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We Build Alaska

The Sunday Minefield – July 30, 2023

August is just two days away. Summer is really flying by. A zoning ordinance before the Anchorage Assembly has created a lot of controversy, namely from conversative media. Anchorage Mayor Dave Bronson proposed buying homeless people plane tickets out of Anchorage. Governor Mike Dunleavy (R – Alaska) signed a bill into law that allows individuals to be licensed and operate adult care homes. The Board of Education chose Deena Bishop as the new Education commissioner. And more politicos are on the move.

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Zoning and Homelessness in Anchorage

A proposed Anchorage Assembly ordinance that would streamline zoning in Anchorage and make building easier has generated vocal opposition from conservative media. And the main target is one of their own. The ordinance is cosponsored by Assembly members Kevin Cross, Meg Zaletel, and Daniel Volland. Cross, a conservative who has represented Chugiak and Eagle River since since April 2022, has been attacked by Suzanne Downing, Mike Porcaro, and Amy Demboski for cosponsoring the ordinance. It’s rich seeing conservatives argue for more government.

Downing told Porcaro this week on his show that she thinks Cross is just going to serve one term so he can go make a bunch of money if the ordinance passes. I guess she forgot or doesn’t care that Cross has had a very successful career in real estate, long before he was on the Assembly. Demboski and Porcaro have both played a clip on their shows where Cross is giving advice to a bunch of relators. They act like it’s some kind of smoking gun. It’s hilarious seeing how hard they are going against someone they all used to support. Cross called into Porcaro and seemed to catch him off guard. I was told he also called into Demboski’s show but had trouble getting a word in. Real shocker. I’ve tried listening to her show but it’s like listening to someone scratching a chalk board. At least Dan Fagan was entertaining.

Cross came on my podcast this week to discuss the whole situation. You can listen to it here. Good on him for actually trying to do something to alleviate the serious housing problem we have in Anchorage. The ordinance will continue to be debated at the August 8 Assembly meeting.

Mayor Bronson is also facing criticism for proposing to buy plane tickets for homeless people in Anchorage this winter. This is not a new idea. With no real plan for a cold weather shelter, and homelessness as bad as it is this summer, Anchorage’s homeless population is in for a difficult winter. I don’t see any problem with it as long as the people can show they are going to a place with friends or family. The last thing we need to do is buy homeless people one way tickets to warm places with no where to stay. That’s not solving the problem. And it appears that not that many homeless would even qualify for a plane ticket. It’s incredible how much money has been spent on “solving” homelessness in Anchorage yet the problem is as bad as its ever been.

Other Happenings 

Governor Dunleavy signed Senate Bill 57, his bill that allows individuals to be licensed to operate an adult care home and receive payment under Medicaid for providing assisted living services for elderly adults and adult foster children in a home-like environment. It was overwhelmingly passed by the House and Senate. In a press release, Dunleavy said:

I am honored to sign this important piece of legislation today because stability is one of the most important things people need. This bill will benefit not only foster children but all adults with disabilities who would prefer to receive services in a smaller, family-type setting. Despite Alaska being the biggest state in the United States, it also has the fewest options for assisted living. Meeting the needs of older Alaskans in their community is critical to supporting healthy aging and community sustainability.

The Board of Education unanimously selected Deena Bishop as the new Education commissioner this week. Unlike the other department heads that the governor chooses, the Education commissioner is chosen by the Board of Education and then the governor has to approve it. Bishop has worked for Dunleavy as a special assistant on education issues since January. She is a former superintendent for the Anchorage School District and the Mat-Su Borough School District. Her working relationship with Dunleavy dates back to when he served on the Mat-Su Borough School Board. The board selected Susan McKenzie as the new commissioner in February, but she ended up declining the position. She remains the director of the Division of Innovation and Education Excellence.

Jim Kubitz retired as the vice president of real estate and facilities for the Alaska Railroad after 25 years of serving in the role. Christy Terry, a long time Alaska Railroad employee, will take over for him. Enjoy retirement, Jim! He’s the father of legislative staffer Lizzie Kubitz and former legislative staffer (now working for NANA) Grace Kubitz.

Shea Siegert recently started as the senior manager of external relations for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. Congrats, Shea! Siegert has worked as a legislative staffer and for Alaskans for Better Elections. He recently worked Senator Lisa Murkowski’s (R – Alaska) successful re-election campaign last year.

A retirement party for long time lobbyist Laurie Herman was held this week in Anchorage at the home of Diane Kaplan. Lots of politicos were in attendance that included Lieutenant Governor Nancy Dahlstrom (R – Alaska) former Governor Sean Parnell, former Lieutenant Governor Fran Ulmer, and several current and former legislators. Herman will officially retire at the end of the year.

Check out this recent update to Bering Straits shareholders. Talk about double speak.

Lots of big names on this fundraiser for Senator Dan Sullivan (R – Alaska).

This Week’s Loose Unit 

This week’s designee is short and sweet. This week’s Loose Unit is a tie between the Anchorage Assembly and Mayor Dave Bronson. I am sick and tired of hearing from them all about how much progress has been made on homelessness. It’s the same bull shit at every Assembly meeting yet the problem keeps getting worse. Bronson now wants to buy homeless people plane tickets. Loose. Many on the Assembly want to build some kind of a permanent homeless camp. It’s almost August and nothing has been done. Loose. There are tents all over the damn city in public areas. Loose. Meg Zaletel is on the Assembly and the executive director of the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness. She often has to leave the Assembly meeting when they are discussing HOMELESSNESS! Very loose. There is no plan for cold shelter for this winter. Loose. It all seems to be a fucking joke or something they like talking about but doing nothing about. How the hell are we supposed to attract people to Anchorage when we can’t solve any of our problems?

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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Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
9 months ago

I mean, Zalatel has to recuse herself from voting on homelessness issues – she’s paid at ACEH. Same as if an Assembly member was a developer, they couldn’t vote on zoning changes. It’s ethical and proper to recuse oneself (someone should tell SCOTUS…).

Sveters
9 months ago

Just a clarification – Kevin is not a developer or ever-developed land in his career. As a realtor, he doesn’t represent any builders either. Board of ethics already determined there’s no conflict of interest.

Actual credentialed journalist (retired)
9 months ago
Reply to  Sveters

Nobody said he was…

Smiley
9 months ago
Reply to  Sveters

They must of missed the part where he bought/buying 5 acres in chugiak on south birch wood loop and is planning to develop it…

Rat Pack
9 months ago

You’ve been quite the prolific caller to Mr P’s show too, Jeff. Good to see that the two of you have kissed and made up. Still jockeying for a slot on KENI ?

Allen
9 months ago

The zoning ordinance amendment is for the housing industry, not buyers. It ignores the 800 pound gorilla, which is the unaffordable price of housing, the upward price churning caused by the industry of realtors, banks, mortgage companies, builders etc. When you see some 70s or 80s crap house selling for $500,000, it’s obvious something is very wrong.

Akwhitty
9 months ago
Reply to  Allen

You must never go to an antique shop.
The value lies in the age. Old wood 2×4 framing, windows , doors and driveways that were built to last. There fortresses will appreciate. Some may command 5 to 10 million dollars. I’m holding onto my 1953 Spenard house .
I will pass it on to my daughter and hopefully her kids. They don’t build them the way they use to.

TheDudeAbides
9 months ago

“It’s rich seeing conservatives argue for more government.”

Best line of the piece. Maybe even the best observation of the year.

The ongoing effort to ban books is the same thing: extremists who claim to be pro-parental rights and anti-government believing that it’s okay for government to dictate to parents what’s best for their children. Welcome to Bizarro World.

Floridawoman
9 months ago
Reply to  TheDudeAbides

It is not an actual Bizarro world…Conservative states have always been the greatest beneficiaries
of Federal welfare, have always wanted government in our homes telling us what we can smoke, who we can sleep with, how we can sleep with someone, who we can marry, what we can read, etc.

Floridawoman
9 months ago
Reply to  Floridawoman

Liberals just as mad…you can’t say this, you can’t wear that, you have to think this way, date this way

Shelia
9 months ago

No city anywhere else has been seen to handle the problem, either. Enough money has been spent that there could have been a community of small houses and programs to retrain and re-enter them into the communities. The problem is that there has to be not just a housing solution but also the training programs and jobs to get them to quit the drugs and booze and work toward re-entering the employment market. They must be able to see the light of a better existence at the end of the tunnel.

Jow
9 months ago

Plane tickets out of nome is a much better idea. If for no other reason than reducing the incidence of winter kill. But also alleviating predatory behavior of rapists, pedophiles and murderers. (Hay baby, it’s cold outside).
Juneau would be my suggestion but that probably not help with the latter. Another suggestion is barring alcoholics from buying marijuana as it suppresses the gag reflex and increases the risk of death by alcohol poisoning.
Out of state tickets would be a better choice in my book and reduce the incidence of ballot harvesting, at least in alaska!