Voices

Mike Hanley lost Alaska’s top education job for the same reason that makes sustained school improvement difficult: political interference. Vague explanations for Hanley’s firing , and the nonrenewal of Ed Graff’s contract as superintendent of schools in Anchorage, leave parents wondering why skilled and well-liked administrators lost their jobs. In my next column I’ll address the Graff issue. Hanley, Alaska's commissioner of education and early development, ran afoul of Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, after Hanley refused to steer state correspondence school money to Holy Rosary Academy, a Catholic school in Anchorage. Dunleavy is chairman of the Senate Education Committee. He had been on Hanley’s case for not giving more control to the State Board of Education, a group mostly appointed by...Charles Wohlforth
I have agreed to allow the landlord of the new Anchorage Legislative Information Office building, often referred to as the Taj MaHawker, to settle with me because the Legislature has the power to do anything it decides and the lawsuit has already accomplished its main goals. Continuing the lawsuit under these circumstances would subject me to substantial financial risk for little if any public benefit since my lawsuit has already forced the Legislature to deal with the issue and looks poised to terminate the lease as it should. However, I doubt the landlord will proceed with the settlement. I filed the Taj MaHawker lawsuit knowing that it exposed me to substantial financial risk. The lawsuit illustrates how the Alaska Legislature has deliberately suppressed citizen lawsuits seeking to...Jim Gottstein
Honor of storing dragon head is Denali Montessori’s In the ADN, Feb. 5 article on the Ski for Women costumes, the paper mistakenly reported that the dragon head has been residing at North Star Elementary School. In fact, we at Denali Montessori School have had the pleasure of storing and using the dragon head for our annual Chinese New Year parade. We love the dragon and will use it again this Monday for our parade! Thanks. — Paula Davis Anchorage Is there a political vendetta against ASD superintendent? What’s with the Anchorage School Board’s decision to search for a new superintendent? Has the school district been is recent turmoil? Have the parents been up in arms demanding the ouster of the current superintendent? Has the teachers’ union been at war with the superintendent? I didn’t...Alaska Dispatch News
Children with brain-based disorders often have associated behaviors that can drive parents nuts: a meltdown in the restaurant; kicking and screaming over something that seems ridiculously minor; impulsivity or rigidity that makes even the most mundane, routine tasks seem like endurance sports. The list goes on. Most parents who love and raise these children will understand the “why” behind it. Autism, fetal alcohol spectrum disorders and other impacts on neurocognitive functioning, including abuse and trauma, offer an explanation for the sometimes extreme coping methods and heightened sensitivities of afflicted children. They easily slip into “fight, flight or freeze” mode. But for all of the “whys” science can come up with, it does little to equip parents with the fortitude and stamina...Jill Burke
One of the privileges of living in Southcentral Alaska is the proximity to Prince William Sound. At the heart of the Chugach National Forest, the Sound is a vast landscape of remote islands, ancient rainforest, wild salmon and towering glaciers and mountains. It is a recreational and ecological jewel and an economic engine for the region. Today, as the Chugach National Forest revises its management plan, those who love the Sound have an important opportunity to contribute to its care. The revision now underway only occurs every 15 years, so today’s decisions have lasting impact. Unfortunately, the U.S. Forest Service’s proposed plan would significantly weaken the Sound's protections that have been in place for over a generation. With vague language, it creates confusion about area...Kate McLaughlin,Dean Rand
JUNEAU -- Turn off your helmet cam for a second and pull up a deluxe rustic retreat reclining chair. I live in Alaska. I kick butt and take names. And then I add them to my Instagram feed, so you can see photos of the smoked salmon strata I had for brunch. Let me put it another way: I shred more gnar during a pee break than you’ll rip in an entire lifetime. All day -- and any night I don’t fall asleep power-streaming “Northern Exposure” -- I’m a latte-sipping, camouflage jammies-wearing, fleece-blanketed couch enthusiast with a bottomless appetite for halibut nachos. That’s right: I’m hardcore Alaska soft. And when I really get into it, man, look out -- I’ll wear my butt groove a new butt groove. Yeah, bro, I hit it 24/7/363 (I take off for Seward 's and Alaska Day ). Feast your polarized...Geoff Kirsch
Gov. Bill Walker’s labyrinthine fiscal plan to plug the state’s budget gap -- more a smoking crater than a gap nowadays -- has far too many moving parts, far too many gizmos, doodads and doohickeys for mere mortals to fully understand it or its eventual consequences. Despite that, proponents inside and outside government have deployed consultants and lobbyists and arm-twisters in some sort of high-stakes, pressure-cooker sleazefest to “empower” lawmakers to get it done -- this very moment! None of that will make the work simpler, faster or less tortuous, because it is chock full of worrisome and complex components we all should be fretting about. A lot. This puppy needs some time. It contains changes, for instance, in the oil and gas credit system that would turn it into a low-interest...Paul Jenkins
I can’t stop thinking about an article I read this week. It’s coloring so much of what I’m thinking about. The U.S. military -- specifically the Air Force, Navy and Marines -- has spent $400 billion on an airplane that doesn’t work. The plane is so unstealthy that 1950s-era radar can detect it. For nine of the last 13 years, the aircraft have been grounded by “takeoff issues.” What issues? Oh, catching on fire . (Although, let’s admit, catching fire before takeoff seems preferable to catching fire after.) There are software issues that won't allow the fighter to fire its weapons until 2019. During a simulated war scenario, the F-35 was found to be “double-inferior” because it “ can’t turn, can’t climb, can’t run .” After spending $400 billion on this craptastic runway ornament, the cost...Shannyn Moore
Last fall, I listened as a mother named Cary Dixon told her family’s story at a forum I convened in West Virginia. It was heartbreaking. Cary’s adult son has struggled with a substance use disorder for years, and she described the pain that families like hers have gone through. “We dread the next phone call,” she said. “We don’t take vacations for fear of the next crisis. We come back from vacations because there’s a crisis.” Cary and her family are far from alone. As the use of prescription drugs has increased over the past 15 or 20 years, so has their misuse -- as well as the wreckage caused by other opioids like heroin. In fact, four in five heroin users started out by misusing prescription drugs, and then switched to heroin. As a consequence, between 2002 and 2013, the rate of heroin-...Barack Obama
More than one Alaskan has probably already called the new legislative budget-cutting hotline, 1-844-414-5949, to suggest the state could save some money by dumping the Anchorage Legislative Information Office lease. The Legislative Council, a joint Senate-House committee of legislative leaders, plans to meet again Thursday to try to make a decision on competing claims about costs and a buyout plan. What’s most disturbing about the events of the past two and a half years is how little energy the council devoted to this matter early on when its members could have made a difference in shaping the outcome. And how much time and energy they have wasted since the “Taj MaHawker" began to occupy a grossly exaggerated role in attitudes about profligate spending. I agree with House Speaker Mike...Dermot Cole