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Sunday, February 21, 2021

The Big Picture of EaglExit

 Looking Back, And A Vision for the Future

(2021©donnliston.com)





Anyone who has lived here any length of time knows the region of the state that includes Eagle River/Chugiak/Peters Creek is a unique part of Alaska. Dan Kendall once represented this area on the Anchorage Municipal Assembly and has experienced the effort to preserve the qualities of this region as a policy maker. He is now the spokesperson for EaglExit, a local grassroot movement with a vision for separating this area from Anchorage.

“I helped to establish the Road Service Area out here. It started as one road service area for each community council, and it was consolidated into one service area for the whole area,” Kendall explained over a cup of coffee at Jitters Coffee Shop. “I helped get that organized. Then one of the Assembly members asked me if I wanted to be on the Platting Board because as development was coming out this way they wanted somebody with an Eagle River/Chugiak perspective. I was on there for two terms and in the middle of my second term I got appointed to the Anchorage Assembly. One of the assembly members resigned and I took his place.”

Dan Kendall explains the goals of EaglExit over coffee
with this writer at Jitters Coffee House in Eagle River.
(Photo by Waneta Liston)


Kendall developed that local perspective after his family had moved here from Valdez upon being displaced by the 1964 Earthquake. He spent a few years in Anchorage and didn’t like it.

Alaska’s first governor, Bill Egan, who had presided over Alaska’s constitutional convention in Fairbanks during the winter of 1955-56, was also from Valdez: “In Valdez, with only 1,000 people there, everybody knew your name. If you caused mischief on one side of town your mother would know about it on the other side of town before your got home,” quipped Kendall.“


“Anybody who stayed in Valdez after the earthquake was basically camping. The town had been devastated and had to be relocated to where it is today. I have written a story that was published in ADN about that experience,” said Kendall. Some of Kendall’s friends were lost on the docks during the earthquake. [1]

“I felt like I lost everything, he continued. “I lost my friends and my house, and my school, my community; so my family moved to this big city of Anchorage where I didn’t know anybody. My parents got divorced shortly thereafter. My mother tried to raise the three younger siblings. My older brother Jim was a trouble-maker and he got sent to live with a family we knew in Nome—he got to graduate from Nome High School. It was probably a good thing for him and my older brothers all joined the military but they stopped the draft when I turned 18.”

The Viet Nam War was over. Alaska was a young state. We had a vision of what we could do beyond being a territory under the USA umbrella.




Gov. Egan was one of the visionaries who saw the future of our Alaska as a state. Our political strategy was to go ahead and do what we would have to do, as the state of Tennessee had done, to show we were ready to take on the responsibility of being in control of our own destiny. It worked.

The organization known as EaglExit is also doing what it needs to do to show we are ready to detach from the Municipality of Anchorage (MOA).

An event reminded him of what he was missing: “I was hitch-hiking on Minnesota Drive, and this fancy Cadillac stops to pick me up,” he said. As I am getting in I hear Hi Danny, how are you doing? And it was Gov. Egan! That’s the kind of thing I missed when living in Anchorage—the small town friendliness.” But, we still have that here in Eagle River/Chugiak/Peters Creek.

“A lot of the challenges we faced when I was on the Anchorage Assembly had to do with rezoning,” Kendall continued.  “Walmart wasn’t here and the subdivision behind it wasn’t here. I will take the blame for those because some people like the way Eagle River has developed and some people don’t.”

He explained: “Old timers in this region said “we need large lots.” But newcomers are just fine with their smaller city lots. That challenge continues today. There are unique problems facing the area of the MOA called Assembly District 2 (AD2).




“These are the kinds of decisions that should be made locally, not from Anchorage,” said Kendall. “I am concerned that any development projects that come before the Assembly don’t allow for give-and-take anymore. Anchorage is limited in what direction it can grow and that makes it even more important that the people here can make their own local decisions about development here.”

Public education in the Anchorage School District is another concern.

“We have the best schools here. Before the pandemic there was a national study on 2nd grade reading levels and Alaska came in 51st behind Puerto Rico. The Anchorage School District is so large that it dominates all the numbers, meaning the study said ASD was not teaching proficiency at the 2nd grade level,” Kendall explained. “Later there was a 5th grade math study and Alaska came in 51st again. There is a real lack of accountability with a giant school district like ASD. With our own city we can have our own school district and it can be held accountable locally.”

What is that independence going to cost?

Kendall responded: “The number one concern I hear is ”how much are my taxes going to go up? I believe worst case they will stay the same. They might actually go down but we cannot say that for sure because we are still doing the studies. That is the number one fear.”

The MOA has just raised taxes on property owners, could detaching from MOA reduce AD2 tax liability?

“The timeline for detachment won’t staunch the tax increases we have just received,” said Kendall. “We are hoping to apply to the Local Boundary Commission sometime in May or June of this year and they can deliberate for up to one year. At that point we have two choices; 1) a vote of the people within the affected area, or 2) the legislature can approve it. We are leaning toward a vote of the people so somebody else isn’t telling us what we should have.”



Alaskans in AD2 will be learning more about findings of the extensive studies being done now. In the meantime residents here will get to observe the way municipalities in the Matsu Borough and the Municipality of Anchorage are able to recover from the pandemic. With quality businesses, and a community separated from the Muni by a military installation, residents of AD2 will be greatly impacted by decisions made for us in the mudflats.

To learn more or to contribute go to: https://eaglexit.com/



Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Alaska's Pandemic Battle

 

Ship of Fools Fights Covid-19 at Anchorage

(2021©donnliston.com)

 

This iconic Grateful Dead album cover portrays a heartless and
soulless frigate group entering a landmine field. We now know more
 about what happened.

Some might think our recent Covid-19 Pandemic was mitigated by destroying the private sector economy of Anchorage. Looking over the events of the last year, and comparing outcomes by community, we now know lockdowns made no difference. However, the Anchorage lockdown will surely make it more difficult to return to normalcy in Alaska's largest city.

A capable captain of any ship strives to reach the chosen destination with as few turns as necessary--a degree or two course change at a time--given requirements of wind and current. When the weather kicks up or other vessels come in proximity of a ship underway the prudent helmsman adjusts as necessary. If calamity should occur the full capability of the ship is assured by protecting means of propulsion and steerage. This is also the rational approach to running any large commercial or government organization; STEADY AS SHE GOES! 


The ship of the line State of Alaska

USS Pennsylvania (centre foreground) and North Carolina (centre background), ships of the line of the U.S. Navy from the early and mid-19th century. In this 1897 chromolithograph after a watercolour by maritime illustrator Frederick S. Cozzens, the two ships of the line are shown as if accompanied by two navy brigs from earlier in the 19th century (left background and right foreground).

Once the backbone of the world’s great navies from the mid-17th century through the mid-19th century, this warship had a high superstructure on its stern and usually carried heavy guns along two decks, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. These were the heavy fighting ships that formed a line with each about 100 yards apart stretching as long as 12 miles in a formation for battle. This strategy broke from the previous tactics of individual ships engaging enemy vessels one on one.  [1]

 

Our Coronavirus war began when a flight returning Americans from Wuhan China landed in Anchorage on January 28, 2020. The State of Alaska was on the line as the last airplane allowed to land in the US from China touched down to refuel at Ted Stevens International Airport with Americans coming home. [2]

 

The plane, a government-chartered cargo jetliner, held American passengers who were evacuating from the area where the coronavirus outbreak began. Passengers on the plane were screened twice before leaving China, Zink said, and they were continuously monitored by medics during the Tuesday flight.

 

Today, these are the official State Covid-19 recommendations for Alaskans:

 


The outbreak caused the Alaska Legislature to jump ship into abrupt adjournment. It was up to Captain Michael Dunleavy to determine how the ship of state should be run. He depended upon national CDC recommendations and advice by Alaska health officials. On March 11, 2020 Gov. Dunleavy declared a Statewide Health Emergency. His first COVID-19 HEALTH MANDATE was issued March 13, 2020, to expire November 15, 2020. This initial mandate suspended visitations at prisons, juvenile justice facilities, Alaska Military Youth Academy and Alaska Psychiatric Institute with limited visitations at Alaska Pioneer Homes. A total of 18 HEALTH MANDIDATES would be ordered by Gov. Dunleavy over the coming three months in battle under this order.

 

The governor had the authority and responsibility to do this. Some have objected to the mandates.

 

In his 3rd State of the State address Gov. Dunleavy reflected on how Alaskans joined the fight:

 

I remember a meeting last spring with a few members of my amazing health team. We were on a video call with Hans Vogel who owns a manufacturing company in Palmer. We dumped a bunch of PPE and testing supplies on a table, and asked if there was anything here he could make. As we all know, Hans and Triverus ended up making over 100,000 swabs for testing when we needed them the most.

 

Distilleries stepped up and began producing hand sanitizer. Everyday Alaskans organized charity campaigns and food drives out of the goodness of their hearts. Heroes like John Sturgeon used their business connections overseas to secure an entire aircraft full of PPE when every other state was struggling to source supplies.

 

The University of Alaska graduated 260 nurses to the pandemic frontlines as well as 400 contact tracers. With the help of the Legislature, many of these nurses were graduated early thanks to nearly 300 regulatory suspensions that took place under the emergency declaration.

 

We created the first traveler testing program in the nation, catching nearly 2,400 cases of COVID at our airports. We held a safe summer fishing season that many told us wouldn’t be possible. [4]

 

On November 16, 2020 Gov. Dunleavy had renewed the declaration of a Public Health Disaster from the Covid-19 outbreak based on over 17,000 confirmed cases of the disease and 84 deaths. By January 12, Alaska had over 47,000 confirmed cases and 222 deaths with a new strain of the SARS-CoV-2 spreading in the United States, identified as being more contagious than the original strain. But the light shown at the end of the tunnel.

 

These were the Health Orders issued so far. [5]

 

The curve had been flattened, Alaska’s ship of the line was still fighting, and the battle still raged. Consolidation of previous health orders were set January 15, 2021. [6]

 


https://alaska-coronavirus-vaccine-outreach-alaska-dhss.hub.arcgis.com/app/6a5932d709ef4ab1b868188a4c757b4f

 

On January 25, 2021 Gov. Dunleavy introduced legislation (SB 56) relating to the extension of the public health disaster order previously issued on January 15, 2021, giving the Alaska Legislature the opportunity to fish or cut bait. The legislature is now underway and federal disaster funds are now at stake. [7]

 

State Covid-19 disaster status ended February 14.

 

Posted statewide covid-19 status in mid-February:

 


Frigates in the Battle Group

 

Early sailing frigates were smaller and faster than ship of the line vessels but still capable of considerable firepower. Armament on frigates was aligned on a single gun deck with additional guns at other strategic locations. And, while these ships could not stand up to ships of the line in fleet engagements, they served as scouts or as escorts in the battle group, or in protecting merchant convoys from privateers and enemy raiders. [8]

 

Every municipal government in Alaska represents a frigate in this past year of battle against Covid-19.

 

Frigate Matsu Borough

 

Orderly operation of the vessel was the order by Captain Vern Halter. While the Borough code provides for 1.25.020 EMERGENCY ORDINANCES none was required. The primary mission of the borough was to inform residents of the situation and distribute federal CARES ACT funds to support the economic engine of small business:

 



 

The Matsu Borough distributed some $10.5 Million to 652 approved applicants.

https://msbcares.matsugov.us/

 



 

This local government imposed no additional mandates beyond what the state had set.

 


Frigate City of Wasilla

 

At the onset, on March 27, 2020 Captain Bert Cottle issued an Emergency Order providing precautionary measures in anticipation of a Covid outbreak. This was in response to Emergency order of Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The Wasilla City Council extended that order by Resolution Serial No. 20-13 which stated in part: …the Emergency Proclamation Declaration of Public Health Disaster shall continue until the conditions related to COVID-19 and this Public Health Disaster are resolved and the City has issued a proclamation terminating the Emergency Proclamation Declaration or until a subsequent Proclamation or Resolution related to this Disaster is issued.

The primary concern was for welfare of the passengers and operation of the engine powering the fastest growing region of the state. State orders were enough, although Borough facilities were closed. An election brought a new Captain, former deputy mayor Glenda D. Ledford, to the command helm. At the January 25, 2021 Regular Meeting Captain Ledford reported to the city council that she had not instituted any new regulations in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the February 10, Wasilla City Council meeting Relief and Recovery Grants Program Phase V funding was approved.



The goal was protecting and serving the good people who pay taxes and contribute to the well-being of the community.

 

Frigate City of Palmer

 

Again, this historic community followed the leadership of the ship of the line State of Alaska, and when a mask mandate was proposed, it took three Special Meetings and the testimony of many locals to finally revert to the State standard.


 


State Mandates were considered adequate. By the time the resolution was reduced from a requirement to a recommendation the wind was out of the sails.

 

Frigate Ship of Fools at Anchorage

Quick to recognize a good crisis must never go to waste, Captain Ethan Berkowitz brought his frigate at Anchorage to face the challenge by immediately issuing mandates shutting down businesses and alienating Anchorage residents from those elites acting from the poop deck. No government employee missed a paycheck.


 

With a stroke of his pen Captain Berkowitz ordered everybody to their cabins. His majesty would go on to issue detailed mandates and prohibitions for every activity of crew and passengers.

 

Emergency Order 9 on May 11, 2020 (Phase Two) was heartily endorsed by Hizzoner’s majority on the Municipal Assembly provided a total lockdown.[9]

The largest city in the state was fighting the battle at anchorage. We all then witnessed Mayor Berkowitz’ abrupt resignation effective October 23, 2020 in disgrace, for a “consensual, inappropriate messaging relationship” with a local television anchor. [10]

The soap opera continued with an unelected Acting Mayor Austin Quinn-Davidson picking up the effort with EO-15 on November 25, 2020. It contained 5-1/2 pages of renewed “Hunker Down” emergency mandate clarifications. This was getting easier because so many businesses had already been shut down to never return, although some were still trying to stay viable. On January 18, 2021 Acting Mayor Quinn-Davidson issued EO-18 “Easing Up.”

Eagle River/Chugiak was far enough away to miss direct fire from the Municipality of Anchorage as she floundered, while our two representatives on the 11-member Assembly attempted to bring reason to deliberations.



 Let’s look at the numbers now that the battle is being won.

 

Anchorage population: 291,538 State population: 737,438 = 39.6% of the state lives in Anchorage.

https://datausa.io/profile/geo/anchorage-ak/

 

Matanuska-Susitna Borough population: 103,464 = 14% of the state population.

https://datausa.io/profile/geo/matanuska-susitna-borough-ak#demographics

 

State Covid-19 cases as shown above: 54,282. Anchorage Cases: 25,582 = 47% of state cases in Anchorage.

Matsu cases: 7946 = 14% of state cases in Matsu Borough.

With 39.6% of the population Anchorage had 47% of cases. With 14% of the state population, Matsu Borough had 14% of cases.

Finally, state deaths from covid-19 have been 280 souls. Anchorage deaths are 152, which equals 54% of the state total. With 31 recorded deaths Matsu Borough had 11% of the deaths. A review of the Muni.org webpage will reveal a very complicated array of means to expand government with CARES Relief funds. Matsu Borough relief funds went primarily to local business and individuals. 

Recovery of the frigate Municipality of Anchorage is going to be difficult and the spectacle has been regrettable as local residents were shut out of Assembly meetings and cut off for having views differing from local elected officials.

From the song by Grateful Dead:

Ship of fools on a cruel sea

Ship of fools sail away from me

It was later than I thought when I first believed you

Now I cannot share your laughter, ship of fools

 

References:

 

[1] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2014, July 20). Ship of the line. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/ship-of-the-line

 

[2] Anchorage Daily News, Flight With US Evacuees…, January 29, 2020

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/2020/01/29/flight-with-us-evacuees-from-china-set-to-land-in-anchorage-where-passengers-will-be-rescreened-for-virus/

 

[3] COVID-29 HEALTH MANDATE, March 13, 2020

http://dhss.alaska.gov/News/Documents/press/2020/SOA_03132020_COVID-19_HealthMandate.pdf

 

[4] Dunleavy looks Back on One Year of COVID-19 with 3rd State of the State address, January 28,2021

https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2021/01/28/dunleavy-looks-back-on-one-year-of-covid-19/

https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2021/01/28/governor-dunleavy-to-deliver-virtual-state-of-the-state-address-to-alaskans/

 

[5] Dunleavy Emergency Health Orders, 11/15/20

https://covid19.alaska.gov/health-order/

 

[6] Emergency Health Order 1 links

https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/01.15.21-Outbreak-Health-Order-No-1-Suspension-of-Laws-DD4.pdf

Appendix to Order 1

https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/01.15.21-Outbreak-Health-Order-No-1-Appendix-A-Final-DD4.pdf

 

[7] Governor Dunleavy Introduces Bill to Extend Public Health Disaster, January 25, 2021

https://gov.alaska.gov/newsroom/2021/01/25/governor-dunleavy-introduces-bill-to-extend-public-health-disaster/

 

[8] Britannica, T. Editors of Encyclopaedia (2017, January 26). FrigateEncyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/frigate

 

[9] Municipality of Anchorage, Proclamation of Emergency Order 09, May 11, 2020






[10] Berkowitz Resigns as Mayor

https://www.adn.com/alaska-news/anchorage/2020/10/13/anchorage-mayor-ethan-berkowitz-announces-resignation/

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Alaska has Food Security Options

 

Addressing Alaska’s Hierarchy of Needs

(2021©donnliston.com)


Alaskans are generally stuck at the bottom of the 5-level pyramid of human needs defined in Abraham Maslow’s 1943 paper, A Theory of Human Motivation. His 1954 book “Motivation and Personality” expanded on this theory and remains a basic underpinning of modern sociology, psychology and management training. If humans are fulfilled in their needs--from the most basic to the most advanced--they ultimately reach some degree of self actualization.1

Some might argue that after more than 60 years of statehood it’s time our elected officials demonstrated  how we can realize some self-actualization for needs of Alaskans. That is called “vision.”

Over my own life, reaching self-actualization has meant thinking about what is important and exploring how elevating my life from Physiological>Safety>Love and Belonging>Esteem can allow me to contribute to making Alaska a better place in which to live and share in the glory.

It’s an evolving process.


1: Physiological needs are the lowest level of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. They are the most essential things a person needs to survive. They include the need for shelter, water, food, warmth, rest, and health. A person’s motivation at this level derives from their instinct to survive.

 Our Alaska economy keeps a lot of people at this basic level. We don’t produce much and everything is more expensive. Housing is expensive and requires heat in winter from electricity or fossil fuels. Healthcare is expensive although we have a lot of people subsidized by the government. Many new arrivals to Alaska realize it is expensive to live here and return home after their Alaska Adventure.

And then there is the matter of food.

As kids we Alaskans drank milk made from powder and ate a lot of cereal with sugar. Every magazine in the store had ten cents added on the cover cost for “shipping.” When we ordered something from the catalog it sometimes had some production flaw but couldn’t be shipped back because of the cost of shipping. Workers at the Sears warehouse in Chicago obviously knew that. Shipping costs inflate everything included  on the Alaska Hierarchy of Needs. 

So now, a half century after it began, our oil bonanza is becoming another part of the state portfolio of income-producing commodities; furs, gold, fish, game, timber, minerals, Alaskans share the bounty of under the constitution. It’s a given. But what if our elected officials could do something to directly increase Physiological Needs of all Alaskans? Does the State of Alaska have something that would  contribute qualitatively to everyone’s Hierarchy of Needs?

What about Food?

Ray Nix discussed Alaska Agriculture
 needs over coffee in Palmer

“The State of Alaska is the key player in natural resource development for agriculture,” explained Ray Nix, former Natural Resource Manager for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Nix also worked 24 years with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, over 10 years at the Division of Agriculture. “For the amount of land available, we have little agriculture production. The challenges for a successful agriculture operation are sufficient infrastructure, viable products, and viable market. If any one of those elements are lacking successful commercial agriculture cannot succeed. Small operations can be successful, can succeed, but expansion is limited if  they don’t have a road to the farm or power. Infrastructure is key.”

Eking out a subsistence living on 640 acres is not commercial agriculture. It is labor intensive and subject to the whims of nature. 700,000 Alaskans require more than what is currently available by valiant efforts for consistent nourishment. Resource managers have known this for a long time but how to spend money from natural resource development is much easier for elected officials to imagine than to determine how to invest wisely in Alaskan food sustainability for the future. Targeted investments to increase food security need to be addressed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Alaska spends some $3 Billion per year for imported beef, pork and chicken to feed Alaskans. Needs for true Alaska Food Security were previously discussed here: https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/how-can-alaska-gain-food-security.html

 

The New Nenana Bridge to Totchaket

“It’s not that the state doesn’t have agriculture land, the challenge is making that land available to support commercial agriculture.” Nix continued. “What we need is ag land at a reasonable rate to produce commercial agricultural food production.

One of the largest parcels of land left--just connected by a bridge across the Nenana River—is about 148,000 acres of state-owned ag land. That land currently doesn't have power or a road into the project area. There is a bridge across the river but no real road into the project. The state has some plans to develop it but I think when they do it is important that commercial food production operators gets an opportunity to participate, because for commercial agriculture to succeed—especially anything for livestock—will require significant amounts of acreage. You aren’t going to find commercial operators willing to invest the amount of money it will require; there’s no road, no railroad, no power, so the price of the land needs to be such--and enough of it available--to support a sustainable commercial food operation.”

At our same general latitude in Canada a lot of the farms are 10-, 20-, 40-thousand acres dedicated to a single product—Livestock, according to Nix, “That’s a model that works. The Alaska model of 640-acre plots for ag land is not a successful model for a large livestock commercial operation. Alaskans need their legislators to engage and develop a mechanism whereby sufficient land is available to attract the amount of investment it will take to produce this product we say we want to produce.”

“When you have two legs of the stool it is a lot easier to get the third leg,” continued Nix. “If you have the market, and you have the product, all you need is the infrastructure. We have to solve that problem.”

Where can this Happen?

Four decades ago former Nenana Mayor, state senator, and Lt Governor, Jack Coghill was among the group who began the push for access to the rich natural resource area west of Nenana known as the Totchaket. In 2008 construction began on a road to the Nenana River and a bridge over a nearby slough. But seven years and $9 million later, the project ground to a halt at the riverbank. Pilings had been sunk into the riverbed, but the city had run out of money to build the bridge and the state had stopped funding the project. Two years ago the local Native association stepped-up to help finish it and July 6, 2020 a celebration was held for the new bridge.2


The bridge will improve access to hundreds of thousands of acres west of Nenana, including the 133,000-acre West Nenana Agricultural Project. (Graphic courtesy Alaska Rep. Dave Talerico)

Local leaders hope the bridge over the Nenana River will boost the area’s economy through land sales and resource development, and provide more access to hunting and fishing, according to this report. Some 148,000 acres of state ag land will also be ready for development with sale beginning in 2022. How that land is distributed should be a major concern to the coming Alaska Legislature.



 

“Some small farms are needed in an area like this,” explained Nix. “We need a community to establish an agribusiness; that’s what I like to call it. It’s not just an agriculture operation, it an ag business. An ag business for livestock includes everything from growing your own feed, to feeding your own animals, to slaughtering your own animals to putting them on the market. Alaska needs big, commercial ag businesses that have enough land to graze the animals, to finishing the animals. They must be able to do all the business required. You could put several large farms like that together and I think they complement the small farmer, the 20-acre farmer or the 40-acre farmer.”

Among the resource development options to make more money at Totchaket, what could be better use of this newly available land than to feed Alaskans?

 “We need to recognize, if you want protein for Alaska you are going to have to make a place for it, or we will never be able to expand,” said Nix. “Farmers need acreage to allow cattle to graze, they can’t afford to feed them every day. They need land that develops an intrinsic value with infrastructure and food production. This investment by the State will increase the value of the land by causing communities to develop.”

This challenge will be on the plate for newly elected Sen. Robert H. Meyers, Jr. of Fairbanks/Salcha and Nenana Rep. Mike Cronk from this region, along with Sen. Click Bishop, hopefully beginning this coming session. They won’t have any baggage from past legislatures--where the majority circled the wagons and fired inward. This is a project all Alaskans will realize benefits from for the next century if infrastructure construction can be started now.

Nix continued:  “The mechanism for a true ag business may appear to lose money at first but it could be done with production credits or something like that. We need some way to solve the problem of allowing a big business to come in and invest in the infrastructure necessary to provide livestock food security. Without knowing their investment is secure big investors won’t do it, and without a plan we cannot do it.”

A state endowment to provide food security

Since the 1930s Matanuska Colony Project, an agriculture community has developed in the Mat-Su/Delta breadbasket of Alaska. That community is also doing all it can to develop youth to carry on agriculture traditions while diversifying the gene stock of Alaska livestock.3


Over recent years Alaskans have taken steps to develop agriculture with gardens, and farmer’s markets and associated activities, but the demand for beef and pork is too great to supply solely in-state.4

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Alaska Division of Agriculture in mid-January announced a new "micro-grants for food security" program, funded by a $1.8 million appropriation from the 2018 US Farm bill placed by the Alaska Congressional delegation. The goal of the program is to increase the quantity and quality of locally grown produce through specialty farming funded by small grants. 

http://dnr.alaska.gov/ag/ag_grants.htm

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Another critical area for increased agriculture production can happen in Southcentral Alaska with investment in infrastructure on land between the Little Susitna and Big Susitna Rivers. Known as the Fish Creek Management Area, the Mat-Su Borough owns about 8,000 to 10,000 acres of good agriculture land here. North of that the State owns some land as well. Again, a bridge across the Little Su will be necessary to get to it. Once in production the option of another bridge across the Big Su will provide access to the state ag land.

A study by the state, called the West Susitna Access Project, has brought attention to this area.4 The Legislature needs to consider funding this agriculture project, not just the big project going on there for resource extraction. With a road into the borough land another 8-10 thousand acres extending over to the Big Su becomes available.

 


From the ADOTPF Report:

While nearly the size of Vermont, the Study Area has a diverse natural resources base. These natural resources include hardrock minerals, placer gold, coal, oil and gas, forestry/timber, agriculture, alternative energy options, and recreational resource opportunities, such as sportfishing and hunting. Surface access to most of this area, however, is minimal or non-existent. This study aims to identify locations that may benefit from a proposed surface connection and evaluates the potential access routes. The objectives of this study report are to:

• Identify resource development opportunities west of the Susitna River.

• Identify one or more potential crossings of the Susitna River.

• Identify one or more potential transportation corridors to access identified resources

 

“They developed the plan for what was originally called the Fish Creek Ag Project back in 1982,” Nix continued. “It changed over time and went in a different direction. At the Borough we changed it back to identify those ag parcels that are important for the Southcentral Region because there aren’t many more. We also talked about those (state) parcels on the other side of the Big Su, they are important, too.”

Mat-Su area legislators, and a governor from the Mat-Su, could do something really important in the coming session for the benefit of all Alaskans. Availability of Alaskan produced food enough to sustain all residents is something worth working for.

“We’re doing what can be done,” concluded Nix.  “We can haul livestock in, or we can bring meat in boxes, but when the boxes aren’t coming and the trucks aren’t running--as happened in the pandemic--what do you do then? Some grabbed toilet paper! Frankly speaking, toilet paper was the least of MY worries.”


References:

1Corporate Finance Institute

https://corporatefinanceinstitute.com/resources/knowledge/other/maslows-hierarchy-of-needs/

 

Learn how psychology relates to financial analysis. Corporate Finance Institute offers a behavioral finance course for those interested in how psychology affects investing decisions!

 2New bridge opens access to land and economic opportunity west of Nenana, Tim Ellis, July 29, 2020

https://www.knba.org/post/new-bridge-opens-access-land-and-economic-opportunity-west-nenana

 3Who Dares to Farm in Alaska?

 https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/09/who-dares-to-farm-in-alaska.html

 4Who is Making a Difference?

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/12/who-is-making-difference.html

 

Thursday, February 4, 2021

The Best Thing About Being In Anchorage

What Happened to Anchorage Hospitality?

(2021©donnliston.com)

 



It has often been said that the best thing about being in Anchorage is that it isn’t too far from Alaska. Anchorage has the largest airport, the most used dock, the most medical providers, the tallest buildings, the most traffic, and unfortunately attracts more social problems than anyplace in the state. As Alaska’s transportation hub everybody in Alaska has to deal with Anchorage sooner or later, unless you live in Southeast where Seattle is your urban hub.

  

But it hasn’t always been that way. I spent many unsupervised summers along Ship Creek doing boy things like building crappy cabins with my pals that soon fell down. Anchorage was a bedroom community to Ft. Richardson and Elmendorf military installations and had a wholesome feel because of the people. I ran back and forth between cars on 4th Avenue selling newspapers and the drivers watched out for me. I hitch-hiked to Orah Dee Clark Junior High School because I lived 9/10th of a mile away and therefore didn’t qualify to walk 1/10th of a mile west to the bus stop. It was against the rules to hitch-hike, but I did it anyway from Unga Street to the school, often being offered cigarettes by drivers.

 

Those days are gone. Anchorage has become a pit. Anchorage has an international reputation as such, and when smart travelers decide to have an Alaskan Adventure they seek accommodations away from the city by the mudflats. If they come here to stay in Anchorage they didn’t really want to see Alaska.

 

And one of those places smart travelers seek to stay is Alaska Chalet Bed & Breakfast in Eagle River. Let me tell you why.

 

A recent winter view of Alaska Chalet Bed & Breakfast

The Owner is a 'True' Alaskan

 

“In 1989 we added onto our house because my husband has an extensive family and we wanted them to have a good place to stay whenever they came to visit,” explained Hostess Brigitte Humphery in rich German accent. “Instead of putting our three children out of their beds we decided to make a good place for guests to stay and enjoy their visit with in a comfortable setting. That was the original reason for adding on.”

New Alaskans Mack and Brigitte Humphery

 

Ah, but after a couple of visits happened, Mack and Brigitte realized that the addition remained empty most of the time. The response to a little ad in the ‘Local announcements’ section of the old Anchorage Daily News launched their new business venture. They attended the Anchorage Bed and Breakfast Associations’ informational meeting in 1990 and the idea for the use of their addition received a new focus: “That’s it, that’s what we’ll do – we’ll open a Bed and Breakfast,” which they did in 1991!

 

“I am a care-giver by nature,” Brigitte continued. “I had three children attending school, one in high school, one finishing elementary school, and one starting school; the last one being homeschooled by me. I saw this new venture as an extension of my caring role. At that time we provided full breakfasts and maid service every day for Alaska Chalet Suite guests,” explained Brigitte as we sat in the kitchenette for the interview.

 

“My motto for hosting is: This is not a business, this is a visit,” continued Brigitte. “We always maintain the Visiting Alaska atmosphere when interacting with guests; they are not only visitors to Alaska, but also visitors to our home, and we help them in that spirit. Some travelers have their itinerary well planned out in advance, but there are always gaps we can fill in to let them know what the locals know; where one can see most of the Alaska Range, Mt. Denali and Mt. Redoubt; or to visit the Eagle River Valley Nature Center with its many trails into the Eagle River Valley, which is much overlooked by many tourist publications. eaglerivernaturecenter.org


The Eagle River Nature Center is 10 miles beyond Walmart
on Eagle River Road.

 

“The Eagle River Valley is what I call my “Little Switzerland,” she laughs.

 

Alaska Chalet B&B now has two apartment style suites and the Chalet Suite was a nice setting.

 Mack, then in the military, met Brigitte in Germany. They came to Alaska from California over the Alcan Highway in the fall of 1986, driving a Nissan pickup with pop-up camper and a Nissan hatchback sedan using walkie-talkies to stay in touch with each other along the way. Mack came to work as an electronics technician for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to work on radar sites around Alaska. He ended up certifying airports all over Alaska and moved on to the Western Pacific Region to help establish the same certification protocols there.

 


They had been advised to take a look at the community of Eagle River before plunging into Anchorage. They found a house in a quiet cul-de-sac that had been repossessed in the economic downturn of the 80s. A few years later, the equity from the sale of their home in California provided the down payment to build this extension.

 

“When we started the B&B the Internet didn’t exist,” Humphery continued. “My husband was just starting to learn about computers and what they could do. He insisted that instead of writing letters, and making phone calls, and having a reservation service put our name out to the traveling public, we would do something on-line. After a few years of doing advertisement the traditional way, guests could also find Alaska Chalet B&B by going to our website online."

 

That was the beginning of AlaskaChaletbb.com

 


Around ’95, I was ‘discovered’ by a small group of Innkeepers in the Eagle River, Chugiak, Peters Creek area who had started to network with each other. All had their licenses and permits, even though most ladies offered only spare rooms. Some had suites or even whole portions of their homes set up to accommodate travelers. Lucy Moody, who owned Peters Creek B&B organized the group as the Chugiak-Eagle River B&B Association to help each other fill rooms; it was very helpful.


Alaskans teaming up to provide a quality service to visitors.

 

Humphery added: “Before we joined the local group, we had already been a member of the Anchorage B&B association. Even today, their members still do not show any interest to network with us ‘out there’; they live in their own world in Anchorage.”


 


The Business of Bed & Breakfast Hosting

 

“As soon as we opened our B&B, we joined the Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce. At an open house I met the director and learned that  folks at the Chamber regarded Eagle River as a bedroom community. From the very beginning I rejected that notion that Eagle River is a bedroom community to Anchorage. Coming from California, and before that Germany, I saw Eagle River as a stand-alone community. Eagle River has no visible connection to Anchorage and this is the community in which we live. “I insisted the director think of Eagle River as a community with its own identity, OUR community’s identity. That is what we should focus on and promote to residents and visitors.”


 


Eagle River has two seats on the 11-member Municipality of Anchorage (MOA) Assembly, which includes a sprawling government from Girdwood to Eklutna. 

Rules have been established by the MOA governing Lodging and Hospitality businesses. Those rules require a permit from MOA and a business license from the State of Alaska. In addition the rules require inspection of the accommodations to assure fire code and safety requirements are met.

Here is the application:

 https://www.muni.org/departments/ocpd/planning/forms%20and%20applications/bed%20and%20breakfast%20rooming%20house%20permit.pdf

 

And, there are room taxes:

 

From the MOA web page: (http://www.muni.org/Departments/finance/treasury/programtaxes/roomtax/Pages/default.aspx)

 

Room Tax

 

Anchorage Municipal Code (AMC) Chapter 12.20 authorizes the collection of a 12% tax on short-term room rental transactions, which are rentals of less than 30 days of continuous occupancy. Room tax applies to a broad spectrum of lodging businesses (called operators), such as hotels, motels, inns, corporate suites, bed and breakfasts, rooming houses, townhomes, cabins, duplexes, condominiums, vacation rentals, seasonal rentals and apartments. Room tax may also be referred to by a variety of names, including bed tax, occupancy tax, transient occupancy tax and hotel tax. (Emphasis added)

 

Operators are required to register each individual rental business with Treasury prior to renting or offering to rent a room(s) (AMC 12.20.030). Operators have an obligation under AMC 12.20, otherwise referred to as a fiduciary duty, to timely collect, safeguard, and remit all room taxes due to the Municipality (AMC 12.20.035 & .040; see also AMC 8.15.060 & .010).

 

Those rules are currently not applied equally.

 

Brigitte Humphery at her Alaska Chalet B&B

“Online reservation platforms have changed the legal landscape for those who now operate a lodging businesses,” explained Humphery. “Lodging providers signed up with AIRbnb pay their Room Tax through their web platform, but do not have to prove they have a current MOA permit or state business license; they just check a box to state that they do.” Nor do the rest of the online reservation platforms. They simply give subscribers the ‘green light’ to be included on their platform just by application for wanting to be included on their platform. “That’s it, no proof of a legitimate B&B permit or business license required,” said Brigitte.

 

Further, Room Tax paid to the MOA by those who use reservation platforms exclusively is done based on the honor system, according to Humphery.

 

“This oversight by the MOA has been a point of great contention ever since B&Bs have been included into the group of lodging providers who have to collect Room Tax for the MOA from their guests,” she explained. “The MOA should require of everyone who owns or runs a lodging facility online, or privately, to show legal proof of compliance in addition to collecting Room Tax. The MOA has shown no interested to follow up on the legal aspect of the business, though. They might start developing agreements with more online reservation platforms for assuring that Room Tax is being paid similar to the agreement they have with AIRbnb. But, at this point in time, still nobody verifies who is a licensed and permitted lodging owner because operating a lodging facility is done on a trust-that-compliance-is-met basis.”

 

“They don’t require compliance with their regulations anymore,” explained Humphery. " Hosts signed up with AIRbnb are covered under their agreement with the website. AIRbnb asks if the applicant complies with all the rules and regulations of the MOA, all they do is check a box. That is it; no proof.


“Everyone who is providing a lodging facility should be required to have a state business license, a local permit, and have to pay an MOA Bed Tax which is by law required from all who are legitimate lodging providers. The Muni has not been doing that, but they say they might start to develop agreements with other on-line platforms like AIRbnb who have agreed to collect bed taxes from the guests and send it directly to the MOA. Nobody can verify anything! AIRbnb doesn’t verify what is a legitimate business and the MOA cannot verify whose business has paid.”

 



“I believe that the MOA’s interest is now satisfied in that they can collect at least SOME money brought in through the Room Tax as they forego Room Tax income from the unknowns," Humphery continued. “But worse, the interest to assure safety and quality of lodging facilities--by insisting that the permitting process includes also the group of lodging providers who advertise their lodging exclusively through online-reservation-platforms--does not seem to be important to the MOA any longer.” 


The Anchorage Bed and Breakfast Association still requires a peer review of member facilities to assure MOA permitting standards, including safety and hosting services. This group has been upholding those qualities and standards since it was started in the late 1980s.

 

 

“Everyone who has gone through the pains of obtaining a permit and a business license to establish a legal Bed and Breakfast is required to cross their ‘Ts’ and dot there ‘Is’ under the threat of legal consequences should they fail to do so," emphasized Brigitte. The requirement to collect the Room tax on behalf of the Muni demands a whole separate legal agreement, levying high taxes on any amount not paid by the required quarterly due date. It is unfair to those who comply with the rules to be treated as criminals if they do not strictly comply with the rules, and let those who have never obtained the legally required permit and business license off the hook because they are not known to the Muni’s tax officials.”

 

From the MOA Web page:

 

On August 20, 2019, the Anchorage Assembly unanimously approved AO 2019-99(S) As Amended, which describes the requirements for a "hosting platform." Hosting platforms, such as AIRbnb, VRBO and others, that facilitate short-term room rental transactions by connecting potential hosts and guests while also collecting money from guests.

 

AO 2019-99(S) only applies to hosting platforms that receive payment including the tax on behalf of the operator.

 

The ordinance requires hosting platforms that receive payment including tax to register with the Municipality, collect, and remit tax on behalf of the operator to the Municipality.

 

An operator who exclusively uses one or more registered hosting platforms to rent rooms will no longer have to separately register with Treasury to collect, safeguard, and remit room tax associated with registered hosting platform bookings.

 

For rental transactions initiated on or after November 1, 2019, operators offering and renting rooms through the VRBO.com or HomeAway.com hosting platform will no longer have the responsibility of separately registering with the Treasury Division, or for collecting and remitting room taxes on the transactions processed through VRBO.com or HomeAway.com. Operators who also offer and rent rooms via other methods will be able to deduct gross rents for any registered hosting platform transactions from total gross rents on the tax return. This same rule applies to all future registered hosting platforms.

 

Humphery asks: “AO 2019-99(S) only regulates the voluntary relationship between the Muni and hosting-platforms which collect the Room Tax. What about those hosting-platforms that do not collect Room Tax, like BOOKING.COM and all others where the host has to collect the Room Tax for the MOA tax office? Who assures that the lodging owner placing their facility on those on-line reservation platforms will pay the Room Tax generated through such bookings?  And, who monitors compliance?


But it gets worse for licensed and permitted traditional Anchorage B&B Hosts.

 

MOA regulations require the host or operator to live on the premises of a lodging facility designated as a Bed & Breakfast. These rules are not enforced for those who list their rentals through online platforms and assume the identity or designation of a Bed & Breakfast through platforms like ‘AIRbnb.

 

“I also have signed up with ‘AIRbnb.COM’ and ‘BOOKING.COM, but my B&B is established by more than an online platform presence; we have our own business website,” continues Humphery. “Online reservation platforms make it almost impossible for us to have direct contact with clients searching for lodging accommodations any more; they have almost totally eliminated direct access to our individual business website.”

In a way, the Muni enables this bully treatment against traditional B&B online listings. 


“So, if you GOOGLE “Lodging” or “Accommodations” for a particular area--for example Eagle River--the search engine will not allow my website to come up independent of their control to regulate the reservation process. If the name Alaska Chalet B&B comes up, it is only accessible through them,” explained Humphery. “Anyone making a reservation with us who came through an online platform must either pay the platform owner a commission or we are required to pay the platform owner a commission; commission to Booking.com is 15%, even though our website is independently available. Travelers who google for reservations do not know that they can book with us directly to avoid any type of fees while helping us avoid having to pay commission to the platform owner. 



Online reservations are not a fair marketplace any longer. The big reservation platforms control the online reservation process. 

 

“I ask everyone who calls to inquire about our lodging facility if they have found us on an online platform. This gives me the opportunity to alert them of the limitations those platforms place on the direct booking between the guest and the host. If they have not booked already with the platform, I let them know to remove themselves from being trapped in their online reservation process by simply typing into the search bar our full web address: www.alaskachaletbb.com . “



Many local residents and some first-time visitors already know how to secure their reservation directly.

 

“As an Innkeeper I am somewhat detached from the rest of the local business community,” Humphery continued. “We have only a few, if any, innkeepers left here in Eagle River who operate traditional Bed & Breakfast businesses. Martha from ‘Peters Creek Inn is the only one left from the old guard who operated her B&B during the early days; most of them moved on or passed away. The Lodging industry has become very competitive, now even including competition between traditional hotels and the array of all types of unusual lodging facilities. Because owners of so many AIRbnbs offer their rooms to generate some income on the side, reasonable rates have become an issue.”

 

“From the onset we envisioned our ‘guest-hosting’ to be a part of our family’s home as well as providing travelers with a safe and comfortable lodging experience," said Brigitte. "We did not go into debt, we paid out of pocket for the addition which ended up providing a place to stay for our valued guests. We do not worry too much when the travel related economy experiences a downturn as it has done this past year because of Covid-19 restrictions."  

 

“Hosting a B&B has been and still is a blessing, as it always focused on providing comfort and enjoyment for guests,” concludes Brigitte. “Sure, there are recurring costs of operating a business, but we don’t have the pressure of having to generate income to keep the doors open. We want visitors to have a safe and comfortable experience when they stay with us. Some start their visit with us here in Eagle River, some end it here, and some pass through on their way from the South to the North or the other way around. For a long time now, we have had a policy that requires (normally) a minimum stay of three nights to let the guest know that there is plenty to see and do right around the local area; yes, that also includes Anchorage.”


Alaska Chalet B&B has been in business for 40 years now. "And to all who decide to be our guests, we extend a warm welcome and offer to help them have a great experience – My husband and I planned it that way!”

 

To contact Alaska Chalet Bed & Breakfast:

stay@alaskachaletbb.com or

brigitte.humphery@gmail.com

 

To read my stories about other Quality Eagle River/Chugiak Business go here:

Mike’s Meats

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/06/how-can-alaska-gain-food-security.html

 

Eagle River Small Engine Repair

https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2020/11/the-wonder-of-small-engines-john.html

 

Cozy Interiors

 https://donnliston.blogspot.com/2021/01/destiny-happens.html

 

  



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