Alaska’s Senate Race – The Morning After

19 11 2008

Alaska has a Blue Senator. Mark Begich has won the election.

So where do we stand, and what does this mean?

Mark Begich – It means that Mayor Senator Begich gets to pack his bags and head to Washington DC, with his wife and son, to start giving progressive Alaskans and centrists, and people who don’t want a convicted felon representing them in our nation’s capitol, a voice. If he’s wise, and smart, he will take the Ted Stevens debacle as a cautionary tale. If he plays his cards right, he could be there for a long long time, but the Republican party will have him in their sights, and be watching for every little slip-up.

If the Democrats in the Senate are wise and smart, they’ll be really nice to Senator Begich and give him a couple nice feathers in his cap to wear home to Alaska. They know the kind of bombastic, blow hards Alaska is capable of sending to the capitol, and they probably don’t want it to happen again. And they sure don’t want Sarah Palin gunning for an open senate seat in 6 years. Mark Begich will be like salve on a wound for many who have had to endure Ted Stevens for decades.

Who will fill Mayor Begich’s seat after he leaves? Anchorage Assembly Chair Matt Claman. Matt just took over the chairmanship of the Assembly when a surprise progressive majority took over the paralyzingly conservative Anchorage Assembly that had previously been populated by junior versions of the aforementioned bombastic, blow hards. When the Assembly shifted to the left, Claman was chosen. I know Matt Claman and he’s a good guy. He lacks the extroversion and charisma of Begich, but his principles are sound, and he’s a concensus builder, and a rational thinker. He’ll probably do a pretty good job. He’ll be there until April, when the mayoral elections happen. He may decide to run for the position officially at that time. There are several others who have thrown their hat in the ring too. And this may cause some interesting wrangling, since one of those candidates is Assembly Vice Chair Sheila Selkregg. Today’s Anchorage Daily News has an interesting article on these behind the scenes goings on.

Sarah Palin – Well, God sent a message to Sarah. She said if God opened a door, even a crack, she’d “plow through it”. But tonight, when Begich won a clear victory, and the four decade era of Ted Stevens ended, the door firmly shut tight. She will undoubtedly be looking for another door. The three that may open up next are:

  • The Don Young Door – Congressman Don Young will be up for re-election in 2010, but may be out before then. He’s already spend a whopping 1.2 million dollars on legal fees in anticipation of his own coming indictment. Alaskans have been waiting for that shoe to drop for a while now….and it’s coming. It’s just a question of when. Look for headlines coming soon to a paper near you, now that Alaska politics has wormed its way into the national consciousness. But even if Young survives this, his 19th term in Congress, I don’t think Sarah Palin is gunning for his job. I just don’t think Congress is her style.
  • The Lisa Murkowski Door – Now we’re talking. Sarah unseated Lisa’s father Frank Murkowski when she became governor in 2006. This would be the second Murkowski trophy head on her wall. Murkowski hasn’t done a bad job in most Republican’s minds, but she hasn’t knocked their socks off either. It’s not a sure thing by any means that she’d be able to hold her seat against Palin. And the Senate, as we have just witnessed, can be an effective stepping stone to the Presidency, which is what Palin is gunning for in the long run. That’s the door she thinks God will open for her – the big fat door to the Oval Office. She’s “wired for the mission” and would be ready to run in 2012, or 2016.
  • The Direct Door to the Presidency – If Palin can hold on to office for another term, she may be banking on her national celebrity, and name recognition, and her Christian conservative buddies in high places to take her from the governorship to Pennsylvania Avenue…or so she hopes. She’s up for re-election in 2010. And who knows…she may feel fully qualified by that point to throw her hat in the ring anyway.

And what about Ted Stevens, and his suddenly awkward and very visible namesake – The Ted Stevens International Airport. Before we break out the chisels and hammers, the Anchorage Assembly and the Public Facilities Advisory Commission, and who knows who else, will have to do some political soul searching, and have lots of meetings.

Stevens’ legal appeal process moves forward, and he’ll fight tooth and nail, like he always does. And amazingly, he is still eligible, despite his seven felony convictions, for his senate pension of $122,000 a year, courtesy of taxpayers. Although there is a recently-passed federal law that prohibits felons from collecting on these pensions, Stevens’ particular felonies were not on the list, and they were committed before the law went into effect. Maybe next time.


What’s in a Name?

24 06 2008

Can I remind everyone about the huge uproar that arose last year when a group petitioned to have Town Square Park renamed ‘Ruth Moulton Town Square’?  Ruth Moulton was an incredible citizen activist who organized petition drives, sued the city three times, created a grassroots movement, and eventually had Town Square written into the city charter to keep it from becoming a parking lot.  This took over a decade, and was done for free by a dedicated citizen of Anchorage, so WE could have a park downtown.  But people whined and complained, “Why do we have to NAME everything after people?  Why can’t it just be Town Square Park?”  The Assembly even rewrote the naming ordinance stating that naming things after their location should be preferable to naming them after a person.  And if you must name something after a person, let it be a feature of the whole, rather than the whole itself.  Hence, the new Ruth Moulton Plaza within Town Square Park.

Now, less than a year later, the city of Anchorage is graced with ConocoPhillips Stadium??  That’s what the new Assembly voted  to name the new soccer stadium going up in Kincaid Park. No whining, no endless meetings discussing the appropriateness of naming the whole facility vs. a feature of the facility, and on and on and on like with Town Square.   Not the  ConocoPhillips concession stand within Kincaid Stadium, no distinguished plaque thanking them for their contribution… they got the whole enchilada.  Apparently $500,000 is enough to buy you advertising for the rest of eternity with no controversy whatsoever.  The entire project will cost $10 million, but footing 1/20th of the bill will suffice to have the ConocoPhillips corporate logo branded on the thing in perpetuity so future generations can enjoy it.

Kudos to the two lonely souls who stood up in front of the Assembly and said “bad idea”.  And 1/2 a kudo to Mike Guttierez for suggesting that the naming be reviewed in 15 years, and subject to change if we don’t like it any more, or if we have another oil spill, or if their CEO is convicted of bribing our legislators…you know, stuff like that.  This type of forward thinking would have saved us from the “Ted Stevens International Airport”, don’tcha think?

Matt Claman Against Recycling?!?

19 05 2008

What the….??? I did a big fat double-take when I heard that Matt Claman, new assembly chair was siding with the likes of Dan Coffey (ex chair), Chris Birch, Jennifer Johnston and Debbie Ossiander to delay voting on recycling in Anchorage schools. It just didn’t compute that Matt Claman, ex-chair of Alaska Center for the Environment, and someone who has been working for recycling for so long pulled a switcheroo. That’s SO last Assembly.

So, a bunch of bewildered and slightly ticked-off recyclers yesterday asked, “So what do you have to say for yourself?!” Here it is from the horse’s mouth.

“I will give my 100% support to a city-wide recycling program that is sustainable and economically viable. I am pleased that the Assembly approved the curbside recycling plan for Solid Waste Services by a unanimous vote on May 6, 2008.
Features of the city-wide recycling plan before the Assembly include school
district-wide recycling and additional drop-off sites in South Anchorage, East
Anchorage, and Eagle River. At our May 20 meeting, the Assembly will decide whether to address the city-wide recycling plan as early as June 10, 2008. Implementing a school district-wide recycling plan is a major policy change for the Anchorage School District. I believe Anchorage residents want the School Board to approve the plan before the Assembly makes its final decision on the same plan.
At the same May 6 meeting, I was surprised to learn that the Anchorage School Board
had not approved the school district recycling plan proposed by the Administration. Even though the Administration has been working on a recycling plan for two years, they have not coordinated their proposal with the School Board. Superintendent Carol Comeau has confirmed that she supports sustainable and economically viable recycling in all 100 school facilities. Superintendent Comeau is optimistic that the School Board will be able to consider a district-wide recycling plan at its meeting on June 9, 2008.
I encourage all recycling supporters to attend the School Board meeting on Monday, June 9. I am optimistic that the School Board will approve a recycling plan on June 9. I am hopeful that the Assembly will be ready to address that plan at our meeting on Tuesday, June 10.”

So there you have it. Sounds like Anchorage recycling advocates need to have a double-header the second week of June. I know you’re weary, but the end is in sight. Don’t let the Assembly off the hook on June 10th, (especially if you want new drop-off sites in East Anchorage, South Anchorage and Eagle River) but perhaps more importantly, show up at the School Board meeting on Monday, June 9th. If the School Board approves the plan and it dies in the Assembly, they’ll have some splainin’ to do.