ANALYSIS: OLSON’S SOFT BIGOTRY OF LOW EXPECTATIONS
Sen. Donny Olson, who represents a wide swath of the rural Arctic, has asked Gov. Mike Dunleavy to use his “in” with the Trump Administration to plead for an extension on the REAL ID program for Alaska.
According to Olson, his rural constituents of District T just don’t have enough time before the October deadline, when all adults in America will need to have a TSA-approved form of ID in order to access the secure areas of major airports. They already need these IDs to get onto military bases or other secure federal facilities.
Even though they regularly travel to Anchorage for medical care, Costco runs, and AFN conventions, Olson doesn’t think his constituents can prioritize getting a federally approved ID such as a driver’s license or passport.
REAL ID, in Olson’s view, has been suddenly sprung on Alaskans, and he believes it’s up to the governor to force the issue with the federal government to give everyone a couple of more years to comply.
A review of Olson’s own legislative website and records shows his concern is quite sudden. While he asks the governor to wave a magic wand at the federal deadline, Olson did made no such request under the previous governor, Bill Walker, elected by Alaska Democrats like him.
In fact, Olson has done nothing to help his constituents get compliant with REAL ID. This negligence on his part is in spite of the fact that Alaska had an extension for three years to allow the state to get the equipment into place that would create the Real ID for Alaskans.
First, the extension was granted by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security until Jan. 22, 2018. Then, the extension was extended until October of 2020.
Olson’s own website shows he hasn’t put a press release out on any topic at all since August.
While he sits on the Finance Committee, he didn’t bother to ask for funds to help his constituents get their ID in order.
In fact, he did nothing — no notifications to villages, no educational links, no money, no town hall meetings on the topic.
To give credit where it’s due, he did sit at a table this summer in Nome to ask his constituents to sign the recall petition against the governor.
REAL ID was enacted by Congress in 2005. Fifteen years later, Alaska is one of the last states to be REAL ID compliant, after the Alaska Legislature passed a bill in 2008, barring state agencies from spending money to comply with the federal mandate.
The sponsor of that “resist? REAL ID bill? Sen. Bill Wielechowski, an Anchorage Democrat.
Olson, 15 years after REAL ID was enacted, would rather put the entire nation at risk with yet another extension of the deadline for “special-needs Alaska” simply because, in his mind, his own constituents are not smart enough to get it done.
His approach is an insult the people of his district. These are Alaskans who work in the oil patch, in mines, who fly airplanes, apply for fishing permits, and serve on whaling commissions. These are Alaskans who file for their Permanent Fund dividends, get their cars licensed, and deal with federal officials on a regular basis. They have tribal administrators and Native Corporations at their disposal. Many of them are residents of the richest borough in the state — the North Slope Borough. He treats them as though they are children.
In Olson’s world, a federal mandate is one more opportunity to strike back at a governor who he doesn’t like and wants to recall. He went after the governor for the headline value, and the mainstream media complied.
Olson needs to show leadership and, instead of asking someone else to help his constituents get up to speed on REAL ID, he needs to rise to the occasion and be the leader of his region.
If he doesn’t, then his voters should consider their options. After all, Olson has been in office 19 years; maybe it’s time for someone else to serve –someone who will take things like national security seriously.