Ringing in the New Year with warning bells

A year ago, David Bianculli, TV critic on NPR’s Fresh Air, said: “I cannot tell you how pleased I will be to turn the calendar to 2021 except I feel like everybody listening feels exactly the same way.” Host Terry Gross replied, “Except the secret is 2021 could possibly be worse than 2020.” Bianculli sighed, “We all need a dose of Debbie Downer every now and then.” This year I am that Debby Downer. I am frightened about what lies ahead for our state and city in 2022. Here are my three principal concerns:

One

Last month, the Alaska Redistricting Board passed its proclamation for the new House and Senate districts. Of great worry is the new Senate district pairing south Eagle River with south Muldoon. This “naked partisan gerrymander,” according to redistricting board member Melanie Bahnke, dilutes the voice of the minority south Muldoon area by placing it in largely white, affluent Eagle River, which will now have two senators instead of one. This issue was discussed at length on the East Anchorage Book Club Podcast this past week with Ms. Bahnke. The litigation committee made up of Redistricting Board Chair John Binkley and board member Budd Simpson will try to delay court rulings as long as possible. They know that this Senate district likely won’t stand up, but if they can postpone the ruling for a year, then it won’t matter for the 2022 election cycle.

If the delay is successful, all is not lost. South Muldoon resident and long-term public servant Donna Mears has filed to run for that Senate seat. Perhaps with ranked choice voting, we can replace government obstructionist and anti-science Senator Lora Reinbold with Ms. Mears. This could potentially change the balance of power in the Senate and be the opposite of what the gerrymander was intended to do.

Two

Governor Dunleavy is striving for a constitutional convention. Ostensibly, he says it’s to enshrine a guaranteed PFD into the constitution, but once the door is open to changing that document, the governor will want a partisan judiciary, greater influence from special interests, and restrictions to our individual freedoms. It’s surprising, considering conservatives favor state and individual rights, that the governor would want to remove those protections, but that’s where we are headed.

There is an organization seeking to preserve our founding document: “Defend our Constitution.” This group stated in a recent press release that legal scholarship has long regarded Alaska’s Constitution to be a model of its kind. “Think long and hard before we open our constitution for wholesale rewrite in these politically polarized times. Noble and civil discourse is required for such an undertaking,” said John Coghill, a co-chair of Defend our Constitution and a former state senator from Fairbanks.

Three

Mayor Dave Bronson and City Manager Amy Demboski have been on a destructive path since taking office in July. They follow the Trumpian example that the more dysfunctional and inefficient a government is the better. It’s a strategy that wants the populace to believe that the government is so broken that the only solution is to give the chief executive more power. In the face of this effort, an unprecedented number of career employees have quit or been asked to leave. The recent demotion of now-former Deputy Police Chief Gerard Asselin and the resignation of Police Chief Kenneth McCoy are most worrisome. Recent reporting by the Alaska Landmine and by Andrew Halcro on his podcast “With All Due Respect” suggest that these resignations are due to a shadow police advisory council (“The Men’s Club”) that is instructing the administration on APD decisions and side-stepping the traditional chain of command.

There are two specific examples of this alternative chain of command that put citizens in danger. One was the order to remove a patient from Providence and transfer him to a different facility; officers were told to arrest any doctors or nurses who stood in the way. Since when do the police decide medical treatments for the hospitalized? The second was on Oct. 7 at a contentious Anchorage Assembly meeting when the city manager instructed the APD to leave the chambers. What was the goal of this instruction, which luckily APD refused to comply with? Some have said it was just intimidation, but personally I think it was more than that. I was in the hall that night; I felt the energy of the mask opponents firsthand and knew that the dais could have been stormed. Anchorage’s own January 6th could have happened that night with the blessing of the city manager and mayor. This alarm bell should have the whole city on high alert. We must stop this move to authoritarianism.


I hope I am incorrect about my pessimistic forecast for 2022; the truth is though I’ll only be wrong if more people react with action to the warning bells that are loudly ringing. It’s not enough to sit at home with your anxiety: show up to assembly meetings, write letters to the editor, support candidates who oppose authoritarian agendas, spread kindness to your neighbors and fellow citizens. Please, next year at this time let’s look back on this article and laugh about how much I got wrong. You are the key to making that happen. Happy new year and see you in the assembly chambers.

Andrew Gray is on the board of the Campbell Park Community Council, has taught yoga at the Alaska Club, and sings with the Anchorage Opera Chorus. He is host of the East Anchorage Book Club’s podcast and forum and co-founder of the political organization Anchorage Action.

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Joe
9 months ago

What a bunch of bullshit. You want to call the mayor authoritarian, but you support an assembly that wants to tell everyone they have to wear masks that don’t work?

Evan S Singh
9 months ago
Reply to  Joe

Joe: Mayor Bronson does not accept his role as a body that shares power with other bodies. His impetuous decision to shut down the flouride in Anchorage water is a perfect example. He operated on gut, failed to follow the law, fortunately didn’t harm anyone and then lied about the whole mess.

The City of Anchorage has a logical process for handling all its issues, but Bronson doesn’t like to play along.

Lynn Willis
9 months ago

You are correct that the alarms are sounding. I heard of an old Chinese Curse: “May you have to live in “interesting” times.”. I agree these are “interesting times”. “Liberal” and “Conservative” now mean nothing anymore in the context of even ten years ago. A morally bankrupt Svengali with an appeal to return to an undefinable “great” America has released the demons of bias and ignorance from our history to create a political class easily exploited by the likes of Mike Dunleavy and David Bronson who only have to keep them afraid.

Last edited 9 months ago by Lynn Willis
Brian Sweeney
9 months ago

Redistricting should leave a conservative lean because AK leans right whether liberals like it or not. Mears is a far lefty who is in line with the Assembly. An assembly whose horrendous actions with Berky is the whole reason we have Bronson. Well that and Dunbar is merely Bronson on the left as are all his Assembly buddies. It is amazing how unaware the left can be that they create Trumps and Bronsons. As for the Constitutional Convention it is all about the PFD. The PFD creates the substrate that gets the left its votes and it amazes we how… Read more »

Andrew Gray
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

Dr. Sweeney, I listened to your podcast interview with the Landmine and read your op-ed. I appreciate your opinion, and I thank you for reading my piece. I think we may agree on more than either of us would state in public. Happy to have that conversation some day.

Brian F Sweeney jr
9 months ago
Reply to  Andrew Gray

I think people need to open up to other opinion and stop the cancel bravo sierra. .I doubt we agree on much. This piece of yours drips of agenda and I am not much of an agenda guy. Hence why I am not a fan of Bronson or Trump. However, once Evans was gone there was no way I was voting for Dunbar.

Andrew Gray
8 months ago

Well, I am always looking for common ground. I ask that you stop the cancel bravo sierra so that we can have conversation and potential cooperation.

Lynn Willis
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

Mr. Sweeney,
How about you define a “liberal” and a “conservative” for us? You throw those labels around as if you can.

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

They are defined by the extremes. And there is no doubt Bronson and the Assembly are on those extremes. So are Reinbold and Mears. When the agenda becomes more important than rational thought you get the mess we have

Lynn Willis
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

Perhaps you are designating the Assembly as ‘”extreme” because you need the equivalency to support an argument that Bronson is rationale and capable. He is neither.

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago
Reply to  Lynn Willis

There is absolutely nothing rational about the Assembly. It is an agenda driven mob unto itself.

Maureen Suttman
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

What facts, not personal opinion warrent your belief? Or does only the assembly get criticized for irrationality?

Jerome McArthur
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

Redistricting is about the future for the next 10 years, not about what took place the past 10 or 20 years…it’s a snapshot of the current Geo political and economics of a populace so that they receive fair representation. I’m an independent and I clearly saw the gerrymandering. Watching what took place was disgustingly bold and unrestrained partisanship. I’ve been in t Anchorage for five Mayors and this combination of Bronson in Dumbowski is absolutely the most horrendous political duo I have seen operating the city. They have destroyed decades of work, they have destroyed decades of corporate knowledge and… Read more »

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago

I liven in MA for 4 years. There are ways to slice that state so the whole DC delegation is not Ds bit it never happens. And given Ds outnumber Rs 2 to 1 it is not surprising. Fair representation of the population of AKmeans the Rs should have control at least by 2020 numbers if you are honest. The only mayor since I jave lived here has been Sullivan. The unions and granola chompers have had control at other times. We had elections back to November and the Assembly killed it to maintain their power structure. We are on… Read more »

Jerome McArthur
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

https://www.elections.alaska.gov/statistics/vi_vrs_stats_party_2012.08.03.htm You want to redress that comment about republicans having control? Scroll down to the bottom of the State of Alaska party affiliation and take a serious notice that of the 496 thousand plus registered voters that only 134 thousand plus are Republicans. The undeclared 182 thousand plus, is the largest block of voters. When you total up every voter that is not registered as a Republican. Republicans are out numbered 3 to 1. Also you need to take into account for any serious discussion: the percentage of registered voters that actual voted in any given election. The last muni… Read more »

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago

Nice try but epic fail. Almost twice as many Rs as Ds in the state. Independents fall into categories as well but just think ot is fashionable to be “independent.” Ds of course tried to hide behind an I label when Beltrami ran. They did it successfully with Grenn once. Have even tried it against DY. Rs win statewide races for a reason. Begich, hero of Ds, got his butt kicked by Dunleavy. He only beat Stevens with a false prosecution and then lost to a carpetbagger R. So call it you want but you are wrong and I will… Read more »

Brian F Sweeney jr
9 months ago

Actually to my MA point, data from April 21 show almost 3 Ds for every R in MA and 2.7M of 4.7M undeclared (which is the AK number you quote, not independents). Just more data to show your point and link are moot. Most people are undeclared but tend to vote certain ways in MA and AK and every other state. The undeclared argument is a silly uninformed one. Elections: Massachusetts Registered Voter Enrollment (state.ma.us)

Evan S Singh
9 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

I get pissed at insults like “granola chompers”. I’ve been a conservationist all my life, have started and maintained two conservation nonprofits, have participated in as many issues as I could. I have deep values for wilderness, wildlife and habitat protection. I like to be articulate in my rebuttals, but I’m tired so just fuck off.

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago
Reply to  Evan S Singh

Get a grip and enjoy the granola. Unfortunately the environmentalist movement has become dominated by agenda instead of reason. Science is out the window as well. Same thing happens on the right with gun nuts.

Nunya Bidness
9 months ago

They have several other things on the agenda: Getting rid of the well thought out Constitutional provision prohibiting funding religious or church schools so they can have Baptist madrasas Moving the Capital to Mat-Su, where is will be so much easier for the Oath Keepers to mob and maumau the Legislature Doing whatever they can to get rid of rural subsistence rights Getting rid of the privacy amendment to our Constitution that was adopted by voters to protect the right of Alaskans to grow whatever they want in privacy on their own property, and to provide Constitutional protection for the… Read more »

Brian F Sweeney jr
9 months ago
Reply to  Nunya Bidness

Our education system is broken. I do not want the money going to ACS or Grace but looking at options is reasonable. My kids went to Dimond and it was okay but there are a lot of problems inside ASD and the unions have a stranglehold. My kids definitely were able to tell me the political leanings of their teachers and that is a problem. We need to take a hard look at how much rural AK costs, especially education where a year costs more than Harvard at some rural schools. The constant pull between subsistence and wanting to be… Read more »

turbodigits
9 months ago

“ The biggest reason we spend 3x per capita of most states is propping up of rural areas.”

Citation?

LisaV
9 months ago
Reply to  turbodigits

Unless you are just asking to score a point, here is some help. AK’s highest per capita expenditures are on Social Welfare (code for Medicaid, 36% of whose customers are in Anchorage according to DHSS), K-12 education (I suppose the cost of rural schools is in there but ASD is by no means low-cost) and the 4x more than average per capita spending on highways and roads (AK Marine Highway is the only rural prop-up I can think of there, the rest of roads are not rural by Alaska standards by definition!). And no, it does not add up to… Read more »

Brian Sweeney
9 months ago
Reply to  LisaV

Hello. Anchorage is about 40% (293K/731K) of the population so epic fail on your part as you just showed rural costs more there. Education is number 2 on state expenses and it costs 60K per student per year in some rural areas to educate and it is all state money. Then there is power equalization and higher costs for state employees and travel and one could go on forever. In fact, the argument always is the spread of the state is why it costs so much and now you want to argue it does not. Face it, economic dead ends… Read more »

turbodigits
8 months ago
Reply to  Brian Sweeney

The biggest reason we spend 3x per capita of most states is propping up of rural areas. You call BS on Lisa’s data but apparently can’t locate any of your own to support your assertion. The state budget is more than Medicaid (75% of which is funded by the feds) and education (which the feds also underwrite, albeit to a lesser extent). Power cost equalization is funded from the earnings of an endowment that was established as a matter of equity because the state invested hundreds of millions (billions in today’s dollars) in major energy projects to bring the cost… Read more »

Last edited 8 months ago by turbodigits
Fran
9 months ago

After viewing the assembly meetings where people wore the Star of David and spewed homophobic slurs, I will vote for anyone who is not an “Allard, Bronson” or someone of that ilk. Bronson does not know how to manage, and the meetings over the mask mandate, along with the housing for homeless issue demonstrates this. I will not vote for crazies.

9 months ago
Reply to  Fran

If that is all you saw Fran I suggest you clean on your lenses.

Rick G
9 months ago
Reply to  Richie Romero

That’s all I saw because it was disgusting and I had to look away. The Bronson administration is a clown car careening down the street and anybody with any sense would try to put a stop to it.