Salmon's Last Stand
Novenber 4th, 2018
Ketchikan Waterfront 1977
There was a time in Alaska politics when big money from outside businesses worked hard to stymie a proposition by the people of Alaska to protect salmon. It was the debate for statehood. The outsiders were the cannery owners and mining interest who feared that statehood for Alaska would mean more regulation and less profit for themselves. They made the argument for less government oversight and they had their local staunch supporters, but they were a minority.
The major issue was the decline of the salmon catch due to the fish traps that were not regulated. In 1959, the Alaskan salmon fishery had its worst year on record, so it was not a surprise that the first act of the new State was banning fish traps. The State also included in its constitution a unique clause stating that Alaska’s natural resources are to be managed for best public use.
“Wherever occurring in their natural state, fish, wildlife, and waters are reserved to the people for common use"
That redirection of political power saw Alaska return to once again to having record catch levels, but now we face another salmon crisis.
Proposition 1 has been brought forward by 44,000 concerned Alaskan registered voters who signed the petition. The need for these regulations has been supported by 58 former employees of the state who managed the fisheries. It came about because strong lobbying halted progress of a bill with similar language through the legislature.
It is being opposed by international oil and mining companies whose campaign spending out spends the proponents of the measure 12 to 1. Their first message conceded that there was problem, but that it was off shore and therefore the habitat concerns that the initiative is about were not valid. After realizing that was bad argument they used scare tactics to infer that this proposition could have shut down the building of the pipeline or the “road” to Juneau. The initiative does nothing of the sort and to say it could would be fear mongering. This is a State of Alaska initiative and the federal government has no say in how we regulate our fisheries. Even if the initiative had an unintended runaway clause -it can be changed or completely revoked in one year by the Legislature.
The important point to remember is that there is danger to our salmon. The climate is changing and while we don’t understand all the variables, we all do understand salmon in Alaska are being impacted. We know that the salmon industry and fisheries are a defining element of who we are as Alaskans. To lose this resource like other parts of the world have, would be a far greater tragedy than running out of oil or running out of copper. The fragile gift of salmon has been a resource to the people who have live here for generations. They understand that this gift is not ours to have, but ours to pass onto our children.
We need to have something in place to protect what we have and this initiative at least puts something down that can be adjusted. This not about oil companies or mining companies. It’s about taking simple precautions now to prevent catastrophe later. One only has to look at what has happened in Washington State where salmon are endangered and efforts to restore damaged habitat comes about as easy as putting toothpaste back into its tube.
So when you go to the poles on Tuesday make your decision based on the facts. This is not liberal or conservative issue, Democrat or Republican , or even rural vs urban, this is an Alaskan issue and a generational obligation. Please vote.
Letter to my Unborn Grandchildren
October 14, 2018
Mendenhall Glacier 1977
I can't explain why we didn't act sooner. Its not like it snuck up on us. At first it was air pollution. Smog clouds formed over our major cities and it smelled. We thought we had it under control by creating an agency dedicated to protecting our environment. But the issue became political and that weakened our resolve as citizens. The agency became vilified by those who were afraid they would be asked to compromise
I know you may find it hard to believe this now while your world dealing with our ignorance, but we knew the problem was serious and didn't do anything. 99% of the scientific community told us we were headed for disaster. How ironic is it that 99% of the earth scientist are now focused on trying save it. If we had only knew how wrong we were about how bad it could get.
I am responsible because I saw what was happening. Snow days became rain days as each year broke temperature records. The ocean was getting warmer and Salmon fisherman were catching tuna. The Mendenhall Glacier, like the other glaciers, was retreating faster every year. The arctic ice cap shrank, and permanetly frozen ground thawed.
Around the world there were signs too obvious to ignore. Tremendous ice sheets were breaking off Antarctica, sea levels were visibly rising and the rate at which they were rising. Airplanes were grounded because it was too hot to take off. 80% of the world's coral reefs were dead
We heard but didn't act. Our generation was coming to terms with reaching the end of human habitation. In our generation we not only finished exploring the last remote places in the world, we digitized it so you can virtually go there. Previous generations always had frontiers you could always escape to if you wanted a "do over." Alaska was "the Last Frontier." Ours was the first generation that had boundaries.
It never occurred to us that our world was so delicately balanced that we could cause so much destruction on it. Nothing we had done before had ever really led to any consequence so we never changed our ways. We didn't realize that our planet, like all the life on it, is incredibly integrated and we all share the same fate.
Scientist warned us that there would be consequences that we would never be able to predict. Most of the world's nations were aware of what was happening but unless the consequences are immediate, its very hard to mobilize against something you cannot visualize.
We knew it was happening, but we chose for our leaders people who mocked the facts, ridiculed people who were alarmed, and told us global warming was natural. Our generation had a hard time finding the truth from hyperboyle and found refuge in comfortable little lies that eased the guilt we felt shirking our generations responsibilities. Instead of rising to face the challenge that could have united the world, we rebuked any effort to fund studies that would have alerted us to the world you now inhabit. We are responsible. We could have chosen wiser leaders and because we failed to do that you are living in the hell we created.
I hope your generation doesn't judge us too harshly and can forgive us!
Gubernatorial Deja Vue
October 12, 2018
ALASKA PIPELINE IN THE 70'S
Okay I’ve got one for you! A Democrat, an Independent, and a Republican walk into an election. Wait, Wait I’ve heard this one before!
And if you were in Alaska 40 years ago you would have witnessed the Alaska gubernatorial contest with the role of Democrat played by Chancy Croft, the Independent played by Wally Hickel, and the Republican played by Jay Hammond.
I was working for KATV cable TV in Ketchikan at the time and we hosted Wally Hickel's announcement that he would run as an Independent in the general election.
Wally Hickel was generally viewed as the conservative’s choice but like most Alaskans , he had mind of his own. While working as Richard Nixon’s Secretary of the Interior his independent streak led him to point out that maybe Nixon should notice the students protesting the war and might be on to something. Nixon didn’t like hearing the truth and Hickel was dismissed. He was a free thinker who advocated for mega projects like building an underground tunnel to connect Alaska to Russia and building a water pipeline to California.
Hammond was the incumbent and was the moderate choice- a pro business Alaskan with conservation leanings. He was the bush plane pilot from Bristol Bay. He made conservatives uneasy with his environmental conscience but won his first term by 287 votes over Bill Egan
In the primaries of this election Hammond won by even a slighter margin -35 votes. In fact he trailed challenger Wally Hickel at the end of the night. The Anchorage newspaper wrote him off saying the results coming from the few remaining precincts were “unlikely to change the outcome.” But the farther the ballots had to travel to be counted the more likely they would be voting for Hammond and by morning he had taken the lead.
Hickel got a recount but still lost. His campaign took the election to court but they found no fraud had occurred. Meanwhile the Democrats nominated Chancy Croft of Anchorage as their candidate.
In the general election Wally HIckel decided to run as a write-in candidate. But back in those days the primaries were closed to party members only. In the general election the will of the people of Alaska was not so murky. The punchline! Hammond received 49k votes, Hickel got 26K, Croft got 20K
Webstreaming Your Assembly
October 18, 2017
In 2015 Rowdy Dog Media approached the Assembly and Mayor Sanford with a proposal to live stream Assembly meetings. The purpose of the proposal was to engage a larger share of the community in the decision making process at the municipal government level. Live streaming was proposed to match growing advances in smartphone usage and ownership especially for younger cohorts in the community. It was pointed out that other communities in Alaska were live streaming to accomplish these goals while Juneau lagged behind.
Mayor Sanford and the Assembly agreed to a demo and asked the city manager Kim Kieffer to explore the option.
The demonstration filming went well and illustrated the production value that could be achieved. However, the concerns of a budget crisis and concerns about unknown impacts led the city manager to recommend not to forward a recommendation.
After the election of 2016, I realized that I needed to do something positive, something I could contribute, something that would make a difference in the community. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.”
Embolden by my resolve, I started streaming with the intention of demonstrating its viability. I wanted to show that streaming was the best way to reach local citizens, of whom over 80% own a smartphone. I wanted to show that it was the best way to reach and engage the next generation of Juneau leaders (under 40) of whom get their news predominately electronically, and that it was the best way to facilitate and expand involvement in the issues of local concern.
I have financed the project from my own pocket since beginning it last January. I had hopes that once I could produce and demonstrate a successful product, that I would encounter financial support of some kind. I bought ads in the Juneau newspaper to begin. I created flyers and created a news website that would host the live stream and on demand viewing of archived meetings. I created a go-fund-me account that went no where. I applied for local grants. I attempted to create Public Service Announcements for promoting the meetings but was told that even though my service was a free and a public service, that since I held a business license, I was not eligible. With the support of past mayors Dennis Egan and Bruce Botelho I approached the League of Women Voters about sponsoring the PSA effort but was turned down.
Facebook and Twitter marketing efforts were also attempted but they relied on editorializing the content. I also created a news documentary called the Juneau Journal. It is intended to be an example of what could be achieved with limited resources.
The efforts have not produced the audience or funding that I need to be able to sustain the effort into the future. I have on average about a dozen live viewers and about 2 and 3 times as many viewers have watched an archived copy of the live stream. These numbers could be improved with a sustained marketing effort. I was prepared to offer the production side of the effort to live stream local government but unprepared to offer an effective marketing and awareness campaign to match it.
Still, there is a chance to add kindling to the little spark I have started. Somethings have been demonstrated. The technology works and it’s been demonstrated that if I can manage it on my home network that the city could easily add it to their website and manage it. The cost of the service is relatively cheap. In fact in her report to the Assembly city manager Kim Kieffer mistakenly misrepresented the proposed cost of my bid to the factor of three times the actual proposed amount. And, the trend toward smart phones and video on demand is continuing to grow. According to pew research, people under age 40 hardly ever watch tv and get their news from their phones while a majority of those over 65 still watch tv for news more than their phones. The JEDC recently noted that our senior population is increasing and we are losing younger citizens. To engage a younger audience the Assembly needs to connect with them on their medium of choice - mobile devices.
So I am asking Mayor Koelsch and Assembly Members to reconsider the offer to stream and record Assembly meetings based on the information I have presented. I believe it will lead to better government, and cheaper government as new people are contributing ideas and expertise.
Alaskan Foriegn Policy
September 14, 2017
Sarah Palin was Right! We CAN see Russia from Our House
Sarah was hammered for failing to make the point that Alaska, far more than any other state, has role in international affairs. Sarah Palin rightfully claimed foreign policy experience can't be avoided being governor of Alaska. Palin’s failed to make the point that geographically Alaska faces issues innate to foreign affairs. Lets take a closer look. What foreign affairs does a governor of Alaska, Democrat or Republican, really face?
We know that Russia is proximate to Alaska but it goes beyond that. The strategic importance of Alaska and national defense was driven home in World War II when Alaska became the only state in our lifetime to have actually ever been invaded by an enemy. The reaction to that event initiated the construction of three military bases that became the first outpost to the cold war Soviet threat. There is no denying Alaska is strategically the most important state in this country’s defense. The military expansion in Alaska drove the population expansion of Alaska and its largest city. Today the military is Alaska’s largest city Anchorage’s single largest employer.
The US Senate understands the importance of Alaska’s interest in matters of foreign affairs. For the last 20 years Alaskan senators have held a position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Currently Senator Lisa Murkowski sits on the Committee and the sub committee on East Asian affairs. Senator Stevens long held a position of power in the sub committee on defense appropriations.
Under appreciated by the nation is the fact Alaska has as much coastline as the rest of the United States put together resulting in the generation of coastal issues as far ranging as dealing with foreign off shore fish trawlers, with foreign owned cruise ships, the Coast Guard and Homeland Security, and to monitoring the North Pacific trade route that passes through Alaskan waters. Recently Alaska has become the center of issues concerning the opening of the Northwest Passage through the Arctic Ocean and the resulting repercussions of the increase in ships within Alaskan ports & waterways.
What of Alaska’s neighbors? The proximity to Russia and former USSR created ALCOM or the unified Alaska Command of which 3700 members of the Alaska National Guard are under the command of Alaska’s governor. Alaskans have spent a generation of living next to the authoritarian state of Russia. Yes Soviet airplanes consistently flew into Alaskan air space testing our nation’s response. Even today Russian Nationalist talk seriously about reclaiming Alaska like it was lost to them in a shady game of poker.
Recent long-range missile test being conducted by the rogue nuclear threat nation of North Korea can only threaten one state- Alaska.
Even dealing with our ally Canada has been contentious at times. Issues include Canadian mines that pollute Alaskan rivers, the gas pipeline negotiations, border crossings, and fish disputes. In 1997 Canadian fisherman blockaded the Alaska State ferry and held it hostage for three days while the Canadian government refuse to intervene. The United States has gone to war over issues less provocation than that before.
A fact that many people don't realize by looking at a two dimensional map is that Alaska is actually the half way point of a flight from Dallas Texas to Hong Kong, China. If the pilot were taking the most direct route possible and had to land at the half point, they would directly over Anchorage. A quick look at 3D globe also confirms that the shortest shipping lane from Asia to North America is to Alaska. The southern terminal of the Alaska State Ferry, Prince Rupert, has the only rail connection in the north coast and is developing to be the main entrance point for shipments from Asia. Anchorage is currently the third busiest international cargo airport in the world due to its geographic advantages.
It's easy to Illustrate the point that Alaska is involved in many issues that require foreign service expertise.
Anyone in the position of being Alaska’s governor must deal with matters of foreign affairs on a regular basis. In fact it would be difficult for the governors any of the other 49 states to claim they face more foreign affairs issues than the governor of Alaska.
Softball & Baseball Fields
Well I was out at the "field" this week to see what we were up against this year. Adair-Kennedy field looked like the beach at a negative tide. With the baseball season under way, it looks as though the kids will be inside for the foreseeable future. The grant application to the MLB community fund is on hold until we can secure more funding. The grant would cover 50% of the funding needed to turf both the fields and make the necessary adjustments to qualify the field for tournament play. Its really too bad because 3 years ago, before the financial crisis, we had state funding for 70% of the project and could have used this grant to secure the final 30%. Apparently, no one looked into it. Now our task is harder but not impossible.
A major difficulty is moving the project up the priority list. Part of the problem is that it is looked at as being a perk or as a luxury item for when the economy picks up. On the contrary, this project would actually be an economic stimulator.
The Gold Medal and Southeast Region 5 basketball tournaments were just held in Juneau. Even if you don't like basketball, you probably noticed the hustle and bustle the town received from these two events. Teams came in from all over the archipelago filling hotels, restaurants, shops, and assorted means of transportation. You don't need to be an economist to understand the multiplier effect and that this is good business in Juneau.
Basketball works, baseball/softball doesn't work because the fields do not meet tournament required specifications to allow them to host any state tournaments. Sitka has hosted the Alaska State tournament because their beautiful turfed field qualifies. Juneau will not ever hold a state tournament until its repaired. A new field would not only open up that economic opportunity for Juneau, but could also be the impetus for a new tournament named in honor of the business that stepped up to the plate and hit it out for us. Years from now the Capital City Baseball Classic would look back at this time and celebrate this yet to be tournament for its tradition of bringing teams from across the country to play and stay in Juneau.
To learn more about this effort to turf the field, visit Facebook
Time for Turf CBJ Boards
June 6, 2017
The Human Resources Committee of the Juneau City & Borough Assembly met last Monday to fill vacancies on the various boards that serve the City and Borough of Juneau. The purpose of these boards is to bring in expertise to help inform and support the Assembly in formulating good laws and regulations. It is impossible for nine citizens of the community to embody every kind of expertise that's needed to address all issues that come before the Assembly. Nevertheless, they will be called upon to make the best decisions they can whether they have help from the community or not.
Faced with the fact that there are not enough applicants to fill the seats that are available on these boards, Assembly Member Jerry Nankervus has suggested that we may have too many boards and should reduce them. The current membership of the Assembly seems to be a bright bunch and may be able to find among themselves the resources for making these decisions, but in the long run what we get is a lack of input from these boards and the members who could have offered expert solutions that would make government more effective, efficient, and with less expense.
It is the responsibility of all citizens who have some specialty of knowledge and experience to step up and offer to contribute on these boards. Good government requires participation from as many as can be brought into the decision making process. Good public policy is vetted in active participation. That's why they call it a democracy.
If you have an expertise, share it by offering to serve on a board. We need you and you will be doing the right thing.
Mass Destruction and the Common Good
February 27, 2018
The Right to Bear Arms must be looked at in the context in which it was created. The founding fathers were in the mindset of being wary of creating a central government with the power to raise an army. After all, they had just won a war against one. The right to bear arms was a concession to those who were still wavering on ratifying the proposed constitution. It was to guarantee that states could still stand for themselves by protecting individual rights to bear arms. It has never been suggested that states couldn’t write reasonable laws that could protect its citizens.
Utilitarians have a formula that helps define individual freedoms. They believe your rights as an individual extend as far as it doesn’t restrict the individual rights of others. They believed policies should serve the greatest Good to the greatest number. The founding fathers based much of our system of government on utilitarian philosophy.
We need to look at the right to bear arms across a spectrum of destructive power. At one end would be individuals owning arms for personal protection. The founders wanted to protect the ability of states to have a citizen militia. It would be safe to say that they envisioned a militia not unlike what had come together to fight the revolutionary war. The inherent limitation on the destructive power of this right is that it requires multiple gun owners to assemble and collaborate to be effective. It is implied that these assembled gun owners would collaborate based on discourse and consensus of a common goal. That the goal would be rational even to those who oppose it.
Now look at the opposite end of the spectrum where technology has given one individual the destructive power to kill hundreds if not thousands of people. This individual doesn’t need to collaborate, discuss, or rationalize with anyone to deploy this force. The fact that any individual can unleash this kind of force is a violation of the rights of other individuals to exercise their rights to life and liberty to live their lives. Clearly the greatest good for the greatest number is to remove the ability of individuals to destroy on such a level. As long as this destructive ability is protected as an individual right, our body politic will remain at the mercy of over empowered and unchecked individuals.