Steve Haycox

It’s remarkable that though the oil industry is out-spending supporters of Ballot Measure 1 on the August primary ballot 100 to 1, the polls are showing support for the repeal three points up. It appears we are experiencing a backlash, directed against an industry that seems willing to bully and bludgeon Alaskans into accepting their agenda which is, mostly, lower taxes, which means more industry profit, and less revenue for the state. Alaska has been subjected to such bullying before, in the era before statehood when the canned salmon industry controlled the primary revenue-generator for the territory, commercial fishing, and by lobbying Congress and co-opting the territorial Legislature through campaign contributions, kept their taxes low and the revenue stream to the territory meager...Steve Haycox
The American government may be in some serious trouble. A Gallup poll released last week finds that confidence in all three of the branches, the Presidency, the Supreme Court and especially Congress, is at historic lows. Dissatisfaction with government performance is widespread; many people feel their leaders neither share nor protect their interests. Moreover, the intense polarization our politics developed over the last decade and a half has caused many thoughtful writers to question whether the Constitution should be fundamentally revised. The dysfunction has moved some analysts to question whether liberal democracy itself can survive. The journalist Edmund Fawcett, who writes for the New York Times, the Guardian and the New Statesman, quotes the brilliant British Marxist historian...Steve Haycox
It's rather inconsistent that so many Anchorage leaders point with pride to the diversity we now see in Anchorage's schools, yet lend their support to a voucher program that would vitiate the city's, and the state's, public schools. A widely reported recent study done by UAA sociology professor Chad Farrell and colleagues found that Mountain View is the most diverse census tract in the United States. Correspondingly, East Anchorage is the most diverse high school in the nation, followed by Bartlett and West Anchorage as No. 2 and No. 3. It's important to understand that diversity doesn't mean just that there's a large population of non-whites; diversity includes whites as well as others. That being said, white people are now a minority in Anchorage's schools overall -- 44 percent. That's...Steve Haycox
Jack Johnson was a larger than life figure, a true Alaskan character. Born in 1926, raised on Kodiak Island, he went to sea at the age of 13. At various times he served in the U.S. Merchant Marine, in the Scottish Guards, in the Russian Army, in the French Foreign Legion, and in the Israeli Army. He ended his career as a ship's pilot in southcentral Alaskan waters. Retiring at 80, he died earlier this year. In 1947 Johnson was in France and a bit at loose ends. He was recruited by Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization in British Palestine which at the time was outfitting ships to carry Jews from Europe, illegally, to settle in Palestine. In the Russian Army Johnson had helped liberate one of the death camps in 1945, an experience that seared his conscience. The ship he helped sail...Steve Haycox
Correction: Upon first publication, the following commentary stated that Riversdale Resources is partly owned by the mining company Rio Tinto, but that is incorrect. The text below has been corrected. Matanuska Valley residents have witnessed an environmental drama over coal development during the last several years that raises important questions about the direction of Alaska’s energy policy. Riversdale Alaska, a subsidiary of Riversdale Resources, an Australian company, has a 10-year lease on about 10,000 acres of Alaska Mental Health Trust lands around the Native village of Chickaloon, at the east end of the eight-mile long Wishbone Hill coal complex, east of Palmer. Riverside plans both underground and strip mining of the remaining deposit. At the same time, Usibelli Coal has leased...Steve Haycox
Cliven Bundy doesn't understand something about "federal overreach." And if he wasn't such a deadbeat scofflaw and unreconstructed social miscreant he might have started another Sagebrush Rebellion. The last one fully enveloped Alaska at a time when resentment of federal presence in Alaska ran as high as it ever has. Bundy is the fellow with the Nevada ranch who's been running cattle on Bureau of Land Management acreage for 20 years while refusing to pay his grazing fees; he claims the BLM has no authority because the federal government has no constitutional right to the land he is using. There are a host of ironies in his story, not the least of which is that if the federal government didn't own the land and the BLM didn't have any authority, all the land around him would be in private...Steve Haycox
Brock Evans is president of the Endangered Species Coalition, a national network of conservation, outdoor, community and other groups working to protect the nation's disappearing wildlife and wild places, and the Endangered Species Act itself. In the late 1960s he worked in Seattle for the Sierra Club, as the Northwest representative; his area of responsibility included Alaska. In the early 1970s he headed the Sierra Club's new Washington, D.C., office, lobbying Congress to block authorization of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, a fight environmentalists lost. Later he was a vice-president of the Audubon Society. He has recently published a new book titled, "Fight & Win: Brock Evans' Strategies for the New Eco-Warrior." The Alaska Coalition, first formed to pursue Congressional...Steve Haycox
2014 is a major anniversary year for Alaska. March 24 marks 25 years since the Exxon Valdez tanker oil spill in Prince William Sound; March 27 will be 50 years since the great Alaska earthquake. 2014 also marks the 40th anniversary of the start of construction of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline. As is widely recognized, the pipeline and subsequent tax revenue generated by oil production profoundly transformed Alaska, economically, politically and even socially. Alaska had undergone previous transformations. As a result of immigrants flooding across Alaska subsequent to the Klondike gold rush at the turn of the 20th century, the non-Native population surged from around 5,000 to about 30,000, catching up with about the same number of Native inhabitants. Trapper/prospectors working mineral...Steve Haycox
It remains to be seen what the Alaska legislature will do this session with the Watana Dam project on the Susitna River. The 700-foot high structure, if ever built, is projected to supply 50 percent of the power needed along the Railbelt from Anchorage to Fairbanks. But three issues have taken the blush off the project for which the Legislature appropriated about $95 million last year and $66 million the year before. The Alaska budget is not as robust as it has been, and there are more immediate needs calling for priority; the gas profile in Cook Inlet looks better than it did a few years ago when the prospect of a gas shortage in Southcentral Alaska made any energy alternative look attractive; and Native land title in the area that the dam's reservoir would flood has yet to be resolved...Steve Haycox
A news item of particular import passed mostly unnoticed early this week: A statue of James Meredith on the University of Mississippi campus was found with a noose around its neck and a Confederate flag draped around its shoulders. Meredith is the courageous African-American who forced the Kennedy administration to enforce his civil rights when he sought admission to the University of Mississippi in 1962. Mississippi's Gov. Ross Barnett tried to prevent Meredith's enrollment but backed down under pressure from Kennedy. Meredith's action generated a riot at the university, to which the federal government responded with 500 U.S. marshals, a contingent of U.S. Army troops and nationalization of the Mississippi National Guard. Two people were killed and more than 200 injured. Rioters set fire...Steve Haycox