It’s been a week, so without further padding let’s get down to it.
‘Look at that man. He’s all man, look at him.’
Two guys who haven’t been having the greatest weeks met up in Anchorage on Thursday. It got a little weird when one complimented the other’s body but, hey, he seemed flattered so who are we to judge?
Speaking of bad weeks, the Senate State Affairs Committee heard testimony Thursday night that was nearly 2:1 against Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy’s core campaign promise to repay dividends. It’s a particularly embarrassing turn of events given the governor’s stilted a personal plea for people call in and support the measure.
“If you don’t get involved, if you don’t call in, politicians are going to think it’s OK to take your PFD to pay for a bloated government,” he said.
Instead of sending that strong message to legislators—who’re already skeptical about the payback plan’s impact on the state’s finances—Dunleavy to this headline from the Anchorage Daily News: “In public testimony, a surge of support for cuts — to the Permanent Fund dividend”
For an administration that seems to be doing all it can to mimic the path of the Trump Administration, height doesn’t appear to be the only place that Dunleavy is already outdoing 45. He’s beating Trump to public admissions of regret over their vote, something that it took many Trump supporters until this tax season to feel.
“I love Dunleavy,” said one testifier, according to the ADN, “but now I realize he bought this state by offering money to the people. He offered everybody basically $3,600.”
It was actually a little closer to $6,700.
The hearing will likely serve to bolster already-skeptical legislators (as well as probably the case that the Legislature should meet on the road system (though last week’s Anchorage caucus doesn’t make a great case that it’d be any different)).
That’s not to mention the less-than-thrilled memo the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation’s Board of Trustees sent to the Senate Finance Committee last week, laying out its concerns with the payback’s impact on the Alaska Permanent Fund.
Also, there’s the whole issue of cash draws coming from the Alaska Permanent Fund in case that oh-so-stable oil revenue that Dunleavy’s stability budget is build upon goes south.
Perhaps next week’s Tuesday and Thursday public hearings on the proposals, both scheduled for similar evening slots, will go better.
We’ll keep our homepage clock ticking.
The North Pole
Department of Administration Commissioner-designee Kelly Tshibaka had a nearly perfect confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Finance Committee this week. Though she had a touch of flowery jargon filled into answers, she clearly had a grasp of how good government worked and was bringing the kind of good governance improvements that are music to efficiency-minded legislators.
Sen. Lyman Hoffman, D-Bethel, even commented that she seemed overqualified for the position, which was really more a dig at the coffee shop “owner” John Quick who had to give up the position after he was caught lying to the committee earlier in the session.
We say it was “nearly perfect,” however, because this was her answer about her experience with rural Alaska, which she admitted was very limited:
“It’s limited to the hunting trips I’ve taken with my dad and some visits up to the North Pole onto the oil fields with some engineering trips.”
Sen. Donny Olson, the Golovin Democrat with plenty of experience in rural Alaska, was able to get back to it after a few rounds of questions from other senators.
“You just made a comment about going to the North Pole?”
“Yeah,” she replied, “the Arctic Circle.”
What followed was a lengthy pause, before Olson responded.
“There’s—There’s 1,200 miles of difference between the North Pole…”
He then proceeded to get into his actual question, which was about Dunleavy’s plans to gut public broadcasting in rural Alaska and his concerns about how the cuts would affect those communities. He began with the withering, “Your lack of familiarity that seems to be evident.”
It’s certainly not great, especially for an administration getting plenty of criticism over its hiring of Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin from Outside. Tshibaka grew up and attended school in Anchorage, and to her credit we did not hear catch any Keh-NAIs, Val-dehzes, Teh-nananas, or Senator Pete MyCheeChees.
The House and Senate finance committees have been missing a familiar face over the past week: That of Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin. It’s got plenty of politicos talking, and a reliable source says they’re pretty sure Arduin took a vacation. The cutting the budget with so little justification is tough work, after all.
The kicker, however, is that word is she’s “vacationing” in her previous residence of Michigan, though we’ve heard the words “went home” have been thrown around.
One politico wonders: “Is she ever coming back?”
Speaking of Arduin and OMB, we noted earlier this week that legislators aren’t sure that they’ll get access to commissioners in their finance subcommittee meetings.
We noticed in the release of next week’s schedule there aren’t any commissioners on the list for any finance subcommittee meetings. Admittedly, most don’t list just who will be presenting at this point but the ones that do have OMB or administrative services directors on the agenda.
To repeat, here’s what Sen. Click Bishop, the Fairbanks Republican who was formerly commissioner for the Department of Labor had to say to Tshibaka about it.
“I’ve sat where you’ve sat and delivered six budgets to this Legislature with him as chair and him as chair,” he said, motioning to Stedman and Hoffman. “I’ve never missed a committee meeting with the full committee or a subcommittee.”
Given everything we’ve heard so far on how tight-lipped and controlling the administration is being about the budget, we’re not going to be surprised if it takes a bit of a fight to get commissioners in front of committees.
That also comes as Alaska Fish Radio reported that the Department of Fish and Game is under a full gag order and “all budget questions, no matter how basic, are referred to press secretary Matt Shuckerow. Likewise, queries to the many deputies and assistants at the ADF&G commissioner’s office are deferred to Shuckerow who did not acknowledge messages for information.”
Bringing the transparency and trust to government, huh.
Watch this and then watch it again
In the absence of a more detailed discussion of the budget, friend and partner in podcasting crime Pat Race has a new video out talking about the need for a truly sustainable budget. It’s great, particularly that pig’s wagging tail:
Soft on crime?
This week, the Senate struck a surprisingly reasonable tone with its plan for the rollback of criminal justice reform. While many had looked at the results of election night with a sinking feeling about the future of Senate Bill 91, the Senate is pledging to take its time with the legislation and give it a thorough review.
It also just so happens that Rep. Matt Claman will be on the other end of things as the House Judiciary Committee’s chair.
Still, the reasonable approach hasn’t sat well with everyone, including Sen. Lora Reinbold, who’s been using Facebook to go after legislators on the issue, including Rep. Chuck Kopp, a former police officer. Though he’s got his own baggage, one politico scoffed at the suggestion Kopp is a lightweight on crime.
It feels like it’s been a while since there was any major developments about Dunleavy’s appointees—other than, you know, the ghost-hunting redeemed burglar—but we’ve heard more rumblings about the questionable appointment of Trevor “I Resigned So I Didn’t Get Recalled” Shaw to the Commission on Judicial Conduct.
That recall election was brought against Shaw after he, as chair of the Ketichikan School Board refused to let a student speak during a meeting. We didn’t know much at the time, but we’ve heard recently that the student was attempting to speak up about Doug Edwards, a teacher who’s since been convicted of sexually assaulting students, and the administration’s handling of the complaints.
Go read the details of the whole thing over at the Alaska Landmine (Man, writing a weekly gossip column isn’t as easy when Landfield is writing about gossip every day), but we’ve heard that the Dunleavy administration is fully aware of most of this but is planning on standing by Shaw because they’re unwilling to take yet another black eye over its crummy vetting process that’s seen multiple appointees go up in smoke.
Anyways, it doesn’t end there.
The latest we’ve heard is that the third member of this sordid mess, the former superintendent for the Ketchikan School District Robert Boyle, is also on the short list of an appointment as soon as one comes open. Multiple possibilities have been raised, but a few of those already have appointees in line. Take it with a grain of salt.
Still, Boyle, as is laid out in the Landmine, is close with Dunleavy and is a mentor to Shaw. He resigned from the position after an investigation into Edwards, which basically found the administration looked the other way with Edwards, became public.
And a veto
While Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy is surely looking forward to exercising his line item veto power on the budget later this year—probably July—but city of Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly this morning cowardly vetoed a long-awaited anti-discrimination ordinance after months and tons of hours of work and public testimony were put into crafting the ordinance.
Matherly’s doing a little mini Trump of his own with a disgusting both-sides-ing of the issue in his statement: “There will be a small number of individuals, on both sides of this issue, who will exploit others no matter what we do as a governing body.”
This, of course, comes after vandalism that just happened to target organizations and individuals that supported the ordinance, including the spray painting of “lone wolf” on the side of the city’s town hall.
One of the opponents of the measure, Councilman David Pruhs also told Interior Republicans the week before that people worried about discrimination against people in the LGBTQ community were “full of shit.”
Yes, so they’re “so full of shit,” that it must just be a coincidence that a supporter’s windshield was smashed and the Fairbanks Children’s Museum and town hall were spray painted on the same night that the ordinance was passed. The police have so far haven’t linked the two, but neither of those things have ever seemed particularly frequent in Fairbanks.
What’s interesting is that Matherly’s pushing for the ordinance to be on the October ballot, where he’ll also be. Is this his migrant caravan? We’re not sure, but that worked out pretty well, right?
Matherly also happens to be the lamewad who blamed a meme mocking Dr. Christine Blasey Ford that was posted to his Facebook page on his girlfriend.
And a light note
It’s been a weird week capped off with a real bummer, so why not treat yourself to another viewing of Race’s fantastic video: