Welcome to the latest edition of Friday in the Sun, our weekly column where we wearily try to make sense of the news and rumors of the week. It’ll be a short one this week.
Go vote. Saturday is the deadline to apply for a by-mail absentee ballot and early voting is already underway in dozens of communities throughout the state—and if you vote at one of the 10 early vote locations by Oct. 29, you’ll have the perk of your vote being counted on election night. If you’re confused by the Alaska Division of Elections website, then you’re not alone. A good all-in-one resource is Alaska Votes Absentee.
Also, for the record, your humble editor does not endorse the anti-pineapple-on-pizza rhetoric in this week’s guest column—The case against pineapple pizza… and Dan Sullivan. For the record, pineapple on pizza is pretty good when paired with something spicy (Moose’s Tooth’s Pineapple Express being a particularly good example of this ‘za).
‘Safe, relative to other pandemics’
That’s how Gov. Mike Dunleavy described his administration’s efforts to protect rural Alaska from the covid-19 pandemic while addressing the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention last week. Throwing around words like “unprecedented” and “you were, in fact, front and center” the governor who can’t be personally bothered to consistently wear a mask patted himself on the back for a situation that simply isn’t borne out in reality.
“We chose to emphasize local control, allowing communities unprecedented latitudes to protect themselves. We collected over 2,600 community protection plans. These ensured our mining, oil and commercial fishing operations didn’t threaten vulnerable populations,” he said. “As a result, our communities have been kept safe, relative to past pandemics and critical industries were able to operate.”
Yes, Alaska’s been largely spared of the worst of the pandemic thus far but that’s looking solely at the topline numbers in Alaska—a state with by far the lowest population density—and looking solely in the rearview mirror. It ignores what’s ahead and, importantly, ignores the reality faced by Alaska Natives and other non-whites in Alaska, who are far more likely to contract covid and far more likely to die from covid.
Also “relative to past pandemics” ought to be an incredibly troubling metric for the governor to be judging his performance. The 1918 Flu pandemic wrought incredible damage in rural Alaska, obliterating villages and leaving a generation of orphans.
His comments—and continued downplaying of the latest spike as predictable and unsurprising—come as new outbreaks hit some villages particularly hard. Chevak, a community of 1,075 people, has reported a whopping 148 positive tests as outbreaks in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta get out of hand.
As the governor downplays the surge, claiming that “right now” we have the health care capacity to handle it, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation reported that it’s sanitizing and reusing medical gloves because they’re unable to buy enough of them.
When will they get additional resources? The state couldn’t say on Wednesday.
As has been the case with the economic impacts of the pandemic—hitting women, people of color and low-wage employment far harder—revealing the long-standing lines of inequity in America, so too has it played out in Alaska revealing the long-standing inequity between urban and rural Alaska.
“This pandemic has also highlighted the systemic inequities between urban and rural parts of the state. Whether regarding accessibility to state programs or equitable funding through the state budget. Not all communities in Alaska start at the same starting line,” said Rep. Tiffany Zulkosky in her address to AFN. “As Alaska faces significant uncertainty to declining revenues and lack of political will to address it, we have seen unprecedented attacks to drain the Power Cost Equalization endowment fund, spend down our savings, cut rural public safety, community assistance, education and limit access to health care for short-term gains that put rural Alaska communities on the edge.”
In the governor’s case, there’s a wide gulf between his rosy self-assessment (which comes with four cases of covid in his own office) and the reality of his budgets that have heaped pain on rural Alaska, which by most accounts he plans to redouble his efforts on if he wins all-Republican majorities in the Legislature.
But setting aside the legislative fights ahead (which we wish, dearly, we could get back to instead of all this elections nonsense), we are heading into the winter with cases spiking and without a coherent and unified message from our state officials.
But, hey, at least it’s better, “relative to other pandemics.”
We’re so deeply exhausted with the election that we can’t muster the humor or the rumors for the latest round so here’s just a dump of what we’ve heard over the last week:
- Everyone has covid and if they’re a member of the opposing party, they have extra covid.
- Our signs are getting messed up while their signs conspicuously aren’t. Also, when the opposition’s signs are getting messed up, it looks like an inside job because Don Young’s neighboring sign is left unscathed. But extra points for whoever sprayed AS 19.25.105, the (not-particularly constitutional, but widely appreciated) state law against billboards on a bunch of billboards.
- Is petition candidate [INSERT NAME HERE] a secret liberal who’s running as a conservative to split the vote with the Good Republican? No, no they’re not but it’s funny—and a little revealing of how bad your chosen candidate is doing—that you think so.
- Is [INSERT NAME OF VARIOUS UNINSPIRING NATIONAL GOP OFFICIAL] going to visit Alaska? I dunno, maybe but we’d wonder if [INSERT NAME OF VARIOUS UNINSPIRING NATIONAL GOP OFFICIAL] would really be all that inspiring.
- Everyone is taking OUTSIDE money, except US.
- Everyone wants to be speaker.
Four mayoral elections
The Anchorage Assembly still hasn’t settle on whether or not it will call a special election for mayor before the April regular election for mayor, but it’s a situation where we could end up with four mayoral elections if both the special and regular go to run-offs, which just sounds like the perfect $673,000 chaser to this election season.
It looks like they’ll take up the issue at next Tueday’s meeting with Assemblymembers Kennedy, Allard and Perez-Verdia authoring a resolution for a Jan. 26, 2021 special election.
The early vote
Here’s the early in-person voting through Oct. 22. Remember this only covers votes cast at the 10 early vote locations in the state and that all the other locations are technically absentee votes that won’t be tallied until a week after election day.