AK Voices: Paulette Simpson

Paulette Simpson lives in Juneau where she has been active in Republican politics.

Not forged from the same fire - 3/26/2011 9:17 pm

Mining camp to capital city - 3/21/2011 8:12 pm

Rankings - 1/29/2011 9:43 pm

The lost (and found) boys of the Republican Party - 11/21/2010 5:50 pm

The shadow election - 10/18/2010 6:59 pm

A principled choice - 9/14/2010 6:04 pm

Reviewing National Review - 9/11/2010 5:09 pm

"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up." - 7/23/2010 3:56 pm

Not forged from the same fire

March 25, 1911 was a glorious spring Saturday in New York City’s Greenwich Village. About 600 workers at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory were just winding up the long workday sewing light cotton shirtwaists (fashionable high-necked blouses) when a fire broke out on the 8th floor. Within eighteen minutes the flames engulfed the top three floors of the ten story building.

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Mining camp to capital city

When one thinks of noteworthy Juneau pioneers, many names come to mind. But one deeply intriguing character, barely known and rarely mentioned, was recently recognized for his key role in the transformation of a remote mining camp to a capital city.

It happened last week when the Alaska Miners Association came to Juneau for their annual convention and trade show. For three days Centennial Hall was abuzz with talk of recent discoveries and expansions, rare earth elements, the price of gold and the usual discussions about the challenges of permitting and development.

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Money challenges us in two ways: Making it and then holding on to it. A state fortunate enough to boast a budget surplus in this day and age should consider whether a surplus is the end itself or if it’s a means to an even greater end.

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The lost (and found) boys of the Republican Party

A couple months ago Paul Jenkins wrote about suckers buying Joe Miller’s snake oil. So I suppose we should have expected a few venomous bites. But some of us hoped for better from high-profile Alaska Republicans.

Alaska’s GOP is an uneasy coalition and whoever has served as Party Chairman has been sorely tested keeping its “wings” flying in the same direction. Most of us who have been around Republican politics for awhile credit Randy Ruedrich with always putting the Party first, while respecting our different factions.

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The shadow election

Mark Begich’s name will not appear on the ballot November 2 but it may as well be on there. The outcome of the McAdams, Miller, Murkowski race will determine whether or not our junior senator gets promoted to the position of Alaska’s senior senator.

Imagine how swell it would have been back in high school if you could have skipped a few grades. One day you’re an unpopular freshman, then suddenly a hotshot senior with a letterman's jacket - without putting in the time, taking the classes or scoring any touchdowns.

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A principled choice

In a recent e-mail blast to Alaska Republicans, Alaska National Committeewoman Debbie Joslin, who works in Sen. John Coghill’s legislative office, said that, “Joe Miller is the people’s choice and he is the party’s choice.”

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Reviewing National Review

Yesterday, National Review Online ran an editorial asking Lisa Murkowski to quit the Senate race and endorse Joe Miller. This morning, I sent NR this letter:

Dear NRO Editors:

National Review Online’s Friday editorial about Lisa Murkowski was simply wrong. It was sloppy, backwards, and most disappointingly, not thoughtful.

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"All right, Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."

After storming off the stage at the March 2008 Republican convention in Anchorage, Joe Miller quit the Republican Party. In October 2009 he decided he was a Republican again and in April 2010 showed up as a delegate at the Republican convention in Juneau. Compared with 2008, he maintained a low profile. We exchanged pleasantries and even shared a table at the Friday night banquet.

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A skunk at the Tea Party

I view it as my public duty to explain part of the paragraph penned by former Gov. Palin in her endorsement of Joe Miller for Alaska’s U.S. Senate seat.

Said Sarah: "... (Miller) has fought alongside me and others to help clean up the Republican Party here in Alaska by bringing in new leadership, new ideas, and commitment to putting government back on the side of the people, not any political machine."

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On the trail again - literally

In late April when my friend Kathy Hosford announced she was organizing a 5-day Chilkoot Trail backpacking trip, I knew it was time to pull the pack out of the attic, break in some boots and train for the trek. Kathy and her husband Fred run the Chilkoot Trail Outpost in Dyea – seven miles outside Skagway and just half a mile from the trailhead. Fred was born in Skagway yet Kathy had never gotten around to hiking the famous route. Knowing there were others in her orbit who might be interested, she dreamt up “Chicks over the Chilkoot” for women of similar age ready to hit the trail.

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An Alaskan original

Nearly twenty years ago when Walter J. Hickel was sworn in as the 8th governor of Alaska, Hickel’s friend and former Juneau Mayor Bill Overstreet officiated at the high noon ceremony in Centennial Hall. In his introductory remarks Overstreet reminded the standing-room only crowd that just thirty years earlier at another Inauguration, President John F. Kennedy told a hopeful nation that the torch had been passed to a new generation of Americans. “Well, ladies and gentlemen,” Mayor Overstreet intoned, “they’re back.”

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Getting it Right

This week, for the first time in twenty years, the Alaska Republican Party will meet in convention in downtown Juneau. Juneau is an unlikely place to host Republicans (1,737 registered Republicans and 3,166 registered Democrats reside in District 3) but in fact, the roots of the Alaska Republican Party grow deep in Southeast. The 1900 Alaska Republican Party Territorial convention was held in Juneau. Yes, I know that Alaska wasn’t an official “Territory” until 1912, but the gathering was called a “Territorial” convention.

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Honoring an economic mandate

An online radio poll in Juneau asks respondents if “Governor Parnell should honor the wishes of voters in the State who passed the cruise ship head tax ballot initiative in 2006”.

The way that question is posed, it certainly sounds like the initiative supporters obtained an overwhelming mandate in that election. I wonder if the author of the poll question has any idea just how many Alaskan voters we’re talking about?

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Back to the future

Most people are generally aware of the graying of America. Since 1900 the total U.S. population has tripled while the number of elderly has risen eightfold. According to the Alaska Commission on Aging, for the second year in a row, Alaska has the fastest-growing senior population of the fifty states. The number of older Alaskans is increasing at a rate more than four times the national average.

The Juneau Economic Development Council reports that Juneau has aged at a faster pace than the state or the nation. At the other end of the spectrum, the JEDC tells us that Juneau’s K-12 student population is down more than 800 students from peak levels a decade ago. According to current projections, the school district will lose another 183 students over the next three years.

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Growing a more perfect union

The current Alaska Department of Labor forecast predicts only two local job sectors will grow this year: health care and government. Jobs in state and federal government agencies are expected to increase; jobs in oil and gas are projected to decrease.

An aging and ailing population that requires more medical attention and an expanding government bureaucracy are not encouraging indicators of economic strength. With less oil in the pipeline, elected officials need to explain how we’ll finance even a slight expansion of Alaska’s public sector “economy.” Most Alaskans oppose statewide income and sales taxes and don’t take kindly to tapping the Permanent Fund to feed government. Are there lessons to be learned from the experiences of other states?

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Not Evil Just Wrong

Last week the Irish filmmakers who produced a documentary to counter Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” came to Alaska at their own expense to talk about their film “Not Evil Just Wrong.” Their visit to Anchorage and Juneau came at an interesting time.

Remember, the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize was awarded in equal part to the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and former vice-president Al Gore for “their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change, and to lay the foundations for the measures that are needed to counteract such change.”

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So fill it up

On New Year’s Day an ADN editorial told us that Alaska still runs on oil. A few days earlier an ADN news story reminded readers that the Trans-Alaska Pipeline is aging. With one-third as much oil in the line as there was in the late 1980s, it now takes thirteen days instead of four for oil to flow from the North Slope to Valdez. The slower flow means the hot oil cools faster, creating a host of problems including wax and ice build-up and eventual pipe corrosion. Maintaining the pipeline is expensive and unless more crude can fill it up, eventually it will become cost-prohibitive to keep the 800 mile-long line operative. Without the ability to transport North Slope oil, most of our natural gas options may not pencil out, either.

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The long run-up

Mixed in with holiday office parties and family gatherings, the waning weeks of 2009 featured a flurry of fundraisers for candidates running in the 2010 elections. Some are running to resist the status quo, others to preserve it. Campaigns are costly and the timeframe to collect cash for the coffers is narrow. When legislative session opens, the window closes. The intensity of the year-end efforts reminds us that our democracy is strong and we can look forward to a spirited election season.

Contrary to what some people believe, elected offices are not the personal property of the current occupants. The last minute dash for cash suggests most politicians understand that voters own the seats and get to decide who can park in the spots and how long they can stay. In 2010 those decisions will be made on August 24, the date of our primary election, and November 2, Election Day. While the statewide races for governor, lieutenant governor and Congress will attract the most money and press, we’ll also decide ten state senate seats and forty state house seats. It’s not too soon to start paying attention.

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New Alaskas

Poking out of the pile of junk mail that landed on the kitchen counter was a glossy brochure that quickly passed the 3-second test. “Sail the pristine waters…” There’s that annoying word again (“pristine”) but why on earth would anyone with a Juneau zip code be interested in an Alaska cruise? Yet I read on.

“Experience an unforgettable voyage of wonder and discovery. From majestic glaciers to lush green fields, soaring mountains to rushing rivers, natural wonders abound. Discover the distinctive beauty…” No, not Alaska. Each of the three itineraries featured in the promotion included stops in Newfoundland, Greenland and Iceland as well as Norway. Terrific. Now we’re outsourcing tourism.

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What's wrong with big projects?

A letter in last week’s Juneau Empire complimented Gov. Parnell on his goal to spend $100 million per year for five years on deferred road and infrastructure maintenance. Virtually the same letter, by the same author, appeared in today’s Anchorage Daily News. It was obvious that the main point of the letter followed the initial kudos…suggesting the Governor would be wise and “fiscally conservative” to “take the logical next step” and cancel the Knik Arm Bridge and Juneau road projects.

I’m all for fiscal responsibility and like most fiscal conservatives insist that government's job is limited to a very short list of items in the public interest. Road construction, national defense and public safety are at the top of that list.

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