The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for the Alaska Legislature in Southcentral Alaska to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
Carolyn “Care” Clift | Undeclared | Occupation: Retired teacher | Age: 69 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Kuspuk School District, Anchorage School Disrict, prior candidate | carecliftforalaska.com
Why are you running for office?
I am very unhappy with the way the legislature has been putting the needs of the government ahead of the needs of the people.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life in Alaska. In addition to ongoing public health threats, the state has seen serious, long-term impacts to its economy and jobs, education system, tourism and the ability for residents to travel. Have state leaders handled the pandemic effectively? Explain.
State, and especially Anchorage, leaders have NOT handled the pandemic effectively. The initial shutdown of many businesses was supposed to last only a couple of weeks. Most people complied, voluntarily, and were cooperative in hunkering down with their families and wearing face masks and social distancing when they went out in public. When Anchorage took everything a step farther and MANDATED mask-wearing, social distancing, and closing bars and restaurants, etc., for indoor service, again, in the month of August, the people of Anchorage protested. The protection of private, free market capitalism is the main purpose of a government. Government forced people to need welfare by causing the loss of jobs. It was unconstitutional. The state government also caused the unintended consequences of extremely high unemployment, business closures, and missed medical appointments causing deaths. People couldn’t do what was needed to support their families and protect their own health.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The role that the state should play in repairing the economic damage includes making sure that the CAREs funds go to the very individuals and businesses that were harmed by being out of work. They need to admit that it was their decisions that caused half of the income loss, while the lack of tourism caused the other half. As for the public schools, students will have, in effect, missed a whole semester of schooling that can never be recovered. Parents should have been given a choice of home schooling or in-school education. Teachers and other government employees should be able to choose whether to work from home or in person, and older or immune-compromised employees should be encouraged to take the online jobs, retire, or take a leave without pay. Families need to be able to make their own decisions to protect their own health and well-being without being compelled by government.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
One pressing issue in my district, which includes the Far North Bicentennial Park and many trailheads for Chugach State Park, is balancing the privacy and homes of the residents with the need of the greater Anchorage Community. Parking for the trailheads is a big problem; trespassing and littering on private property is a big problem; obstruction of roads for emergencies, and safety on the Seward Highway is a big problem. Developers are coming in and making some of these problems worse. There are some nonprofit funding groups that are working on solving specific park problems. This fundraising is necessary before requesting state funds from the Governor. I would also encourage private transportation companies to provide shuttles from area school parking lots to the trailheads. Park users would be willing to pay more for parking. I will work closely with the residents and the state and municipal governments to find solutions that are economical and efficient.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
A sustainable state operating budget depends on sustainable resources for revenues. It is time to look at a more equitable royalty program and profit sharing for our business partners that are harvesting our natural resources. I want to look at each industry, not just the oil industry, to determine how our resources are being used for the maximum benefit of the Alaskan people, and also look at the environmental impact of the industry on our land and people. Taxes are not the answer. We also must repay the amount of money that has been “borrowed” from the CBR, and a plan for repaying that money is necessary. Responsible cuts to programs that provide benefits to Alaskans, coupled with cuts to programs that are not even mentioned in the Constitution, can still be made.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation is a managed investment fund by and for the people of Alaska. The people of Alaska are the stockholders in that corporation and are entitled to an annual dividend if the Corporation makes money. Since the corporation continues to grow, through careful investments, there should never be a reason to not pay out at least a small dividend. I am in favor of rescinding the POMV rule for the Permanent Fund and reinstating the statutory formula from pre-Gov.-Walker days. I am also in agreement with putting a constitutional amendment in front of the voters, to make sure that the PFD is figured out annually. Furthermore, the opportunity to return all or part of the PFD, to the State government, should be part of the PFD Application. Hopefully this repayment can be used as a deduction on IRS forms. Also included should be a poll for adult applicants to suggest which departments of the State should receive a large percentage of the General Fund money.
The state is projecting a $2.3 billion deficit for the next fiscal year if the Permanent Fund dividend is paid using the traditional formula in state law. If no dividend is paid, the deficit would be about $300 million. Do you support cutting services to pay a larger dividend? If so, what services would you cut first?
Raising revenues and cutting services is necessary. I suggest cuts of about half billion per year, so that in four years, about two billion dollars would be cut. Each department would be asked to find 10%-15% in cuts. Since personnel is always the largest expense in every department, the hope is the union members cooperate to prevent layoffs. We can offer incentives for earlier retirement for Tier One and Two employees, offer job retraining incentives, and have the expectation that remaining employees will take a paycut. Cuts can be made in social programs and education by nonpartisan decision-making. Medicaid services will have more restrictive income-based standards. Services for seniors may require raising age requirements to cut down on how many are using the services. The State can assist many departments into gaining nonprofit status to receive charitable contributions.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
Ways to improve Alaska’s schools include improving internet services to rural Alaska and cutting down on administrative expenses. I support the bill reducing the 54 school district superintendents and boards to a much smaller number, freeing up monies for direct student services. As a reading specialist and special education teacher, having intensive reading, writing, and math fundamental instruction in the primary grades is crucial. Children need hands-on, teacher-directed instruction and to pass frequent assessments. By fourth grade, more computer-directed instruction is possible, but benchmarks need to be passed.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
Our universities can be money makers, attracting out-of-state students who pay significantly higher tuition, if we have the vision. Each branch of the UA should be a “world-class” campus that specializes in certain areas. Most universities have active alumni associations and boards of regents also raising money. With the sports programs nearly decimated, I hope that the groups raise the money they need to continue their teams, because winter sports bring students.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
High rates of sexual assault and domestic violence are likely caused by many factors of the Alaskan lifestyle and cultures. In the winter, we have long periods of darkness and cold, causing boredom, depression, and too much time indoors. Alcoholism and drug use are higher here than in the lower 48. There is also a cultural factor, because children learn what they see, and the cycle of violence continues through families and generations. Education of our young people is one key idea. We need to learn to express our need for companionship in nonviolent ways, through shared activities and interactive entertainment, so that we can break the cycle. It is also important that each neighborhood and community have safe places to go, and public safety officers handy that will arrest perpetrators, even their friends. Opioid and alcohol addiction must be recognized and treated for what they are, diseases. The people who have addictions must come willingly to the treatment plan.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Diversification is the key to growing and stabilizing Alaska’s economy. We can profit from responsible, environmentally sound mining for gold, copper, oil, and other marketable minerals; forestry; fishing; tourism/hunting; photography; etc., by raising rates, fees, royalties, and the state’s profits on the people’s natural resources. We need to make the rules for responsible stewardship and stick to them.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
My position on the proposed Pebble mine is that it will be a hugely profitable endeavor, and it is going to happen whether we all like it or not. There are enormously destructive environmental issues in mining for minerals with toxic tailings, and as a legislator, it is my duty to see that the operators of the mine spend as much money as it takes to insure that the fisheries and the beautiful lands surrounding the mine are left in pristine condition. Besides requiring that there be no environmental damage, we need to also be sure that Alaskans receive high rents and royalties on the profits of the mine.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
An important issue, “Due process in family courts,” is near to my heart because of what I have observed in our own courtrooms. This is when Parental Rights are permanently denied. Parents should be presumed innocent until proven guilty in cases of child abuse and neglect. Children are removed when there is a report against the parents. The care workers presume the parents to be guilty and set up a plan of classes, meetings, treatments, and visitations so strenuous that the parent or parent(s) cannot hold down a job. Most parents fail the plan and never get their children back. If the parent didn’t deserve a permanent termination of parental rights, it is a cruel punishment. Parents separated from their children by custody issues, often fathers, also get caught in this unfair trap. Many pay child support and are denied visits. It is my mission to make sure Alaskan parents get a fair day in court, with a real defense, and real evidence.