Elise Patkotak

It was a pretty horrible week, one that even the distribution of dividend checks couldn’t save. After all, we know the state is broke, our checks are likely to never be bigger than this year’s, and we will probably soon be using the Permanent Fund to keep state government afloat. So while our legislators pondered how two minus four somehow equaled plus zero, the rest of the country looked on in horror at the latest school massacre. And a vast majority of liberals who thought the pope was in their back pocket found out, to their extreme dismay, that he is still very much a Catholic. Yep, it was a helluva week. I could go on at some length about gun violence in this country. I could go on at even greater length about the sensible gun control legislation that keeps schools safe in most other...Elise Patkotak
There are times in each year when we tend to stop and take inventory of our lives. For many people, this inventory happens on New Year’s Eve. But for me it happens on Oct. 1. That’s the day, 43 years ago, I first set foot in Alaska. I don’t know what expectations I had when I arrived. I’m guessing I was too busy sobbing from homesickness to really articulate any, even to myself. Being a New Jersey-New York-Pennsylvania hybrid, I would assume I arrived with a rather jaded attitude towards this whole Last Frontier shtick being tossed at me from real Alaskans. Of course back then, real Alaskans looked a little different than real Alaskans look today. Real Alaskans, Alaska Natives excepted, wore bunny boots and Carhartts to formal affairs. They wore strange hats and gloves that had actual...Elise Patkotak
I read with interest the recent article about the whale taken in Kaktovik that was found to have an old projectile embedded in its body. But even as I read it, I could feel my stomach tightening. Discussion of traditional whaling often gets caught up in the question of how anyone could kill these noble creatures. Sure enough, last week’s Letters to the Editor contained a letter questioning how subsistence whaling can still be allowed and why those darn Natives don’t just hop into the modern world and leave that barbaric killing behind. I have to assume the letter writer is a vegan or vegetarian because otherwise I’d question her concern for whales but not her concern for pigs, cows, chickens and little baby lambs. So I’m going to proceed on the theory the writer is opposed to the killing...Elise Patkotak
Let’s agree on a few things upfront. For one, Christianity is hardly under siege in America. You can’t be under siege and have your religion’s holy days celebrated as national holidays. That just doesn’t add up. Also, if this Kentucky county clerk refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples was Muslim and refusing to serve women whose hair wasn’t covered because it violated her religious beliefs, then announced candidates for U.S. president would not be standing by her side and proclaiming her a hero. Further, most of us do not get to pick and choose those duties of our job we agree to perform. And finally, should a woman with four marriages and a baby produced by a man other than her husband at the time really be the face of Christianity in America today? What really worries...Elise Patkotak
Families who care for members with chronic illnesses often find themselves overwhelmed with the responsibility of making life comfortable and bearable for their sick relative. But when that illness is a mental illness, the difficulty increases exponentially until it flies off the top of the charts. The simple truth is we are no better at dealing with the effects of mental illness on the family and society than we were 100 years ago except for new drug therapies. Of course, those drug therapies require the cooperation of the ill individual and, as anyone knows who cares for someone with a mental illness, cooperation on any given day is not necessarily a given. Families who deal with this problem are often stressed and stretched beyond all comprehension. So an organization like The National...Elise Patkotak
Now that our historic presidential visit is just about over, we can focus on the important things in life. Important things like, Will it be warm enough to grill outside on Labor Day? And let’s be honest here. Alaskans have been known to grill in below zero weather so, absent torrential rains, I’m guessing most of us will celebrate the day with something charred on a grill. According to a government website, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” It has been around since 1894 when laborers were still fighting to be treated decently...Elise Patkotak
In case you are wondering, what you’ve been observing on a national level the past six years is the politics of spite. Republicans announced at the beginning of Obama’s first term that their sole objective was to make his presidency a failure and they have worked to accomplish just that while failing to actually contribute to our country’s welfare. Now it seems as though our Republican Legislature has decided to emulate their national brethren. With the announcement of the lawsuit against Gov. Bill Walker for expanding Medicaid, I fear we have heard the opening salvo of four years of spite politics in Alaska. Walker committed the mortal sin of choosing what he believed was best for Alaska over party politics. His fairly decisive election victory would seem to indicate that most Alaskans...Elise Patkotak
This Saturday, Aug. 22, Bird TLC will be holding its annual farewell to our migratory bird friends at an event called “Gone With The Wings.” I’d planned to write about the event but then another article about the North Slope Borough hit the paper, and I felt a great sense of obligation to try and explain, if possible, that things are done differently up north. It’s something I spent almost 10 years as the borough’s public information officer trying to explain to the outside world. It’s not easy. So, let me just urge you to go to the Bird TLC property above Potter’s Marsh on Saturday between noon and 4 p.m. and get up close and personal with eagles and owls and crows, to name just a few. There will be food, games and, weather permitting, a rehabilitated great horned owl and possibly a...Elise Patkotak
Anyone who watched the Republican candidates’ debate should have come away understanding why Donald Trump is beating all of them in the polls. It’s not because he’s the craziest of the group or says the craziest things. Let’s be real. In this group, that designation will be hard-fought for many months to come. No, the reason Donald Trump is so high in the polls is because he is not boring, while the other candidates make my brain explode with boredom. I used to be in a high school debate club. I remember that we were expected to answer the question asked. This is something that most candidates for public office simply choose to ignore. And I am not letting the Democrats off the hook on this one either. They are no better. Because no matter what question is asked, be they Democrats or...Elise Patkotak
When 15-year-old Jose Vasquez found himself in a plane wreck 18 miles outside of Juneau with one person dead and three others seriously injured, he used skills he learned as a Boy Scout to save their lives . And now three people have another chance at life because he knew what to do. I’m going to guess that those three people don’t care who taught Jose how to save their lives. I bet they don’t care if his instructors were male or female, gay or straight, black, white, yellow or any shade between. Because the only thing that matters is that a volunteer Scout leader taught him lifesaving skills he clearly put to very good use. Emphasis here should be put on the word “volunteer," because no one gets paid to teach boys these skills. Instructors do it either because their Scouting experience...Elise Patkotak