Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Sunday, August 30, 2015
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Fran had a surprise visitor this week. She sends her love to all her friends in Barrow, Alaska, the lower 48 and… knowing Fran… probably the world!
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Elise Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Saturday, August 29, 2015

Because he left John Oliver, Stephen Colbert and Larry Wilmore behind to keep us sane.

Elise Patkotak • 03:49 AM •
Friday, August 28, 2015

In case you are wondering, what you’ve been observing on a national level the past six years is the politics of spite. Republicans announced at the beginning of Obama’s first term that their sole objective was to make his presidency a failure and they have worked to accomplish just that while failing to actually contribute to our country’s welfare. Now it seems as though our Republican legislature has decided to emulate their national brethren. With the announcement of the lawsuit against Governor Walker for expanding Medicaid, I fear we have heard the opening salvo of four years of spite politics in Alaska.

Walker committed the mortal sin of choosing what he believed was best for Alaska over party politics. His fairly decisive election victory would seem to indicate that most Alaskans agreed with him. Apparently he must now pay for that even if, in paying for it, Republicans hurt Alaska.
There is a lot of discussion in the legislature about how Medicaid is broken and will cost us too much. I don’t think anyone is actually arguing that Medicaid is perfect. But it is the only program available to thousands of people in this state who have no other access to medical care. So whether it needs tweaking or not, it needs to be available to those whose health care will otherwise involve Saturday night visits to the ER at great cost to those of us who have insurance.  Because in case you missed the memo, the reason that box of tissues in your hospital room cost $145 is that you are also paying for the tissues used by people with no health insurance.
So Medicaid expansion, complete with federal dollars to cover most of the expansion, is not only a fiscally responsible position, but also a morally responsible position. Apparently our Republican legislature is so intent on playing spite politics with Walker that they will violate the basic morality inherent in caring for those in our society who are less fortunate. And please let me again emphasize, we will pay for the health care of those with no coverage one way or another. Either we do it upfront by helping them obtain health insurance on some level or we will do it on the back end when our costs rise to cover the health care system’s unpaid bills.
Almost every poll taken in the state shows that the majority of Alaskans support this expansion. But that doesn’t seem to matter to the Republican majority who are definitely marching to the beat of a drummer the rest of us aren’t hearing. For instance, recent polling shows Alaskans would rather pay something to keep state services at their current level, whether it be through an income tax, a sales tax or some other revenue generating mechanism. Given that the price of oil fell last week even further than it had been when our legislature was holding it’s never ending sessions last spring, you’d think the leadership would start paying attention. But no. They have for so long marched to the cadence of the chant, “No new taxes”, that they apparently can’t hear their constituents saying that they understand that sometimes that’s the only answer.
What Republicans in our state legislature can’t seem to accept is that not everyone in this state views government as the enemy all the time. Many of us are actually capable of carrying nuanced views of the issues we are wrestling with in light of falling oil prices. We are able to simultaneously accept that some of government is a pain in the butt but much of it is actually useful and helpful. Ergo the poll that shows that Alaskans are willing to pay for these services.
Our Republican majority is busy playing the politics of spite with the governor no matter what gets destroyed in the process.  They can’t see that the future lies in Alaskans once again being responsible for the services they receive. They march to a tune that says no to everything the governor says yes to. And we have four years of this fun to look forward to. Unless, as an electorate, we do something at the next election to put in legislators that actually represent what Alaskans want and need.
The legislature should have put that extra half million dollars towards Medicaid expansion, not a lawyer’s second home.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Wednesday, August 26, 2015
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Her name is Judy Sereni and if you see her, be gentle. Getting older isn’t easy for any of us but she was always the kid in the family so this marks a turning point that none of us want to face… though, as you can see from this picture, she’s not going down into old age without a fight.
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Elise Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Tuesday, August 25, 2015

I don’t care what anyone says. For so long as I pay the bills, I should get first dibs on where I sleep on my bed. So Snowy, please stop growling when I move you!

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Monday, August 24, 2015
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Usually when I clean bird cages, I put the dogs in my office so they and the birds don’t tangle. The other day I was doing the cages but for some reason forgot to put the dogs away. I was halfway through Abdul’s cage when I was distracted and stepped out onto my porch for a few minutes. When I got back, I noticed two things. One, Abdul was not in his cage and two, the dogs were freaking out. That’s when I saw Abdul standing on the first stair leading to the second floor where the dogs’ food, to say nothing of my/their bed is. Abdul was holding his own against all comers and not letting the dogs pass as he paced back and forth across the stair and yelled at them. I thought the dogs were going to have a nervous breakdown.
In my home. Abdul the African Grey, rules supreme!
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Elise Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Sunday, August 23, 2015

When you have to call Apple Care for tech support, start off with this statement, “I’m 68 years old and think these things work on magic. I don’t remember half of my passwords and I’m afraid of hitting the Settings button”. The young person on the other end of the phone immediately starts to speak much slower and in actual English as opposed to using those computer terms that still confuse me.
Try it. It works… as does my iPad again.
Thanks Apple Care.

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •
Saturday, August 22, 2015
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So I made a grilled cheese sandwich. Since I’m fairly fanatical that the cheese has to perfectly fit the shape of the bread, I end up with small pieces of cheese that I tear off to create the right shape. Tossed the cheese pieces to the dogs. Each got two pieces. Snowy, aka Tub of Lard, snarfed his up before Carm could even get to his two pieces. When Carm got to his cheese, he sniffed it suspiciously and then backed away and stared at it. I’m not sure what he thought it was but he was definitely not interested in eating it. On the other hand, he wasn’t about to let Snowy get to it. Carm may not have wanted it, but it was his and he wasn’t sharing. So I went downstairs to the office figuring they’d eventually follow. They didn’t. Fifteen minutes later I went upstairs to find this scene. Snowy was patiently sitting and waiting for his turn to pounce on the delicious cheese while Carm halfheartedly licked it and tried to not gag at the flavor. I watched as Carm licked both pieces thoroughly so that if Snowy did eat them, he’d have to take Carm’s spittle along with the cheese. Then Carm finally walked away and Snowy inhaled the cheese, spittle and all, in about three seconds.
You really don’t need a tv when you have dogs to amuse you.
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Elise Patkotak • 03:28 AM •
Friday, August 21, 2015
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Elise Patkotak • 03:32 AM •
Thursday, August 20, 2015

This Saturday. Bird TLC will be holding its annual farewell to our migratory bird friends at an event called “Gone With The Wings”. I’d planned to write about the event but then another article about the North Slope Borough hit the paper and I felt a great sense of obligation to try and explain, if possible, that things are done differently up north. It’s something I spent almost ten years as the borough’s public information officer trying to explain to the outside world. It’s not easy.

So, let me just urge you to go to the Bird TLC property above Potter’s Marsh on Saturday between 12 and 4 and get up close and personal with eagles and owls and crows, to name just a few. There will be food, games and, weather permitting, a rehabilitated great horned owl and possibly a merlin will be released.
Now let’s move on to the issue of how to explain the North Slope Borough to people who have never lived there… and possibly, to some who have.
The first thing you have to understand is that Slope residents do not view the borough in quite the same way as people here view the Municipality of Anchorage. While most of the country views varying levels of government as necessary for the execution of a variety of activities such as public safety, road maintenance and such, people on the North Slope view the borough as something very much more close and personal. It’s not a governmental body absent from their daily lives except when it’s time to pay taxes. For starts, most people on the North Slope don’t fund the borough. The oil industry’s property taxes do. This makes spending the money on basketball camps a lot easier.
North Slope people view the borough as very much “theirs” in a way that can only be understood by understanding their cultural values. The Inupiat have a communal culture because that’s what survival required. There was no concept of land ownership until outsiders introduced it. The Inupiat view the land and seas and the commodities therein as belonging to everyone. Everyone has access to the bounty of the sea and everyone hunts caribou, birds and moose on land. No one “owns” those resources.
But then the outside world came along and introduced the concept that some resources could be owned, extracted and utilized by only certain groups. The wealth resulting from this extraction ended up in the coffers of the North Slope Borough as tax dollars.
So the people of the North Slope view the borough as the repository of dollars that, in fact, are there to be shared with everyone. Keep in mind that the borough’s annual budget for about 9000 people is almost as much as the Anchorage Municipality has for hundreds of thousands of people. You have to work hard to spend all that money.
I am not trying to justify why the current mayor’s daughter was earning thousands of dollars making cakes for departments headed by her sisters. Even for the North Slope, that’s somewhat egregious. But you also need to understand that the borough is the main employer on the North Slope. Not only does the borough fund itself, but it also funds the school district and Ilisagvik College.  Trying to find someone who does not have multiple relatives working for some part of the borough is damn near impossible. Given the deep extent and reach of the borough, some conflicts of interest are simply unavoidable.
Not everyone always agrees with the way the borough spends its money. This is especially true if you were on the wrong side of the winning ticket in the last election. But things tend to even out over time up north. In the end, everyone usually gets their piece of the pie, even if their piece is occasionally somewhat smaller than some others.
The North Slope Borough has a huge tax base compared to the number of people living there. They have chosen to use that money to pay for the little extras like basketball camps that most people can’t afford on their own. This is not necessarily something that could be done in a larger municipality. But the borough is such an every present reality in most people’s lives there that it seems more like a family business than a governmental entity.  And Inupiat families share.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Wednesday, August 19, 2015
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Elise Patkotak • 03:30 AM •
Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Let Bill do all the campaigning.

Elise Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Monday, August 17, 2015

I turned my furnace on today for the first time since May. Thank god. Winter is on its way!
And yes, I turned it off as soon as the house got up to 64 degrees but still…

Elise Patkotak • 10:06 AM •
Sunday, August 16, 2015

If god… be it a he, she or it… is so fixated on taking attendance on Sunday, why did that god make the day so beautiful that being inside of anywhere is what feels sinful?

Elise Patkotak • 03:38 AM •
Saturday, August 15, 2015

Not only did I just figure out that my baby sister is turning a large number with a zero at the end of it, but I just found out that a Barrow friend that I always think of as the kid I first met there is now a great grandmother. Shoot me. Shoot me now!

Elise Patkotak • 03:36 AM •

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