Open Letter to Alaska Rural Advisor John Moller

by

Aug 5, 2009

To: John Moller:  john.moller@alaska.gov

CC: Sean Parnell: governor@alaska.gov
Daniel S. Sullivan: attorney.general@alaska.gov
Linda Lord-Jenkins: ombudsman@legis.state.ak.us
Rachel Maddow: rachel@msnbc.com

Mr. Moller,

On August 3, Alaska Natives Ann Strongheart of Nunam Iqua and Nicholas Tucker of Emmonak were guests on “Native America Calling” on nationally-aired Native Voice 1 radio.  They were invited to discuss salmon bycatch and its effects on rural Alaskans.

Like so many other Alaskans, both Ann and Nick feel this is a critical issue facing rural Alaska today.

Ann Strongheart and her husband are working at a small salmon processing plant in Ugashik on the Alaska Peninsula this summer. She squeezed in time to spend an hour on the phone with NAC between cooking for the fishing crew, caring for a toddler, working as a strong advocate for rural Alaskans and being an expectant mother in the bush.

Mr. Tucker took time away from his subsistence fishing efforts to be on the program.

During the program, moderator Harlan McKosato mentioned that he put in a call to you before the show but never got a call back.

Because rural Alaskans are openly voicing their serious fears about the coming winter, we were disappointed that you were not involved in the conversation with Ann and Nick on the air. Rural Alaskans need to know advisors have the ear of Governor Parnell and need to believe that the governor realizes today that things may be even worse this winter for rural Alaskan villages than the previous one.

If you were unable to work time into your schedule for that event, we would have greatly appreciated suggestions via the rural advisor’s office for an alternate speaker. Rural Alaskans want to hear what actions are being taken right now to avoid another winter crisis.  At the very least, we would have valued a simple response, of any kind, to the invitation.

People nationwide are paying attention to rural Alaska these days.  Will there be another winter crisis next January? Will people be asked to donate support to food drives because the government of Alaska ignored all the same warning signs, yet again?  If so, it will contrast mightily with the state attempting to pipe natural gas down to the lower 48 yet routing none of that gas to its own rural villages that recently paid $8 or $9 a gallon for fuel.

Please communicate with us.

The warning signs were there last winter but nobody paid attention.  We really want to know that efforts are being made now by the state to avert another disaster this winter.

We have posted this message on our blog. You may reply in the comments section at:

http://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/open-letter-to-alaska-rural-advisor-john-moller/

From: Anonymous Bloggers

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Commenters: Ideas, suggestions, personal experiences and constructive criticism are welcome. Inappropriate and personal comments will be deleted.

Bloggers: Post all or part of this letter along with your thoughts but consider closing comments on your site and directing comments to this thread. Thanks!

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39 Responses to “Open Letter to Alaska Rural Advisor John Moller”

  1. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    I would really love to see John take the reins in this position, and to use those tools for being an effective advocate which Governor Parnell stated as a reason for his retention.

    http://community.adn.com/node/142471

    “Lite guv’s office just announced John Moller… will stay on the job when Parnell becomes govenor. Here’s how they put it:

    Lieutenant Governor Sean Parnell today announced the retention of Governor Palin’s rural affairs advisor, John Moller.

    “John’s strong community leadership has given him the tools to be an effective advocate for rural Alaska,” said Parnell. “Together we can continue to work hard for Alaska’s rural communities.””

    There is so much to do! We also need word from the mysterious Alaska Rural Action Subcabinet that they are working on one of their main missives – affordable fuel delivered timely to the Bush for winter:

    http://www.adn.com/news/alaska/rural/story/736627.html

    “”Long-term, the administration is working through the rural subcabinet with fuel distributors to ensure that villages get revenue sharing and other funds early enough in the year to use some of the funds to order fuel and get it delivered well before the rivers ice up in the fall,” she said.”

  2. Phil Munger Says:

    I just got off the phone with Parnell’s office and the AG’s office on this. I was directed to an Asst AG named Nancy Korting from Parnell’s office. My questions for her:

    1) Is there now a constituted rural subcabinet?
    2) Who is on it?
    3) Who chairs it?
    4) When was their last meeting?
    5) When is their next meeting?
    6) Do they take minutes?
    7) Are minutes from any of their meetings available to constituents?
    8) Do they have publicly available agendas?
    9) Is there a mechanism for public input into the agenda or subcabinet testimony?

  3. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Apparently the ARAS met on Feb 25th for the Kawerak Regional Conference in Nome according to the conference agenda:

    http://www.kawerak.org/regconf/conf.pdf (Page 3)

    In the Tundra Drums in early March, Mr. Moller reports that he is working with the ARAS, especially in regards to propane issues (which are huge):

    http://www.thetundradrums.com/news/show/5067

    “”Did you come out of that trip with any new recommendations for possible policy changes?”

    “What I came out of the trip with was a broad range of possibilities coming from the region. A lot of ideas. I’ve heard twice now for propane, and I plan on meeting with the commissioners, through the rural subcabinet, of which I’ve been participating in. I plan on meeting with them and passing on this information. There’s lots of ideas, more than we can probably talk about in terms of how we can make life better in rural Alaska, so I plan on passing that stuff on and continuing to explore the possibilities of implementation.””

  4. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Thanks Phil and Martha,

    Our next open letter was going to be to the Attorney General about the rural subcabinet. Looks like we’ll be able put that on the back burner.

  5. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    More from the Kawerak Regional Conference agenda for February 24-26: (page 9)

    “The Rural Subcabinet has been recently appointed by Governor Palin for the purpose of studying the state of the economy, education, law enforcement and infrastructure in outlying regions, and then will
    make proposals aimed at creating well-paying jobs, stronger schools, safer communities and better public works facilities. They will also focus on energy issues and rural migration patterns.

    Participants may prepare testimonials for the Rural Subcabinet which can be provided to the Rural Subcabinet during the Regional Conference.

    Members of the Rural Subcabinet include:

    Commerce Commissioner Emil Notti
    Health and Social Services Commissioner Bill Hogan
    Labor Commissioner Click Bishop
    Military and Veterans Affairs Commissioner Gen. Craig Campbell
    Environmental Conservation Commissioner Larry Hartig
    Education Commissioner Larry LeDoux
    Public Safety Commissioner Joe Masters
    John Katz, Director of the Office of the Governor in Washington, D.C. Talis Colberg, previous AG (end)

    The responsibilities listed for the ARAS on the conference agenda above & the Adminstrative Order 247 dated 12-18-08 are HUGE! Within the order 247 which created the subcabinet, it states that members are responsible for their own travel expenses:

    http://gov.state.ak.us/admin-orders/247.html

    “To the extent that travel is required, each member of the subcabinet is responsible for the member’s own travel expenses.”

    Exactly who would want to be, or could afford to be, on that subcabinet if it were truly performing its purpose?

  6. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Sorry, Jane! i got a little excited thinking about how close winter preparation is getting and how they are all supposed to be working together! Feel free to remove my posts and I’ll add them to the later post. I’m breathing now, again, also!

  7. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Martha,

    I’m here in Miami, where the heat index is now 106, and I feel the urgency of making sure our neighbors are buttoned up for the winter.

    That last post is reflective of how we all feel – it stays!!

    Jane

  8. Jim Says:

    Martha:

    I found that too. I wondered if they had teleconferenced or if someone had paid for their travel. Did the D.C. Office of the Governor person go?

    If this was a public meeting it should have been announced on the State’s website. I searched and couldn’t find any announcement.

    This was the only event I could find where ARAS may have met with some members of the public.

  9. Jim Says:

    Wonder if anyone from Kawerak is on their advisory panel . . .

  10. elsie09 Says:

    Hey, since all the members of the rural subcabinet are commissioners, etc., who head their own departments, don’t you think they just write themselves out their own travel vouchers anytime they want to go somewhere on state business? Ordinary folk would have to use personal funds to travel for meetings, so airfare around the state would be a seriously big issue. These rural subcabinet guys probably don’t answer to anyone else about catching flights wherever they think they need to go. So Palin telling them they have to foot their own travel bills just means they bill the state for that, too, through their regular departmental travel system. What do you think?

  11. Michigander Says:

    Has this been sent to AKM? What about someone writing a guest post with a link to the letter?

  12. alaskapi Says:

    Michigander-
    This has been sent to AKM.
    Thank you for asking…
    AKM has been very supportive of all our efforts .

    Thank you Phil-
    I’m hoping the info you got from Mr Parnell’s office leads us all to some useful information .
    I also hope your experience is a sign that this new administration will be accessible …
    Rural Alaska needs that, we all need that…

  13. Jim Says:

    The ombudsman probably wouldn’t take complaints from groups, but if it turns out the administration is inaccessible and won’t answer questions like what Phil posed above, then someone might consider filing a complaint asking the ombudsman to investigate why the state was refusing to answer the questions

    I’m hopeful we’ll get some answers about the subcabinet later this month. I understand why this may take a while. Apparently the Department of Law, and not Mr. Moller, may be tasked with providing the answers.

    It is unfortunate Mr. Moller missed the opportunity to speak on Native America Calling. It would also be unfortunate if he misses the invitation for dialogue here.

  14. anonymousbloggers Says:

    I sent this after the tweet about Emmonak:
    ~~~~~
    July 1

    John Moller,

    I’m writing from anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com offering you space to clarify the true situation in Emmanok.

    We try not to be political and address the issues, not the people behind them and feel a post from you would go far to clear up the conflicting news coming from Emmonak.

    We are in contact with Nick Tucker and understand his side of the story.

    If you would like to use our blog to share your view of the situation in Emmonak and the rest of the villages along the Yukon, please reply ASAP and without passing it by spin doctors. It is important that any reply from you that we publish comes from your Native heart and soul and not from your employer.

    Looking forward to hearing from you one way or the other.

    Best regards,
    Jane

    c.c. Ann Strongheart
    ~~~~~
    Then, after the big news, I sent this:
    ~~~~~
    Dear Mr. Moller,

    In light of today’s announcement of Sarah Palin’s resignation, we again extend our offer to you to write guest posts on Anonymous Bloggers.

    http://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/

    This could be a turning point for rural Alaskans. The nation is watching now and, in your position as rural advisor, you could be the one who makes change possible for people with a subsistence lifestyle preference and subsistence fishermen.

    Please consider sending a true rural update concerning the situation facing people along the Yukon.

    Are people more or less concerned about the coming winter?

    Is there enough fuel in place in the villages you have visited to last the winter?

    Is there cash to buy the fuel?

    Please let us know your thoughts on these issues.

    I feel the most important thing is to make sure fuel is logistically available before the rivers freeze. Then, if it comes to it, we can ask for donations again.

    Many of us from the outside have put our hearts and souls into bringing the story of the First People to the outside. You have a great opportunity to create lasting change for all First People.

    Please consider replying with an update we can post.

    Thank you,
    Jane

    P.S. I’m sorry you’ve taken a bashing on our site in the last few days. I feel you were largely controlled. That’s over – make the most of it!
    ~~~~~
    It’s not like this open letter came out of the blue.

  15. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Jane’s statement below makes me feel very grateful and humbled – we have been blessed with lots of help from wonderful people:

    “Many of us from the outside have put our hearts and souls into bringing the story of the First People to the outside.”

  16. yukonbushgrma Says:

    Just seconding what MarthaUYS said — YES, everything AB has done (Jane, Vic, Ann) has been so very spot-on. Jane, I have no idea where you come from or why you pour your heart and soul into this, but we rural AK folks are forever indebted to you.

    How is it that you are able to understand so well the unique and complicated challenges rural Alaskans are facing right now?

    (Maybe that could be a rhetorical question, but I’d sure like to hear your answer if you have one.)

    This blog is bringing up serious questions that need serious answers — soon. All of my respect goes out to you.

    YBG

  17. anonymousbloggers Says:

    YBG-

    I’m in Miami and had a lot of time on my hands when the economy went south. I guess I needed a project.

    When I read about Nick and Ann on the blogs, I realized I could do something. I saw all the contact info, etc. being buried in other blogs so I gathered it up and gave it a home.

    I think working on the Campaign for Change had a lot of us looking for things we could do to help. I’m glad it’s worked out so well.

    I’d never blogged before so it’s been a good way for me to delve into the ins and outs of new media for when the economy comes back.

    Thanks for the early photos showing just how bad it was in Eagle – a picture really is worth a thousand words, at least!

    Jane

  18. CO almost native Says:

    Excellent letter, and I hope you get a prompt response- I also think Phil’s questions are pertinent, and must be answered. If there are no responses that are specific, with actions and timetables, then the conclusion is to expect more of the same from Parnell’s administration: study, talk, study, form a commission…and nothing is done.

    What are the Native corporations/Councils (I’m not sure of the correct title) doing? Are they demanding meetings, specific actions? I feel time is of the essence- it’s hard for me, an Outsider (we call them Flatlanders here in CO), to exert pressure, but if you can think of anything I/we can do, please post.

  19. Yoga Says:

    We in the lower 48 were happy to help out last year. This year we are waiting and watching to see what positive action the Governor of Alaska takes in regard to this issue. There will be tremendous outcry if this issue is ignored again.

    There is a time when one rises to face the challenge at hand. Governor Parnell in lawyer speak, (It is time to break away from the pack.) it is now your time to show who and what you are.

  20. rai Says:

    I hope to God Gov. Parnell can overshadow the naughty monkeys he’s been left to fill and do a better job for rural Alaska than the vapid, condescending GINO did. We’re watching from Arizona.

  21. alaskapi Says:

    The problems in rural Alaska have never been dealt with properly and are not going to turn around overnight.
    We are, however, hopeful that short term plans- for this winter -will START NOW and that long term plans are openly discussed and addressed.

    I swear I think we have as many boards and commissions and committees in this state as we have citizens…maybe more!
    This method so often ends up with the-same-old-faces on numerous boards and no new ideas or energy are brought to bear on issues.
    Maybe it’s time to look other places for people with ideas…

    Still waiting here to hear from Mr Moller…

  22. Marnie Says:

    You’d think that last year’s near catastrophe would have shamed the state’s leaders, what with Sarah’s cookies, and an international charity organization and donations from blog readers from all over the world.

    Apparently, the dim bulbs are still running on low wattage. Mudflatters and furyners and lower 48’ers may have to come up to mark again.

    On the other hand Parnell could show some leadership. You’d think he would want to show he’s better than Sarah.

  23. alaskapi Says:

    Marnie-
    It can’t be said often enough- the problems in rural Alaska predated the last gov and will outlast this next one.

    We need , desperately, to get information and ideas to avoid repeating not only last year but to get a move on for rural Alaska to take it’s rightful place at the table here instate.
    We are appealing to Mr Moller to share info and start a dialogue in a place different from the usual same old names and places routine…
    The routine has exhausted itself…

    We have other balls bouncing…

    We have a special legislative session here next week- one item is the possible override of the past governor’s veto of energy related stimulus funds.
    We want it to be accepted and most of it funnelled to rural Alaska via AK Housing and Finance Corp.

    The feds are coming to Bethel on a rural tour next week.

    A new board is meeting the same day in Anchorage to look at increasing rural input in relation to the NPFMC council which makes plans which affect far more than the coastal communities they deal with through normal business…

    Dollars are short in parts of the bush for fuel, we want to know if the various recommendations to get bulk fuel out early by loaning $ are going to materialize or whether this is another died-in-committee thingy…

    Hoping new Governor Parnell really does have ideas and acts soon but if not, we’ll get to work on doing an end run around the usual stasis…

  24. Jim Says:

    This is off topic, but I was told by an Anchorage democratic legislator that rural democrats in Alaska’s House will caucus with the House republican majority during Monday’s special session. Perhaps this is one reason why rural issues won’t be addressed at the special session.

    Are these rural legislators democrats or republicans? They’ve got some explaining to do to their constituents.

  25. Grandma Nancy Says:

    I am one of those “whos” from the lower 48 who follow Alaska politics, and who donated last winter for Alaskans who desperately needed help. We are all waiting to see what your State Government does now. It’s time for them to step up to the plate, and be counted. One of the freedoms we have from the internet is access to information, quick response when help is needed, and letting people know that we are all here for moral support. Change is needed for Rural Alaska. Is the State Government responding to their needs?

  26. InJuneau Says:

    Jim–many of the Rural House Ds caucused with the House R Majority last Session too. It’ll be up to their consitituents to deal with them as they see fit next year, but this is not uncommon in AK. The Rep. from Nome has causused with whomever was the Majority for years.

    Also, I had this posted on Mudflats till everything needed to be moved over here:

    We can hope it will get attention, but I wouldn’t be holding our collective breaths if I were us…

  27. alaskapi Says:

    Jim-
    to add to what InJuneau said-
    The special session has a narrowly defined agenda.
    One item- deciding whether to overturn the last gov’s veto on stimulus funds- would and will take as broad a majority as possible amongst the Legs.
    As this is of GREAT importance to rural Alaska I would cut em some slack- the rural Dem Legs- UNTIL we see what shakes out.
    If the veto is overturned everything will then depend on our new governor’s decision.
    The argument that these funds would interfere or put a burden on communities is hogwash and rural Alaska needs the $ to increase energy efficiency of structures… big time.

    InJuneau- :-D
    No holding breath HERE…
    Woulda passed out a couple days ago
    but hanging onto hope
    Always hanging onto hope…

  28. Jim Says:

    alaskapi:

    If they get a quorum, the veto will happen.

    A couple months ago I had sent a message to legislators saying I thought Palin’s veto of those funds was wrong. I got a lot of feedback, but my favorite was from republican Senate President Gary Stevens who said “Of course she’s wrong.”

    I agree. Of course she’s wrong.

    And a pain in the butt.

    As a consequence legislators will have to convene and Alaskans will have to pay for it. We also lost this summer’s construction season for weatherization improvements– now we will have to wait another year.

    Pardon my politics.

  29. Jim Says:

    Of course I’m wrong– if they get a quorum the override will happen, not the veto as I indicated above.

  30. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Well, if we are going to bash on the previous gov – that’s the one shoe that fits tightly – the rejection of stimulus funds which are much needed in Rural AK. Jim is right – those could be working for rural AK NOW.

    We are going to put up a quick post on contacting Legislators and getting Rural AK voices to speak up for the special session regarding what they NEED to do with some of those funds! We must move quickly.

    The ex gov had a chance to make a HUGE difference in rural AK independence & solutions, and certainly made big promises to do so, but she chose instead to add ignoring much of Rural Alaska to her legacy. That time has past, and it is her loss as well as it was ours. Ours was only a temporary setback, though – there is much to be done and so we move forward with the current administration. Overall, this needs to be the norm and not a political fight every four years with a new governor (well, some quit early and mess that statement up).

    It needs to be on the minds of our Gov and Legislature to be the beginning of a new trend – one where we embrace some really creative ideas and accept rural Alaska as the treasure it is worth saving. The previous gov? What was her name again?

  31. InJuneau Says:

    Martha UYS–Sa-something or other, wasn’t it? ;)

  32. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    Thank you to the readers who left comments at the cross post at Mudflats, please re-post comments here if you would like!

  33. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    I recognize that the Special Session will have to be limited in scope. But one thing I have wondered about. Remember last winter when Les Gara managed to get many people in AK to donate to foodbanks for the Rural Communities in crisis? Palin kept insisting that the Alaska Natl Guard could NOT use their planes or equipment to MOVE the donated food, supposedly due to the AK Constitution.

    Has ANYTHING happened to change that situation? While I was happy to donate last winter, it doesn’t seem fair to hope Outsiders would send flatrate boxes, yet not allow Alaskans to even help their own.

  34. anonymousbloggers Says:

    Hey Guys-

    Somebody is listening!

    Breaking News: Alaska’s Governor Parnell Urges Disaster Relief for Yukon Fishery!

    http://anonymousbloggers.wordpress.com/2009/08/07/breaking-news-alaskas-governor-parnell-urges-disaster-relief-for-yukon-fishery/

    Jane

  35. alaskapi Says:

    Kath the Scrappy-
    Rep Ramras , who spearheaded getting so many Alaskan donations in, introduced a bill to formally allow the use of state resources to aid humanitarian efforts in a crisis.
    The bill made it to finance committee and session ended.
    We have a 2 year session so it is still alive.

    There was contention by many, especially Rep Ramras, that the governor already had that power.
    Our past governor disagreed.
    Here’s hoping the bill passes next session .

    Way to go , Governor Parnell!!

    The feds’FEMA moved like lightning for Eagle- let’s see if Dof Commerce can match em!

  36. booboodog Says:

    I love your site and although I am an outsider, I am a fellow human. I have followed your stories since the great disasters last year. I will be watching and sending good thoughts for a good outcome for you all.. good luck!

  37. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    From that ADN article talking about Parnell keeping Moller on board, aside from THIS job (& going fishing when the subsistence folks couldn’t):

    – John Moller was born in Unalaska. He is working toward a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Alaska.

    -Moller also currently serves as staff assistant for the departments of Military and Veterans Affairs and Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

    Maybe Moller’s got his hands in so many pots, he’s not much effective in ANY of his pursuits?

  38. Kath the Scrappy Says:

    @ alaskapi Says: at 9:32 pm

    Thanks for answering! Let’s hope that bill will pass, in the meantime it could be another hungry winter. Sounds like Parnell may be a more reasonable & educated person than the former pageant queen.

  39. Martha Unalaska Yard Sign Says:

    @ Kath the Scrappy – thanks for the info on what other balls Mr. Moller may have up in the air. Some folks are just professional cabinet and board members and don’t really get much accomplished other than some discussion here and there. Not all of course – there are plenty of talented Alaskans doing many things at once and doing them well, but we have to watch for the professional observer and kick them out of positions which need action more than butts on the bleachers!

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