Elise Sereni
Thursday, April 23, 2015

Once again Alaskans are being treated to the spectacle of a legislature unable to finish its business in the time allotted. This gives further credence to my theory that the reason Republicans are so hard on government employees is because they know that they themselves are some of the worse government employees imaginable.

Every year our legislators troop down to Juneau, all bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready for the challenge of creating the needed laws and budgets to keep the state going another 12 months. And every year we are treated to the sight of three months of a lot of hot air blowing out of the capitol buildings followed by the steam that ensues when the legislature realizes that the end is near. Suddenly, everyone goes into overdrive.
Do you know of anyone working for government who could get away with that year after year after year? Picture a district attorney spending 11.9 months discussing how to proceed on a case and then trying to jam the work actually needed on the case into the last day before the court hearing. Isn’t that just what our legislature does every year to us? They complain that limiting the session to only 120 days has made it almost impossible to get anything done. Yet for most of those 120 days, what we hear from the legislature is that they have plenty of time before they have to make any final decisions. Then suddenly, much to their surprise and chagrin, the end of session is upon them and they are flummoxed by all that’s left to be done. They had no idea.
I know this year has been a tough one for them. After all, they are faced with a collapsed oil economy that, in turn, has threatened to collapse our economy. Suddenly they did not have enough money to feed the people who pay for their campaigns while also taking care of the citizens they purport to represent. Trying to fill that hole kept them so busy they had no time for other things, like passing Erin’s Law or creating the laws needed for marijuana sales in the state.
It’s that last one that puzzles me most. Given that Colorado collected so much in taxes over pot sales in the first year that they may have to return some of it, you’d think our legislators would have jumped on the chance to create a new revenue stream by making the bills needed for pot sale a priority. They could have been even more creative and designated a certain percentage of the tax revenues from the sale of pot to help out our beleaguered school system. Heck, if Alaskans use as much pot as I suspect they do, the pot industry could end up sending money to support the oil industry.  Now there’s something I’d definitely want to hang around to see.
Back to my point though, I find it hard to believe that the same group that constantly implies that every state employee is either extraneous, overpaid or lazy can’t get it’s own house in order to finish its work in the time allotted by Alaskans. It’s not as though the financial picture is going to dramatically change the day before the end of session. It’s not as though ideological opposites are suddenly going to come together and sing Kumbaya. It’s not as though if they wait long enough, suddenly everyone will love and agree with everyone else. So what are they waiting for?
If I was a cynic, I’d suggest that they want to make all the per diem they can and don’t want to leave anything on the table. If I were a cynic, I’d say they like being down in Juneau feeling oh so very important. Why go home when you’re having fun? Think about it. Their one biggest task is the state budget and here we are at the end of session and we still don’t have one.
It seems to me that adults who know what the tasks before them are should be able to set a schedule for completion of those tasks in the time allotted. Maybe the Legislature should look in the mirror the next time they want to complain about state employees who are overpaid and underworked. They might find that those employees are staring back at them.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Wednesday, April 22, 2015

One of my best friends is a dentist’s wife. Another best friend is her husband the dentist. In fact, I have known quite a few dentists who were pretty wonderful people. So why is it that I still come home and burst into tears after any dental visit that is more invasive than a cleaning?

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:25 AM •
Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Because she’s more of a man than all the male Republicans running for the nomination.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:33 AM •
Monday, April 20, 2015

So Governor Walker has directed his fish and game people to spare the black bears of Government Hill and relocate them. So he can interfere in decisions made in departments he oversees. Yet he claims he couldn’t do anything about his AG joining the lawsuit going to the Supreme Court in an effort to uphold Alaska’s ban on same sex marriage. I guess bears are important enough for him to interfere but people aren’t.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:45 AM •
Sunday, April 19, 2015

Very rich corporations pay their employees a less than living wage. Their employees then use government benefits to survive. Those benefits come from my tax dollars. So I am, in essence, underwriting the corporation’s obscene profits.
Man, talk about welfare queens!

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:13 AM •
Saturday, April 18, 2015

I have had the privilege of caretaking a golden eagle named Denali while his permanent caretaker is out of state. I go there every day and make sure he has water and toss him a rat or quail to eat. He jumps on whatever it is I toss and does this Charlie Chaplin walk to his perch with the food clutched tightly in one foot. Then he tries to jump up on his perch. And sometimes he just misses it and lands on the other side. I try not to laugh. After all, Denali has his dignity to consider. But the sight of this eagle jumping for his perch with a quail or rat grasped tightly in his talons and landing completely on the other side of it is simply too funny. Denali always tries to look as though he meant to do that all along. But I know the truth.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Friday, April 17, 2015

My brother turns 70 today. I don’t know how he got that old when I haven’t aged a bit.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 11:00 AM •
Thursday, April 16, 2015

I have generally been impressed with Governor Walker. He seems to take a clean line down the middle of the ideological spectrum, which is where most of us live. He’s taking a pragmatic approach to the budget, doesn’t seem inclined to generating headlines for outlandish behavior and appears to usually have the interests of all Alaskans at heart. But now that he’s taken such a hands off approach to his administration’s joining a lawsuit seeking to reduce some of our citizens to second-class status, I find myself much less impressed.

He declined to interfere when his attorney general joined a lawsuit appealing the prohibition of same sex marriage as unconstitutional. He seems to imply that, once appointed, his choices for various state positions then act independently with no need for their choices to in anyway mirror his stance on issues. I find that a bit hard to believe. Isn’t the reason these positions are appointed is so that each governor has people in place who follow his agenda? Many of us vote for a candidate based on that candidate’s stated position on a wide variety of topics. I do not expect that person to turn around after being elected and act as though the actions of their subordinates are beyond their control. As that sign on Harry Truman’s desk so eloquently stated, “The buck stops here.”
The other thing that truly bothers me is that I thought Bill Walker meant it when he ran as an independent who would represent all Alaskans. Did I miss the section in his mailers and position statements where he said that he would represent equality for all Alaskans except those of the LGBT community? Is there a more fundamental right you can possibly deny someone than to deny them the right to form a legal union and raise a family recognized by the state as fully and completely legitimate?
Governor Walker’s fallback is that his attorney general is merely upholding the law of the state as enshrined in the state constitution. The fact that higher court rulings have made it clear that denying people the right to marry is illegal doesn’t seem to faze him. And given that our United States Constitution once counted people of color as only partial people and women as too airheaded to be given the vote, it seems fairly clear that parts of the law of any land are going to change as society evolves. The right to marry the person of our choice, so long as that person is an adult capable of making their own decision, is something absolutely fundamental in a free society.
There are some in our state who feel their religion precludes them from accepting gay marriage in any shape or form. I fully support their right to not marry gay couples in their religious ceremonies, though I find their use of the Bible to justify their actions rather suspect. The Bible also permits slavery and killing your children. Somehow Christians have managed to discard those tenets as a product of a different time and culture, no longer relevant in today’s world. Yet they cherry pick statements made in that same far away time and culture to deny basic civil rights to an entire group of our citizens. I find that a rather extraordinary denial of the reality that the Bible contains all kinds of prohibitions discarded by civilizations through the ages.
In the end though, this is about civil rights, not religious beliefs. So I am very disappointed at the way Governor Walker is ducking this issue and acting as though it’s just a little legal hiccup and not something that attempts to deny some Alaskans a very fundamental right. He appointed his attorney general and I’m betting he can call him and tell him to back off and that would be well within his authority. The issue of prohibiting same sex marriage is at the Supreme Court with or without Alaska’s participation. Nothing said in Alaska’s brief is new or breaking exciting legal ground. There is absolutely no reason for Alaska to have joined this lawsuit unless the governor’s message is that bigotry enshrined in our constitution should be defended at all costs no matter who is being hurt by it.
You can be better than that, Governor Walker. At least, I thought you could be. Now I’m not so sure.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:06 AM •
Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Given what I was just billed as an hourly rate for a plumber, I’d suggest pulling your kids from college, medical school or law school and sending them directly to a plumber apprentice program. I’ve had surgeons work on me who charged less.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:08 AM •
Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A belated thank you to everyone who came to the Bird TLC auction and helped us raise so much money for our birds. Little by little we creep closer and closer to the goal of someday actually having our own facility. And remember now that spring has sprung, when you are cleaning out your freezers for this summer’s bounty, Bird TLC will take any salmon or red meat (that hasn’t been altered with spices or anything) and other fish to help us feed our healing birds. We’re at 7800 King Street.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:17 AM •
Monday, April 13, 2015

Kleb’s Mechanical.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 10:41 AM •
Saturday, April 11, 2015

Bird TLC auction tonight at the Sheraton Hotel from 5:30 to whenever. Come meet our education birds. Kodi, our cache crow, will be there to take your money and (hopefully) deposit it politely in his tip jar. There will be eagles and owls and who knows what else to see. Lots of good food and drink and some of the best people on earth will be there. You don’t need a ticket in advance. Just come on over and we’ll charge you at the door. Remember, this is for the birds so please join us. It’s our one major fund raiser of the year and goes a long, long way towards keeping us a viable organization. And baby bird season will soon be upon us. Think of all those little orphaned babies who need us to keep them safe until they are old enough to join their flocks.
Go to Birdtlc.net for more details.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:26 AM •
Friday, April 10, 2015

Don’t make the Boston Marathon bomber a martyr. Give him a life sentence and hope he lives a long and miserable life. Every day he should wake up to the knowledge that he wasted his life. America still stands. Extremism and violence didn’t win. And all he has to look forward to is another day of being someone’s bitch. Yep. Give him a life sentence. It will be much more painful than death.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:24 AM •
Thursday, April 09, 2015

Like many people reading this column, I was raised by parents survived the Great Depression. Their view of money was always going to be skewed by that experience. My father didn’t get a credit card until he was in his sixties. In his world, you didn’t buy something you couldn’t pay for.

All through my childhood my godmother sent my mom money to buy me a new outfit each Easter and Christmas. In fact, when I was all grown up and making more money in a year than she’d ever imagined possible, my godmother still sent me money out of the very tiny amount she survived on in old age. Whenever my sister and I were getting ready to travel to some remote location, an envelope with a card and a check for $15 would arrive in the mail with a message telling me that we should enjoy a dinner on her.
My parents taught me that money did not grow on trees and that if I wanted something, I either needed to work for it or have an incredibly generous aunt.  And my aunt taught me that being incredibly generous was a good and kind thing to do while also teaching me the value of community and family, of one person helping another so all could have a better life.
As our legislature wrestles with budget numbers that have fallen below anything they could have imagined in their worse nightmares, I find myself thinking that we would have all been better off following my family’s philosophy on money. You didn’t spend what you didn’t have, you earned what you spent, and you shared with those in need.
Alaskans have spent way too many years living off of someone else’s money. That free ride is seemingly over. The question is whether we will learn a lesson from this financial disaster or simply hope the price of oil goes back up.
As cuts are announced in even our most sacred cows, I have deliberately not come out advocating replacing that money because I have yet to hear anyone give a reasonable explanation of where the funds will come from. I think education is critical to our future. I think public broadcasting is a vital link to sanity in a world full of noise. I think shelters for abused women should be put in every village in this state. But we no longer have the money to do that.
I still hear few voices accepting responsibility for paying for these programs in any way other than having someone else do it. There’s talk about tightening tax loopholes. Go for it, I say. But is that enough? If programs being cut are those we feel are truly critical to our state, then we should be willing to chip in to pay for them.
So let me be the first to say that I am willing to pay my share to keep the quality of life in this state good and healthy for all. I’ll pay taxes if needed to keep those shelters open and to keep public broadcasting on the air, the same way I pay taxes for schools even though I’ve never had a child in one. I pay because community life demands that we all participate in making our community as healthy as possible for all its members, whether that service directly benefits us or not. We either are a community that pulls together or we’re simply a collection of individuals who only care about ourselves.
I understand some cynicism about this concept. There are those who feel that politicians will spend as much money as we give them. While there is obviously more truth in that statement than we could wish for, Alaska’s fiscal reality is such that even I can understand how broker we are. And no one has ever accused me of having a fine math mind.
We can no longer fund all the programs we have grown so dependent on. If we’re even a little bit smart, we will work hard to never put ourselves in this position again. OK, even I couldn’t write that sentence without bursting into laughter. I guess Alaska’s motto remains what it has always been - no, not North To The Future. The other motto, the one that says, “Please god, give us another boom. We promise not to p..s this one away.”

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •
Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Yep, nothing like a run off to keep politics going on forever.

Elise Sereni Patkotak • 03:47 AM •

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