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Sunday, December 15, 2019
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Fairbanks — a lawsuit filed and a front-page editorial

BUDGET VETOES HAVE THIS TOWN IN A TWIST

Fairbanks is a town divided. Some residents support state budget cuts — which are coming in at 12.5 percent of the entire state budget.

Others, including the daily newspaper of the Golden Heart City, do not support the $400 million in cuts, and want a legislative override.

Former Rep. Al Vezey of the greater Fairbanks Borough may or may not be in either camp, but one thing he is clear on is that the legislative meetings in Juneau do not qualify as the second Special Session. They are simply meetings. Vezey filed a lawsuit Wednesday to ask the court for an injunction against those proceedings.

The Vezey complaint, which names House Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Sen. President Cathy Giessel, says that the two presiding officers acted in contempt of the constitutionally ordained mandate to comply with Gov. Michael Dunleavy’s executive proclamation, which set the venue for the second Special Session in Wasilla.

“The assembling of legislators in Juneau, Alaska is nothing more than a gathering of members of the legislature,” his complaint reads. “This gathering is and was instigated through the President of the Alaska State Senate and the Speaker of the Alaska State House of Representatives by virtue of their ex officio authority.”

The complaint asks the court for a declaratory judgment that the currently convened meetings in Juneau do not constitute an actual meeting of the Special Session, and that anything coming out of those meetings does not have the force of law. And it asks for an injunction, compelling Giessel and Edgmon to convene the Special Session in Wasilla, where the governor called it.

It’s an argument that judges will be loathe to involve themselves because both sides are politically motivated and have much at stake.

NEWSPAPER REVEALS ITS CARDS

Two days earlier, the Fairbanks NewsMiner published a full-page, front-page editorial titled “override.”

Conservatives in Fairbanks say that the newspaper, circulation about 9,000, has all but destroyed its credibility over this decision to turn completely political and will likely lose hundreds of subscribers with its breathless declaration: “Legislature must save Alaska.”

In fact, it is extremely rare for a newspaper to use its front page real estate to express the owner’s opinion. It would have been done only with a robust discussion of the editorial board.

But the newspaper is now owned by the nonprofit Snedden Foundation, which bought the newspaper in 2015. The Snedden Foundation’s top employees are all NewsMiner staffers, and the newspaper is the foundation’s sole business line. The Snedden Foundation will have some explaining to do to the IRS this year for its clear attempt to influence legislation by becoming a propaganda organ.

[View the Snedden Foundation’s tax filings from 2017]

The Snedden Foundation’s IRS filing in 2017 showed it does not carry on propaganda or try to influence public policy or elections.

Front page editorials are an oddity, but not without precedent. In the rare occasions they are used, they stir controversy in their communities about the appropriateness of dedicating what is considered to be “neutral space” to the newspaper’s opinion. Some examples of other newspapers that have dabbled in the practice include:

1951: President Harry Truman fired Gen. Douglas MacArthur for insubordination. The New York Journal American condemned the action on the front page.

1953: With fighting ending in Korea, William Randolph Hearst Jr. wrote “The Korean Truce” editorial on the front page of the Albany, N.Y. Times Union.

But rarely do frontage editorials take up the entire page, as the NewsMiner chose to do. It’s a huge risk for the newspaper, and harms the credibility of reporters covering the issues.

REPUBLICANS SPLIT

At a meeting of Fairbanks Republicans a week and a half ago, Rep. Steve Thompson, a Republican who now caucuses with the Democrats, took a barrage of polite but pointed criticism from his fellow Republicans for not standing with Republicans in support of the governor. His appearance at the Friday Republican luncheon was nothing short of disastrous for him and few in Fairbanks political circles think he will have the stomach to run for re-election.

Steve Lundgren, president and CEO of Denali State Bank and another Republican, testified to the House Finance Committee this week that his bank wanted veto overrides because, well, the bank is a holder of several University of Alaska bonds, and he’s worried about the value of those bonds. Unfortunately, Lundgren demonstrated that his invited expert testimony about the state budget was motivated.

Fairbanks is, in many ways a university town, and the $135 million haircut to the university budget will hit many families hard. There will be consolidation, job losses, and degree programs scrapped. Hundreds of jobs could be eliminated, and that’s of no small concern to a town that takes pride in the Fairbanks campus and has fought for it year after year, battling for supremacy over the growing Anchorage campus.

As elsewhere in the state, Fairbanks residents are taking sides, and it’s not only Democrats nicking Republicans over the budget, but someRepublicans also attempting to convince legislators to override the vetoes.

They have until Friday; after that, the budget that is signed is the budget that sticks for Fiscal Year 2020, and the university — in Fairbanks and at all the other 16 campus locations in Alaska — will need to adapt to a new reality.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Thank You Governor Dunleavy for your hard line in bringing out State back in line. I know it’s not easy but we are with you

  • Yet the News Miner does not offer any alternative solution to the massive state budget shortfall.

    • If they did, would you want to venture a guess as to what that alternative might be?

      If you guess a state income tax as well as other tax increases, I’d be you’d be right on the money. No pun intended.

  • Good Luck Daily News-Miner. I’m no tax expert but looks like you made a big mistake.

    Hey Fairbanks and the rest of Alaska: this is the perfect time to once again show ourselves – and if you care what everyone else thinks – show everyone who is watching, how we operate. Pull up your big girl and boy panties and get creative. Be smart. Be clever. Quit whining and get busy.
    .
    Get out your 10-key (yes, I’m old school), or your abacus. Figure it out. What did we do on November 30, 2018? What did we do on Good Friday 1964? What did we do on Good Friday 1989? Everybody got it done. Before you start commenting on “but we got a bunch of federal and state $$$”.. that isn’t what I’m talking about. What I am talking about is people coming together, helping each other. Reaching out. Analyzing a problem and a situation. Taking action. Making a change. How can we make this work with less? We can. We all can. I do it every single day and I’m here to stay. It’s called life my friends. Deal with it.
    .
    If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. What we’ve always done in this state is piss money away like drunken sailors (sorry sailors). Now we have created a bunch of whining crybabies that beat their fists on the tables and overtake meetings and provide zero value to the situation. Close the spigot.
    .
    The people of this great state overwhelmingly voted for Mike Dunleavy for a reason. He was always very clear on his platform. He wasn’t fake about a thing. Everyone knew what they were going to get. Now that it is here, why are they surprised?
    .
    Thank you, Governor Dunleavy.

    • Well said! We support Governor Dunleavy and are proud of our Senator Micciche and Representative Carpenter.

  • I feel that the Newspaper has every right to voice an opinion. That’s what an editorial is. Very biased article.

  • The Newsminer has had many alternative names: News Minus. Snooze Miner. That Sh**ty Little Rag. But in all my years, this was a first to see the state’s second largest daily use their entire front page to campaign for Lefties, Liberals, and Democrats. It showed obvious desperation on their part. Culprits: John Davies, who defacto ran the FNSB for 6 years and now gives orders to the UA administrative bosses. Dermot and Terrence Cole (known around town as the identical dwarfs) serve as spokespersons for the UAF and the Newsminer. An ODD assortment of radical Lefties which include Luke Hopkins, Kathy Dodge, Carl Benson, etc. have been running their agendas and blind hatred toward Republicans for literally decades. Long gone are the days when the Newsminer was considered a fair and balanced paper. The writing and editorials bear out the agenda of the Left, with a complete and expected predictability. And the writing is rather amateurish at best. This is what happens when the newspaper allows the Lefty university people and writers like the Cole dwarfs to boldly spout out their views, with virtually no competing commentary from the opposing viewpoint. Everybody in Fairbanks knows well ahead of press deadlines who and what the Newsminer is going to support. But Fairbanks is also full of independent thinkers who laugh at the little rag of the Banks. They laugh everytime John Davies is on TV. They laugh when the dwarf Coles perform another last lecture. They laugh when the UA president puts on his spectacles and speaks of doom and gloom on the hill. And they laugh at the Newsminer, which is used almost exclusively to rally Democrats to action. It’s all predictable and actually hilarious to watch. Fairbanks is supposed to celebrate transsexuality in local politics according to the Newsminer. But the town is run much more conservatively, by steady hands. Even the piper’s sports page is political, with endless reports of running and cross-country skiing events backed by the Lefties in town. But no matter how forceful and obvious the little News Minus conducts itself, it will never be enough to override the elements of common sense and rational thinking Northerners. My pet parrot agrees.

    • Is this what is happening to Tammie Wilson? Is she falling into the “what wave do I follow” syndrome? Is she fearing the swing to the left so she doesn’t know what team to be on anymore so she just keeps switching it up? Am I an R? Am I a D? I used to really respect Tammie and her ability to bring the scalpel to the table in the budget process. I don’t know what she is anymore. I have a sore neck with whiplash with most of the Republicans.

      • Great question, Garnet. Tammie is the loneliest number…….one. She lives for the spotlight and finally got to be someone important….at the head of the Finance Committee…run by Democrats.
        She left behind her conservative colleagues. Going to Wasilla…..then to Juneau….was a dumb move. Stick with your friends and your principles. Unfortunately, now she has neither.

        • Well they gave her the boot on that now too. She’s got nothing. She’s a complete fish out of water. I just heard her on the Steiren radio show. They fired her Juneau staff. She’s on her way back to Fairbanks.

          • She might open up s pawn shop in North Pole.

          • I suspect she was expected to vote for the budget as a member of majority and they considered those overrides a part of the budget.

    • News-Minus, News-Mindless, News-Menace. There’s one more but I can’t for the life of me remember what it is. And I can’t say anything bad about the sports section because Danny Martin is a great guy. But yeah, you’re right for the most part. Case in point: they had a reporter named Kevin Baird. He took James Brooks’s place at the Juneau Vampire, lasting mere months. He then went to Speedo Boy’s website with a rant about what a POS Dunleavy is and that’s the reason why he quit and left the state. His very first story in the FDNM in 2016 was about Frank Turney and his mayoral campaign. He wrote that Turney’s jury tampering conviction came about because of an indicent at the Rabinowitz Courthouse in 1994. Problem is, the Rabinowitz Courthouse was completed and opened until 2001. I’m pretty sure that the FDNM not only didn’t run a correction, they went to great lengths to protect him and make excuses for him. If you start out right off the bat with zero regard for basic fact checking and were around for only two years or so, why should anyone care now that your butt is sore?
      .
      As for John Davies: back in 2002, KSUA had an on-air volunteer named Russ Kelly. This dude aired a weekly advertisement for the Democratic Party under the guise of a talk show. He had Davies on one week and I took advantage of the opportunity. I called in and asked “I was wondering about something. When you and Ralph Seekins have your debates (slight pause) will anyone be awake afterward?” It’s obviously no surprise that Davies has given me a look of disgust every single time he’s seen me since. Last year during Kelly vs. Kawasaki, it was different people but the same attitude. I suppose that’s what happens when you hang all your hopes on a government paycheck.

      • Thanks for the memories, Sean. Fairbanks, for the most part, is wise to the use of the FDN as the battle cry to arms of Fairbanks Democrats and Radical Lefties from the UAF. Fortunately, when confronted head on, and physically, these crybabies turn cowardly. John Davies is getting old, as are the little Cole brothers. Someone referred to them as the living dead and the dying living. Not sure if that references their current mortality, or their immortality with the NewsMinus. But it brings a big chuckle to many of us up here in the Banks.

        • My parrot says hello to you,
          Rich (squak). Funny, he especially loves relieving himself on the editorial page, when the Coles start yapping.

    • Well said Marla. Give my regards to your parrot. The Mindless has been out-of-hand for a long time.

  • The University System needs to look inward for ways to adapt to the less State funding for a system that far exceeds the nation in dollars spent on programs that are failing the studebts and the community. Governor Dunleavy is right that the time has come and for future generations that state must live within its means and stop leveraging future generations. Thank you Governor Dunleavy

    • Yes, Steven. Why they simply cannot sit down, shut up, and formulate a plan is beyond me. They can start by putting a president at the University helm that can plan rather than whine, whimper, and blame. One that can lead and work WITH the hand that feeds it rather than bite it.

  • The republican party is ‘split’ alright. Between the legitimate republicans and the rinos. Again, remember this at the polls, Alaskans.

  • Steven thank you that was a very good and Yellit your post.

  • Intelligent post . Sorry voice to text missing correction

  • Not to worry, Fairbanks, the Regents and UA statewide overstructure will allocate eighty percent of the budget cuts will fall on UAA. This is a wonderful opportunity to get even with Anchorage. It will be business as usual for UAF.

  • The law suit also points outs, the meeting in Juneau is in violation of the Open Meetings Act.

    • That is “alleged violation” AL. Heheh!

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