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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – July 16, 2023

It’s mid-July and while a large portion of the United States is experiencing extremely hot temperatures, much of Alaska remains cold and rainy. So much for a great summer after the winter we had to go through. Republican Nick Begich announced he will again challenge Representative Mary Peltola (D – Alaska) for Alaska’s sole House seat. The Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson continue to try and do something to improve the serious homelessness issue. The Alaska Railroad celebrated their 100th anniversary this week in Nenana. And several politicos are on the move with new jobs.

A friendly message and reminder to all our readers. The Landmine is made possible by myself and a team of awesome Alaskans. I recently got back from Juneau for my fifth session in a row reporting on the Legislature. If you enjoy the content we provide, please consider making a one time or recurring monthly donation. You can click here to donate. We have a donation system that makes it super easy. We would really appreciate it. And thanks to everyone who has been supportive!

Alaska Railroad Turns 100

The Alaska Railroad celebrated their 100th anniversary in Nenana on Saturday. On July 15, 1923, President Warren Harding drove a ceremonial golden spike in Nenana to officially open the 470 mile railroad from Fairbanks to Seward. The State of Alaska purchased the railroad from the federal government in 1985 and has run it since.

Several elected officials rode up on the train for the large event. One person in attendance noted that many of the tourists on the train looked confused when they got to Nenana. Speakers included Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska), Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska), Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson, Fairbanks Mayor Dave Pruhs, and Railroad President & CEO Bill O’Leary. Several legislators presented the railroad with a legislative citation.

Politicos on the Move 

Several politicos are on the move, most with new jobs in Alaska or D.C. And one is headed to law school!

  • Joe Plesha left his job as a legislative staffer to become Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R – Alaska) new D.C. based communications director. He replaces Karina Borger, who had the job for eight years. The question is will Plesha continue to rock his mustache in D.C.?
  • TJ Presley also has a new job in D.C. He was hired as the director of government affairs for the ANCSA Regional Association. Presley ran the Walker/Drygas campaign last year, and prior to that was a legislative staffer.
  • Josh Walton is leaving his job as a legislative staffer to Representative Laddie Shaw (R – Anchorage) to run Nick Begich’s second campaign for U.S. House. Walton has worked as a staffer for several for several legislators since 2011. He will be missed at skits!
  • Corey Allen Young and Hans Rodvik are both leaving their communication roles for Mayor Dave Bronson and moving to the Anchorage School District. A statement they released said they are not leaving until August or September so replacements can be found.
  • Emma Potter left her job as a legislative staffer to Senator Matt Claman (D – Anchorage) to attend law school at the University of Arizona. Good luck, Emma! She has worked as as legislative staffer since 2021. She says she plans on coming back to Alaska after law school.

Other Happenings

The anti-ranked choice voting group has an extremely weird Twitter account. If you desire some entertainment, I highly suggest reading some of their tweets. Here is a recent one where they compare their efforts to the American sinking of the battleship Yamato during WWII. You can’t make this shit up.

This is interesting. Former Judge Margaret Murphy was indicated by a grand jury for perjury in May. The state refuses to give any information about why she was charged. Murphy, who hired a lawyer, should have the information from the grand jury about why they charged her with perjury, but has also not shared it. Now she has filed for a protective order against a man named Matthew Smith. The whole thing is very strange.

Check out this video where Congresswoman Summer Lee (D – PA) asks a Department of Defense official about how much they spent on Alaska king crab in 2018. DOD must really like Alaska king crab!

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week’s designee became apparent during Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting. This week’s Loose Unit is Assembly member Meg Zaletel. During debate on allowed homeless camps (it got changed from designated to allowed for whatever reason) in Anchorage, things got very loose.

In response to a comment from Assembly member Kameron Perez-Verdia about who should be leading this effort, Assembly member Daniel Volland read from a report from the Allowed Camps Task Force, which the Assembly accepted earlier in the meeting. Volland seemed annoyed that Perez-Verdia either discounted or was not familiar with the report. Volland read from a long list of individuals and groups that participated. These included Assembly members, community council members, legislators, the Anchorage Health Department, RuralCAP, many others, and… the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, of which Zaletel is the executive director.

Zaletel immediately interrupted Volland, saying she earlier stated they were not involved. Volland said, “You’re listed here. Somebody showed up! Maybe you want to correct the record.” Zaletel then requested a break so she could figure out whether or not they participated. Very loose. If they did, she said she would have to recuse herself from the debate and vote.

After a long break, Zaletel came back and said it turns out that not only one, but two employees of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness participated in the task force! Very loose. She even threw one under the bus, saying they were not given any direction by the coalition to participate. Keep in mind Zaletel is the executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. How is she not aware of what her staff are doing? And yes, she recently took a mental health break in Europe. But if she had bothered to read the report, which the Assembly already accepted, she would have seen the name of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness employee who participated. 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 jeff@alaskalandmine.com.

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Rat Pack
10 months ago

I see that Jeff is now on the Zalatel Hate Train with his little buddies Mike Porcaro and Suzie Q Downing. Zalatel has probably done more to try and solve the homelessness crisis in Anchorage than Jeff, Mike and Sue combined.

Miles
10 months ago
Reply to  Rat Pack

You’re up early, do you have a google alert for Meg or something?

Akwhitty
10 months ago
Reply to  Rat Pack

I’m sure you will follow with a list of Mrs. Meg’s accomplishments.

Rat Pack
9 months ago
Reply to  Akwhitty

She actually shows up and does her jobs, she didn’t bire Joe Gerace and gut the entire leadership team at AHD. She didn’t terminate the plan between the Muni, Rasmuson and Wiedner in favor of her own personal agenda. She didn’t hire her buddy who lives in Geneva Woods on a no bid contract, whose rapey business partner was allowed to loiter around the 8th floor. She didn’t spend millions of unauthorized tax payer money on a half baked shelter that nobody wants. Nope, she didn’t do any of that. But here we are. The reason Jeff and Suzy Q… Read more »

Grateful Alaskan
9 months ago
Reply to  Rat Pack

I like Meg, but she flubbed this. It’s small potatoes, but in a slow AK political news week, I don’t really get how accurately reporting a small but quite public mistake that she should have known about from two different sides/roles is the same sort of hate train the recall crowd was on? Seems pretty knee-jerk defensive, and certainly doesn’t help my perception of Meg’s credibility. One of the things I like most about her is she’s a bit of a hard nosed wonk, pretty sure she can handle Jeff reporting when she occasionally messes up. Acting like he’s doing… Read more »

Rat Pack
9 months ago

Yeah…..No…..Sorry, but Meg doesn’t deserve this crap. She doesn’t deserve it from Poracaro, she doesn’t deserve it from the QAnon blogger lady from Florida, and she most certainly doesn’t deserve it from Landfield. All she has done is work her ass off to help better this city, what have those three fools done to make this a better place ? No, fuck this guy.

Old timer
9 months ago

Elvi also was clueless about homelessness even during her final term on the assembly. If more people on both sides actually have a shit and if the community did, too, this homelessness problem would be far less than what it is. It’s a reflection on everyone.