Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Why Not Mt. McKinley?


Some of us grew up knowing Mt. McKinley was the largest mountain in North America. It isn’t anymore; Mt. Denali is now the largest mountain in North America.

So why was it named after the 25th President of the United States in the first place?

According to an article in “A gold prospector, William Dickey, named it Mount McKinley in 1896, after President William McKinley. Dickey was among a large group of prospectors who were part of the Cook Inlet gold rush. When asked why he chose to name the mountain after then-presidential nominee McKinley, he cited McKinley's support of the gold standard. 1

Alaska’s history has been impacted by the quest for gold. According to Investopedia: “For 5,000 years, gold's combination of luster, malleability, density and scarcity has captivated humankind like no other metal." According to Peter Bernstein's book,The Power of Gold: The History of Obsession, gold is so dense that one ton of it can be packed into a cubic foot.2

McKinley was just a presidential nominee then, so what kind of president did McKinley become? Was President McKinley really worthy of such an honor, taking the place of the traditional Alaska Native name, “Denali?”

First let me say I don’t think natural geographic formations should be named after people. I once had a conversation with Alaska’s first state governor, chair of our constitutional convention, William Egan, about this topic. He told me directly he didn’t think Alaska ferries should be named after people (as the early Alaska Marine Highway System vessel Bartlett had been) but that the ferries should be named after glaciers.

That made sense until I thought about it: Many Alaska glaciers are named for people, beginning with Adams Glacier named in 1896 by H. F. Reid for C.A. Adams, a member of an exploratory party in what is now Glacier Bay National Monument. The list includes Art Lewis Glacier, named in 1922 jointly by Board on Geographic Names (BGN) and Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographical Names (CPCGN) for a member of Canadian surveying parties in 1912 and 1914. Lewis was killed in France while serving in the Canadian Expeditionary Force with the 72nd Highlanders in WW I.3 Bartlett Glacier, named for Alaska senator Edward Lewis “Bob” Bartlett is on the Kenai Peninsula, and there is even an Unknown Glacier near Juneau named after somebody unknown.4

Was it an insult to Natives to rename this mountain for some minor president?

Not at all! In his time William McKinley was a remarkable president and it was easy to keep his name as the identifier for this mountain on all maps over most of a century. He was born in Ohio January 29, 1843 and was a school teacher until he enlisted to serve in the Union Army during the Civil War. I have a book published in 1901 that details the life and assassination of this, the third president to be killed in office.5  The book is entitled: Life of William McKinley and Complete Story of his Assassination by Marshall Everett “The Great Descriptive Writer and Friend of the Martyr President.”

McKinley was killed six months into his second term as president, September 14, 1901.

With such an old style name one might easily imagine this is a book of adoring notations of what happened to cost the nation its chief executive at the hands of an avowed anarchist, Leon Czolgosz. The dastardly deed occurred September 6, 1901, “the blackest Friday in American history.” The President was attending the Pan-American Exposition at Buffalo, New York.

From the book: “The scene of the assassination was the Temple of Music, at the Exposition grounds. The day previous was President’s day at the Exposition, and President McKinley had delivered what many believed to be the greatest speech of his life. Praises for his wisdom and statesmanship were ringing around the world.”

The hyperbole is thick and sticky.

When it happened the president didn’t even know he had been shot. He coolly asked: “Am I shot?” A black waiter, James F. Parker, “leaped upon the assassin, striking him a terrific blow and crushing him to the floor.”

This third presidential assassination had a major impact upon the nation. McKinley was a gifted orator. He knew America could never compete with the cheap labor of other countries and their products would keep our economy in bondage unless we built our own production capability. He raised protective tariffs to promote American industry and kept the nation on the gold standard in a rejection of free silver (effectively, expansionary monetary policy).

The economy took off.

McKinley had been a war hero and a congressman from Ohio. He was first elected president in 1896.

As president McKinley led the nation to victory in the Spanish–American War, resulting in acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam and the Philippine colonies. Cuba was promised independence but remained under the control of the U.S. Army. The previously annexed independent Republic of Hawaii became a U.S. Territory in 1898. For 20 years after the civil war the country had been rebuilding but a political stalemate of the post-Civil War era meant the South, from Texas and Oklahoma to Kentucky and Virginia, generally voted Democrat and dominated the political landscape. McKinley’s election broke this stalemate and brought about the Progressive Era until 1920, beginning with McKinley’s vice president turned president, Theodore Roosevelt.

The entire world was saddened by death of this great man. The funeral train bearing the remains of President McKinley brought him home to Canton, Ohio. According to the book: “The mustering of popular sentiment was awe-inspiring, both because of the numerical strength of the mourners and the intensity of feeling shown. In every sense was the trip of the President’s body to its last resting place memorable. Miles upon miles of humanity were passed, thousands upon thousands of heads were bared. Hundreds upon hundreds of crape-tied flags were displayed, while, in the distance, the emblem of the nation was seen at half-mast upon the schoolhouse or other public building.”

President McKinley’s assassin, Anarchist, Leon Czolgosz, was placed on trial. He pleaded guilty but that plea was set aside so he could be tried by a jury. He was sentenced to death and executed in an electric chair. After the body was placed in a grave in Auburn, New York, quicklime and acid were poured upon it to completely destroy it.

That is how strongly Americans felt about William McKinley.



5 Marshall Everett, Life of William McKinley and Complete Story of his Assassination, unknown publisher, 1901.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

A Teacher Explains Alaska’s Financial Situation


Shameful antics by wannabe anarchists disrupted the third day of a Special Session of the Alaska Legislature called by Gov. Michael Dunleavy for Wasilla Middle School July 10. Because this was not Juneau, Wasilla Police and Alaska State Trooper security allowed a spectacle of civil disobedience to occur in the makeshift chamber.

Had it been Juneau, theatrics would have been designated to the plaza in front of the capital. But here in Southcentral Alaska, some people who do not respect Rule of Law demonstrated their stupidity.

That is what Alaskans saw online and in the news. This is part of the hysteria generated as a result of June 28, 2019 vetoes:
“Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy today shared the following message with Alaskans after signing the FY2020 budget with approximately $400 million in line-item vetoes. With an overall reduction in state spending of $678 million, the Governor’s actions eliminate nearly 50 percent of the state’s deficit this year. Dunleavy says he hopes a “two-year process will put Alaska in a position of balancing the budget without new taxes or a reduction of the traditional Permanent Fund Dividend.”
In Juneau, on Wednesday 37 of 38 lawmakers voted to override Dunleavey’s budget vetoes. They needed 45 votes to do it, but again theatrics is everything when you are simply throwing a temper-tantrum.

Gov. Dunleavy the teacher also on Wednesday transmitted a narrow Fiscal Year 2020 capital budget, sending a message to the Legislature that – by failing to capture more than a billion dollars in federal infrastructure dollars and to provide an adequate funding source – their work constitutes an incomplete.
“Unfortunately, the capital budget I received back from the legislature lacked the support needed to fully fund projects and programs critical to the development of Alaska, ”wrote Governor Dunleavy in a letter to the Legislature today. “I look forward to a swift resolution on the 2019 Permanent Fund Dividend, so the legislature can quickly move on to fully funding a capital budget to support jobs and families across Alaska, and ensure Federal funds are not forfeited and critical road, infrastructure, and life, health safety projects receive funding.”
Antics of protestors came into perspective later Wednesday evening for some other Alaskans when the governor himself spoke to a Susitna Rotary Club meeting at the Extreme Fun Center in Wasilla. There Dunleavy outlined the history of the Alaska Permanent Fund--founded when production was running at 2 million barrels per day during the early 1980s--to the decline in production since. 

“I made some promises during the election and the crime legislation was a very difficult accomplishment.” explained Dunleavy, “It was done in Juneau with passage of HB 49 after 151 days in session.”

His choice to move the next special session to Wasilla was based on Dunleavy’s belief that more Alaskans must participate in the discussion when it comes to the budget and the Permanent Fund Dividend. During seven previous years in Juneau as an elected official the former state senator from the Mat-Su Valley says he believes more Alaskans should have direct access to the process.

You might say cutting $678 million from the budget was Dunleavy’s clarion call.

Dunleavy answered a range of Rotary Member questions, including specific details about how the new crime legislation will make Alaska safer, what his administration is doing about Alaska Psychiatric Institute, and what we can expect to happen with the University of Alaska system. Medicaid expansion under the previous governor is requiring work between the Dunleavy administration and the federal government. Dunleavy said he hopes to have some announcements this fall in this regard, as his goal is to have “more access and better care.”

How the state spends money is particularly important because the vast majority of money in this state goes to government. Alaska does not have a strong private sector infrastructure, the teacher explained.

The University of Alaska has expanded beyond efficient delivery of programs and services over the decades. Some of the system must return to a community college model, according to the governor, whose budget director Donna Arduin directly provided hard numbers to back up his assertions. UA is running 250 percent over the costs of other state universities.

Each question was asked in measured tones and each response was conversational. The governor was upbeat, and optimistic about how the current budget impasse would be resolved. He said the legislature is having a difficult time and will have to compromise because “Alaska must right size our budget.”

The handful of protesters who had stood outside the building prior to the meeting had left once their media enablers didn’t show up to glorify them.

One Rotary member asked: “What happens if the legislature doesn’t approve a PFD this year?”

“Alaskans will be sad,” Dunleavy said. “But that is the conversation we are having.”

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

The Historic Talkeetna Roadhouse
July 2, 2019


Returned to original copy after a poor editing job by ECHO MAGAZINE. You may compare what I submitted here with what they published at:
ECHOAK.COM June 10, 2019

My apologies to Ms. Costello.

The romantic notion of owning an historic Alaska Roadhouse became a reality for young Trisha Costello in 1996 with the help of a personal loan from her dad.

Over the decades since she has kept the Talkeetna Roadhouse open year-round, paid her father back, provided jobs for a community of some 800 people, and learned a lot about what it takes to prosper as an entrepreneur who loves Alaska and the community of Talkeetna.

She reflected: “The idea of a roadhouse was appealing, it made sense: A place where travelers would stop for a decent cup of coffee, and a warm bowl of soup, and meet other folks to find out how the trail was north and south, share stories, have a decent place to sleep—that’s what I thought I was getting into.”

But she quickly realized she had gotten into the restaurant business, and had to figure it out.

“I really didn’t have that kind of experience,” Costello admitted. “I didn’t have a business degree or restaurant management experience. I had cooked for employees as an employee at the Mt. McKinley park concession but I didn’t have much experience. So I gratefully learned (how to run a roadhouse) as the community grew--as tourism grew in Talkeetna--I grew with it.”

That meant Costello, during her 30s and 40s, spent 15-16 years running the business from the baking table. 

“I was the early baker; cinnamon rolls are kind of our thing and did everything from scratch,” Costello continued. “I pulled all of the old bread pans out of the barn—they had been used back in the ‘50s and ‘60s, and we started baking bread again from scratch. Taught myself recipes, started collecting recipes and figuring out with various employees what worked best as we went along into the early 2000s—spent a handful of years just being an entrepreneur, figuring it out as I went along, you know?”

At other times, while rolling silverware into napkins, she kept an eagle eye on the floor of her dining room during the summer hubbub of guests and employees coming and going.

 “I think we remodeled the kitchen consecutively each year for the first 8 years. It was a lot more like a “home kitchen” when I first got here. Even today I say we play the Hokey Pokey; we have one foot in a commercial kitchen and one foot in Grandma’s Kitchen.”

 By 1998-9 the large tourism lodges opened up and that changed the tourism dynamic, according to Costello.

“When I first got into it I didn’t understand the industry of tourism,” she explained. “I have since really come to enjoy all the people I have met in that industry—the idea of promoting people traveling and experiencing communities, to land in a spot and experience a community, to really unpack and become part of the town—is something I enjoy sharing a lot!”

 Some say the tourism industry doesn’t contribute in a big way to the Alaska economy because so much is owned by big corporations that run it and leave the scraps at the end of the season. How do you see our tourism industry beyond your place in it?

 "Well, I definitely keep all my scraps here—right in this town! There is a lot of money that comes in and a lot of money that goes out,” Costello explained, “but I believe a lot of those big players are very conscious of their footprint here and contribute a lot.

 “Alaska doesn’t have a lot of people to pull from for the workforce here; it would be great if a lot of the tourism jobs could be filled by people who actually live here. A lot more money would then stay in the community.”

 “I call this the ‘accordion style of doing business,” she explained. “I had to learn a painful lesson when I had to buy my dad out after he had helped me with the initial capital to purchase the property and business. He was not an on-site owner and looked at it from a business perspective while I looked at it from a community perspective. My commitment to keep the place open in all seasons wasn’t something he understood. He saw that in the winter it really didn’t make any money.

 “In fact, we still don’t make any money in the winter but we don’t lose as much anymore!”

 After all of these years you have learned the tricks for making a seasonal business work?

 “Being in business means being innovative. Also, I believe in the (traditional Alaskan) Roadhouse as a place that is always open and is a community living room; it takes me 50 people in the summer to make this place work, staffing wise, and I keep 20 on through the winter. In a town of 800 people that’s not too bad! That’s 20 jobs for the community that I am proud of providing.

 “Maybe that is part of what has kept me engaged—that challenge: How do you make it work in the summer; bulk up to accommodate all of the people who come here in a community like ours during summer, and be efficient so you can still provide open doors without draining all resources. When you add on to that the fact of our historic 100-year old building requiring maintenance and upkeep, this business is like an accordion. It is not for the faint of heart but the years have clicked by!

It’s also a place year-round climbers of Denali can get a last great breakfast before taking on the largest mountain in North America.

 Did I already mention The Talkeetna Roadhouse is for sale?

Monday, May 13, 2019

Only Climate Change? We MUST have Earthquake Abatement!


Anchorage homeowners are very fortunate that our municipality has a plan for addressing Climate Change. But why stop there? We need a plan for Earthquake Abatement, too!

Here is the MOA climate change mission statement:

In collaboration with the University of Alaska, the Municipality of Anchorage is creating a Climate Action Plan that will focus on reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change.

Earthquake Abatement must be added to that mission. The three words “and
Earthquake abatement” must be added. I am therefore directing my Eagle River municipal assemblywoman, Crystal Kennedy to demand Earthquake Abatement also be added to the Muni Climate Change mission.

And, Astrological timing could not be better for this effort, either.

To put the challenge into perspective I took the liberty of consulting with Belinda C. Dunn, a professional astrologer with over 40 years experience. She provided profound insight into where we are as human beings after a new moon in Taurus at the beginning of May.

Taurus is the zodiac sign of sensuality, you know.

“The chart for the New Moon on May 4, shows a 50% emphasis on the earth element,” Dunn explains. “By the Full Moon on May 18, the chart shows 60% earth. So, according to the common adage, it’s time to take the Taurus bull by the horns; get real, down to earth, and take active, determined steps in the manifestation of goals.”

Climate Change, Earthquake Abatement, Muni priorities #2 and #1.

Serendipitously, the Municipal Assembly has a work session on the topic planned for Friday, May 17th. This is perfect timing, according to Dunn, because: “During the final week of April, from our vantage point on Earth, two major planets entered a retrograde phase. On April 24, Pluto went retrograde, and on April 29, Saturn went retrograde. In general, this signals a necessary pause, an apparent halt to forward movement for purposes of completion and integration. It’s not that life doesn’t move forward, it simply means the To Do list has reached its limit, and in many cases, there is a backlog of complication that cannot be solved overnight. These consequential and slow-moving planets will remain retrograde throughout the spring and summer months.”

Other mundane problems like homelessness will therefore have to wait. Obviously, once Climate Change and Earthquake Abatement are solved all others will solve themselves.

The day after the Assembly work session will be “a very sacred Full Moon, May 18. Known as Wesak Festival. Sun transits through Taurus, and the Moon is exactly opposite in Scorpio. On an annual basis, mystics, spiritual aspirants and light workers gather in meditation around the globe,” according to Dunn.

Another indicator this is the perfect time to expand our goal beyond mere Climate Change. The Muni must do something about these bothersome earthquakes, too.

According to Dunn: “Not only are these planets retrograde, but they are currently within 3 degrees of each other in the zodiac sign of Capricorn. The lunar nodes and the current eclipse cycle add intensity to this alignment as Saturn conjoins the south lunar node on May 20, June 23 and September 15.”

Astrological timing for this mandate is very clear. Muni property owners must be given assurance their financial contribution to local government is bringing its highest potential return with assurance of Earthquake Abatement.

Dunn: “To give perspective, let’s consider the long-term transits of Saturn and Pluto. Saturn takes approximately 29 years to orbit through the entire zodiac. Pluto’s orbit is almost beyond conceptualization of time, taking 248 years to circle the zodiac sky. Therefore, they reach conjunction every 37-38 years, marking major events that shift consciousness, resulting in significant historical turning points.”

We cannot miss this opportunity.

“For example, the last conjunction took place in the zodiac sign of Libra in 1981-82. Reagan was president, a recession was affecting the USA economy, and Epcot, Disney’s futuristic theme park, opened. The previous conjunction took place in Leo during the years 1946-47, as the world recovered from the unfathomable destruction of WWII. Truman was president, Stalin was still in power, the Diary of Anne Frank was published, and the baby boom was in full swing.”

Can you see the obvious connection to today?

Climate Change and Earthquake Abatement are within our reach because “these planets mark the cycles of life, with a long-term generational influence. Another esteemed Astrologer, Lorna Bevan writes: “This aspect has a long story-arc. It brings to a close a cycle begun in November 1982 and opens a new cycle of your personal history and especially of American history. To put it in perspective: the last time Saturn/Pluto met in Capricorn was in 1518 when Martin Luther began the Protestant revolution.”

These are important considerations for the Assembly and Mayor Berkowitz to keep in mind while addressing Climate Change. Dunn calls this a “rare, once in a lifetime, cosmic moment as Saturn and Pluto will exactly co-join in January 2020.”

But there’s more: “On May 1-2, Mercury brought important information to the light of day to activate stressful alignment with Saturn/Pluto while conjoining Eris, the planet of radical, revolutionary and evolutionary awakening,” according to Dunn, adding: “Communications can take the form of hard conversations that press the necessity to make difficult decisions.”

In other words: Time for elected officials to put up or shut up. Climate Change AND Earthquake Abatement, or nothing.

Monday, May 6, 2019

Fishing Disaster!

BY DONN LISTON (Copyright ©

ECHO Magazine:

I learned about the magnitude of the Gulf of Alaska as a youth in Yakutat when my father decided we would take up commercial fishing.

He lost everything; boat, nets and almost his son.
Commercial fishing is serious business in Alaska waters!
Yakutat Bay is one of the predominant geographical points along the coast of the Gulf, the shores of which run from the Alaska Peninsula and Kodiak Island in the west to the Alexander Archipelago of the Southeast Alaska panhandle, south. Alaska’s largest glaciers, the Malaspina and the Bering, feed into the Gulf. This coast also includes Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound.
Weather in the Gulf can be treacherous and is a generator of storms which impact our shores. They move along the coasts down to Washington and Oregon. Juneau is somewhat protected from the fury of Gulf storms by the 80 miles of land mass from the coast to our capital city but Sitka faces the gulf head-on.
My father was a civilian contractor on the White Alice early warning system during this time in the mid-1960s, and was able to bring his family to live in rude housing at Ocean Cape–located at the western tip of the Phipps Peninsula, 4.6 miles west of Yakutat in the Malaspina Coastal Plain. Ocean Cape is a raised promontory that extends deep into the Gulf, and is connected to the mainland by a larger mass of land rather than a thin land mass a peninsula would have. Ocean Cape had been built during World II and the road was designed with many curves to make it impossible to land an airplane on.
We drove some 10 miles each way to get to school the year I attended 8th grade at the Yakutat FAA School.
As a youth who had attended 7th grade at Orah Dee Clark Junior High school in Mt. View, I was an angry kid. My father determined he needed to get his family out of Anchorage before I ended up in jail. My stepmother could not control me while Dad traveled the state working at the various sites.
Yakutat was a magical place for a youth of 13-14. The cliffs along the shore look down on beaches like you find in California or Hawaii. Today Yakutat is a premier place for surfing on the waves generated in the Gulf. But back then a bounty was offered for hair seals–I could perch on the cliffs and shoot them when their heads appeared in the surf. When their carcasses rolled onto the beach I picked them up and sold each face mask for three dollars. The hide was worth another $30-$50 after a lot of work cleaning and cutting off the thick layer of fat.
I fished, I hunted, I trapped.
I hung out with a native kid a couple of years younger than I. He showed me how to cook a cutthroat trout on a stick over a fire and pick out the whitened eyeballs to eat as a delicacy. We shared many valuable hours of youthful freedom in pristine natural surroundings.
Mostly men worked at the Ocean Cape Site, and many had boats kept in the water during the summer or on the banks of the Ankau Estuary on the lee side of the cape. Our housing faced the Ankau.
One locally-built wooden boat was turned over and idle. It was brown in color and had the name “Okie” stenciled on its bow. I contacted the owner of that skiff and he allowed me to row it around the protected salt chuck. That boat was heavy, and I had to get help from my pal to turn it over. We waited for the tide to get it into the water. It was 18 feet long with a well about midship where an outboard engine could be placed. A commercial fishing net could be loaded in the area behind the motor. A drain hole was in front of the motor well so a plug could be pulled and natural drainage could occur through centrifugal force when the boat was on step flying through the water.
For me, just rowing that boat around the area was all I wanted to do. But Dad had a different idea.
Dad made good money in his job. But for some reason, he decided we needed to try our hand at commercial fishing. After all, these other people were doing it and Donny needed to be doing something productive, you know?
So Dad bought the “Okie” and the worn-out old engine that came with it. He mounted it on the boat, and I had a glorious time getting it “ship shape” and running it around the Ankau. Sometimes I went into Yakutat Bay.
Next, Dad bought three used fishing nets from somebody in Washington and a newer used motor.
Dad bought the licenses, and we worked feverishly as the season-opening day approached, including repainting the Okie so it no longer had that name on it—a name my father, from Oklahoma, found offensive. The previous brown was now bright yellow and still tacky when we shoved off to the fishing grounds. We had stretched out the net and pulled it over a new roller into the bulkhead behind the motor. Dad had tied nearly invisible strings around the webbing near the top and near the bottom to make it easy to move.
I remember the beautiful day we set out, and Dad decided to set our net on the Cape instead of in protected shores where others “who depended on fishing for their livelihood” fished. I drove the boat to shore and hooked the endline to a solid bolder. Dad said he removed the ties on the webbing and I faced the bow toward open water and powered up. Unfortunately, one of the ties at the top had not been removed and by the time I could stop the cork line was stripped from the webbing.
Back home for a new net.
The second net worked better. We offloaded it into the water properly and quickly began to catch fish, including some salmon. Because of our location, we also caught a variety of other unusable fish and crabs. This tangled our net and created a lot of work for me to do while Dad was working his day job.
By the end of the first week that net was also retired as being too tangled to use.
The second week, using the third net, we learned why nobody else fished on the Cape. I returned to the set running late at the time we were supposed to have our nets raised. The waves from the Gulf were building into whitecaps. I began pulling the net in with fish, crabs, sticks or whatever in it. I kept the bow facing the sea, but waves were starting to break over the boat and a square 5-gallon bucket was necessary to bail water out.
Suddenly Dad appeared on the beach. I wanted to get the net into the boat first, but he insisted I land so he could board. This made the boat go broadside to the waves. I urged Dad to bail the boat while I pulled in the net.
Soon the entire boat was below the surface. Empty gas cans and anything else that would float was heading to sea.
I was shocked that it happened so fast and we both abandoned the boat as being completely out of our control.
I was out of breath and heartbroken on the beach. Dad said I had done everything I could under the circumstances. I said: “I cannot believe it went down so fast! Weren’t you bailing?”
Dad replied: “Yes, I even pulled the plug and it still went down!”

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Is Eagle River ready for a divorce?

While many residents of the Railbelt from Eagle River to Eklutna were enjoying a cold one in their taxed-to-the-max Municipality of Anchorage home on Friday, other locals gathered at Lion’s Park Clubhouse to talk about quality of life — with and without
Michael Tavoliero presented the overview.
Happy folks who obviously knew and respected each other were sharing free pizza and water or coffee and talking about Eagle River detaching from the Municipality of Anchorage. Some 400 have already taken an on-line survey to express interest in the topic and they were ready to learn more about Eaglexit.
Kind of like a thinking about a divorce while you can still talk to each other.
Dan Kendall offered historical perspective
Following a Powerpoint presentation by Michael Tavoliero, former Anchorage Assembly member Dan Kendall reported on his experiences dealing with the Muni in various positions regarding a number of issues.
One guest speaker expressed surprise at how many people filled the room.
“When they asked me to talk about the requirements to detach from the Municipality of Anchorage and form your own local government, I thought it might be a handful of people, as is typically the case,” said Edgar Blatchford, a former commissioner of two state departments dealing with local government and economic development.
“Our constitution was written to encourage government decision-making at the level closest to the people so this is an appropriate discussion,” he said. Blatchford teaches at the University of Alaska.
Professor Blatchford explained requirements
for establishing a municipal government
Has the Anchorage Municipality become too unwieldy to address the needs of JBER, Eagle River, Chugiak, Birchwood, Peters Creek, and all points north to Eklutna?
Muni District 2 does not align directly with legislative districts of this area. Rather, those who live in the area elect two Anchorage assembly members through mail-in ballots on an election date that is not aligned with any other government election time. Five other Anchorage election districts also have two people each on the Assembly.
Anchorage School Board members are elected at-large.
District 2 Assemblyman Fred Dyson wasn’t in attendance, but newly elected Assemblywoman Crystal Kennedy was.
Organizers who have put time and some personal resources into the Eaglexit effort are Michael Tavoliero, Matthew Hickey, Gordon Banfield, Thomas Williams, Wayne DeVore, Benjamin Westveer, and Kimberly Collins. They say the pump has been primed and now they need to know if we need a garden hose or a fire hose.
According to the organizers, the District 2 population is approximately 50,000. By detaching from the Municipality of Anchorage, District 2 would become the second most populous municipality in Alaska. The City of Fairbanks, for comparison, has 35,000 people.
These are local people who want more say in local government decisions impacting their own neighborhoods. Their mission is to discover the social, political, and financial costs associated with the development of a municipality (city or borough). Anyone who ever thought they might like to become active in politics could learn a lot by getting involved.
Is this feasible? Didn’t Eagle River pull out of the Muni before and was it not sent back into it tail-between-its-legs by a judge? Who will pay for this new effort?
A 2007 Anchorage commissioned study of detaching this part of Anchorage found that the MOA will experience little to no significant economic hardship as a result of detachment and that there may even be a reduction in costs for the Muni. This is because some budget categories for 300,000 people will likely not be shared with a municipality of 50,000.
This region has some resources the depends on, too. The Eklutna Lake water reservoir, the landfill, Chugach State Park access, a prison, and a variety of amenities people in Anchorage visit.
Here are the detachment talking points as described in a white paper written by the Eaglexit board:
“Smaller is Better,” an Eaglexit would:
  • Provide improved local involvement and control of land-use.
  • Maintain and operate a smaller and more accountable school district.
  • Allow for a locally controlled public safety sector.
  • Protect community tax base through a smaller taxing district and greater local community involvement in tax decisions.
  • Limit government to local constituency enabling home-grown representation of the people and creating collaboration between citizens and elected officials.
  • Mitigate over-zoning, excessive fees, high density housing, parking, traffic and unnecessary services.
  • Simplify the permitting process.
  • Eliminate unnecessary taxes.
  • Attract small business.
  • Promote a general scaling back of nonessential government functions.
  • Establish shared interest between business interests based on common philosophies toward matters such as low taxes, fewer regulations and expanding economic growth.
  • Produce an effective and responsive small municipal government.
How many checkmarks can residents of this area put on that list?
This isn’t about that tired and trite idea of “starting a conversation.” This is about people who have had enough, and are ready to take action to address a dysfunctional relationship.
Tavoliero estimates it will cost a million dollars, and require a lot of involvement by people who live in this region, because the best part of living here is it isn’t really Anchorage.
Donn Liston has lived in Alaska since 1962 and in Eagle River since 2010. He was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News during pipeline construction and is a retired teacher. He was named a BP Teacher of Excellence in 2013.

Why Not Mt. McKinley? (2019 © Some of us grew up knowing Mt. McKinley was the largest mountain...