Sunday, May 20, 2018

Pitching in for power to Hope Willow Ranch


May 20, 2018

Must Read Alaska:
A dream for many who have developmental disabilities is to do things most people take for granted. Too often they’re parked in “assisted living” venues to mark their days on a calendar.
Hope Community Resources’ Willow Ranch is different. And when Congressman Don Young heard about the remarkable model of living from the land, he had to see it.
“Representative Young is always interested in sustainable lifestyles and sustainable food sources,” said Roy Scheller, Hope executive director, who is credited with the sustainable ranch idea.
Scheller has a big worry, however: The ranch runs on generator power, and therefore it’s always at risk. In the winter, so are the lives of the disabled men who live at the ranch. Keeping the generator going keeps him awake, worried about the disabled men.
Willow Ranch needs to hook up to Matanuska Electric Association power — and that’s going to take some cash that neither government nor grants have been able to provide.
“The people who live at the ranch are relatively independent, with homes off to the side so all can live independently, doing things men like to do, with necessary assistance,” Scheller said.
Rep. Young was impressed enough with the operation that he has confirmed he will attend a barbecue fundraiser, Saturday, May 26 from 11 a.m. – 3 p.m. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have also been invited.
Last fall, Young met and formed a bond with Frank Forpahl, the original Hope Ranch manager.
“I’ve stayed awake nights knowing the generator can kick off at any time requiring immediate action to save our families and stock from the bitter cold,” said Forpahl, who was there 11 years ago when Hope purchased the 70-acre property that only had a modest house with a couple of out buildings.
“In December, the primary diesel generator blew–shooting its dipstick across the room–and spewing oil everywhere,” Forpahl said.
This was another in a long line of generators, a windmill, and solar panels, that have been inadequate for the needs of this growing enterprise seeking independent living and self-sufficiency.
Intrepid souls here live off the land and market products they produce. Over the years, as the program has expanded, Hope has built a large barn, a work building, a small saw mill, a duplex, and single-family home.
A backup generator has been providing electricity since the main one blew up. Previously a rental for NC Machinery, this generator served fine as backup, but it’s inadequate as a solution. Unpredictable energy needed for activities in woodworking, warming of buildings or basic computer operation, create hour-by-hour uncertainty.
To hear stories of how the three original managers of the ranch were able to survive and make progress toward their goals in temperatures as low as -54F, attend the fundraiser. RSVP to 907-355-2494 or
The area around West Kenny Blvd., off Willow Fish Hook Road, doesn’t have Matanuska Electric Association power.
Over the years of creating a sustainable ranch, electric power has required a huge investment in fuel, batteries, alternative energy sources, and constantly running generators to be marginally habitable and productive. The possibility of consistent power has been only a dream.
This is about to change. The goal of this fundraiser is to hook up to MEA power. Cost is expected to be $150,000 to $175,000 and surveyors are now marking the route for those lines. The annual savings for the ranch will be $25,000 to $35,000.
I met four of the five men who are currently residents and workers at the Willow Ranch during a May 18 visit. They are all characters, with unique needs and abilities. None has a criminal background and all are justifiably proud of what they are doing to create a sustainable enterprise as part of the Willow community. All have Alaska Native heritage and participate actively in hunting, fishing and trapping activities after training in necessary safety measures required for such outdoor pursuits.
The ranch promotes animal husbandry, gardening, wood-working, mechanics raising and selling livestock, as part of this living-off-the-land project. Hope has other regional service programs in Barrow, Dillingham, Kodiak, Kenai, Mat-Su and Seward.
As the largest investment of the Hope network, this ranch is also a destination for activities of many other agencies and individuals.
Donn Liston has lived in Alaska since 1962 and writes about Alaskans and the Alaskan experience since statehood.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Approved by Legislative Affairs Agency

Legislative skits skewer, but too selectively


May 1, 2018 

Senior Voice:
ECHO Magazine:

Easter was on April Fool's Day this year and Good Friday was chosen as a great time to feature the Annual Legislative Skits that began decades ago as a fundraiser for the Democratic Party. The show, which features staff making fun of their bosses, is now unaffiliated to any political organization but gives money to worthy causes in Juneau.

Being a people watcher myself, familiar with this Juneau tradition, I went to observe what I knew would be The Beautiful People in all their glory.

I don't begrudge a once funny Saturday Night Live television show-which over the years has become less funny. My sense of humor has ripened as I seek subtlety and double entendre over blatant ribald comedy. That's not SNL's fault; their advertisers are looking for a different customer base than cheap-skate old guys with good memories. These Legislative Skits use an SNL format to make fun of the legislature as an institution, to humorously portray familiar legislative situations from the past 74 days of session, and to take some cheap shots at legislators they could be certain would not be in attendance.

It is possible that Gavel-to-Gavel coverage of the legislature has become an Alaska soap opera; it cannot be a reality show. Calls come into our legislative office (Rep. Lora Reinbold) from constituents who are very tuned into what is going on in committees and on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives. Thanks to the Legislative BASIS system, constituents are able to track bills and hear what changes are made in committees, before deliberation on the floor and either passage over to the Alaska Senate for consideration, or failure.

This has to be a good thing for our republic.

When Alaskans voted to move the capital out of Juneau during the 1980s, the act of doing that physically was thwarted by a committee dedicated to showing how much it would cost. No committee has since formed to show how much it has cost to keep the capitol in Juneau.

The argument then was that technology could provide access equivalent to actually being here. Don't you believe it.

The band began the evening's festivities with a song called "Learning to Lie." It was an appropriate beginning given our state's current economic situation and legislative coalitions grandstanding on how to address the challenge before returning home to face voters. From the song: Well some say cut and some say spend; some say raid, some say defend. If I tell the truth I'll lose my fans, but I think I have a plan. I'm learning to lie and double down so I don't get run out of town. I'm learning to lie about these things because the truth really stinks.

Another song about Sen. Mia Costello, who originally supported the crime bill SB 91, assigned motives to her change on that support: This law needs repealing Mia can't you see? Girl, we just can't tolerate lower sentencing. When you told me it's not safe at night, you convince me to move further right.

I look at this kind of change by an elected official as instructional; they must respond to concerns from voters who elected them to represent their districts in Juneau. On the other hand, being in Juneau and subjected to the influences inherent in this place, creates a dichotomy for anyone elected to represent interests of their districts when here.

These skits demonstrated this dilemma. There is no pretense of fairness or balance; everybody conservative is fair game, anyone liberal gets a pass. To really be balanced the organization of these theatrical antics should have to feature skits by thespians of equal conservative/liberal persuasions. I don't know if the liberals could tolerate such a balance and I don't know if conservatives would care to present mockery of political opponents in this kind of forum.

These skits were much tamer than in past years, but they were mostly one-sided. One of them portrayed a Republican conservative as being homosexual while members of the Majority Caucus were generally given a pass on criticisms of their stands or styles. The $500,000 study of effects of vitamin D by former Republican from Homer, Rep. Paul Seaton, was given slight mention while some Republican women, like Sen. Shelley Hughes were mocked unmercifully. Chugiak Rep. Dan Saddler was selected as someone "most likely to be playing the ukulele on a beach," while Eagle River Rep. Lora Reinbold was referenced as "the conservative leader" of the House.

It could have been worse, but establishing half of the skits presented by liberals and half by conservatives, would be much more interesting.

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