Frank Gerjevic

Well, fit ‘em for halos and stand in awe. Senate President Kevin Meyer and Speaker of the House Mike Chenault wrote the following stunning paragraph in their commentary (ADN, Aug. 19) explaining the Alaska Legislative Council’s decision to sue Gov. Bill Walker over Medicaid expansion: “Today, Alaskans get to see a rare specimen: A creature commentators tell us has been extinct for generations. Not just one, but an entire group of elected officials standing up for what they believe is right, knowing full well it will not be popular.” Before they prep their bios for inclusion in an updated “Profiles in Courage,” they should deal straight with Alaskans. There may be a constitutional issue here, and if there is the courts will rule. But that’s not the purpose of this lawsuit. The GOP...Frank Gerjevic

ADN year in review: Memorable commentaries from 2014

Some called the 2014 Alaska election year the Second Battle for Statehood. Did we win?

That depends on your point of view, and points of view are what we publish here in the opinion section of Alaska Dispatch News.

That battle for statehood was dominated by two issues -- oil taxes and marijuana -- and two statewide election races, for U.S. Senate and governor. Alaskans decided to stick with the oil tax cuts and legalize marijuana. Alaskans ordered Mark Begich home and sent Dan Sullivan to the Senate. And then Alaskans voted for a historic unity ticket, making erstwhile Republican Bill Walker the new governor and Democrat Byron Mallott the lieutenant governor.

All along the way, we argued. And argued. And argued some more. Other topics, like feral cats in Anchorage and air quality in Fairbanks momentarily wrested attention from the biggest election races. We made more progress discussing persistent social ills like violence, racism and suicide. And as in years past, an idea implicit in many commentaries was how best to chart Alaska's future without abandoning its past.

In the end, most Alaskans agreed on one thing. We were glad the election ended, letting us turn to the challenges and opportunities that face us together. That's why the photo accompanying the top of this list features a sky full of northern lights, not a mailbox full of campaign flyers or cheesy mug shots of candidates.

So here's our selection of readers' and writers' work from 2014. As always, thanks for reading and writing; without you all this is a lonely enterprise. We hope to hear from you again in 2015, and may we all enjoy the adventure.

Scott Woodham and Frank Gerjevic are the opinion pages editors for Alaska Dispatch News. 

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, e-mail commentary(at)

Scott Woodham,Frank Gerjevic
We don’t know how candidate for governor Bill Walker would have responded to the call for help in cleaning up the Alaska National Guard. We do know how Gov. Sean Parnell responded. And on the merits of that response alone, Walker should become governor. Parnell’s defenders complain that criticism of his handling of the guard scandal is just politics. But good men and women put careers, friendships and reputations on the line to warn the state's chief executive and commander in chief of rape, harassment, intimidation, retaliation, fraud, drugs and gunrunning that ran to the top of the guard. They were not playing politics. They were not playing at all. Career military officers, chaplains with no agenda but justice and the people in their care, along with others who paid for their courage...Frank Gerjevic
Slow that train down, Casey. Alaskans are deciding between now and 8 p.m. on Election Day whether to become the third state in the union to legalize and regulate marijuana. We should decide no. What’s the compelling reason to legalize marijuana? What do we gain? Proponents argue that legalization is a triumph of reason over fear. Alaskans’ passage of a medical marijuana law in 1998 fit that argument. But this version of legalization that is Ballot Measure 2 is a toke or two over the line. First, we don’t know exactly what we’re voting for. The consumption of marijuana for Alaskans 21 and older will be legal, but it’s only after the vote that we’ll deal with the devil and his details in months of rule-making. It’s those on-the-ground details that will determine whether Alaska looks more...Frank Gerjevic
We should see through the smoke and fear and vote yes Tuesday to repeal Senate Bill 21, the oil tax cut legislation. With that vote we'll return to ACES, the previous tax regime. And that will set the stage for improving ACES in the next legislative session. Here's why: We're a sovereign state, not a supplicant. This referendum is about a specific bill, but also about power. The oil companies not only want to pay the least amount in taxes, they want maximum freedom to invest those gains on their own terms, with the least obligation to Alaska. That serves the companies, not us. It's absurd state policy to give breaks on faith. We have time. Those apocalyptic predictions of lights out in Alaska if we vote for repeal are nonsense. The companies may sell assets, as BP has done, but they're...Frank Gerjevic
And the nation gets a little stronger One day last week my son Nick told me the students would attend a ceremony at Romig Middle School. "What do you call that again?" he asked, explaining that one of the teachers and some others were going to become citizens of the United States. "Naturalization," I said. I helped him tie his tie. This was a ceremony to dress up for, even if his red, white and blue included blue jeans. The Daily News story captured the heart in the ceremony. I didn't attend, but it felt right to make sure Nick's knot was as presentable as I can tie one. With the exception of those who were here for millennia, we're a nation of immigrants. My grandparents came here in the early 1900s from Slovenia, and I am forever grateful that they did. I believe in the melting pot; the...Frank Gerjevic
Under any circumstances, this would be a classic, crazy road trip. Former Marines Lenny Cestaro and Aaron Showalter leave Anchorage at 5 a.m. Thursday morning to drive a hot-rod, Ford Model A 5-window coupe to Arizona. It's a rig to behold and one Cestaro spoke of with love and laughter Tuesday, the specs rolling off his tongue like military designations: 292 Ford Y-block engine from a 1956 Ford F-100, a 1958 2-speed Fordomatic transmission ("And there's a reason why they stopped producin' 'em," Cestaro says), two three-barrrel Holley carburetors. The "Rat" is a low-slung road warrior "custom fabricated through trial and error" that hits its sweet spot between 70 and 80 mph. Cestaro, a federal firearms instructor, and Showalter, a certified diesel mechanic, are having fun, but fun isn't...Frank Gerjevic
All the current talk of secession -- 750,000 signatures from 50 states on a White House website -- has me thinking about Shelby Foote and Joe Vogler. Foote wrote a magnificent history of the Civil War. Vogler founded the Alaska Independence Party and wanted the state to leave the Union and become its own republic. Now you might think about Foote's work as a cautionary tale about what happens with secession. But it's not that so much as a simple passage in one of his volumes in which a Yankee soldier yells across the lines to a Reb: "Hey, Secesh..." There's a familiarity to it, as someone asking in bewilderment, "What are you doing, brother?" I can't take the current secession shout much more seriously than most Alaskans took Joe Vogler and his call for independence. But I do remember a...Frank Gerjevic
Raechyl Robinson e-mailed her poem with a request to publish it in spite of the fact that she figured it was too long for a letter. Poetry, I thought. We don't publish poetry. Unless... So I invite you to read Raechyl Robinson's verse here: Trapped in an open cage she suffers silently. Searching desperately for a way out, Dying to be free. Too terrified to tell anyone, she masks her daily pain. Embarrased beyond belief; too proud. Too ashamed. MAC, Avon or Mary Kay - which one ... will best conceal? Evidence of her secret life, proof of her ordeal. ''Why don't you just leave him?'' ''Why would you stay?'' ''I can't continue to be your friend, if you choose to live this way'' Long sleeves in the summertime Long hair covering one eye Fears of isolation haunt her thoughts, It's easier to lie...Frank Gerjevic
Julia O'Malley's column on the treasures of Fuji Gifts, the late Art Wallace's shop on the Old Glenn Highway in Chugiak, has prompted a fair amount of comment and memories. It was good place, and that lent something extra to the gifts bought there. Art Wallace would wrap them well as he talked with you. Or you might browse as he wrapped and chatted with another shopper. You might meditate and marvel at the pool hewn of rock, the work of Wallace's own hands, where a large Buddha smiled. The place was hand-built and owner stocked, nothing corporate about it. Whether a picnic basket bought for an anniversary, or wind chimes for a wedding, you felt as if the gift included a touch of the classical music Wallace favored and light wind in the windsocks outside. Can't get that ordering online. By...Frank Gerjevic