The Sunday Minefield – August 27, 2023

Labor Day is in eight days, which means fall is just around the corner. I know we are all trying to enjoy as much summer as we can before it starts getting cold. The annual Kenai River Classic was held this week, drawing many Alaska politicos. Neil Steininger, who served as Governor Mike Dunleavy’s (R – Alaska) director of Office of Management and Budget (OMB) since January 2020, was let go this week with no explanation. Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Alaska this week. And the Anchorage Assembly voted against funding Mayor Dave Bronson’s long sought homeless navigation center.

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OMB Director is Out

Neil Steininger, who took over as Governor Dunleavy’s OMB director in January 2020, was let go this week from his role. No explanation was given and no formal announcement was made. I got a tip on Friday morning that he had been let go. It did not take long to confirm it. Steininger replaced Donna Arduin, Dunleavy’s first OMB director. Her time at OMB marked an especially chaotic period between Dunleavy and the Legislature due to her austere approach to the budget. Steininger toed the line for the Dunleavy administration but was respected by legislative leaders.

Steininger was involved in a budget error in 2021 surrounding a $4 billion transfer from the Permanent Fund earnings reserve to the protected corpus. Dunleavy intended to veto a $4 billion transfer approved by the Legislature, but a last minute error in the veto marking resulted in the veto not happening. It’s not clear who will replace Steininger. The budget process is already underway as Dunleavy must submit his proposed budget to the Legislature by December 15.

Politicos on the Move

Brian Fechter, who worked ten years for the state in various roles – most recently as deputy Revenue commissioner – has taken a job as budget advisor to Governor Jay Inslee (D – WA). Washington’s budget is ten times larger than Alaska’s. The Department of Revenue has lost significant talent since Adam Crum became commissioner. Unfortunately, Alaska continues to lose good people like Fechter. I wish him the best in his new role.

Megan Peters is leaving her communications role at the Ted Stevens International Airport to take a communications job with the Bellingham Police Department. Peters previously worked in communications for the Department of Public Safety. I wish the best in her new role. Unfortunately, we are losing another talented Alaskan to the lower 48.

Jim Hunt is no longer Whittier’s city manager. It’s unclear what happened but it appears it was the decision of the city council. Hunt served as Whittier’s city manager since 2018. Previously he served as the city manager for Seward for seven years. According to KUCB, Hunt applied to be the city manager for Unalaska in April.

Other Happenings

Attorney General Merrick Garland visited Alaska this week. He spent time in Galena with Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska).

The Dr. Ben Carson situation has gotten weirder. After Anchorage School Superintendent Jharrett Bryantt banned Carson from speaking at Mountain View Elementary, Governor Dunleavy held a press conference with him at Iditarod Elementary in Wasilla. Carson then spoke to kids there. He later spoke at the Mountain View Community Center. Now, sources report that Dunleavy’s office had tried to get a meeting with Bryant last week to discuss Carsongate. But they were unable to get a meeting with Bryant after multiple attempts through different channels. Now, sources confirm that Dunleavy has instructed his staff to not let Bryant or ASD officials on the third floor of the Capitol or the 17th floor of the Atwood Building in Anchorage. Session should be fun!

In a letter from Attorney General Treg Taylor to o Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom (R – Alaska), Taylor recommended against signing off on a proposed ballot initiative for term limits. His conclusion was, “This initiative application does not include enough sponsors and the proposed bill is clearly unconstitutional, so we recommend that you deny the application and notify the sponsors of your decision.”

File this one in the bizarre category. But I am with her on the stupid masks!

The National Association of State Chambers is meeting this week in Anchorage at the Captain Cook. Governor Dunleavy met with the group today that included my GOOD BUDDY Kati Capozzi, the president and CEO of the Alaska State Chamber.

This Week’s Loose Unit

This week’s designee was an easy one. And it’s short and sweet. This week’s Loose Unit is Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson. On Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly had his long sought after homeless navigation center on the agenda. This has been one of Bronson’s signature policies since being elected in 2021. He has fought with the Assembly over the location, size, and cost. But when it came to a crucial vote on funding, Bronson was not at the meeting. That alone is loose. But it gets way looser. Instead of being at the Assembly meeting, Bronson attended a private Republican gathering with Ben Carson. Classic Loose Unit behavior.

If you have a nomination for this week’s Loose Unit, or if you have any political news, stories or gossip (or any old pics of politicians or public officials) please email me at

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Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
7 months ago

It’s “Ted Stevens *Anchorage* International Airport”.

7 months ago

Big deal Bronson was not at the assembly meeting. The majority body of shit sacks could give 2 fucks if he was there . They were going to turn down the center no matter what. The lot by home Depot and Lowe’s is a conflagration of derlics, thieves and addicts. It’s a filthy pot and destroying a beautiful park donated by the Cuddy family and they should take it back.

Rat Pack
7 months ago
Reply to  Akwhitty

The old Federal Archives site was never owned by the Cuddy family and is currently owned by the Muni. At least get your facts straight before you go running your mouth.

7 months ago
Reply to  Rat Pack

Hey Rat
I said the park should be t aken back . Run this in your mouth

7 months ago

Masks are dumb like seatbelts and bike helmets and climbing ropes and bullet proof vests and chainsaw chaps and….

7 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

And Floridawoman

7 months ago
Reply to  floridawoman

Sorry floridawoman, but the masks are not the same as any of the items you listed there. Those items save you, not other people. Never seen where one driver wearing a seatbelt helps save the other driver in a head-on crash. Or how you wearing a bullet proof vest prevents someone else from being shot. The masks, good or bad, were stated to help prevent you from spreading the virus to others. They did nothing to help you other than to make you feel better/safer. Emphasis on feel. The a more apt comparison to a mask would be a condom.… Read more »

7 months ago
Reply to  Pablo

Condoms like N-95 masks prevent you from being infected when used appropriately. A poorly fitted condom or re-used one or torn one will allow you exposure to possible infection.

7 months ago

Dunleavy getting mad because Bryant did something and then refused to explain his decision – how rich is that? It’s Dunleavy’s standard operating procedure. All these public figures need to grow some balls and answer to the public for their actions.

7 months ago
Reply to  Rick

Contrary to Jeff Landfield’s claim, Supt. Bryant did not BAN Carson. He did not accept Carson’s request to interrupt a classroom day for Carson’s book publicity tour purposes.

7 months ago

Alaska will continue to lose talented folks when so many of our best economic opportunities (e.g. ANWR, NPRA, etc.) are stymied or off limits due to our federal government policies. The federal regulatory burden (USFWS, NMFS, Dept. of Interior) for simple and straightforward projects has become overwhelming and will continue to kill the economics for development in our State.

7 months ago
Reply to  CO2Greens

Pretty sure the federal government has nothing to do with the employees in this article leaving their STATE jobs.