Paul Jenkins

The long overdue effort to reform Alaska’s criminal justice system to refocus on violent criminals, reduce recidivism, institute sensible punishment and save money as the state tries to scramble out of a river of red ink is laudable. So, why does it leave some of us so itchy? Maybe it is this: Bad people do bad things; if they are not in jail, they will do them to you. Alaska certainly has its share of bad people, but imprisoning too many of them is causing problems. The Alaska Criminal Justice Commission, in a December report, said the state could save $424 million over the next decade by cutting its prison population by 21 percent. Nowadays, the state is paying more than $60,000 a year per inmate bed. The panel, aided by the Pew Charitable Trusts Public Safety Performance Project and U...Paul Jenkins
Imagine you are about to undergo intricate, intensely tricky brain surgery -- the tiniest mistake and you are an eggplant -- when a nurse pats your arm and tells you not to fret; the surgeon has been on his feet for the past three months and is a little frazzled, but he is, by golly, rushing to get to you. Any thinking person who wants to remain a thinking person might be rattled. "Why not wait?," you could ask. After all, this is a huge deal. Mistakes could be devastating and everlasting. It just must be done, the nurse admonishes, and right now. But I’m not dying, you protest. The doctor has a boat payment, she says. The stampede to fix Alaska’s more than $4 billion budget sinkhole triggered by plunging oil prices and lagging production is beginning to feel a lot like that -- a...Paul Jenkins
Togiak's traditional council is onto something. Relying on only “known fact,” it is banishing a guy -- the second in a year, mind you -- from its village for the next 10 years. Ten years. Banished. As in the heave-ho. Can you believe it? The two, it turns out, are brothers. The first of the banished, from Dillingham, earlier drew the whole megillah and hit the adios jackpot. He received a lifetime ouster -- and the tribal council president warns the panel is considering additional banishments for actual Togiak tribal members who can be tossed out of the tribe. Holy cow! What a sensational idea. Why did we not think of it first? Dave Bendinger of KDLG News reports the council, based on “known fact,” is accusing the men of sneaking booze and drugs into the dry community, but there are no...Paul Jenkins
Voters handed Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and his union pals an embarrassing whuppin' the other day when they marched to the polls and overwhelmingly restored the city’s voter-approved tax cap, even enshrining it in the city charter -- and they did it despite a misleading campaign. Despite the left’s fondest wishes, voters embraced Proposition 8 with a vengeance, approving it 69 percent to 38 percent and returning the tax cap to what it was before the Assembly’s liberal majority changed its calculation late last year to collect added property taxes. This year alone, that change would have cost taxpayers $1 million more; $142 million in added taxes had it been in effect since 2008. The idea was to root around deeper in your pockets to replace fading state funding and the Legislature’s unseemly...Paul Jenkins
This election is a gift. Rarely does the political left drop its phony pretense and show us its face, what it is willing to do and say to get its way, but voters in Tuesday’s election are getting a front-row seat to just such a show. The fight over Proposition 8 is center-stage. If adopted, it would repeal language the Anchorage Assembly’s liberal majority plugged into the city’s tax cap calculation late last year. That language allowed increased property taxes to support ever more government spending. Last year’s change is shaking down taxpayers for more than $1 million in added taxes this year alone. Had it been in effect since 2008 -- and the city taxed to the maximum under the tax cap -- taxpayers this year would be coughing up nearly $142 million in additional taxes, not including...Paul Jenkins
Rarely do taxpayers get the opportunity to throw off the tax yoke so often and enthusiastically clamped around their necks by rapacious government, but in Anchorage they have a good shot at doing just that in the April 5 municipal elections by approving Proposition 8. The measure won a ballot spot after its backers gathered 11,000 signatures in the blink of an eye. If adopted, Proposition 8 would change the city charter and undo the Assembly majority’s monkeying with the tax cap to pry loose more revenue for even more government. Seven liberal Assembly members -- Elvi Gray-Jackson, Dick Traini, Patrick Flynn, Ernie Hall, Pete Petersen, Paul Honeman and Tim Steele -- late last year changed the wording in the cap’s complicated calculation. That action allows officials to figure collection...Paul Jenkins
President Barack Obama’s announcement of his pick to replace the late Justice Antonin Scalia on the U.S. Supreme Court bench was exceptional political theater, appearing so reasonable, but aimed at gutting the Second Amendment. If Obama has his way, District of Columbia Court of Appeals Chief Judge Merrick Garland will become the nation’s 113th justice. If those of us who support the Bill of Rights -- all of it -- are lucky, he will not. Obama took the opportunity before the cameras to describe Garland as “one of America’s sharpest legal minds.” The president demanded the Senate give his appointee a fair hearing and an up-or-down vote, something the chamber’s leadership vows never will happen during Obama’s last year in office. If the Senate does not act, Obama warned, it would be...Paul Jenkins
Golly, it must be spring in the Frozen North. Trees are beginning to bud. Lake-size puddles and axle-snapping pot holes appear overnight. There are signs popping up in front of houses, too. Yard sale signs. Political signs. And possibly coming soon in a neighborhood near too many of us: a forest of new “For Sale” signs. As Alaska and its major industry -- the one that pays 90 percent of the state’s bills and underpins half the economy -- reel from the worldwide oil price free-fall, the specter of Alaska’s mid-1980s crunch looms. It, too, was triggered by nosediving oil prices. The crash wrecked the real estate market, shuttered banks and triggered economic upheaval. People walked away from their homes. You could buy a barrel of oil for less than you would pay for a sockeye salmon. The...Paul Jenkins
The morning after Super Tuesday, a guy on his way to work was getting a soft drink at a local convenience store and holding forth on how The Donald has captured the hearts, minds and votes of so many Americans. He was excited, animated, waving his soda around to make his point. “People are tired, tired of politicians lying,” he said. “They are tired of the news media. They are tired of government. They want somebody who will tell the truth and get the country back on track, somebody not afraid to do what’s right. And they are terrified of him. He’s got so much money, nobody owns him.” It was so very hard not to scream, “Are you nuts? The only person scarier than Trump is Hillary Clinton, or maybe Bernie Sanders,” but, instead, uncharacteristically, I opted for discretion. Let the guy...Paul Jenkins
If Donald Trump’s exuberant “I love the poorly educated” gush during his Nevada victory gloat -- doesn’t this guy scare the pants off anybody but me? -- did not peg your had-enough-o-meter, a video of a recent Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing might. It offers insight about what our federal masters think of Alaskans. The snippet centered on the Interior Department’s budget proposal for fiscal 2017. It contained an exchange between Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who chairs the powerful panel, and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. Murkowski asked Jewell how many emergency medical evacuations from King Cove there have been in the 26 months since Jewell nixed a 10-mile, single-lane, non-commercial, gravel road through the 300,000-acre Izembek National Wildlife...Paul Jenkins