Friday, December 22, 2017

Birchwood Residents Mobilize

The revelation of a settlement agreement between the Municipality of Anchorage and Eklutna, Inc.–signed by the parties back in January of this year—which requires the MOA to help promote Eklutna’s Powder Acres and Powder Hills developments, is now causing members of the Birchwood Community Council to seek a delay in action by the Anchorage Assembly so their concerns can be worked out.

There are those who say it is a small group of people who are opposed to any kind of development, explained Gretchen Wehmhoff, chair of the Birchwood Community Council task force established to address concerns about bringing water lines into their community.
It took assistance from the Ombudsman to get a copy of the agreement, which some believed existed but did not previously know the exact terms therein.

Among the legal jargon of the agreement, under 2.3.4:
The Municipality and AWWU shall undertake diligent and best efforts to obtain all necessary approvals, including, without limitation, (a) approval of the Anchorage Assembly to submit to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska a tariff to permit AWWU to enter infrastructure coordination agreements and pay upfront costs of construction of the Primary Trunk Lines…
The agreement came as part of the Methane Settlement reached January 4. According to an ADN story: “In exchange for $5.75 million, Eklutna Inc. said it would waive future claims over gas revenue and use the proceeds from the settlement to build dozens of new homes in Eagle River over the next five years.

“The dispute over the sale of methane gas, which was rooted in a decades-old land agreement, began in 2010. The city has been tapping methane produced by buried, rotting garbage at the Eagle River landfill, purifying, pressurizing and selling it to produce power at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson.”  
The Birchwood Community Counsel is not challenging Eklutna, Inc’s right to build homes on land it owns.

They simply do not want major water lines run through their neighborhoods requiring assessments upon hookup.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Fairweather Friends Wrecked my Boat!

(2018 @
December 21, 2017 in ECHO Magazine

This story began with that phone call nobody who lives in a coastal Alaska community ever wants to receive late at night. It was from my supervisor’s wife who was asking if her husband, with the prescient first name of “Fate,” had told me he was taking my boat out to go fishing.

He hadn’t, but it was alright if he did take it out. It happened occasionally and that’s just the kind of friend I was.
Fate’s wife had already called the Coast Guard because he was missing and Fate’s vehicle with my boat trailer connected to it was parked at the North Douglas launch ramp. It was dark, nobody had heard from him, and she was worried.

Douglas Island is across Gastineau Channel from Juneau. My wife, Cathy and I lived in Juneau.
A search had been launched. According to the news report:
A family member told the Coast Guard at 11:23 p.m. Saturday about the overdue party and their expected fishing area. The Coast Guard’s Juneau station sent a crew of three on a 41-foot rescue boat at about midnight, said spokesman Mark Hunt.
About three hours later, the crew saw the beached men waving sticks glowing with embers. Rescuers brought the boat to about 50 feet from the shore, and a swimmer carried a survival suit and two dry suits to the men.
“We just piled into them,” Flynn said. “We floated on our backs and they sort of towed us in.”
It was the first week of May, 1998, and still cold that year. I had just paid for all new canvas coverings with clear zipper windows around the boat, and everything was in top shape.
As Fate should have it, I was confident of my boat.
A 17-ft Boston Whaler Montauk is a nearly unsinkable watercraft. I’ve seen State Trooper boats exactly like this one. In early advertisements for this boat they put a man aboard and then cut it into two parts with a chain saw. Both halves continued to float and the man stayed on top of the water.
This Boston Whaler had an oversized motor on it because it had been a Sitka boat. When you are out in the waters around that community—which directly faces the Gulf of Alaska—you had better be able to get into harbor in a hurry when bad weather is on the horizon. I had bid on this boat as a Credit Union repossession and it had the ominous registration numbers AK 1313K.
I named the boat Win-Win because I had been the second bidder, but when the first bidder was told he won the boat he acted like a jerk and they withdrew the offer. I offered less than the high bidder so it was a “win-win” for me.
There wasn’t much I could do about the whereabouts of my boat that night but I was relieved the next morning when Fate and the two companions he had taken fishing were back home safe.
The report in the Juneau Empire was succinct:
Rep. Ethan Berkowitz and two companions were rescued unharmed from Portland Island early Sunday after their skiff overturned Saturday night.
Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat, his aide Patrick Flynn of Anchorage, and Fate Putman of Juneau, the assistant business manager for the Alaska State Employees Association, were trolling for king salmon off the west side of Portland Island when a wave swept over the stern and rolled the 18-foot Boston Whaler.
That was the official report.
What Fate later explained to me was they were trolling and all three of their fishing lines hooked onto the bottom at the same time. That required them to all try to pull their lines loose at the same time standing side-by-side at the stern of the boat. That is where the heavy motor was also. As they were screwing around with their lines the water was sneaking over the transom cutout for the motor and filling the boat. Before long enough water was in the boat, and enough weight was in the stern, that the boat slow-rolled.  I guess they all realized it at the same fateful instant and Fate had to actually swim out from under the boat. Fortunately, he was wearing a Mustang survival suit.
That is the non-politically correct version of what happened.
The three of them clung to the bottom of the boat and it drifted to shore demolishing the canvas I had just installed as it scraped along the bottom.
Again, from the news report:
They remembered seeing smoke from a campfire on the east side of Portland Island, which is west of Auke Bay and north of North Douglas. They hiked the western length of the island, rounded the southern point and found the campfire, now dwindled to a small ember. Using a Dixie cup left there, driftwood and sea grass, they built a fire and dried their clothes.
This may have saved them from hypothermia.
“For Fate, who is six-foot-five, it was a wade,” Flynn said today. “For me, who is six-foot-two, it was half swim and half wade, and for Ethan it was mostly swim,” according to the report.
I wasn’t too happy about this chain of events, but there wasn’t much I could do about it. Yeah, they were sorry that they weren’t paying attention and wrecked my boat, but stuff happens, you know…
Rep. Berkowitz received some recognition from the legislature for surviving this ordeal; they gave him a round life-preserver with his name on it. Yuk-yuk.
We went out and salvaged the boat and I got to hassle with an insurance company over how much they were going to pay to replace it. The motor was a total loss and I ended up buying the hull back for a minimal amount.
Once the hull was cleaned up and everything restored to good order, I made a flyer announcing it was for sale with a photograph that I posted all over Juneau. The headline read:
Boston Whaler boat with trailer for sale!

Very Safe Boat

Couldn’t even drown three Democrats in it.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Symposium Against Income Taxes


November 16, 2017 ECHO Magazine

income tax and spending

Imagine what might happen if every elected official attempted to inform constituents of the most significant current issues being addressed by policy makers.

What if said elected officials provided expert overviews with suggested options for solving problems? Would Alaskans arrive at better results without the default political position of throwing more money at problems?
THAT would be novel.
Well, that is exactly what Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold and other community leaders did on Tuesday, October 24 at an event held in the auditorium of the Anchorage Museum at Rasmussen Center. Each presentation lasted 10 minutes, and each examined how money is being spent by the State of Alaska. After the presentations, audience members asked questions and heard measured responses.
Before the event, I was afraid this might be Death by PowerPoint. I was wrong.

PENDING $$$; Why Alaska Does Not Need income/labor taxes! was put on by volunteers.
A key sponsor, Americans for Prosperity, paid for the hall and copies of hand-outs for participants. This wasn’t a “constituent meeting” in the traditional sense because it was open to anyone and was held outside of the district.
One argument for having Public Education provided by the government has always been that informed voters make better choices. So most politicians inform voters of their districts through advertising campaigns targeting high concern issues. Once elected they know constituents must actively dig to find out what was really voted for or against. Ultimately the progress of legislation, from introduction to signature by the governor, provides plenty of excuses for what cudda-wudda-shudda happened.
This was a different approach.
This event began with a discussion by Ric Davidge of the Department of Administration. A seasoned professional manager, he has worked for many local, state and federal agencies. His matter of fact presentation provided insights into how government works. He also provided nuggets from his vast experience. Davidge concluded with 12 concise bullet points for cost-savings in this department. Since 2006 the budget of this department has ballooned by 168 percent.
Terrence Shanigan’s presentation entitled “The Thin Blue Line” highlighted inefficient practices in the Department of Public Safety. He pointed out that being a great State Trooper doesn’t guarantee that a person will be a good manager. With nine divisions in DPS, most people only know of the two most visible—Troopers and Wildlife Enforcement. Five specific recommendations for cost savings were highlighted. During the same 2006-2016 decade DPS has experienced a 46 percent budget increase.
Rep. Reinbold next spoke about “Dangers Lurking in SB 91,” the bill she fought against, which was one of two reasons why legislators were called back to Juneau by Gov. Bill Walker for Special Session.
Reinbold documented the sentencing ranges reduced by one-to-two years for Class A and Class B felonies in this new law. Prior to SB 91 a person with no previous convictions could receive up to two years in jail for a Class C Felony. Since passage of this bill, a person cannot receive jail time, only probation for such crimes. Reduced sentencing has also been set for Sex Offenders, Failure to Appear, and Dealing Opiates offenses. The OTHER reason Legislators were called back to Juneau:
To consider an Income Tax on Alaskans who work.
Medicaid and the Alaska Department of Health and Human Services are “Alaska’s Budget Time-Bomb” according to Liz Vasquez, a former legislator, Alaska Assistant Attorney General, prosecutor and Administrative Law Judge. She explained that Medicaid was first signed into law in 1965 to provide health coverage for low-income people. Spending in this area has DOUBLED in only state funds this past year, from $651 million (fiscal year 2016) to $1.3 Billion (fiscal year 2017). Serious potential for fraud exists in this program due to payment error rates documented to be as high as 19 percent. Rep. Vasquez listed five specific suggestions to save money.
Does Alaska have a spending problem? Dr. Jason Rampton began on a whim to independently examine Alaska’s per capita spending.
He was shocked at what he saw when compared to other states. The average United States per capita spending is $6,385.61. Alaska’s spending, when matched with our population, comes to $17,529.52. He asked: “Is this sustainable?” Makes you wonder: What will be the legacy of Alaskan spending during our time, from nonrenewable natural resource wealth, by future generations?

Perhaps the highlight of the evening was a presentation by local talk radio personality Rick Rydell. He asked what Alaska’s most dangerous creature might be; Moose, bear, wolverine? No, Alaska’s most dangerous creature is the “Yettobe.” Detailing Alaska Boondoggles and the (Gasline) Pipe Dream, Rydell reviewed Alaska’s failed efforts and provided financial information any prudent investor would use to consider the cost and value of a proposed natural gas pipeline. Suffice it to say, from information provided Gov. Walker’s pipe dream doesn’t make economic sense.
This was a hard act to follow, but after a short break, this writer presented on the topic of DEED-No More Excuses-How to get Alaska’s Education Back on Track.
As a product of Alaska Public Education myself, and a teacher, I have witnessed the academic decline of our education system first-hand. I expressed my regret that when we might have made choices to promote excellence, we have instead thrown money at a system in decline. Is this what every Alaskan would want for their kid’s educations if they were given the allotted $18,000 provided by the state directly? Total state spending for education in the fiscal year 2006 was $498,188,800 and by the fiscal year 2016 it rose to $1,366,591,100—a 270 percent increase!
The University of Alaska, with three separate and independent government enterprises, was examined in a presentation by Carol Sampson, as being overly bureaucratic and concerned with real estate accumulation while enrollment declines. Established at statehood as a land grant college, the UA system might better serve Alaskans by living within its means and marketing its abundant land grant for sustainability, according to this speaker.
The Alaska Department of Fish and Game represents Alaskan’s “other PFD” if it is managed properly, according to Mike Keifer.
That department has experienced a 25 percent increase in budget since 2006, and yet inefficiencies exist.
Corinne Rollman, a local accountant in private practice, provided enlightenment on the Division of Legislative Finance, Office of Management and Budget (OMB). She identified budget realities from a common sense perspective. In 2006 Alaska had $4.2 Billion in Revenue and $10.2 Billion in Expenditures, leaving a deficit of $6.04 Billion. In the fiscal year 2016, Alaska’s operating budget was $11,563,973.20 while State income is inching up.
Plenty of professional economists are saying our state spending is not sustainable in the face of declining oil production revenues. This symposium reinforced that reality. Some 100 people attended to explore the problem. As an educator myself, I appreciate this approach to helping voters know what our elected officials don’t tell us.

Lora Reinbold
From the informatiave 3 hour presentation--here is about one hour of the most important highlights from Expose Big Gov $$$ Spending & a Call to Action at the end of the video which is very important! You can find the slides on Oct 24 on my Representative Lora Reinbold page on Facebook

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Too Bold? Rep Lora Reinbold speaks out on SB 91, Education, and the Budget


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Rep Dan Sadler Speaks Out

Dan Saddler on How House Republicans were Rolled on the Budget


ECHO Magazine title: Dan Saddler on Kicking Crime in the District

Legislative attempts to address increasing crime rates, the State budget, and voting to cap the Permanent Fund Dividend payment to Alaskans for the second time, were some of the topics District 13 (Chugiak/Birchwood) Rep. Dan Saddler welcomed talking about recently in an exclusive interview with The Echo News. All legislators will soon be heading back to Juneau for Gov. Bill Walker’s 4th Special Session during this, the 30th Session of the Alaska Legislature.

Buckle up, Kids, we are in for a ride.
The special session begins October 23 at 11 a.m. at the capitol. Discussed will be, first: “SB 54 – Crime and sentencing.” Second: “An act or acts enacting a tax on wages and net earnings from self-employment…”
We will see if establishment Republicans, like Rep. Saddler, will be rolled again. That’s been the story since the house is now run by Democrats.
When Republicans were in the majority during the 29th Legislature (2015-2016) Saddler served as Vice Chair of the House Finance Committee; Chair of the House Health & Social Services (Finance Subcommittee), and Chair of the House Law (Finance Subcommittee). Saddler was also a member of the House Armed Services Committee and served as a member of the House Conference Committee on SB 196 (having to do with the State’s Power Cost Equalization to subsidize living in the bush.)
But, but, but, blowback from the passage of SB 91 earlier this year created the political need to meet now; so the governor asks: why not use this opportunity to find a way to tax Alaskans, too?
“Representatives are simply representing the desires of their constituents, as they should, and there is not a general agreement in Alaska,” Saddler explained. “Some folks say we should tax those who have, (in order) to benefit those who have not. Others say we should all take the hit totally. So we have reached an impasse; I’m not going to support an income tax, the people of my district don’t want it. Bryce Edgmon’s people want to ‘tax those rich people in the city.’ So we’re doing our job, but it takes time to determine what we want to do.”
A rural Democrat, Rep. Edgmon is House Speaker.
It will take courage to buck the majority AND the governor. What elected legislators say through clenched teeth when they are home in their districts, and what they do when they are in our backwater capital in Southeast Alaska, might be hard to correlate, but actions can be verified. I know how it works from 20 years tracking these phenomena as a resident of Juneau. A former journalist himself, Rep. Saddler also knows this dynamic well.
The crime bill problem started with SB 91, which Rep. Saddler voted for.
He explains: “SB91 was an effort by the legislature to look at the resources we have–financial resources–and find ways to not spend irresponsibly. We have just gone through the drill of building the $350 million Goose Creek Prison, and realizing the recidivism rates—66 percent of people going back to jail within three years of their release—the revolving door that is not working; at great cost, it is not working.”
At the end of the last session, in which Saddler was vice-chair of the budget committee, SB 91 transcended from several committees. “I wasn’t on those committees, so it was kind of new to me,” he said. “I supported that bill with reservations. It now looks like there are places where there is evidence we should go back and fix things.”
A work in progress.
Alaska crime rates were rising before SB 91, and the causes of crime rates increasing may be more related to our economic downturn and the epidemic of opioid abuse. The fix is hopefully: 
SB 54 An Act relating to crime and criminal law; relating to violation of condition of release; relating to sex trafficking; relating to sentencing; relating to imprisonment; relating to parole; relating to probation; relating to driving without a license; relating to the pretrial services program; and providing for an effective date.
Image result for mcgruff the crime dog
McGruff the Crime Dog
SB 91 began as a 21-page omnibus bill that even McGruff the Crime Dog could love. Now everybody is kicking it.

“SB 54 is essential. It should have been addressed months ago,” said Saddler. “The title of SB 54 is broad enough that almost anything that was addressed in SB 91, in my opinion, can also be addressed in SB 54. It is sponsored by John Coghill in the Senate—as was SB 91. But the politics are so strong that it is difficult to anticipate what is going to happen.”
Some are saying cut it out root and branch. Saddler says it might be repairable.

So explain your vote on capping the PFD…

“The vote on the budget required us to agree to a capital budget. We had to avail ourselves to the 9-to-1 match the Federal Government offers. So we put up $100 million, and they put up $900 million to maintain our roads, build ports, airports and all the stuff for our transportation infrastructure,” Saddler explained. “It is difficult to take any one vote in isolation—especially in the budget—so we did compromise” (to pass the capital budget). “In the operating budget we had to avoid a government shutdown, to avoid the negative impact on Alaskans, and we had to compromise on that,” Saddler continued. “When it came to a vote on the capital budget the Republicans in the house were responsible to compromise and vote for that budget. As part of that the Democrats set us up to cut half of the dividend the first time; the governor had vetoed half of the dividend payment the first time, and given the fact we have more than $4 billion in outgo (expenses) with about $1.7 billion of income, the question can be legitimately asked: “What is the function of government? Is it to provide services or is it to provide money for people?”
Saddler admits his answer to that question may impact his chances for re-election.

Representative Dan Saddler

Dan Saddler on kicking crime in the district
Email: Representative.Dan.Saddler@akleg.govDistrict: 13Party: RepublicanToll-Free: 877-460-3783
Session Contact
State Capitol Room 428Juneau AK, 99801Phone: 907-465-3783
Interim Contact
12641 Old Glenn Highway Suite 201Eagle River AK, 99577Phone: 907-622-3783Fax: 907-622-3784
Legislative Service
2011-2018 Representative
Residency in Alaska:
Juneau, 1979-80 (summers)Anchorage, 1988-92Eagle River, 1992-present
Wife: ChrisChildren: Danny, Peggy, Don, Sam
B.A. Journalism, Miami University, 1983M.A. Journalism, Ohio State University, 1987
Other Political and Government Positions:
Legislative Aide, Alaska House of Representatives, 3 yearsLegislative Aide, Alaska State Senate, 2 yearsHouse Majority Press Secretary, 2 yearsDeputy Press Secretary, Office of the Governor, 3 yearsSpecial Assistant, Department of Natural Resources, 1 yearDeputy Director, Governor’s Office of Boards and Commissions, 3 yearsRepublican Party District 18 Chairman, 6 years
Business and Professional Positions:
Former board member, Alaska Press ClubFormer member, Society of Professional Journalists
Service Organizations and Community Involvement:
Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce; National Rifle Association; Aircraft Owners and Pilots’ Association; Alaska Airmen’s Association; Air Force Association; Association of U.S. Army; Anchorage Republican Women’s Club; Governor’s Annual Picnic committee; Anchorage Folk Festival board; Juneau Folk Festival
Special Interests:
Family, flying, hiking, songwriting and performing, American history.
2017-2018 Committees:
For Sponsored Bills

We have Options

Election Reform Bait-And-Switch (2021 © Many Alaskans appear to be in denial that our modern elections could be circ...