Opinion

BROWN'S CLOSE: Canceling Summer

As we look forward to what promises to be an unusual back-to-school season, we can reflect on what was certainly a unique summer. 2020 proved the summer of canceling, and on both sides of the political aisle. In May, Mat-Su School District attempted (unsuccessfully) to cancel The Great Gatsby, I know Why the Caged Bird Sings, The Things They Carried, Invisible Man, and Catch-22. Since then, progressives have taken up the canceling mantle; they attempted (successfully) to cancel Woodrow Wilson, Cops, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Teddy Roosevelt, Kriner’s Diner, and, for a hot minute, Gone with the Wind. Hamilton and Mount Rushmore still await their fates.                         For the free speech advocates out there, cancel culture is a threat. For those of us harboring dictatorial tendencies, however, it’s an opportunity. I hereby participate in cancel culture, seize complete power, and you all can consider the following books, movies, and other entities officially banned: Iron Man, sometimes known as Tony Stark: He’s too beloved. I cancel him first as a show of my power. Les Misérables: Thanks to Broadway and Hollywood, this story is well-known. Those of you who did not read the unabridged version in 10th grade English, however, missed all of the real misery found in “The Miserable Ones.” The novel is overly long – nearly 1,500 pages. A significant portion of these pages bear no resemblance to a plot. For example, there is a 100-page tangent describing the Battle of Waterloo in detail. The battle takes place well before any incident in the story and has absolutely no impact on subsequent events. There is yet another 100-page tangent on the history of the Parisian sewers. The first 100 pages of the novel take a deep dive into the background of a character who appears early in the book and is never seen again. Finally, central, beloved character, Fantine, croaks on page 200, making it through just over 10 percent of the page count; realistically, Fantine has an outsized influence on pop culture, considering just how little of the story she endures. To this day, I resent the fact that we read this particular opus, as opposed to say, a different Victor Hugo vehicle. If we really must, why couldn’t we read The Hunchback of Notre Dame, at a tightly paced 900 pages?  And why, oh why, did we have to read such a massive, meandering, French novel in a class entitled, “English Literature?” Martin Van Buren: As a gal who prefers more of a clean cut look, I find Van Buren’s choice of hair stylings personally offensive. I am triggered by all photos of his shaggy, shaggy locks. Game of Thrones: I’ve tried. I’ve tried twice. Both times I made it through Season 1, Episode 5. I’ve never felt the need to go back for Episode 6. I tuned in for the last season just to triple confirm I wasn’t missing out on anything. Confirmed.             And while we are at it— Dragons: All images, iconography, or other interpretations of dragons must go. Their fire breathing ways are out of touch with our currently warming planet. The Gatekeepers: Every year in high school, we read a requisitely depressing bit of non-fiction. The Hot Zone, Nickle and Dimed, Fast Food Nation, Into the Wild, and Into Thin Air to name a few cheery tomes. The Gatekeepers was about how unlikely it is any student will be accepted into the college of his or her choice. As an anxiety prone eleventh grader who lived my life under intense self-imposed grade-related pressure, my school telling me I was never getting into college was not psychologically beneficial. Given the Great College Admissions Scandal of 2019, I hazard a guess this academic mania has only increased in the last 15 years; ambitious young zealots are being driven to further extremes by their teachers telling them they will never amount to anything. Oh, the Places You’ll Go: The fact that children are being taught they can go anywhere in life except to their first-choice college is cruel. Dune: Locations are called names like, “The Minor Erg.” I’m out. Zachary Taylor: For such a tough guy, his death was unceremonious. He was taken out by food poisoning courtesy of a bunch of cherries and a glass of milk. Such a weakling must be struck from the annals of our glorious history. Puppies: The intrusive little buggers steal all of the attention at parties when people should otherwise be listening to me with rapt, undivided, attention. Romeo and Juliet: Talk about your teenage hormones. The cringe inducing moments were augmented when my teacher specifically called on me to read the sexy bits aloud during English class. We did get to watch the 1968 film version after we finished reading the play. Juliet has a topless scene. That got the ninth grade’s attention. Any book where the protagonist speaks at length about his or her changing body. Given the oodles of media I’d leap at the chance to ban, I look forward gleefully to my career with the FCC. Sarah Brown sometimes goes by YDL (“Your Dear Leader”). Should you care to reach her, prostrate yourself on the floor, and summon her politely at [email protected], and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.

OPINION: Rule of law takes partisan turn under Berkowitz

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz says the U.S. is a “failed state” and “pathetic” when it comes to its response to the coronavirus. He should know what a failed state looks like. Berkowitz drives through one every time he travels between his office at City Hall and the Assembly headquarters in Midtown at the Loussac Library. But don’t blame what you see on Berkowitz. Nevermind the hopeless population fighting, drinking and drugging, having sex, panhandling and passing out on the main thoroughfares of Anchorage, in the parking lots of vacant buildings and taking over new territory in the shadows of businesses ordered to vacate for at least four weeks. It is all partisan politics. Oh, and racism. When it comes to enforcing the law, Marshal Berkowitz means business. Just ask Andy Kriner. After more than five years of allowing duly passed and ratified laws to be flouted across wide swaths of Anchorage, what finally spurred the mayor to take a hardline stance was a handful of people defying his personal order to stop serving pancakes and burgers inside their small diners. Far more important to Berkowitz was showing these uppity families who is boss than pausing to consider whether his latest emergency order went too far by shutting down diners like Kriner’s and Little Dipper while allowing large-scale socializing inside tents or on patios. In the space of less than a week the mayor showed more interest in the rule of law than he has since taking office by issuing stop-work orders, fines and finally a trip to state Superior Court to pursue injunctions against the most peaceful protests this country has seen all year. By every metric in the municipality’s own police budget document, besides the rising tide of homelessness this mayor has presided over increases in crime, sexual assault and homicide. After ranking better than its population-sized peer group in the federal Uniform Crime Report statistics for the entire decade before he took office, Anchorage now trails the pack. In the 10 years before Berkowitz was elected, Anchorage witnessed more than 20 homicides just twice, in 2006 and 2007, and in the six years of his predecessor Dan Sullivan murders averaged 17.5 per year with just one to three unsolved cases annually from 2009 to 2014. The mayor’s lowest number of homicides was 27 in his first year and then averaged 33 over the next four including the all-time record of 38 in 2016. Not only did homicides nearly double on an annual basis from 2016 to 2019, the average rate of unsolved homicides grew from 2 to 9 per year. After five years of increasing sexual assault rates under Sullivan, from 108 per 100,000 in 2009 to 126 in 2013, that rate declined to 116 in 2014 and 2015. The rate has shot up under Berkowitz, from 116 per 100,000 in his first year to 150, 133 and 158 from 2016 to 2018, with the last year of data representing a 36 percent increase from 2015. As the sexual assault rate increased, the already anemic arrest rate has been less than the last year of Sullivan in all but one year since. More crime. More homelessness. More homicides and more unsolved cases. More sexual assaults and fewer arrests. This cannot be hung on the necks of the Anchorage Police Department. This is the product of the left’s laissez-faire attitude toward petty crime that is proven time and again to result in increases in major crimes like murder and sexual assault. And it comes from the top down. Because the mayor and his equally arrogant allies on the Assembly wave away every protest as political and/or racist, they cannot fathom another reason why residents would line up at diners to show their support or refuse to put their trust in their elected employees who have repeatedly failed and have now commandeered CARES Act funds with no assurance the purchase of properties for homeless services is even legal, let alone a good idea. Just last July after Gov. Mike Dunleavy sent shockwaves around the state with hundreds of millions in budget vetoes, including to homeless services he asserted should be paid for by local governments, a massive tent city protest sprung up on the Park Strip. After being shooed gently away from Berkowitz’s Downtown backyard following a friendly visit to the site by the mayor himself, the protest designed from the outset to be flagrantly illegal was allowed to settle in for more than a month at Valley of the Moon Park. Berkowitz indulged the protesters for weeks at Chester Creek until finally issuing a 10-day abatement notice. On consecutive nights before the campers finally moved on to Cuddy Park, a suspect believed to be the same man attempted sexual assault against two different women at the park. Nobody was taken to court. No fines were issued. The 10-day notices kept up and the camp kept moving around at will despite the mayor’s own declaration of emergency that he has shown no hesitation to wield against people like Andy Kriner. The difference, of course, was that the illegal campout was a protest against Dunleavy. Or would that be too partisan to notice? Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Steps necessary to open schools this fall

As Alaskans enjoy the later part of an unusual summer, attempting to dipnet for sockeye salmon, strategize hunting trips for caribou and moose, and simply enjoying everything our beautiful state has to offer, there is something missing as we prepare for fall. Soon, tens of thousands of young Alaskans will not be attending school in person this August, all because of COVID-19 and Alaska’s increasingly skyrocketing infection rate. At the start of this pandemic, families struggled to make unprecedented transitions from in-person classes to distance learning. We may never know the full impact missing those last few months of classroom instruction will have on our kids. Still, the growing body of evidence is clear: Children need to be around their peers, have direct access to an in-person teacher, and, in too many cases, simply have access to consistent nutrition. So now the question thousands of Alaskans are struggling with is, “How do we reopen schools so our children do not fall behind, or even worse, never receive the education they deserve?” The answer clearly starts with leadership. From the President down to local leaders. First, we have to provide adequate funding so our schools can reopen safely. Congress is currently debating another relief package, part of which includes education funding. Education leaders across the country are pressing for $140 billion of nationwide assistance to achieve outcomes and increase safety precautions. If we want to reopen our schools, we need to guarantee job safety for our teachers and support staff, protection measures for our families, and ensure every child’s health is safeguarded. But it is not just funding increased safety protocols for our schools; it is how we all live our day-to-day lives in our communities that will allow us to reopen schools. Local communities must do more to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It’s not just establishing prudent public health mandates, but each one of us has a responsibility as well. Local communities have the ability to slow the spread of COVID-19 if simple protective measures are put in place and followed. We’ve done this before. By canceling large gatherings of people, closing and limiting access to high-risk establishments, and following travel restrictions, we were able to slow the spread of COVID-19. Alaskans need to follow these guidelines and restrictions, including wearing a mask whenever social distancing is not possible. Until a vaccine is developed, these are the tools we have to prevent the continued uncontrolled spread of COVID-19 and to ensure we can reopen schools later this year. The state has a role which it cannot abdicate. Gov. Mike Dunleavy must issue a statewide mask mandate and re-enact stricter social distancing mandates. Many national corporations and local businesses understand the effectiveness of masks and have issued mask mandates for patrons entering their place of business. The state should consider reverting back to some of the health mandates that were issued this spring that effectively slowed the spread of COVID-19. We saw a direct correlation of increased infection cases once the health mandates were lifted. Threats from Washington of holding back funding if schools do not reopen in-person is unacceptable and only politicizes this pandemic. That is not the leadership we, especially our children, deserve. Because we aren’t getting it from Washington, we all have to step up and lead and do our part. To move our economy forward, parents need to work, and kids need to go to school to learn. It takes all of us to realize the situation we are in and take necessary precautions to protect ourselves and our community. We all want to have the best for our children, but if we do not change our behavior now, they will lose opportunities. If you don’t feel the need to take measures to protect yourself, do it for the generation of Alaskans that come after you. ^ Tom Begich represents District J in Anchorage.

OPINION: Anchorage CARES plan doesn’t care about small business

If there was any doubt that Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and the Anchorage Assembly don’t actually care about saving small businesses being destroyed by a combination of the pandemic and their onerous and arbitrary mandates, their plan to use $156 million in CARES Act funds confirms it. The muni released the plan on a new website Aug. 10, just a day ahead of the Assembly’s scheduled vote and it is a veritable laundry list of special interest carve-outs, liberal priorities and items that appear to run afoul of federal rules on how this money can be spent. On the same day that the “Anchorage Economic Resiliency Task Force” published an op-ed calling on the governor to save the city’s hospitality industry that is being crippled by the mayor, we learned that the Assembly plan allocates a mere $7 million out of $156 million in CARES Act funds despite their claim that “no group or industry has been impacted by COVID-19-related closures like local bars, restaurants and the like.” Among the authors is the mayor’s wife, Mara Kimmel, which solves the mystery of why Gov. Mike Dunleavy is scolded about his “moral obligation” to help this industry while Berkowitz is not. Let’s review some of the more egregious examples of spending while small family-owned diners are forced into the untenable position of trying to defy the mandates or accepting defeats that may result in the end of their business forever. • Public lands jobs program: $2 million • Renewable energy job training program: $1 million • RuralCAP weatherization program: $2.5 million • Visit Anchorage remarketing program: $2.6 million • Nonprofit stimulus: $3 million • Cultural pillars stabilization program: $3.5 million • Arts and culture stabilization program: $2 million • First responder payroll reserve: $21 million • Proposed property acquisitions for homeless services: $12.5 million Do any of these proposed spending items reflect the Task Force assertion that “the city’s needs already outpace the relief it has received from the State of Alaska”?  Just last week, the Mat-Su Borough appropriated $13 million into a business relief fund and another $9.9 million for individual relief. Out of its $37 million in CARES funds, the borough dedicated nearly 62 percent to businesses and individuals. A large chunk went into purchasing laptops and other equipment to allow borough employees to work from home, which is also an appropriate use of the money. If Anchorage followed the same formula as the Mat-Su Borough, rather than Christmas-treeing its plan with a wish list of the well-connected members of the municipal elite, there would be more than $96 million set aside for businesses and individuals. That would certainly alleviate the need to shame the governor for not doing enough to help. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Ranked-choice voting should be voted down

Every lieutenant governor of Alaska I’ve known takes his or her role overseeing elections very seriously. Impartial, crystal-clear election rules are vital to our democracy. We should not be bamboozled by a proposal — set for the November ballot — that would deny political parties the ability to put forward a candidate, and totally confuse the process for the rest of us as voters. A national voting fad has made its way to Alaska this November, by way of ranked-choice voting in Ballot Measure 2. It would eliminate party primaries for a free-for-all. It would create confusion at the polls. It potentially would render a person’s vote not to be counted. As a former Lt. Governor of our state with experience overseeing elections, I join leaders of all political parties urging Alaskans to vote this proposition down. Imagine a situation where candidates of the Libertarian Party, the Green Party, the Alaska Independence Party, even perhaps the Republican and Democratic parties are, after a wide-open primary, not even allowed to appear on the general election ballot. Only four candidates would make it to a general election ballot, in a state that usually has five or more parties. Thus, Ballot Measure 2 restricts our civil right to associate and form a viable party. Sounds hardly constitutional or fair. I’ve worked with Libertarian, Green, and Alaska Independence Party elected officials during my career, and we already make it tough — perhaps too tough — for newer or “smaller” parties to put a candidate forward in a general election. I’ve run in three Republican primaries myself and seen times when several candidates in my party’s contest drew more votes than all the other parties combined. In a highly contested primary situation, with a single candidate in another party, it’s possible that party’s choice doesn’t even make it to the November ballot. Far more people vote in general elections. Primaries should narrow a party’s choice of people, not the peoples’ choice of parties. The “ranked-choice” part of this proposal comes later, during the general election. If no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes, then the candidate with the least number of votes is dropped from the ballot, and those who had that candidate as their first choice get their second choice counted instead in a re-tally. This continues until one candidate is declared the winner. Simple? Hardly. This proposed form of voting is so complex, in fact, that when Maine implemented it in 2016, officials needed a 19-page instruction manual for voters to explain it. Other states have found that ranked-choice voting leads to some voices not being fully heard in the political and electoral Studies on ranked-choice voting have shown that minority groups, voters with less education, older voters, and those whose first language is not English are less likely to fill out their ballots completely. With ranked-choice voting, when people leave blanks on their ballots or assign the same ranking to different candidates, those ballots can be discarded in the subsequent and final tabulations. This means that their vote may not be counted, creating what is otherwise known as “exhausted ballots.” This process gives those who fully complete their ballots more influence over the electoral process, and leaves those who don’t understand the process more likely to be disenfranchised. Another problem with ranked-choice voting is there is not always a majority winner. In one extreme case, the prevailing candidate in a 2010 San Francisco election won less than 25 percent of the total votes. While this is not always the case with ranked-choice voting, a non-majority winner is a possibility that occurs 61 percent of the time, according to research done by the Maine Policy Institute. As a final warning about the ranked-choice voting scheme, multiple jurisdictions in the U.S. have implemented and later repealed ranked-choice voting. These include the state of North Carolina; Burlington, Vt.; Aspen, Colo.; and Pierce County, Wash. While the voters in these jurisdictions may have had varying reasons to repeal ranked-choice voting, one thing is clear: voters preferred their traditional voting method of “one person, one vote” over the convoluted ranked-choice system. There is no denying the importance of voting, nor the importance of keeping elections simple and accessible for every eligible voter. Unfortunately, while proponents of Ballot Measure 2 make it sound easy, ranked-choice voting is confusing, runs counter to the democratic process, and disenfranchises voters. All eligible voters in Alaska deserve to have their ballots counted and their voices heard. Adopting ranked-choice voting will accomplish the opposite. Mead Treadwell served as lieutenant governor of Alaska from 2010-14.

OPINION: Berkowitz inspires a revolution he can’t embrace

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz isn’t a big fan of Van Hale right now. Safe to say Hale is no fan of Berkowitz, either. On Aug. 3, the day that the mayor once again shut down bars and restaurants, Hale’s trademark sign outside Van’s Dive Bar on Fifth Avenue had a message: “Berkowitz is a Dick Tator “Hell yeah, brother!” Berkowitz’s heavy-handed decision to deal a potential death blow to scores of small businesses across Anchorage sparked a resistance and the first real civil disobedience from otherwise law-abiding folks who have largely gone along with the mayor’s mandates. A crowd of people well in excess of his arbitrary limit on gatherings of no more than 50 people popped up to protest on Aug. 3 at the Loussac Library where the Assembly meets to regularly rubber stamp the mayor’s actions. Kriner’s Diner did not close and defied a stop work order delivered by municipal employees on Aug. 4. A bartender at Jens’ Restaurant started a petition opposing the shutdown that was rapidly nearing 4,000 signatures out of a goal of 5,000 as of midday on Aug. 4. Not only did Berkowitz decide to shut down bars and restaurants on July 31, he did so without even a proposal for a relief plan despite the municipality having received more than $150 million in CARES Act funds four months ago. While the state has had its own issues with its business relief grant program thanks to the rushed nature of its approval at a time when the Paycheck Protection Program had run out of money, the municipality is not encumbered in any way to provide help to the businesses ordered closed by the mayor. Here is the guidance for eligible uses to distribute the millions of dollars now in possession of the mayor and his merry bunch of marionettes on the Assembly: “Expenditures incurred to respond to second-order effects of the emergency, such as by providing economic support to those suffering from employment or business interruptions due to COVID-19-related business closures.” And: “Expenditures related to the provision of grants to small businesses to reimburse the costs of business interruption caused by required closures.” That is about as clearcut as it gets. In his typical buck-passing fashion that he regularly exhibits when it comes to the humanitarian crisis of homelessness that has exploded on his watch, Berkowitz is pointing his finger at the state and federal government rather than admit he has come up with no plan to aid the businesses he is closing down. While the governor may well need to call the Legislature to a special session to amend the state relief program, he is not the one who is shuttering businesses across the state. Berkowitz has stamped his feet repeatedly asserting his local superiority to go further than state mandates, yet when it comes to mitigating the consequences of his power grabs he tries to blame others. Nor has anyone on the Assembly proposed a plan to use the $150 million to aid small businesses as the lame duck mayor cripples them. While the mayor and his allies dither over virtual town halls to talk about plans, and after they wasted weeks with the only plan they have come up with to spend $22.5 million of the CARES Act funds on shelter and treatment facilities, paychecks are running out and rents are coming due. Berkowitz didn’t wake up on July 31 and decide to shut down a huge swath of the Anchorage economy. He had months to craft a relief plan and has done nothing except come up with a legally questionable use of CARES money to address a problem that entirely predates the pandemic. Here’s the federal guidance for using CARES funds on homeless services: “Expenses for care for homeless populations provided to mitigate COVID-19 effects and enable compliance with COVID-19 public health precautions.” That would mean the temporary shelters at the Sullivan and Ben Boeke areas are well within a proper use of the funds. Buying four properties to deal with issues the mayor and Assembly have neglected for years hardly seems to qualify, yet this administration is plowing ahead with it while leaving small business owners to suck it up. The mayor certainly had no such concerns about large gatherings or risks of transmission when he attended a June 6 protest of more than 1,000 people at the Park Strip and praised everyone in attendance. “I look out and I see a crowd full of revolutionaries, and it makes my heart glad because more than 200 years ago this country was founded on a revolutionary idea that all would be created equal and treated equally. “If you want change, you have to change the future.” Judging by the early response to the mayor’s decision to not treat everyone equally, a growing number in Anchorage are willing to take him up on his challenge. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

OPINION: Anchorage officials want carrots, public gives them the stick

Don’t get a tattoo. Wear your mask. Don’t go out (especially after midnight). Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has eagerly accepted the mantle of parent-in-chief and admitted as much to KTUU in a July 1 interview after he announced his municipal mask mandate on June 26. “Nobody likes eating vegetables either,” he said, “but sometimes you have to be told to do the right thing because it’s the right thing.” Notwithstanding how the vendors of the weekly Anchorage farmers’ markets may feel about the mayor knocking their products with his glib take, what we have learned since lockdown and hunker down orders started being issued in March is that law-abiding people are quite easy to boss around. Business owners will shut down at the risk of losing their livelihoods rather than risk losing their licenses. Shoppers will don a mask in order to make their Costco run. Students will forgo once-in-a-lifetime graduation experiences. Families will give up funerals, weddings and church services. In short, we’ll eat our damn vegetables. But when it comes to the people in Anchorage who most need help, who desperately need to be told to do the right thing, the mayor has been quite unwilling to even suggest a switch from a sugar-based diet to sprouts and salads. While the coronavirus is concerning, homelessness has become a full-blown humanitarian crisis under this mayor’s watch. Berkowitz can attempt to deflect blame as much as he likes to the federal government, the pesky ACLU or the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, but the heartbreaking scenes of daily life in Anchorage are on him and his supermajority of allies on the Assembly. The mayor is closing out his six years in office with an attempt to convert $22.5 million worth of CARES cash into campuses he claims will curb the rampant problems of vagrancy, larceny, loitering, littering and public intoxication that are plaguing the municipality. Before moving on, lest this skepticism be interpreted as callous, or worse, racist, Anchorage does need infrastructure to care for those who cannot care for themselves. Although the locations can be debated, and the NIMBY impulse will always run strong, we need additional space for addiction and mental health treatment, as well as temporary and transitional housing for those who need a hand up and not a handout. However, this mayor and the majority of this Assembly have earned absolutely zero confidence they can be trusted to execute a successful strategy even were they able to bypass the Planning and Zoning Commission or avoid a federal audit for using economic aid funds to fix their failures that were the norm long before the new normal. Meet the new normal, same as the old normal. Nobody should believe anything will get better if the mayor gets his way. Not after more than five years of essentially unchecked authority in Anchorage until five days of overwhelming opposition that proved the public has well and truly had enough. If the rest of us can be forced to stay home, stay closed or stay covered for our own good, then surely the same logic applies to those who have long lost track of what is good for them whether from mental trauma or hopeless addiction. Until a plan includes enforcing the law, we will never identify and separate those who need help, those who want help and those who just want to help themselves to whatever isn’t nailed down. Mental health care is a huge challenge and we can look no further than the disaster at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute for evidence. Mandatory in-patient addiction treatment for chronic violators will likely require statutory changes at either the state or local level. Securing neighborhoods where treatment facilities are sited will require resources, but if bars ever get to resume normal business we have an alcohol tax for that. Those are major obstacles to overcome, and the mayor has squandered five-plus years to clear them, but doing so is critical to receive public support. Eating your vegetables can’t all be carrots. The mayor and the Assembly are going to keep getting the stick until they figure that out. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

BROWN'S CLOSE: Groundhog Days

There is a Facebook prompt going around that brought me a welcome respite from the otherwise angry political, mask, and/or election messages. “Can you describe your favorite movie in as boring a way as possible?” Responses were admirable: “A group of short men spend a long time walking. They end up throwing away a piece of jewelry.” (The Lord of the Rings) “A teenage boy doesn’t want to go to school, so he picks up his girlfriend and hypochondriac friend, and they drive around Chicago.” (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) “A number of people go to an amusement park where the attractions are not working as intended. The power goes out, and after a day or so the people leave.” (Jurassic Park) “A woman falls for her boss and his kids. They go for a hike.” (The Sound of Music) And my personal contribution – “A guy drives south and is arrested for murder. He’s saved by his cousin.” (My Cousin Vinny) This got me thinking. In a year where every day seems to be a repetition of the previous day (Groundhog Day), why don’t we reflect on our daily activities in as exciting a way as possible? For example, my days were always action packed, and COVID-19 has only heightened the mayhem. The day starts when I bound down the hallway, fire up my computer, and glance through my work emails. There is an offer for me to appear in CEO Today Magazine, for the scant price of 1,500 British pounds. This is the fifth such offer in two weeks. I am not a CEO, and I am not British. My gaze shifts to one of my many other browser windows currently open, where I read about the recent Twitter hackings of high-profile accounts. Such victims include former President Barack Obama, former Vice President Joe Biden, probable 2020 President-elect Kanye West, and likely alien Elon Musk. I am elated I have not yet fallen victim to Twitter Hacker, Cozy Bear, or his associate, Fancy Bear. Fancy Bear is now what I call my mother when I wish to annoy her. An Outlook Calendar Reminder pops up; it’s Five-Minutes-to-Zoom. I dial in, and am admitted to a meeting with other industry professionals around the nation. One company’s representative does not realize his mic is on. He is speaking to someone off camera. “Go in the corner and clean up that poop. That poop. That poop there in the corner. We can’t have this place looking like a garbage dump.” His pets, presumably, were at it again. At noon, I step onto my front porch for a breath of fresh air. My neighborhood is often a source of whimsy, and today is no different. One of my neighbors is painting bloody handprints across the front of her house. She completes this pastiche with a giant red “X” on her front door, and then drags a seven-foot-tall red-rimmed cross for display next to the street. A line of cars starts to congregate outside of her house. The neighbors all get out to gawk at her handywork, and whisper to each other. A middle-aged woman on a bicycle wearing a helmet and backpack begins taking frantic photos from the opposite side of the road. The posse of neighbors confronts the woman. While her initial reaction is to shout back at them in an even louder voice, she eventually recognizes she is outnumbered. She backs down and drags the cross back into her garage. She leans it gingerly against the wall, and then hurls the entire contents of her municipal garbage can out onto her front lawn and into her driveway. In a final crescendo, she places a giant handwritten sign in her front window. It reads, “We love.” The “o” in “love” is a smiley face. I watch the property value of my home evaporate. Chased away from the fresh air out front, I return to my home office, where I open my window. Perhaps I can enjoy the breeze from out back. I am immediately treated to the high-pitched shouting of the man who lives next door. “I am triggered whenever I watch The Shining!” (“A family moves to a hotel in the off season, but goes back to Denver in the middle of winter.”) “That’s when it happened! It was at the chalet in Switzerland when I was two! That’s why I stopped eating fruits and vegetables!” Whatever made Next Door Man forever forsake plant-based food products must assuredly be traumatic. Feeling ethically compelled to respect his privacy, I begrudgingly shut the window, and finish out the day working in a stuffy, hot room. At the close of the workday, I sit on my couch and look for something to watch on television. Crimson Peak is running (“A girl falls in love with a guy and moves to his house. The house is condemned, but she gets some help from its prior residents”). I stare at the screen hypnotically until the credits roll.  That night, I have a number of nightmares about living in a sinking house in the middle of nowhere. In one dream, I wander around the house, watching red matter seep out of the walls. I don’t really panic, however, until I put all of my clothes into one of the house closets. I am unable to locate the closet again, and thereby lose all of my clothes. I wake up sweating, and turn on the fan in my room. It was a thrilling day indeed. Sarah Brown is a folk hero. She can be reached at [email protected], and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.

FISH FACTOR: Alaska’s top export omitted from federal trade data

Most Alaskans are surprised to learn that seafood is by far Alaska’s top export, the source of the state’s largest manufacturing base and its No. 1 private employer. More surprising is that those simple to find facts are not included in the official trade sheet for Alaska provided by the office of the U.S. Trade Representative, or USTR. The information on the USTR website, for example, incorrectly claims that petroleum and coal were Alaska’s top exports in 2018. But seafood has been state’s top export by far for decades. “Seafood comprises over half of Alaska’s annual export value, averaging $3.3 billion annually over the past decade, averaging $5.6 billion from 20170-2018,” reports the Resource Development Council for Alaska on its fisheries page. The USTR states that “Alaska goods exports in 2016 (latest year available) supported an estimated 37,000 jobs.” Wrong again. Alaska’s seafood industry alone supports nearly 60,000 direct jobs and an additional 10,000 secondary jobs. And as the RDC points out, “seafood processing is the largest manufacturing sector in Alaska, accounting for 70 percent of Alaska’s manufacturing employment.” But the federal trade reps have a different take. Under the USTR category Made in America Manufacturing Exports from Alaska and Jobs, it states: “Other top manufacturing exports are transportation equipment ($68 million), food &kindred products ($23 million), computer &electronic products ($23 million), and machinery, except electrical ($23 million). Who knew?! For the category “Agriculture in Alaska Depends on Exports,” the USTR claims that: “Alaska is the country’s 50th largest agricultural exporting state, shipping $17 million in domestic agricultural exports abroad in 2017.” Alaska’s top agricultural products listed are “other plant products” ($14 million), “other livestock products” ($1 million), followed by “feeds and other grains, processed grain products, and beef and veal” ($326,000). But Alaska is not alone in the seafood snub. A review of other states’ official trade pages shows contributions by the industry are not mentioned for fishing powerhouses like Maine, Massachusetts or Louisiana and more. And Hawaii will be surprised to learn that, according to the federal trade office, its largest exports also are petroleum and coal, although it has no reserves of either! Overall, the USTR state trade data is poorly defined, loaded with incorrect facts and figures, provides no attribution, and each page looks like a sloppy cut and paste job tossed together with no expertise or interest. Hopefully, the issue will draw the attention of Robert DeHaan who on July 17 was appointed to the Agricultural Technical Advisory Committee that covers trade in animal products. DeHaan is the Vice President for Government Affairs at the National Fisheries Institute and has worked at the senior government level in both trade and transportation. The committee advises the government on policy matters including existing trade agreements and the negotiation of new ones. “This is a great opportunity for the seafood community to have a seat at the table where trade decisions are made,” DeHaan said in a NFI press release. “I’m thrilled to be able to bring our industry’s perspective and guidance to the people in charge of trade policy.” China tariffs tank Alaska seafood It’s been two years since President Trump started a trade war with China by imposing taxes on U.S. seafood going to that country, taxes that are paid by Americans and not the Chinese, as he would have you believe. Seafood comprises more than 30 percent of Alaska’s export volume and the ongoing tariffs have added up to huge losses from our biggest trading partner. An analysis by the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute shows that exports to China reached the highest level ever in 2017, at nearly $1 billion ($988 million). By 2018, Alaska seafood exports dropped by $204 million, the largest year over year decrease ever. And by 2019, sales to China were at the lowest level since 2010 at $702 million. That’s a drop of more than $250 million in two years. During the same time, China saw a 91 percent increase in seafood imports from other nations, going from $8.1 billion to $15.4 billion. While the exact amount varies by species and product, ASMI said the average tax on Alaska seafood entering China is 38 percent. For comparison, it’s 8 percent for Norway, Russia and Canada; Chile and New Zealand pay zero seafood tax to China. There’s been explosive growth among Chinese seafood eaters since the tariffs were enacted, ASMI said, with sales jumping from $8.1 billion to $15.4 billion since 2018. But that growing appetite is being filled with seafood from elsewhere than Alaska or the U.S. Added to the trade squeeze with China, the U.S. seafood industry also continues to compete with less expensive imports from Russia. Trade data show the US imported nearly $700 million worth of Russian-caught seafood in 2019, although that country has embargoed all seafood U.S. imports since 2014. Combine U.S. trade policies that are clearly at odds with backing the seafood industry, mix in crippling and ongoing market impacts from Covid-19 and it adds up to a triple whammy for Alaska’s fishermen and coastal communities. Don’t dump your dumps Don’t be dumping your doings overboard is a message from the state of Alaska to fishing vessel operators. A letter sent out last week by the Department of Environmental Conservation reminds fishermen that it is illegal to dump sewage within three miles from shore. “It is common practice, obviously, for folks to use a honey bucket on their boat and to just throw it overboard. There is no doubt it is an ongoing practice. So, we are working to educate folks operating in our waters about the Clean Water Act. I would encourage folks to think about the water in general, think about being good stewards, and to bring that to our proper disposal on shore,” DEC Commissioner Jason Brune told KDLG in Dillingham. Dumping sewage violates the Clean Water Act and can net you a fine up to $2,000. Brune’s letter also said the dumpings damage the nearshore environment by contaminating shellfish beds and fish habitat and can spread diseases to other people. All boats with onboard bathrooms must use Coast Guard approved sanitation devices with storage tanks that are emptied at a pump station on shore or beyond three miles. Boats with honey buckets also can use the pump stations or bag style camp toilets that can be sealed and disposed of at approved collection areas. Along with the dangers of contamination, Brune pointed out that dumping sewage in nearby waters simply sends the wrong message. “We have environmental standards that we want to hold folks to,” he said, “to make sure that we’re being protective of our marine resources, of our fish and of the environment that we love here in Alaska.” Fish Board find A public records request to Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s Office of Boards and Commissions produced a redacted resume for his elusive Board of Fisheries nominee, McKenzie Mitchell. It says since 2019 she has been a professor of economics and “recreation business leadership” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, and a “contract economist for NOAA constructing market demand models for fisheries prevalent in Alaska.” Mitchell’s resume says she has been a boat captain and sport fishing guide at lodges on Kodiak Island for several years, presently at Raspberry Island Remote Lodge. She also is an assistant big game guide at Afognak Wilderness Lodge at Kodiak and Midnight Sun Safaris and Lazy J-Bar-O Outfitters at Healy. A hearing on the fish board nominees is set for Sept. 3 at 10 a.m. at the Legislative Information Office in Anchorage. Public comments can be submitted now to Rep. Louise Stutes at [email protected] Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

GUEST COMMENTARY: ‘Fair Share’ organizers will weather the economic storm. Alaskans may not.

My grandparents and their children moved to Alaska in 1964. Since then, my family has called Alaska home, and owned 12 Alaska-based businesses. My grandparents were drawn to Alaska for the increased opportunity oil finds would bring their young family. The rest of us have stayed because Alaska, with a strong oil industry, remains a land of opportunity. Alaska’s state budget, which relies heavily on oil revenues for funding, has been a point of contention for the last few years. The sudden economic impacts of the COVID-19 virus and a squabble over oil production between Saudi Arabia and Russia have caused the price of oil to plunge to less than $1 per barrel, placing Alaska’s state budget in grave peril. It is going to be a rough time in Alaska until these situations resolve, and it is anyone’s guess when that will happen. Our state’s economy depends on oil and gas production. Unfortunately, Alaska now faces pressure and uncertainty from within our own state; we must decide if we will act as a long-term partner with oil producers and reap the benefit of future decades of growth and development, or stifle future development in our state by voting for the latest oil tax ballot measure. Ballot Measure One would raise taxes on our Alaskan oil producers by 150 percent at these low prices, and by 300 percent at the higher prices we saw earlier this year. Despite this massive increase, proponents claim the measure will not hurt oil investment in Alaska. Such an assertion defies logic and flies in the face of basic economic theory. This would be true at normal oil prices, but is especially true when prices are low. To provide context for what such a tax increase would mean for a family or business, we need look no further than Ballot Measure One chair, drafter, and funder Robin Brena. Robin Brena is an owner in a company that owns about $20 million in Anchorage real estate. In 2019, Brena’s company paid the Municipality of Anchorage more than $300,000 in property taxes. Of course, as an LLC, he paid no state corporate income tax. If the city increased taxes on his company by 300 percent, he would be required to pay the city almost $1 million in additional taxes each year. Without a doubt, such an increase would change how he spends his money, how he does business, and how and where he invests. This shift would have a negative impact on the people he employees and their families, as well as the businesses that lease space in his buildings. Fortunately for Robin Brena, he can probably weather a major economic downturn in Alaska’s economy. Many Alaskans, however, cannot. We need the oil industry to thrive in order for our economy to thrive. There are many promising opportunities for Alaska on the horizon. Through significant prior investments, oil companies have made big discoveries, like the Pikka and Willow oil fields, which can provide decades of opportunity for Alaskans. Soon we may have ANWR lease sales, which will be another potential boost to our state. We cannot jeopardize generations of opportunity for Alaska families and small businesses by enacting an overreaching tax that will drive investment dollars to more competitive areas in the world. Please join me in protecting Alaska families and small businesses by voting no on Ballot Measure One. Jodi Taylor is the co-chair of OneAlaska.

Alaskans: Now is the time to explore your state

On July 2, my fella Paul and I flew down from Fairbanks to Palmer in his Cessna 170 so I could attend a brief meeting, then we continued on to Kenai. We stayed in the guest cabins at Harry Gaines Fish Camp off Big Eddy in Soldotna. We had our own space, and a large deck, where we could grill our fish and talk in the sunshine with our hosts from much more than six feet away. We told stories and exchanged smiles. The fish counts were low, but so was the fishing pressure! I have never fished the Kenai River without another boat in view up or downstream, 1991 to 2020, this was a first! We drifted all day, for two days, in peace. Mount Redoubt greeted us at sunrise. So did one jack salmon and a legal Dolly Varden. They provided a perfect lunch on the grill deck back at fish camp. We Alaskans live here because we love our state. We tell ourselves each January that this is the year that we’re getting out there. We make a list of all the places we told ourselves, and some of our friends and family, we would explore right here at home. We let our relatives know that they will need to take multiple trips because they can’t possibly see the whole state in one trip. We know our economy is partly dependent upon the tourism industry, but we feel entitled to avoid the crowds. We want our own exploration to feel individual. We want more of a wilderness experience. We want to connect with the land. We want to touch it, feel it, taste it. We want to be weary from it. We also want to support small local businesses. Well, 2020 is our year! For all the inconvenience the global pandemic has wrought, it has brought us some unique opportunities. Gas prices are low. Our schedules have largely been cleared of the unnecessary overcommitments we tell ourselves we have to do. We are re-evaluating our schedules. We’re taking time to listen and be still. Some of us have had Lower 48 vacations, conferences, or house guest obligations canceled. We’re reconnecting with ourselves and our families, why not our state? We have the time and the space to explore locally. We can also do this safely and respectfully, and our small business owners are more than grateful right now. This year’s 4th of July experience on the Kenai River still has me in awe. So much so that I couldn’t help but write this article to encourage others to take advantage of what our state has to offer. Our house has already made commitments to do more of it before that wormhole closes. Opportunities are everywhere this year, take advantage of them while you can! Check ahead of time to see what is open, and how to comply with their protocols. Do you want to hike that trail, see the Sea Life Center, Large Animal Research Station, Botanical Gardens, or the Wildlife Conservation Center in Portage without others blocking your view? We may have to experience some inconveniences, such as wearing masks, paying electronically, or making reservations; but we’ll probably find a parking space, get a much more personal experience, and cherish these memories. On the river, our guide, Rick, practiced safe distancing. We were the only two people in his boat, and we had plenty of room. He was happy to guide locals. We didn’t need much instruction. He changed our tackle from farther than the end of our rods. We paid with a phone transfer. Some people say hiring a guide is expensive, that real locals don’t do it. It sure is cheaper than a boat payment, or the medical bills associated with misinterpreting the channel on the river. There were reports that boats were headed down the highway, but they sure weren’t on the water. We still caught fish. Not a record king, but we didn’t get skunked, and that’s more than I can say for 29 years on that river when it’s been crowded and raining. It was an easy day all around. The weather was perfect. We traded stories and made plans for future connections. We will never forget this trip, and we’ll probably never have another like it. Unfortunately, Alaska’s loss of tourism, and therefore fishing license sales, especially in Southeast this year, means an enormous hit to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Sport Fish. Without hunter and angler recruitment, our management professionals will be facing budget shortfalls for years to come, and that usually translates to less data, and lowered opportunity to harvest. But that’s an article for a later date. For now, take some timely advice from our late Uncle Ted: Get Out And PLAY, Alaska! Jennifer Yuhas is committed to outdoor education and conservation of Alaska’s resources. She has been involved in hunting and fishing governance and regulation at all levels since 1995 and is a supporter of Explore Fairbanks. She hopes one day to write about her outdoor adventures as well as her inspiration, Ken Marsh.

BROWN'S CLOSE: For the Love of Kanye

I love Kanye West. He is my favorite celebrity. That is, I will take time out of my day to read any news story, or watch any television clip, in which he features. Given all the cumulative hours I’ve spent researching Kanye, I know a bit about him. For example: Kanye once spoke uninterrupted on Ellen for nearly eight minutes. Topics included Picasso, bone density machines, shoes, Leonardo DiCaprio, bullying, being likeable, and the universe. He concluded by apologizing “to daytime television for the realness.” Ellen watched on the sidelines.   Kanye once asked Mark Zuckerberg to give him $50 million. Mark Zuckerberg did not respond.   Former President Barack Obama has called Kanye West “a jackass” at least twice.   Kim Kardashian suggested Kanye (her husband) hire a Board of Directors to approve his Tweets. To my knowledge, said Board was never hired.   In a ranking of 1 to 100, Kanye West once rated his own album 100.   Kanye invented leather jogging pants.   Kanye famously protested Taylor Swift’s win for the best video award at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards on stage in the middle of her acceptance speech. Following his public demonstration, he wrote her an apology song and issued a series of apology Tweets. As far as I know, while Taylor Swift did accept his apology, she never performed the apology song. He later took back all of these apologies in 2010.   I confess, I don’t know why he sometimes goes by Yeezy.   Kanye was, at one time, perhaps the world’s unlikeliest Trump supporter. The two, he said, “are both dragon energy.” Kanye has long been featured on many of my dating profiles. In the world of dating apps, conversation starters can be tricky. But Kanye has never failed me with this classic: “Who is more outrageous? Kanye West or Charlie Sheen?” Healthy, sometimes even heated, arguments would break out. Rarely would they result in dates, but they have certainly enabled me to hone my debate skills. I always knew I found a kindred spirit when they would give my question the intellectual consideration it justly deserved. “Did you know that Kanye once spoke uninterrupted on national television for eight minutes?” “That’s… just damned impressive.” “When was the last time you spoke on national television for eight minutes?” “I blacked it out.” “Ever watch the tape?” “No, it’s like when you’re drunk. Best not know what was said.” Of course, this week we all know that Kanye announced he is running for president in a scant four months. Kanye made the announcement via Twitter in a historic virtual mic drop. But, much like a mic drop, he has not quite followed through. For example, he does not appear to understand, or otherwise care, that he must file to run as president with individual states in order to appear on their respective ballots as an independent candidate. The deadline for much of this has already passed. But perhaps I’m wrong to count him out; Elon Musk has already endorsed him, along with a minister from Wyoming. Should Kanye run and presumably vote for himself, it will be his first time voting. Expected to file as a candidate for the “Birthday Party,” he recently announced that he decided to run for president while taking a shower. He went on the record as planning to use “the Wakanda management model” to run the White House. I cannot weigh in on the practicality of the Wakanda model as a leadership theory because I slept through Black Panther. I can confirm I have a storied history of falling asleep through a number of similarly loud movies, including Thor: Ragnarok, Doctor Strange, and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. And, yes, these were all on dates. I don’t know Kanye West. I don’t know whether he is a good person. I don’t know whether he is faithful to Kim Kardashian, or a decent father to his four children, North West, Saint West, Chicago West, and Psalm West. But I can unequivocally say I am glad someone like him exists, and he lives life unabashedly as himself. Sarah Brown is a narcoleptic Fan Girl. She can be reached at [email protected], and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.

OPINION: The Mayor’s required reading

On the eve of the Fourth of July, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz urged people to read the Declaration of Independence. Unlike a lot of what he tells me to do, like not be out after midnight, I looked forward to it. I always enjoy reading the Declaration of Independence. Unlike the Constitution, which is more of an eat-your-peas documentary, the Declaration is the classic summer popcorn feature arc of three acts that grabs you from the beginning and closes with a flourish. It is the freaking “Die Hard” of calligraphy and cursive on parchment. Many people quote their go-to passages as “all men are created equal” or “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.” My favorite is this: “Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” In his encouragement to read the nation’s founding declaration, Berkowitz remarked that it is a “pretty radical” document. Indeed it is, which makes one wonder if he has ever actually read it. And you know what you tell anybody who hasn’t seen “Die Hard.” They have to do it. Hours later, after using the president of the state’s hospitality industry as a hapless prop in his press conference where he paid lip service to the principles of our founding, the Berkowitz administration dropped a list of establishments from Palmer to Seward where people who have tested positive for the ‘rona have visited in a naked attempt to kill their business before a traditional weekend of celebration. His administration declared the municipality’s health capacity was at a “red light” — not for lack of nearly 1,000 hospital beds nor just one person in the state on a ventilator — but for lack of contact tracing. Berkowitz claimed that his contact tracers were so taxed and so vexed that the only way to alert the public after being unable to ID every individual who may have talked to a positive case was to burn 17 businesses and cast a cloud on every other similar operation. The move worked and owners reported their weekend traffic was off dramatically. Which brings us back to the the mayor’s reading assignment: “He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.” Good luck getting people to cooperate with contact tracers now. Anyway, Berkowitz has this authority to do whatever he wants because the absentee Assembly that Anchorage voted for with stamps won’t even rubber stamp his decisions and is too gutless to go on the record either supporting or opposing whatever the heck this lame duck does. That’s what Anchorage voted for, so we get what we deserve. Gov. Standing Tall isn’t coming to pick a fight over Mayor Dad’s overreach or the Assembly’s lack of oversight. That recalls another part of the Declaration about the executive conspiring with a complacent and complicit legislative body: “He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation.” Emergency powers and pulling agenda items without voting gives the mayor more leeway than a rubber duck in the Chena River. Berkowitz has backed off a little bit, with his administration pulling all but three businesses off the list as of July 7 — for now — and stating he doesn’t want to close down the bars and restaurants he just kicked in their sensitive areas. Whether somebody reminded him he wants to collect taxes from Long Island ice teas come Jan. 1 or that he may need some votes from his traditional supporters in Anchorage when he wants to run for governor, the fact he’s giving these businesses a reprieve isn’t exactly worthy of applause. Now to the Act 3 flourish: “In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.” Overcapitalization aside, Jefferson had a point, but I don’t expect Mayor Dad to give me any for the irony when I turn in this homework. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

GUEST COMMENTARY: Treat all industries fairly when disclosing COVID-19 cases

On July 3, the Anchorage Health Department released a list of establishments where “persons who were infectious with COVID-19 spent extended time.” Alaska CHARR finds it extremely concerning that to date, the only business types listed are those in the hospitality industry, namely bars and restaurants. It appears as if one industry — arguably that which has been most devastated by this pandemic — is being unfairly targeted, at a time when public exposure is occurring in many other types of establishments, settings, and public gatherings. Additionally, at least one business on the list reported that no advance contact or notice was made before the list was distributed to the public. Alaska CHARR has worked with state and local officials throughout the entirety of the COVID-19 pandemic to ensure that the hospitality industry is part of the solution to ending both the economic and public health crises. Last week, we teamed up with Anchorage business leaders and Anchorage Health Department, or AHD, to develop and release a recommended list of voluntary measures for hospitality members to continue practicing and/or consider implementing in order to help prevent transmission of the virus and a second shutdown of the industry. We are proud to report that many of the thousands of hospitality establishments around Alaska have already voluntarily implemented those procedures that are applicable to their businesses. Hospitality is an integral part of the Anchorage and Alaska economies, and it is vital that our respective government and health officials continue to work proactively and collaboratively with us and other business leaders to develop and promulgate consistent, effective solutions that will protect the health of our people, communities, and businesses. At minimum, the following steps should immediately be taken by the AHD and all applicable local and state government entities: 1. Equal treatment. If a government chooses to release the names of establishments where confirmed public exposure took place, then the names of all businesses where exposure occurred should be released, not just those of a single industry. 2. Immediate notification to business owners. The business owner needs to be directly (when possible) and immediately notified — prior to public release — by the health department when confirmed exposure is reported at an establishment. This gives the business an opportunity to act swiftly and assist the health department before it is inundated with calls from concerned public. 3. Consistent procedures. Procedures for how to handle, notify, and report public exposure in an establishment need to be developed and consistently executed to improve efficiency and provide clear expectations of businesses and the public. 4. More information. Businesses and the public need more information to understand what is being reported to them, including what the numbers associated with businesses mean – what constitutes an instance of “public exposure” and what doesn’t? What are the expectations of the business and the public when confirmed public exposure occurs at an establishment? 5. Support for proactive businesses. Consideration needs to be given to any proactive and reactive measures procedures being followed by each individual business, including adherence to the Alaska Hospitality Promise, enforcement of added mitigation procedures above those in current health mandates, and cooperation with public health officials when cases are reported in their establishments. 6. Additional funding for contact tracing and testing. Funding from the federal CARES Act dollars needs to be used toward additional staff and resources for local and state health departments, specifically for the purposes of conducting contact tracing and improving testing. This should be a top priority for governments. Alaska is different than other states like Texas and Florida who have shut sectors of their industries back down due to their lack of resources for contact tracing; with relatively minimal investment of CARES Act funds, Alaska has the ability to handle this on a case-by-case basis and allow businesses to remain open. “The hospitality industry is certainly willing to do our part – in the interests of economic recovery and public health and safety, many of us have been doing far more than is currently required,” said Alaska CHARR President and CEO Sarah Oates. “Through my daily communications with AHD, I have learned that many of our requests are already in the works, and I hope to see results this week. But it is also important for everyone to remember that this is a community effort. Any time you physically interact with others or enter a public place — not just a bar or restaurant — you are taking a risk. The best way the public can support businesses and your communities is to make safe, responsible, and thoughtful decisions as a patron. Please do your part so that we can remain open to serve you for years to come.” The Alaska Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailers Association is a nonprofit corporation, dedicated to serving the needs of the hospitality industry in the state of Alaska since 1964.

FISH FACTOR: Decision day approaches for Pebble mine review

The biggest red salmon run in the world is building at Bristol Bay. Up to 50 million fish could surge into its eight river systems in coming weeks, on par with past seasons. When it’s all done, the fishery will provide nearly half the global supply of wild sockeye salmon. But this summer is different. Not only due to the restrictions and fears and economic chaos caused by Covid-19. At the height of the fishery, fishermen will learn if a massive gold and copper mine that’s been hanging over their heads for two decades gets a greenlight from the federal government. In mid-July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will unveil its federal “record of decision” on the permit application by Northern Dynasty of Vancouver, Canada, to build the Pebble mine at the sprawling mosaic of headwaters that provide the spawning and rearing grounds for the region’s salmon. Three decisions are possible for the mine: issue a permit, issue a permit with conditions, or deny the application. “As Bristol Bay’s fishermen head out to the fishing grounds for the next six weeks, we are counting on Congress to protect the 14,500 workers directly employed by the commercial salmon fishery,” said Andy Wink, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “Pebble mine is a threat to Alaskan jobs, America’s food security, and a salmon resource unparalleled anywhere on the planet.” “The EPA’s own science shows that this project poses an unacceptable risk to our country’s greatest remaining wild salmon runs,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We look to Alaska’s senators for their leadership and implore the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Pebble’s permit.” Such calls for help will likely go unheard. Alaska’s two Republican senators and lone congressman have staunchly stood behind the Pebble project’s right to go through a rigorous and fair permitting process and have been tightlipped about their opinions in the meantime. Now that the process is pretty much a wrap, will they finally tell Alaskans if they are “for or agin’ it?” “Congressman Young remains committed to seeing the process fully completed, but without a finished report, there is nothing that can be commented on,” responded press secretary Zack Brown. “The federal permitting process is ongoing, and until there is a decision document to review there is nothing on which to provide comment,” said Mike Anderson, Communications Director for Sen. Dan Sullivan. Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office did not respond but she would likely express “concern.” Every survey and poll ever done has shown that a huge majority of Alaskans from all regions oppose the Pebble mine. But equivocating with constituents is the way of today’s politicians. Former Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 stated emphatically and often: “I’m not opposed to mining, but Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.” Love him or not, you always knew Uncle Ted’s stance on anything you asked him in his 40-year tenure in the U.S. Senate. Alaska’s current reps in Congress might not dare come clean about Pebble, but investors are wiping their hands of the project. Global investment banking firm Morgan Stanley, once the fourth largest institutional shareholder in Northern Dynasty, on March 31 sold 99.14 percent in its shareholdings in the project, reported the National Resources Defense Council and CNN Money. “While the reasons for Morgan Stanley’s recent sell-off are unknown, the global investment company is known as a strong proponent of the principle that environmental and social responsibility are essential to long-term investment success,” the NRDC said. That sell-off is just the latest of Pebble put-downs on a global scale. In 2011, Mitsubishi Corp. sold out. In 2013, Anglo American abandoned its partnership, walking away from a nearly $600 million investment. In 2014, Rio Tinto donated its shares to two Alaskan non-profits: Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corp. Education Foundation. In 2018, First Quantum Minerals walked away after five months from a $37.5 million investment and option for a 50 percent partnership. Also in 2018, BlackRock zeroed out its shareholdings. New York investment firm Kerrisdale Capital Management called Northern Dynasty’s plans “worthless,” “a value-destroying boondoggle,” “doomed,” “politically-impaired” and “commercially futile.” “The cash-strapped 100 percent owner’s desperate hope—its “business plan”—is that the issuance of a permit by the Army Corps will attract new investment, a new partner, or a buy-out,” the NRDC said. Despite its claims of a “smaller footprint” for Pebble, Northern Dynasty states on its website that its “principal asset, owned through its wholly owned Alaska-based U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership, is a 100 percent interest in a contiguous block of 2,402 mineral claims in southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit.” Every landslide begins with a single Pebble… Building a mine like Pebble (or Donlin) can be compared to building a new Alaska city. The “Pebble deposit” lies within a 417-square-mile claim block and will include an open pit, a 550 foot high tailings dam to hold roughly 30 billion cubic feet of mining wastes forever, overburden stockpiles, quarry sites, water management ponds, milling and processing facilities, a 188-mile natural gas pipeline from the Kenai Peninsula to the site, a power plant, water treatment plants, camp and storage facilities, and an 83-mile road along Lake Iliamna to haul the gold and copper to Diamond Point in Cook Inlet for shipment. (Based on a new “northern route” plan that Pebble opted for a few weeks ago.) The EPA said in a May 28 letter, “the discharges of dredged or fill material…may well contribute to the permanent loss of 2,292 acres of wetlands and other waters is anticipated, including 105.4 miles of streams, along with secondary impacts to 1,647 acres of wetlands and other waters, including 80.3 miles of streams, associated with fugitive dust deposition, dewatering, and fragmentation of aquatic habitats.” The tools of the mining trade - hundreds of huge, diesel-fueled bulldozers, blasters, crushers, trucks and other heavy equipment – kick up a lot of dust. The Army Corps says Pebble will generate nearly 16,000 tons of “fugitive dust” during mining and transports. When it’s blowing in the wind, the dust will carry copper and other particles to thousands of acres of wetlands and streams. “Increases in copper concentrations of just 2-20 parts per billion, equivalent to two drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, have been shown to impact the critical sense of smell to salmon which they use to avoid predators and to locate the stream in which they were spawned,” said Thomas Quinn, aquatic and fishery science professor at the University of Washington. In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that a large scale mine like Pebble would be “devastating” to the world’s biggest salmon run and to the region’s culture, and special protections were provided under the Clean Water Act. The Trump Administration abruptly removed the protections in 2017, saying the move “pre-empted the permitting process.” It also got a big push from Gov. Mike Dunleavy who has made no secrets about his support for Pebble. Alaska’s Senators and Congressman supported Trump’s move. But D.C. can now step aside. The state of Alaska will make the final decision on the mine. The Pebble applicants do not own the surface rights associated with the mineral claims and all the lands are owned by the state. Notably, the claim(s) lies within the 36,000 square-mile Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, created by voter initiative (70 percent) in 1972 as a way to safeguard salmon from large scale oil, gas and mining projects. State law requires that the final say on permitting Pebble falls to the Alaska Legislature. Fish on! The competitions’ Take Dr. Al Gross, candidate for U.S. Senate running against Sen. Dan Sullivan: “I know the developers have scaled back the scope of the mine to try to reduce the impact, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still at the headwaters of one of the world’s most important salmon runs. And I’m worried that if they start small, that at some point in the near future they’ll push to expand it. Nothing is going to change the fact that this is the wrong mine, wrong place, and even a small risk to this state and national treasure is too much.” Alyse Galvin, candidate for U.S. House running against Rep. Don Young: “Alaska is a natural resource state and mining is a key part of our economy, however, so are our fisheries. I am opposed to the Pebble Mine Project because it is the wrong mine in the wrong location and represents too big a risk to Bristol Bay, the greatest salmon fishery in the world. We need Alaska’s representatives in Washington to once again be full-throated champions of Alaska’s fisheries.” Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Don’t let China take over another vital industry

There is growing congressional interest in finally confronting China over its predatory trade practices. But while talk continues in Washington over the right policy response, China keeps picking off key parts of U.S. manufacturing, including the automotive industry. A recent Senate hearing made clear just how serious the situation has become. China is now positioned as the dominant player in the lithium-ion battery supply chain for electric vehicles, or EVs. In fact, China is so outpacing America in battery development that one witness described the U.S. as being “lapped.” Simon Moores, the managing director at Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a consultancy focused on the battery supply chain, told the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources that China has 107 battery mega-factories either operating or in the pipeline. In contrast, the U.S. has only nine, with just three currently active. Moores said that China is now bringing the equivalent of one battery mega-factory online each week. One bright spot in the U.S. has been the emergence of Tesla. But China is still far outpacing the U.S. in deployment of EVs and charging stations as well as the development of supply chains for minerals and metals needed to build EVs and batteries. By focusing on EVs and the battery supply chain, China is aiming to dominate 21st Century automotive production. We’ve seen this playbook before. Beijing overtakes an essential industry by trading profit for market share and control. For example, thanks to massive subsidies for state-controlled companies, China now produces more than half of the world’s steel. And it has even tighter control over the vital minerals and metals used to produce everything from smart phones and fighter jets to lithium-ion batteries. In fact, of the 35 minerals deemed critical to America’s economic and national security, China is the dominant supplier for 23. The U.S. cannot afford to lose the EV arms race. We should not allow assembly lines to close, and put hundreds of thousands of good-paying jobs at risk, all to benefit the false “efficiency” of offshoring. The United States must not allow more industries to be gutted and relocated overseas. And Washington should not allow China to gain even greater leverage over our economy and national security. What we need to do is to push back against China’s industrial predation, subpar environmental practices, and systemic labor abuse. We need a recommitment to industrial policies that place a premium on secure domestic supply chains, resources, and workers. Now is the moment to turn the tide to ensure industries start coming home as we rebuild the vital supply chains and manufacturing capacity that can underpin future prosperity and economic security. ^ Michael Stumo is CEO of the Coalition for a Prosperous America. Follow him on Twitter @michael_stumo.

OPINION: Karen vs. Karen

Whether you are pro-mask or anti-mask, I really can’t stand you right now. The online crusade of keyboard Karens on both sides of the dumbest debate since tastes great versus less filling is doing real damage to business owners caught in the crossfire of a battle they didn’t choose and are desperately trying to avoid as they struggle to survive a threat to their livelihoods that is far greater than the one between the armchair epidemiologists duking it out on dueling social media groups. Let’s just settle this right now. If you get online to brag about not wearing a mask, you’re a Karen. If you get online to brag about wearing a mask, you’re a Karen. If you get online to snitch on a business for asking you to wear a mask, you’re a Karen. If you get online to snitch on a business if someone isn’t wearing a mask, you’re a Karen. If you harass people for wearing or not wearing a mask … well, you should get it by now. Stop being Karens. Mind your own business, and for goodness’ sake stop trying to hurt businesses. Because whether you are pro-mask or anti-mask, the thing many if not most of these Karens have in common is nothing at risk. It costs them nothing to fire off a Facebook post telling people to boycott a business. It costs them nothing to claim how awesome they are for resisting or for complying. At a time when literally every customer counts for the small business owners who make up the vast majority of the job creators in this state, your Karening can cost plenty. We can agree that wearing masks is inconvenient for most of us, but some are making up for it generating a dopamine response by telling everyone what they think about it. We have enough to worry about without a bunch of self-deputized TSA agents running around getting into people’s health conditions or whipping out their pocket constitution looking for the amendment that says “thou shall not order me to wear a mask.” If something at a business upsets you and you just have to say something, go half-Karen and talk to a manager. There’s no need to grab your phone and tell the world about it. Never go full Karen. Think about whether your fears or your feelings are driving your actions, and if they are, either adjust your behavior accordingly or adjust your attitude. Because you’re not helping. You’re making this worse, and you’re tearing our community apart. In a polarized world it may be hard to accept that two things can be true at the same time: the virus can reach a vulnerable member of the population if people aren’t careful and ceding any amount of personal freedom to the government is an inch it will routinely turn into a mile. If it helps to relieve the justifiable personal stress of months of pandemic panic that’s been foisted upon us, there is no riper target than the federal government health experts like Surgeon General Jerome Adams or the lovable Dr. Fauci who have admitted they lied to us at the onset about wearing masks. The answer, however, is not to compound the government’s squandering of the public trust through its dishonesty over masks by turning on each other or turning each other in through Facebook groups or [email protected] Don’t be a Karen. In the interest of gender equity, don’t be a Dick, either. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

BROWN'S CLOSE: Northern Exposure

Since the onset of the coronavirus, families have lost jobs, childcare, and all semblance of schedule. Barriers are broken, boundaries eviscerated. Days bleed into one another. Friends earnestly text each other, “Happy Friday,” and then ask whether Friday is something we still celebrate. Most of my fellow Americans have given up decorum. Kids burst into the room and enthusiastically participate in client Zoom meetings. Women pick their feet and noses in the virtual presence of friends. Men pee on conference calls. All of this, I suppose, was to be expected. Societal structure evaporated overnight. I am certainly not immune. I’ve worn pants with snaps exactly four times in the past three months. Instead, I now do laundry loads consisting only of gym shorts, sports bras, and sweatshirts. I was mentally prepared for my new casual life. I’ve worked from home for several years as it is, and I live on a quiet cul-de-sac in West Anchorage. The location is perfect. I’m seven minutes from either the airport or Kincaid Park. New houses spring up regularly. There’s talk of another school someday and a fire station. Aside from jet airplanes seemingly landing on my roof every Thursday at 2:30 in the morning, it’s really idyllic. As quarantine and hunker down recommendations have persisted, however, I’ve noticed distinct changes in my neighborhood; my fellow residents have not taken well to quarantine. Unaccustomed to working from home, they have not built up the discipline to maintain societal codes of conduct during a pandemic. My first hint that something was off was on my daily stroll to the mailbox at eleven in the morning. I approached the duplex seven doors down from mine. A large man with a lot of wild hair was standing naked on his balcony holding a chihuahua under his arm. If the stark contrast of the size difference between the dog and his master didn’t complete the astounding sight, the man was attempting to flirt with the hot mom next door. She was at street level, fully clothed, walking her large yellow lab, and gazing up at him with wide, concerned eyes. “Aren’t we a funny pair?” he grinned hopefully. “I’m a big man with a tiny dog, and you’re a tiny woman with a big dog.” I hated to break it to him, but in no universe would he and the hot mom ever be a pair. I assumed this particular gentleman just had no sense whatsoever of propriety. I shrugged off the encounter as a unique story of life in my cul-de-sac. That was until the second incident: – the lady in the house across from mine began regularly parading around topless. She’s flagrant about it, leaving all of the interior lights ablaze. She lives with a baby and a husband, and neither seem to mind. I wish I could be that free. As March faded into April, April into May, and now May into June, I noticed this behavior more and more. There’s one guy who now rubs his nipples vigorously every time he mows his lawn. Another runs around outside his property in his bathrobe and underpants every week on trash day; everything from his clothes on down to his body parts flaps enthusiastically. I reached my breaking point the day the couple a few doors down threw a wild, and very noisy, party at midnight on a Tuesday. Having reached peak curmudgeon status, I pulled on my jacket and my mask, and tramped angrily down the street in my pink pajama bottoms, giant eyeglasses, and my hair teased on top of my head. The door was wide open, and I burst in. “Hey! Who owns this place?” I shouted over the music. I received glowering looks from several young women dressed in heavy eye makeup and nothing but their underwear. More guests flitted through the entryway, similarly undressed. We all regarded each other for a few moments, me in my oversized clothes, and the party goers in their undersized ones. “Sup?” One young man greeted me insolently. “Look, I have to work in the morning. I have –” I paused and spoke the word reverently. “—A job.” “Sorry, we’ll keep it down,” he muttered, and turned the stereo down three-tenths of a decibel. I clumped home, and prepared to relocate to my parents' house. Their neighbors were all over 65 years old, and had long since stopped seeing the fun in parties where all you wear is your underwear. I went up to their house the following evening for dinner, and sat outside on their deck, bathing in the luxury of peace and quiet. The only other humans around were my parents’ neighbor and her friend, both sitting in a hot tub on the neighbor’s deck. It was a hot evening, and the neighbor reached her hot tub limit in short order. She stood up, hopped out of the tub, and wiggled around the deck looking for her towel. She was completely naked, and in full view of all of the residents of my parents' street. She grabbed her towel, and began pulling it vigorously back and forth, drying her nether regions. I stared, dumbstruck, for perhaps longer than was polite. What was most perplexing however, was not the prancing naked neighbor, but her friend. The friend was dressed modestly in a bathing suit, and hot tubbing with her nude friend. I tore myself away, walked inside, and rinsed my eyes out with chlorine. God willing, COVID subsides this summer. Else, the Municipality may have to declare itself an official nudist colony. Granted, this would give me a legitimate reason to finally live out my fantasy of bunker life in Oklahoma. Sarah Brown is a Never Nude. She can be reached at [email protected], and on Twitter @brownsclose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Airlift frees old bus from tragic past, offers positive future

For decades, the 1940s-era city bus abandoned on a remote trail 25 miles west of Healy has served variously as shelter, symbol, shrine, siren song, and even a place of death. June 18 marked the start of a new chapter in the life of Bus 142. On June 18, at the request of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, a Alaska Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter removed the so-called “Into the Wild” bus from the Stampede Trail so it could be transferred to safe, secure storage while DNR considers the next step in the story of Alaska’s most famous bus. After its service with the Fairbanks City Transit System ended in the 1950s, the Yutan Construction Co. bought the now-famous bus to house employees during construction of a pioneer road between Lignite and Stampede. It was abandoned upon completion of the road in 1961, and began quietly rusting away in a small clearing on the state-owned Stampede Trail, west of the Parks Highway. Used by hunters and hikers as an occasional emergency shelter, the bus became famous after Jon Krakauer’s 1996 book “Into the Wild” and a 2007 movie of the book popularized the story of 24-year-old wanderer Chris McCandless, who, sadly, died there alone in 1992 after a 114-day stay which he characterized in a journal as an escape from the constraints of civilization. Since McCandless’ death, increasing numbers of travelers have tried literally to retrace McCandless’ steps, hiking a rugged trail in often-harsh weather and fording the Teklanika and Savage rivers to reach the bus site. While many of them have had satisfying, if uneventful, experiences, too many became lost or injured, or required rescue. Tragically, since 2010 two women have drowned during such trips, fueling public calls to reduce or eliminate the hazards. As the bus is a long-term abandoned vehicle present on state land managed by DNR, it is technically state property, and legally the responsibility of my department. However, determining what to do with the bus has required the balancing of interests. On the one hand, Alaska welcomes residents and visitors for whom the real challenges and risks of recreating in our wild areas heighten their enjoyment. On the other hand, this bus had been attracting far too many visitors unprepared for the rigors of the challenge. They were risking harm to themselves or others, requiring search and rescue teams to put themselves in harm’s way, consuming limited public resources, and in some cases losing their lives. Some voices have called for eliminating the attraction entirely by destroying the bus. Others wanted to make access safer by building bridges or improving trails. Some wanted to capitalize on its mystique, moving it to the road system as a tourist attraction. Still others wanted to see it preserved as a shrine to the kind of rugged individualism that shuns civilization’s strictures. In the end, DNR’s decision to move the bus was based on a few essential factors. First, it had become an attractive nuisance posing unacceptable risk to visitors too often unprepared for the rigors of the journey. Second, the Alaska Army National Guard graciously agreed to remove it as a way to practice its skills at rapid air-mobile movement of equipment under wilderness conditions. Third, the bus was imposing financial burdens on the Denali Borough, Alaska State Troopers, DNR and other agencies. Finally, and most importantly, we simply could not ignore that the bus was a factor in more, and more frequent, injuries, accidents and deaths. Recognizing news about the bus might reopen old wounds in the families of those who had died — and balancing that with a need to preserve the safety and integrity of the operation — as soon as the bus was on the move, I personally reached out and spoke with a member of the McCandless family to share the news, and to express my hope this action might save others from the kind of pain their families have experienced. Where time differences would have meant disturbing late-night phone calls to other survivors, my staff provided advance notice by email, and invitations to call back when convenient. As Bus 142 will likely remain a potent symbol and attractive artifact, DNR plans to keep it safe in secure storage while considering options for its long-term future, in Alaska. While we will continue to consider public input, it is my strong intent to prevent the bus and its legacy from being exploited for publicity, profiteering or any other disrespectful use. Decisions on its final disposition will reflect our responsibility for the health, safety and well-being of our residents, our visitors, and our land and resources. Bus 142 has had a long and fascinating past. By respectfully, efficiently and safely moving it, we are preserving the opportunity for this piece of history to have a long-term future as well; not only in Alaska, but also in the hearts, minds and memories of adventurers and seekers around the world. ^ Corri A. Feige is commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Time needed to ensure best use of CARES Act funds

It’s too early to ask where CARES Act funding has gone, or what impact it has had. We know the various priorities it was allocated to, each at various stages now in their distribution. What’s been common across implementation is that it takes time to design effective programs and ensure that funds meet Alaskans’ needs. That’s where most Alaska municipalities are: reviewing grant agreements and budgets, developing a common-sense plan to appropriately manage this federal assistance, and listening to local businesses and residents to learn where priorities lie. Taking on $568 million in liability is not something that local governments do lightly. There is a clear understanding that until everyone has worked through what is allowable and then what is necessary there cannot be action. Ultimately, there can’t be quick action when local governments are working carefully through federal and state restrictions on how funds can be spent. So where is local government CARES Act funding? Right now, the state has distributed about a fifth of it — and expect as much as half very soon — to nearly 100 local governments. Those local governments are very often placing these funds in separate accounts to ensure proper accounting; they are implementing separate accounting to track expenditures. Local governments are acting as good stewards, ensuring that they can report back to the state, federal government, and ultimately Alaskans, that these funds have been carefully managed. While it may not seem like there is quick action, there is definitely action. And it’s really kind of exciting to see cities and boroughs stand up to this challenge. What makes implementation of the CARES Act funding different than other types of funding is that much of it can’t simply help local governments meet their own needs. Those needs during the public health crisis include significant lost revenues, which isn’t an allowable expenditure. They are able to use these funds on some limited items that will help with public health and safety, and measures that help with mitigating the spread of coronavirus. This means that for the remainder of the funds, local governments are determining how to meet community needs. We know that many businesses are struggling or at risk of failing, an increased number of residents may be unemployed or furloughed, nonprofits may have been limited in their operations or expanded them; hospitals, schools, the university and so many other essential community assets have been impacted. Municipal officials are assessing these impacts and developing processes to distribute funds in support of keeping the lights on, at least. It’s also a time to invest in programs like childcare, food and support for vulnerable populations. Across the state we’re seeing innovative programs that are new and different to many local governments. An estimated 40 cities and boroughs will implement some kind of grant program, redistributing their funds to businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations in the community. As many as 100 more may be considering ways to help offset utility bills, providing subsidies to residents to maintain water, sewer, and electric connections. Some may be looking at working with AHFC or offering their own rent and mortgage relief programs. Municipalities are assessing barriers to reopening, including childcare, and looking at how to provide funds for those operations. There are discussions of providing incentives for face coverings, testing, and other public health compliance. Public facilities may undergo transformations so that they can operate and ensure community members can stay safe; that includes pools, community centers, city halls, and libraries. Communities may need to build or purchase facilities for quarantine or emergency operations. Yes, these will all take time to implement. But local governments are moving decisively to meet the immediate needs of residents and the overall interests of communities. It’s also true that the public health emergency isn’t over; many are preparing to be able to meet additional needs over the course of this year. There’s a common acknowledgement that while CARES Act funds won’t meet all the needs of local governments and their budgets, right now the priority is to leverage these funds in a way to meet the needs of communities. Keeping communities whole during this crisis — businesses operational, services provided, residents employed, families supported — is how we’ll measure success. Nils Andreassen is the Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal League, a service organization for 165 city and borough members. AML’s mission is to strengthen local governments. He is also a member of the Juneau Downtown Rotary, a board member of Commonwealth North, and a Commissioner at the Denali Commission.

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