Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, July 08, 2016

Grey, cloudy, rainy, cool… my kind of summer.

Elise Patkotak • 03:12 AM •
Thursday, July 07, 2016

After seeing some of the pieces written by other columnists in this paper, I hesitated to write another one about Governor Walker and his vetoes. Then I realized that any politician willing to show the level of courage he has in facing reality and dealing with it deserves as much print as he can get.  Gov. Walker’s vetoes last week affected everyone and made people on all ends of the political spectrum angry. I view that as a sure sign that he’s doing something right.

As a supporter of public broadcasting, education and programs for the elderly and young, I was angry at his vetoes too. But I was also happy to see some of our bigger boondoggles finally get shut down. I’ve lived in this state for 44 years and I feel like I’ve spent most of them hearing about the Susitna Dam project and the Knik Arms bridge. Yet I never felt like there was ever really any chance they would become a reality. They seemed to mostly drain lots of money from the state coffer without showing much in return.
There, I’ve made some of you mad. You supported these projects and felt the cuts were better made elsewhere. Thus I’ve somewhat proven my point that there is something to love and something to hate for everyone in Walker’s vetoes. But what you can’t take away from him is that he did what needed to be done to get even a minimally balanced budget for our state. In case you’ve forgotten, our courageous legislators wasted four months of our time and cash to come up with a plan that almost emptied the Constitutional Budgetary Reserve rather than risk losing their cushy seats in the legislature. Unlike the majority of Alaskans who realize the free ride on oil is pretty much over, they chose to hope that prices would rebound before they had to make the tough decisions. Or, as we Alaskans like to say, “Please God, give us another boom. We promise not to fritter this one away.”
It is long past time for Alaskans to stand up and take fiscal responsibility for their state. For so long as we live off the oil companies, it seems to me that we can’t really criticize those legislators who are clearly following the companies’ agendas. If we want to just spend their money and not put a cent of our money on the line to maintain a decent quality of life for all Alaskans, then we can’t complain when the guys paying the bill want special consideration.
For those who insist that the budget needs to be cut even more I say, fine. Show me those cuts. And once you’ve shown them to me, I’ll show you a few thousand Alaskans who think that the programs you want to cut are critical to our future. Every program still in our state budget has advocates as well as detractors. For every cut one person wants, another person wants the funding to continue. So just cutting the budget is probably not a realistic plan, though it makes for a great catch phrase.
The reality is that one way or another, we have to start paying our share of the financial burden. Every layer of our society will be impacted. Perhaps the hardest hit will be the numerous charities and non-profits that will be expected to pick up the slack. They will need our support more than ever, even as we receive lower PFDs and possibly pay an income tax. But that’s the reality of life in this great country. We are not being asked to do anything that isn’t considered SOP in every other state in this union. In fact, and you might want to be sitting down for this, we are the only state that actually pays its citizens to live here.
It’s going to be hard to watch our legislators go back into session and once again prove themselves to be rather lily-livered about doing what’s needed for Alaska’s financial future after watching the courage Bill Walker just showed. Maybe he will only be a one-term governor – and maybe not. In case our legislators haven’t noticed, he has wide and deep support across this state. And he for sure has my vote the next time he needs it.

Elise Patkotak • 03:15 AM •
Wednesday, July 06, 2016

This is what a true profile in courage looks like. In the end, he buried them with words, wisdom and justice. Makes our current crop of politicians look absolutely pathetic.

Elise Patkotak • 03:10 AM •
Tuesday, July 05, 2016

Does Donald Trump’s nmouth not remind you of an orange anus due to the ingestion of too many Cheetos?

Elise Patkotak • 03:08 PM •
Monday, July 04, 2016

Despite it all, we survive, grow and thrive. That’s America.

Elise Patkotak • 03:07 AM •
Friday, July 01, 2016

Having company who have never been to Alaska means taking them around to show them our glorious state and in doing so, we rediscover what we fell in love with in the first place. Alaska truly is astounding and sometimes we forget how astounding until we see it through a visitor’s eyes.

Elise Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Thursday, June 30, 2016

America’s birthday is rapidly approaching and, as it does, we should all spend at least a brief moment between hamburgers and hotdogs on the grill to contemplate that fact. It was not a given that we would survive our rebellion against England. It was not a given that disparate groups from 13 very different colonies would be able to come up with a document that all would sign. What our forefathers did was compromise in order to achieve the greater good of nationhood.

Yes, I said compromise. That tends to be a dirty word in today’s America. We all have retreated to our individual corners and will not budge an inch on “principle”. Our forefathers knew a lot about principles. But they also knew that a government of the people would always be a government fraught with discord over any and every issue that could arise. And the only way to move that government forward, the only way to move their work to create a new nation forward, was to compromise. Give a little, get a little. And eventually, the whole thing balances out. Proof is in the pudding. Our Declaration of Independence is a great document but it is the Constitution that is the masterpiece because it is a document born of discourse, debate and compromise.
I find it interesting that our forefathers are held up to us as beacons of the best America can produce by the same people who view compromise as a sin.
The men who crafted our Constitution were wise and thoughtful. But they weren’t invincible, their weren’t without their own errors of thought and action. They believed that women were a man’s possession and should not have any say in the national discourse. Most owned slaves with little thought, if any, to the morality of their action.
We acknowledge their mistakes now without demeaning the work they accomplished. The Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution stood as beacons of light in the dark world in which they were created.  For the first time, the rights of the people were codified, proclaimed and enforced – but not the rights of all people. It covered only white men with property. Women, slaves, poor people were not considered intelligent enough to be trusted with this responsibility.
Women can vote now. And slavery has been relegated to a shameful past. We accept that our founding fathers got those things wrong and corrected them. The Constitution is frequently referred to as a living document. Anything living needs room to stretch and grow. That’s why we have amendments. Our founding fathers may have been brilliant but they weren’t capable of creating a document that could handle 21st century problems.
All of which is to say that the Second Amendment was written in an entirely different day and age than that which we face today. The weapons used by those proclaiming their right to bring semiautomatic rifles into Starbucks would absolutely astound our founders. Open carry in grocery stores does not meet their definition of a well regulated militia.
Accepting as truth that guns don’t kill people, people do, we should have no problem with regulating the people who own guns since they are the ones who use them to kill. Cars don’t kill people. People driving them do. That’s why we regulate the people who are allowed to use that potentially lethal weapon. Why is it so hard for some to translate that into sensible regulations of the people who use guns.
Given that the no-fly list is, at best, a questionable list of possible terrorists, I’m not all that sold on using it to keep people from buying guns unless they come up with a way for innocent people to quickly get their names off the list. But surely even our esteemed forefathers would have seen the merit of regulating who gets to buy guns that have no other use than to kill a lot of people fast.
I think they would be horrified at what we have done to their Second Amendment. On the other hand, America leads the world in manufacturing arms. And weapons producers are closely bedded with the upper echelons of the NRA. As long as their profits are involved, common sense, the Constitution, our Founding Fathers… none of that matters. Dead people are just statistics. But money in the bank buys that second yacht.

Elise Patkotak • 03:22 AM •
Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The wedding is tomorrow. Tonight my house fills up with family from Coronado. My birds will soon be besides themselves with joy at all the noise and confusion that will erupt around them given that two of my guests are under 10. They find me dull and boring when we are home alone and all is quiet. My dogs will have their comfortable life and routine disrupted but that’s a good thing. Make them appreciate what they’ve got now and take for granted.
So on to the wedding in Indian tomorrow. The bride will be stunning. The groom will be handsome and all will be well in the world.

Elise Patkotak • 03:11 AM •
Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Came home from the store to find four young magpies on my lawn. They were clearly new out of the nest and just getting the hang of flying. They started running across the lawn as I pulled up and the adults showed up in short order to protect their babes. The little ones started to vocalize and I immediately recognized the sounds as those I’d been hearing coming from a nest outside my bedroom window. I guess the kids are all grown up and getting ready to leave home. I can now leave the bathroom window open on hot days without the chorus of hungry cries I’ve been hearing for the past month or more. I think I’ll actually miss that. But glad to see the little ones safely launched.

Elise Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Monday, June 27, 2016

Do you have a mosquito trap in your yard in Anchorage? If so, Bird TLC is in desperate need of mosquitoes for some of the baby birds we care for this time of year. So don’t throw all the dried mosquitoes out. Bring them to Bird TLC at 7800 King Street. It’s the circle of life!

Elise Patkotak • 03:27 PM •

My friend and I got all dressed up to go to dinner on a fine Saturday night in June in the metropolis known as South Anchorage. We’ve been doing this for a lot of years. In our youth, the nights would start late and end early. Well, we still have the early part down pat. We are proud to announce that, despite not making the target goal of 8:30, we painted the town pink until 8:15.

Elise Patkotak • 03:03 AM •
Friday, June 24, 2016

I will revel in the peace and quiet of the weekend knowing that on Monday The Family descends on me for a week. My house if clean, my fence is straight, my porch has flowers and my refrigerator has milk for the boys.
Come on in, Mushovics! My home is anxiously awaiting you.

Elise Patkotak • 03:39 AM •
Thursday, June 23, 2016

Our Alaska Legislature wound down its special session with no bang and barely a whimper. I know you’re all shocked to find out that the Legislature has still been in session. The silence emanating out of Juneau during this last special session is a perfect encapsulation of the Legislature’s complete failure. Not that they haven’t accomplished anything. They’ve done the bidding of their industry overlords and made sure that while education, health care, children and the elderly pay for the crash in oil prices, their real constituents feel no pain. They get their subsidies. Meanwhile, Alaska faces downgraded credit ratings, an almost empty budgetary reserve, and a fairly bleak financial future, all because it’s an election year and the ins want to stay in.

You’d think for the amount of money these turkeys have been pulling down while their session stretched on endlessly that they would have come up with at least one or two decent ideas for what to do with our current fiscal crisis. Instead, it seems as though the time was spent taking positions that tried to straddle the great divide between what industry wanted and what their constituents needed. The oil lobbyists have clearly won this skirmish. As for the war, we barely have any ammo left to fight it.
I have to question how these people keep their jobs when they don’t do the one major task on their plate. They posture and pose and blame it on the other guy, the other party. Let’s be real here. Everyone is to blame. But whether they like it or not, the majority of the blame falls on the majority party that has a chokehold on the Legislature. They seemed incapable of compromising or making the hard decisions. In fact, the only thing some legislators seemed capable of doing is making sure the oil industry will fund their re-election bids this fall by doing everything asked of them.
These politicians currently congratulating themselves on passing a budget that relies on practically emptying the Constitutional Budgetary Reserve claim that fixing Alaska’s financial woes is hard, complicated work that can’t be done overnight. Well, duh!  We knew that. And they knew that going into this session. They knew it from last session. They knew it from the time the price of a barrel of oil dropped under $50. They promised us when they were begging for our votes that they were the ones capable of putting Humpty Dumpty back together again. They lied. Watching the convoluted twists and turns of the past few months in Juneau it has become clear to most Alaskans with even half a brain that the only thing these legislators are capable of is lining their own pockets by making sure their bosses don’t have to feel the pain.
So now we’re at a point where next year’s legislature will face an almost empty savings account and no path to a future of financial solvency. These politicians will come home to campaign on the platform that they cut the budget and next year will finally get around to creating a realistic fiscal plan.  They sound like kids with a reading list for summer who wake up one day and find that it’s Labor Day and they haven’t even started. So they promise their mom they’ll do better next year but there is simply not enough time to accomplish the reading before school starts.
They will blame the other guys, whether those other guys are the governor, the Democrats or moderate Republicans, for holding up all their brilliant ideas. In case you weren’t paying attention, those brilliant ideas mostly sounded like giving money to the oil companies as well as giving them our oil while making sure Alaskans remain hungry, cold and illiterate. Great plan.
Governor Walker has called for yet another special session. The good news is that this will dramatically cut down on the amount of campaign crap filling our mailboxes and voice mail message boxes. The bad news is that they will still be collecting per diem and expenses. If they had any shame at all, they wouldn’t take it.
H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” If Alaskans vote this car full of clowns back into office this fall, they will prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that he was absolutely right.

Elise Patkotak • 03:41 AM •
Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I’ll have Kodi, the Cache Crow, at the Botanical Gardens tomorrow from 12:30 until 2. Stop by and say hi. Bring lots of dollar bills. He needs to work for a living and can’t do that without your help. Kodi also graciously accepts fives, tens, twenties and hundreds, so don’t feel shy about giving him some big bills.

Elise Patkotak • 03:37 AM •
Tuesday, June 21, 2016

It’s hot, sunny and beautiful all week and then gets cold, cloudy and rainy on the weekends.
Maybe we picked the wrong days to use as the weekends.

Elise Patkotak • 03:33 AM •

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