roads-to-resources-building Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority saw its bond rating docked thanks to Dunleavy’s actions).
It’s truly impressive.
And remember, it’s not just the traditional Republican allies that have departed. Recall that Dunleavy walked into office with the endorsements of the powerful Arctic Slope Regional Corporation and YK-Delta’s Calista Corporation.
“We believe Mike Dunleavy is closely aligned with our values, which will create additional stability in our communities as well as opportunities for our shareholders,” ASRC president and CEO Rex Rock Sr. told KTVA of the endorsement.
Oof. That’s not aged particularly well.
But the retreat shouldn’t be surprising. Like Trump, Dunleavy has not been good to his allies. Instead of delivering on stability and creating opportunities, Dunleavy turned around to propose the sweeping confiscation of the North Slope Borough’s property taxes collected from oil and gas infrastructure. All those opportunities, it turns out, were reserved for his partisan buddies.
Months later, ASRC, Calista and the 10 other Alaska Native regional corporations penned a rare joint letter that warned Dunleavy’s vetoes would “will plunge Alaska into a fiscal and social crisis.” The letter itself gained only a fraction of the attention that Jensen’s editorial had in the hours since it was published, but that letter should stand as the bedrock of a growing mountain of Dunleavy regret.
It was built upon with a full-page advertisement in the Anchorage Daily News funded by business leaders calling on the stalemate between the governor and the Legislature “bad for business” and calling the cuts “go too far, too fast.” There’s also the Anchorage Daily News’ story that filled out the story behind that ad.
Votes, political contributions and endorsements, it turns out, are not a blank check in support for a political agenda.
Binging with Babcock
It’s with all of that that we’re now hearing rumors that Babcock may be on the way out with the administration. Whether he’s getting the boot, leaving to open a cowboy boot store on the peninsula or heading off to cause havoc elsewhere—the redistricting board, perhaps—we honestly don’t put a whole lot of stock to this one, but who knows.
But if Dunleavy is looking for a pivot away from what everyone outside the safe spaces of the party echo chamber has labelled as an abject failure of the first eighth of his term, there’d be few better changes than removing Babcock… and OMB Director Donna Arduin.
Maybe while hanging out at the Republican Governor’s Association retreat in Aspen this week, Dunleavy can ask some of his Republican colleagues how well things are going for them. Have their majority-Republican Legislatures turned against them? Have their business communities said they’re also destroying the state? Have their most ardent allies in the media suggested they’re figuratively “mixing the punch” on the path to political suicide?
No? Huh… must be… the Democrats… I guess.
If that doesn’t help maybe the not one, but two flights spent getting booed by Alaskans will.
The real question is what kind of no-bid, sole-source contract will Babcock take with him on the way out?
Another cup of punch, please
Meanwhile, the governor’s allies in the Legislature remain ride-or-die for the $3,000 PFD. They’re so entrenched that the House Majority is just going over their heads and appears to be working on a deal directly with Dunleavy to restore some of the vetoes.
It’s an increasingly sad and lonely corner they’re painting themselves into but unfortunately there’s still enough of them in that corner to reach out and pull the state toward the brink with the capital budget.
The House came up a vote short this week on properly funding the capital budget in order to secure nearly a billion dollars in federal transportation funds and restore all the dozens of funds the governor decided to liquidate, which would put the funds back in place for the scholarship program, power cost equalization and the vaccination program.
The House has one last chance to undo that (barring introducing a whole new bill) on Monday. That’s when the House plans to hold its final vote on the bill. Hold onto your butts.
Fuck 100 percent of this
A shitty person made a shitty account with a photoshop of Rep. David Eastman shooting up a bunch of Alaskans. Eastman’s response? “Clickbait.”
Also, dude, that’s not even what that means. At least have the decency to call it fake news or, you know, call it shitty. But, nah.”Clickbait.”
(Also, Eastman didn’t make the account. A fact that Cindy Moore later acknowledged.)
I’d get away with it if it weren’t for that darn meddlin’ University
The administration appears to be willing to pull back some of its vetoes of university funding and instead spread the cuts out over two years as long as the Board of Regents are willing to hand over their constitutional duty to oversee and manage the University of Alaska to Arduin and company.
Interestingly, it would eliminate UAF’s organized research altogether.
UAF just so happens to be a hotbed of climate change research with recent research that includes “Melting small glaciers could add 10 inches to sea levels,” how “New research shows an iceless Greenland may be in the future,” how “Arctic change is impacting lower latitudes,” and how “Air temperatures in the Arctic are driving system change.”
Make no mistake that this is the plan.
Perhaps a little thank you to the Trump for giving the greenlight to Pebble Mine.
The Board of Regents, which grew a backbone this week after singing Dunleavy’s praises and declared financial exigency, will be meeting next week on Tuesday where its agenda will include hearing from the Office of Management and Budget.
The fact that the administration is already backtracking on its plans to gut the university in one year and proposing to, instead, let it bleed out over two years is remarkable. What kind of leadership is this?
A look inside
Meanwhile, the campuses are each pushing to have the cuts doled out piecemeal to each campus, letting the campuses decide which programs to keep and which to jettison. The University of Alaska Anchorage released some documents this week, giving us a glimpse at where the administration would be leaning if the regents end up going with this plan.
Falling outside of the core services and on the chopping block would be: Languages, international studies, physical education, sociology, journalism and political science.
While the governor’s off in Aspen and his legislative director is on vacation, a load of other stuff has been happening in Alaska. Here’s a quick rundown:
- Anchorage has declared a civil emergency over the vetoes and has initiated a contract to keep the Brother Francis Shelter open a bit longer
- The state’s ferry system workers are on strike, grounding the ferries (also recall that Dunleavy’s labor relations manager has no labor relations experience but is a Babcock buddy)
- The state had its credit outlook downgraded
- The University of Alaska saw its first high-profile departure of a student over the budget cuts while other universities are setting about picking off Alaska’s students
- In a bit of good news, the Fairbanks North Star Borough has launched its own Climate Change Task Force
A positive note
PBS Molly of Denali debuted last week, putting Alaska and Alaska Native culture on display in a cute, accessible and, importantly, unvarnished celebration of the state and its history. One its first episodes, which you can and should check out, deals with the boarding schools Alaska Natives children were forced into. You don’t even see that stuff in most Alaska museums.