Steve Haycox

The “Imagining Anchorage” centennial celebration just completed at the Anchorage Museum should direct attention to the importance and the success of one of the city’s oldest and most significant civic organizations, the Cook Inlet Historical Society. A volunteer, private, nonprofit agency, the Society was established in 1955, primarily by Evangeline Atwood, civic leader and wife of the publisher of the Anchorage Daily Times, then the largest circulation newspaper in the territory, and Elmer Rasmuson, owner and president of the National Bank of Alaska, who would later become the greatest philanthropist in the state. Sister and brother, Atwood and Rasmuson, in addition to their numerous activities and contributions to the development of the city, were committed to civic education through...Steve Haycox
The shenanigans of the current Alaska Legislature prompted a number of people this week to remember Governor Ernest Gruening’s account of the 1947 territorial Legislature, which, if his characterization can be fully credited, was one of the worst in the territory’s history. While its offenses were many, perhaps most egregious was passing a budget that was 40 percent out of balance, committing $11 million in expenditures against revenues of only $7 million. After a brief period of uncertainty following World War II, when Alaskans worried that heavy, federal wartime spending might cease, in fact spending continued at wartime levels and actually began to increase, a function of the ensuing and costly Cold War. Because of Alaska's proximity to the Soviet Union and its critical location as...Steve Haycox
The disgruntlement over the failure of Alaska legislators to produce a budget and to complete their work within the voter-mandated 90-day session seems widespread, judging from open blogs on the various news services around the state, talk radio and letters to editors in the printed editions. Despite the Republican majority leaders’ spin that the problem is a Democrat-led minority that won’t do what it’s told by the majority, and that the minority is only interested in raises for union members, most of the opprobrium seems to be falling on the majority. That’s either because the Democrats are better at explaining their agenda, or because the public agrees that Medicaid expansion will in fact save money and lives, that the Susitna dam is an unreasonable expenditure at this time, and that...Steve Haycox
An American traveler headed for any of China’s modern cities these days could be excused if, on arriving, he or she might imagine the plane made a couple of errant turns and landed right back in the United States. China’s major cities -- Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Tianjin – and some deemed lesser simply by comparison with the giants -- Chongqing, Wuhan, Xian -- are dynamic, highly energized metropolises characterized by scores of architecturally innovative skyscrapers, a thriving, driving middle class, major state and private investment in commerce and infrastructure, all teeming with people. There are miles and miles and miles of new 33-story apartment complexes. In the city centers the franchise names Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Cartier and Lanvin proliferate; the streets are...Steve Haycox
Alaska has opted out of several national initiatives recently. Medicaid expansion has the limelight just now, but there’s also protection of same-sex marriage. And there are the Common Core education standards. Because so many students across the nation are leaving school without adequate training to perform well in the workforce, without much knowledge of how public policy is made and how it affects them, or without being college ready, the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers seek to raise the level of preparedness-for-life of the nation’s youth by raising the level of knowledge students should master before graduating. They hope uniformity across states will facilitate employment opportunities. NGA and CCSSO are not government agencies; they’re...Steve Haycox
As soon as the luggage was stowed in the plane’s forward belly compartment, the DC-3 made for the runway and lifted off into Quebec’s autumn sky. The date was Sept. 9, 1949. Flying from Montreal, the flight had stopped in Quebec City to pick up additional travelers before continuing on to Baie-Comeau, farther down the St. Lawrence River. Among the passengers who boarded at Quebec were three American businessmen, and the promiscuous wife of a philandering jewelry salesman. Half an hour into the resumed flight, the plane exploded without warning. All 19 passengers and the four crew were killed. Unbeknownst to the wife, Rita, her husband, Joseph-Albert Guay, had placed a homemade bomb in her luggage, wanting her out of the way so he could marry his mistress. It was the first criminal bombing...Steve Haycox
Elections, normally thought to be straightforward affairs, often turn into rather complicated exercises in civic responsibility. In the general election in Alaska in November 1982, for example, voters went to the polls to choose among four gubernatorial candidates and eight ballot propositions. Bill Sheffield, Tom Fink, Dick Randolph, and Joe Vogler ran respectively as Democrat, Republican, Libertarian and Alaska Independence Party candidates. Voters on the right split their votes between Fink, 37 percent, Randolph, 15 percent and Vogler, 1.5 percent; Sheffield won election with 46 percent of the total. Of the eight ballot propositions, three garnered significant interest and commentary before the election: one to repeal a rural preference for subsistence harvest of traditional resources...Steve Haycox
It may be a new day for oil drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas off Alaska’s North Slope. Despite President Obama’s announcement two weeks ago that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort off the Slope will be off limits to drilling, it seems increasingly likely that offshore drilling there will pick up soon. Just this week, following a federal court ruling against environmental challenges, the Interior Department’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management began the validation process for leases it sold in 2008, leases Shell Oil attempted to drill with its drill vessel Kuluk. The bureau estimates there are 4.3 billion barrels of oil and 2.2 trillion feet of natural gas in those leases. In addition, the bureau has announced its intention to undertake two additional...Steve Haycox
President Barack Obama’s announcement last week that he endorses renewal of the Interior Department’s management plans for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and National Petroleum Reserve, and that certain biologically sensitive areas of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas are off-limits for oil drilling, generated a political firestorm in Alaska. Our political leaders cried foul. They argued that the federal government doesn’t have the right to do whatever it wants in Alaska, that Alaska has a sovereignty that empowers it to limit what the federal government can do here. Their anger is misplaced. Where might such empowerment come from? Some say from the "compact theory" of federal governance. Others say from promises the federal government made. What is the compact theory? It’s the idea that...Steve Haycox
The respected Southern Education Foundation recently released the results of a study showing that for the first time in more than half a century, over 50 percent of public school students nationwide are considered low income, i.e. poor. Those who have been fleeing the public schools and advocating public funding for alternative schools must consider this a significant victory: The prospects of sending their children to school with “those people” diminish as the number of charter schools grows and the voucher movement succeeds in more and more communities. As well, those who are hoarding the nation’s wealth and who disparage as wasteful and useless spending for such wrap-around services as public school hygiene and health care, mental counseling, after-school programs, summer programs and...Steve Haycox