These are interesting times for Alaska politics. Even though, we have a governor who is about as colorless as his snowman alter-ego. I named the snowman pictured here Gov. Sean Parnell as he is the same bland visage as the governor.
Gov. Parnell has been moving things forward a bit, to try to give his administration substance and an identity of its own in the aftermath of the Palin resignation.
Parnell has put forth a program to fund higher education scholarships for Alaska’s high school students who maintain a B average. Gov. Parnell has recognized that not all go to college, so the program will include technical or vocational school scholarships as well as collage scholarships. What was not made clear was whether or not the collage scholarships will be focused on the University of Alaska, or will allow a student to go to Outside institutions. The former head of U of A had a similar program. It looks like Parnell decided to expand upon it.
This is a good move on Parnell’s part, as it demonstrates a desire to provide a trained workforce and management potential for Alaska resource and business development. Unfortunately, it is also a fact that most of the students will probably not return to Alaska, once they graduate from an Outside institution. That aspect was not addressed in his education initiative. What was not made clear, was whether or not this program is part of a genuine Parnell agenda or something left over from the Palin administration, and Sean is just finishing Sarah’s desires.
The Governor’s recent commitment to address the State’s unfunded maintenance of buildings and transportation infrastructure is a welcome attempt to fix something that vexes a lot of Alaskans. Parnell wants $100,000,000 set aside for this purpose.
With the Prudhoe revenue largess over the years, the focus went from maintaining what the State was responsible for in terms of our schools, roads, harbors, and airports, to a “we can afford to let it go and completely replace” philosophy. This attitude was reflected in the requirements for a community to completely replace all fire engines every 5 years, which has now changed to every 10 years due to the costs. Schools maintenance went by the wayside, except what was required to keep the building functional. Roofs and other costly repair items were ignored, as the attitude was “we will just build a new school”. Yet, maintenance was included in the >$7,000 per student that the State funds every year. Those monies allocated for maintaining the schools were allowed to be spent for other than maintenance by the school districts.
For example, the Matanuska Susitna Borough School District turns back to the Borough every year $1,000,000-$1,500,000 in contingency funds appropriated every school year as part of the district’s budget. This is money that could go to the maintenance of the district’s schools, instead of letting a roof become a hazard requiring emergency funding from the State to fix. After all, the money that goes back to the borough came from the State appropriations for education to begin with.
Governor Parnell finally confirmed BG Thomas Katkus as the new Commissioner and Adjutant General of the Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA). Katkus was Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell’s pick for that post and his former no. 2. Katkus is a retired Anchorage Police Officer and a life-long resident of Wasilla. Given that DMVA is a rat’s nest of musical chairs for retired brigadier generals, hopefully the next administration will have the courage to conduct a thorough review of DMVA policies along with a legislative audit to bring to light how DMVA spends its money. I doubt Parnell will have the political courage to address DMVA anytime soon.
One of the interesting items is the recent resignation of Pipeline Czar Harry Noah. Noah has championed the idea of a bullet line from the North Slope to Pt. McKenzie on Cook Inlet, just north of Anchorage. This route was heavily favored by Valley legislators Sen. Charlie Huggins, Rep. Bill Stoltze, and Rep. Mark Neuman.
Now, another supporter of this route, Lt. Gov. hopeful Rep. Jay Ramras of Fairbanks, is calling for an investigation by the Governor over Noah’s resignation. Ramras is a supporter of the Enstar bullet line that Noah championed.
The association of the aforementioned Valley legislators and Ramras in their favoring a monopoly by Enstar for any natural gas delivered to south central is something that should be questioned by the Parnell Administration.
The competing line to the North Slope Enstar bullet line was the ANGDA spur line off of any big pipe to be built under AGIA or another competing pipeline proposal.
Gov. Sean Parnell may be a lackluster guy, but he is finally doing something. Whether his “somethings” are an expression of his desires or Sarah’s have yet to be made clear to Alaskans.
As the coming year quickly approaches, will this governor distance himself from Sarah in time to meet the challenges from Republicans Rep. John Harris and Bill Walker for his job?
Who knows, only the raven knows for sure, and he/she (I did not look that closely) ain’t saying, er rather, squawking. . . .