SARAH PALIN IN A NUT SHELL: GOING ROGUE: GOVERNOR: 2006-2009: EARLY YEARS. THE GREAT POLARIZER

February 11, 2010 by · 3 Comments
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IF RONALD REAGAN WAS THE GREAT COMMUNICATOR THEN SARAH PALIN IS THE GREAT POLARIZER,


The Alaska legislature meets from January to April as stated and Sarah was in residence during those four months during the rest of the year she governed from her Anchorage office while living at home in Wasilla. She collected per diem while living at home for hotel expenses at $58.00 a day. However she did not accept compensation for meals. Later after an ethics investigation she had to pay taxes on this money as well as the per diem received for her family when they accompanied her on official trips. Her per diem claims are strange considering the fact she rejected a pay increase from $125000 to $150000 after becoming Governor. The only advantage the per diem claims would have is they are not taxable.

When she arrived in Juneau in January of 2007 the results of an FBI investigation were released and many legislators and others were indicted some pleading guilty to taking money for votes or other illegal acts. These were mostly Republicans. She states that Democrats were guilty of the same practices when they were in power. However the book is silent on any investigation or Democratic convictions or if the FBI only investigated Republicans.

The FBI investigation took place before she became Governor and so she cannot claim it was part of any “clean up” campaign by her administration. However she did blow the whistle on fellow commissioners who had conflicts of interest when she was on the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission before she came to the Governorship. This led to resignations and fines.

She commissioned a white paper to be written by a Republican and a Democrat as a bipartisan document on the ethics scandal ostensibly this document was to be the basis for remedial legislation however she doesn’t say what specific changes were to be made other than some general rules of ethics to be followed like not accepting money for votes but campaign contributions were okay. Her first legislative director recommended that she not release the paper as it would anger legislators who were working on their own bill (and with whom she would later have to work with) she did anyway and received an angry response from some legislators that she should not paint the entire legislature as being corrupt and attempt to change things on her own but with the legislature. Of course that was her plan to change the way things were done in the past to her way.

The Alaska Supreme court ruled that same sex couples had to receive the same benefits as heterosexual couples, despite this the legislature sent the unconstitutional bill banning same sex marriage to her for signing so she vetoed it as the Supreme Court had ruled it unconstitutional. However she says she still is for marriage only between a man and a woman.

The veto seemed like a no brainer since it was following the constitutional mandate as ruled upon but conservatives criticized her any way

She says her first choice as legislative director was an experienced staffer who she thought would help dealing with the legislature. As she put it he could tell her where the “light switches were” however the many early faux pas of her dealings with the legislature are blamed on this unnamed individual.

As chief executive of the largest state in the union with a 14 billion dollar( other sources say it was $6.6 billion) budget (mostly from taxes on oil production as Alaska has no sales or income tax) the development and conservation of oil resources was paramount in her policies. The price of oil was critical to Alaska and the price had gone from $9.00 a barrel in 1999 to $140.00 in 2008. However she had the luxury of governing when oil revenues were at their highest historically, which also was probably a factor in her gaining National attention.

She wanted to cut the fat out on the Alaska budget as she had when she allegedly sold the state plane on e-bay ( there were no bidders) so she sold the plane to a private party at a loss later saying ” I couldn’t land on all the gravel strips in Alaska I might want to go.”

She attempted the same policy with the state budget by cutting appropriations like expenditures for a blue berry farm, landscaping trimming for a school (the girl scouts should volunteer to do this) or a memorial for a legislator who committed suicide. What the deceased legislator’s real accomplishments were she omits. So she makes it look like she would not memorialize people who commit suicide no matter what their achievements.

She then had her legislative director notify the legislators that she would only consider appropriations for core services like public safety, education and infrastructure. If the legislature sent her pork she would cut it and she wanted the beneficiaries of appropriations to prioritize requests. This was never done because her legislative director, whom she later came to the conclusion was an “insider”, was against prioritizing the budget on public safety, education and infrastructure grounds had not conveyed her policies to the legislators.

As a result there was a huge outcry when she revealed her new budget after many items were line item vetoed. She fired the legislative director who was immediately hired as a staffer for another legislator ( from where she had hired him in the first place) and he became one of the more prominent critics of her administration.

So she arrived and gave the impression that she wanted to work with the legislature by hiring one of their staffers and after she had milked him for knowledge about the in and outs of politics in Juneau she fired him. Incidentally she describes him as playing games on his blackberry during important meetings and walking around with the tail of his shirt sticking out from his fly. However other than this she doesn’t specifically relate any failures on his part other than her budget priorities.

This may be something thought up after the fact because we know later she was initially for building the “bridge to nowhere” with federal money until it was publicized as an egregious example of pork barrel spending by way of earmarks. Then she was against it but accepted the money appropriated for it and used it for other purposes many of which could be considered pork by the standards she alleges she set for the state budget.

She created the Pipeline Systems Integrity Office to police the oil industry to make sure it kept the oil infrastructure in good repair. This was not in the Reagan philosophy, her hero, as he was against increased regulation letting the free market guide industry, but it is in line with her penchant for passing financial burdens on to non Alaskans.

She alleges that the pressure she kept on the state legislature and the ongoing FBI investigation prompted the legislature to pass an omnibus ethics bill making it a crime to sell votes for money and that any legislator who was convicted of a felony would forfeit his state pension rights. This last part on its face appears to be unconstitutional and unenforceable window dressing. Further she claims it as her accomplishment and not the legislatures although her proposed ethics bill was never passed.

The Alaska Gas Line Inducement Act (AGIA) was passed while she was in office to reimbure successful bidders up to $500 million seed money on an Alaska Gas Pipeline to the lower Forty Eight. Thus encouraging bidders other than the consortium extracting oil from Prudhoe Bay and other areas in Alaska. The cost of the pipeline has been estimated as low as $14 million and as high as $24 million. There was only one bid on the project so it was awarded to the Trans Canada Pipeline Company, a Canadian Company that operates major gas pipelines throughout Canada. The jury is out as to whether a gas line can be built through Canada’s McKenzie River Valley as the First Nations People are litigating its construction.

Also it is to be noted that the major oil companies refused to bid under the conditions proposed in the bill so the alleged purpose of the bill to encourage numerous bidders failed. This is considered her major accomplishment in office although it may never come to fruition.

So in sum she continued to be a polarizing politician creating discord and dissent with very little partisan (within her own party) results or bi-partisan achievements.

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SARAH PALIN IN A NUT SHELL: GOING ROGUE: MAYOR AND THE FAUSTIAN BARGAIN.

January 4, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
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Sarah Palin served two terms as Mayor Of Wasilla from 1996 until 2002 when she was termed out. She alleges she ran against the good old boy and politics as usual crowd however records indicate she introduced abortion, gun control, term limits (her opponent was a three term incumbent) issues in a small town race that had heretofore been a more sedate race based on local issues and not hot button issues like abortion and gun control. Wasteful spending and high taxes were other issues. These issues continue to be part of her mantra and that the incumbent politicians are good old boy insiders ( code word for older male incumbents who allegedly resent women in politics.)

Yet three men who were incumbents, John Stein Mayor, Nick Carney, Council member and Irl Stambaugh, Police Chief, endorsed her candidacy in her initial run for city counsel. In that first race she campaigned for a two percent sales tax and for reduction of property and business taxes.

Her endorsements indicate she was in fact a part of the” in “crowd as well as the fact that her mother in law and father in law were also active politically in Wasilla.

She states that her philosophy of carrying out the duties of mayor were to facilitate the building of streets, sewers, water systems and other necessities of a growing city. She was also opposed to restrictive building codes and zoning laws. The city financed the infrastructure improvements with bond measures and earmarked funds from the Federal Government. Because of this and of the sales tax previously passed she lowered property taxes and taxes on business by 75% and this in turn attracted big box stores and Wal-Mart to locate in Wasilla. The effect of this was increased sales tax revenue.

Wasilla’s population was growing as the result of Anchorage’s population increase which was linked to the discovery and development of the Prudhoe Bay oil field in 1968 along with the construction of the Alaska Pipeline and the all weather port of Valdez. Wasilla is preponderantly a bedroom community for Anchorage and it grew also with the oil boom.

She also built a sports center with a 15 million bond issue to be financed by a .5 % increase in the sales tax. Using these measures she doubled the long term debt of Wasilla and gave the impression she was reducing taxes and government expenditures however she was either stretching infrastructure payments out over a longer period or getting Federal aide from Senators like Ted Stevens who was celebrated in some circles for his ability to obtain earmarks for Alaska like “the bridge to no where.”



THE FAUSTIAN BARGAIN

What the long term effects of loose building codes and zoning codes will be on the city remains to be seen however more established and experienced cities value building and zoning codes as a means to provide a cleaner, safer habitat for it citizens. Frommer’s Alaska Guide book by Charles Wohlforth, a noted and prize winning author on Alaska, described Wasilla as “the worst kind of suburban sprawl of highway-fronting shopping malls and gravel lots.”

In the short term money might be saved on lower government costs for building and zoning departments but the cost of rehabilitating a poorly zoned and constructed city will be much higher in the long run. Also the effects of the oil boom will decrease as time goes by as the flow of oil either decreases or levels off and alternate energy sources are developed.

However the developers, big box stores and Wal-Mart have been the immediate beneficiaries. Also a sales tax is one of the more regressive taxes taking a greater percentage of the income of the poorest citizens and ostensibly those with the least ability to pay. So the tax burden is greater on the poor for the benefit of the rich including businesses like Wal-Mart whose profits go to shareholders living outside of Alaska. While her tax policies may have induced big box stores and Wal- Mart to locate there, long term these businesses tend to decimate local businesses and are not the kind of “ born here, raised here, be buried here type of citizens” she extolled in her prior campaigns. Also stores like Wal-Mart are notorious for their low wages and meager benefits. So the majority of jobs generated are low value and not the type one can marry and build a family on.

She also alleges a conversation with the librarian over the nature and placement of books in the public library was blown all out of proportion and that she was trying to make sure certain books would not be placed adjacent to the children’s areas. Others have said she was trying to inject her religious and personal beliefs into the administration of the library and was in fact attempting a form of censorship.

Former Mayor, John Stein, who is pro choice, says right to life groups outside Wasilla were sending out flyers in her behalf and against him in the mayoral race on this issue which was far beyond the true issues of taxation and growth policies in the race.

The librarian was later fired under her tenure as well as the police chief who was opposed to her cost cutting in the police department.

Her term ended when she was thirty eight and she began to look for other opportunities in government. She entered the Republican primary for Lt. Governor against four other Republican opponents. She alleges she was able to raise only $40,000 for the race and the others each spent five times as much as she did. Despite all this she came in a close second. One wonders with all the tax cutting and loose building and zoning laws why she wasn’t able to raise more money from developers and business. Also where was the monetary support from right to life Christian groups in Alaska?

This was in 2002 and Frank Murkowski, an incumbent long term Senator, ran for Governor of Alaska and won. Thus he was able to appoint a successor to his remaining Senate term. Sarah says she was on the short list and interviewed for the appointment. However she says Murkowski felt strongly that the job would take too great a toll on Sarah’s family although she assured him that she would take the family to Washington with her if appointed.

In the end Murkowski appointed his daughter Lisa who had two children of her own. She was also was the majority leader designate of the Alaska House of Representatives and so Murkowski may have thought she was the more experienced person for the job despite the charges of nepotism.

However Murkowski did appoint her to the Alaska Oil And Gas Commission which she chaired in 2003 and resigned from in 2004 on grounds that other members of the commission, all Republicans, were unethical.

This is another thread in Palin’s story instead of trying to work with and form a consensus with her political allies she turns on them and says they are good old boys, insiders, unethical or unethical good old boy insiders. This inability to straighten out problems within her own neighborhood or with party members is apparently what she is calling her rogue or independent virtue.

This quality seems to be true in her own family in regard to her ex brother in law who she tried to have fired from the Alaska State Police and now with her public dispute with Levi Johnston, her grandchild’s father. Later we will see this same tendency in regard to the McCain aides.

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SARAH PALIN IN A NUTSHELL: GOING ROGUE: POLITICAL AWAKINENING

December 31, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
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THE VALDEZ TRAGEDY: INFLUENTIAL IN PALIN”S POLITICAL ACTIVATION.


Sarah characterizes the Exxon oil spill in Prince William Sound as the event that made her decide to become active in politics. This occurred on March 24, 1989 while she was baking a cake and a friend called and told her to turn on the television and she saw the coverage of the Exxon spill which horrified her. Valdez is located 260 miles from Wasilla but she knew that all Alaskans would fell the consequences of the event.

Fisheries are the first business in Alaska even before oil production so a blow to this industry would be felt by all Alaskans including the Palin’s whose fishing rights on Bristol Bay to the North of Prince William Sound would be tainted by the spill in an adjacent fishing grounds to the South. Subsequently the price of Alaskan salmon dropped because of buyers fears it might be contaminated with oil.

She says many members of her family and friends went to help with the clean up. Apparently neither she nor Todd joined in, however as a result of the devastation to the fishermen in the area and other people who derived a living from the Sound a seed was planted in her that in retrospect she believes led her to go into public service. Initially it was a belief that she should help her fellow citizens and that if ever she had a chance to do so she would.


WASILLA, ALASKA : DUCT TAPE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD : HOME TO RUGGED INDIVIDUALS AND ROGUE POLITICIANS

In 1992 a local activist, Nick Carney, recruited her to run for Wasilla City Council thinking she would be a kindred political soul. He lived to regret his belief about her. She was 28 at the time. Wasilla was a small town of approximately 4000 residents in 1990. However a new road the Parks Highway had been built in 1975 from Anchorage to Wasilla, traditionally a lumber, mining, and trapping center with some agriculture as a result of 200 farm families resettled there from the upper Mid-West. As a result Wasilla was transitioning to being a bedroom community of Anchorage (Population in 1990: 216000) .

The population of Wasilla has more than doubled by 2008 to over 10,000.

Sarah Palin was elected to a seat on the city council from 1993 to 1996. It met twice a month on Monday nights. She alleges she ran on a platform calling for the restructuring of government and the reduction of taxation.

However Wasilla was forced to adopt a sales tax in lieu of an increased property tax because the growing city needed a police force at the time she was first elected. She alleges she was against any increase in taxes but supported the sales tax as being “fairer and more optional” in a town like Wasilla which was a hub for tourism and commerce.” The apparent thinking was that a sales tax would partly fall on others just passing through Wasilla. This mind set has been a touch stone of her policies ever since i.e. tax oil production in the state so that the end user in the lower forty eight would pay the tax that benefited Alaska. In fact Alaska receives $5 for every $1 paid into the Federal Treasury. So it is a welfare state made of rugged individuals, rogue politicians and Wasilla according to Wal-Mart is the city where they sell the most duct tape.

She describes her self as being an independent minded council woman. This became evident when she voted against garbage collection services for a new subdivision preferring to let the residents hall their trash to the dump like every one else. This in a growing Wasilla which was becoming a bedroom community for persons employed in Anchorage who may not have the time to or means to take care of their own trash. Nick Carney her fellow councilman owned the trash company so there was a conflict of interest on his part but another service provider could have been found by the city council for a necessary service in a growing town.

The book indicates that at this early date she was establishing her independent and rogue credentials with an anti new tax and no new government mantra. Whether this was in the interest of Wasilla, a city in the path or progress with an exploding population is doubtful.

Wasillians she declares were rugged individualists not interested in professional city mangers or city planners. Consequently Frommers Alaska Guide describes Wasilla “as the worst example of urban sprawl of highway fronting malls with gravel lots”. One wonders why she thinks other people (non Alaskans) are not rugged individualists or that somehow Alaskans are more resourceful then everyone else since Alsakans depend so much on Federal support which comes from the other citizens of the U.S.

After three years on the city counsel where she established her credentials as anti new tax and anti new government programs she decided to run against the “good old boys” and challenged the incumbent mayor who was educated in city management and administration. Thus characterizing her self as an outsider or definitely not a good old boy insider and as candidate that would bring a new breathe of fresh air to the “politics as usual” culture which she had been a part of for three years. Thus we see her mantra as the representative of the common man an against the fat cat insiders. This is coupled with the assertion that taxes are too high (meaning the fat cat insiders are using the peoples money to benefit themselves) and government is growing too fast (The fat cats are padding the payroll with their friends and relatives) which she used in her campaign for mayor.

She alleged the city didn’t need urban planners nor did the people need to be managed by city managers who weren’t born there, raised there and intended to die there kind of guys.

She says the opposition candidate, a three term incumbent , mainly said she was a young, inexperienced mother of three small children. She won the election. However when she cut the mayor’s salary( her own) and tried to lower departmental budgets and in particular the police budget she was subjected to a recall movement which she defeated.

Thus she was allegedly inspired to go into politics by the Valdez incident. Her political policies are basically what we hear today: no new taxes or fewer taxes, less government, the people are capable of regulating themselves so they don’t need a lot of urban planning or city administration by educated people who weren’t born here raised here or going to be buried here. This in a city that was in the process of doubling in population. This simplistic, atavist approach to politics sounds good on the campaign trail against incumbents but in practice it leads to disaster as we have seen in the recent financial meltdown allegedly caused by unregulated “free market ” policies. The market is never “unregulated” if the government doesn’t do it for the public private interests will for their own benefit and their interest may not be in the public’s interest.

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