Elise Sereni
     Patkotak
Friday, September 04, 2015
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Saturday, September 5th
12 - 4 PM
Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center
Mile 79, Seward Hwy.
Portage, AK

Join Bird TLC at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center for a day of learning and fun focused on Alaska’s wildlife! This event will feature live wild bird presentations from Bird TLC and live wildlife programs from AWCC, and you can enter a raffle at the event for a chance to win a day cruise, kayak trip, dinner for two, or other great prizes. Admission is $12.50 for adults and $9.00 for children ages 13 - 18 (kids 12 and under are free). All proceeds go to Bird Treatment and Learning Center and Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. See you there!

For more information visit our website: http://www.birdtlc.net.
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Elise Patkotak • 03:19 AM •
Thursday, September 03, 2015

Now that our historic presidential visit is just about over, we can focus on the important things in life. Important things like will it be warm enough to grill outside on Labor Day? And let’s be honest here. Alaskans have been known to grill in below zero weather so absent torrential rains, I’m guessing most of us will celebrate the day with something charred on a grill.

According to a government website, “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
It has been around since 1894 when laborers were still fighting to be treated decently and have their work respected. Everything in history was against their effort to organize but that didn’t stop them. Across Europe and America, workers who demanded to be treated fairly and with dignity formed unions because they knew that strength in numbers was their best ally. Ultimately, unions secured safe workplaces, decent wages and humane working hours, often in the face of bloody opposition from both politicians and their backers. Not unlike today, those political backers were the rich and powerful.
As we approach this Labor Day, what might strike you is how much the relationship between unions, owners and government has seemed to change since then. Except that if you really look closely, nothing has changed. Powerful people with billions of dollars still control most politicians. And more and more politicians are again doing everything they can to strip unions of their power to represent their membership in a meaningful way. The difference is that the unions now are on the defensive, while the rich and powerful continue to enjoy obscene rewards from the working person’s labor.
Unions are not blameless in this scenario.  Some have taken as much advantage of their members as anyone else. Some became corrupt and bloated, with senior union staff rivaling the rich and powerful in their wealth and access to the corridors of influence in DC. Now it seems we want to throw the baby out with the bathwater to correct the situation and that’s never a good idea.
More and more employers are using part time workers and contract workers to avoid paying benefits like health care, sick leave or retirement. This puts more money in their pockets and less money in the pockets of the workers. For those of you who wonder where America’s middle class went, look no further. Our middle class grew strong on the backs of unions that demanded fair and equitable treatment for all workers. Now we live in a world where executives make 500 times what the most skilled worker makes, while leaving that worker with a barely living wage. That’s simply wrong.
I have a dear friend in New Jersey who taught elementary school for over forty years.  I watched her spend her own money to buy supplies. I watched her gather up materials and drive to a hospital in another city to make sure a student battling cancer had his schoolwork and could keep up. I watched her use her own time to fix up her classroom so that it was always a warm and welcoming place for the kids in her care. I watched her pay to expand her education so that she’d be better at what she did. Mostly though, I watched in awe at her dedication to what is clearly a vocation and not just a job. So when Governor Chris Christie basically declared teachers and their union the “enemy”, you can understand her bewilderment.
We spend a lot of time in this country pontificating about how important our kids’ education is to their future. Then we turn around and penalize the people who work every day to make that education happen. We watch as executives buy a second home and third yacht while the line worker can’t afford to pay for his kid’s dental work. Unions remain one of the last bulwarks against the total destruction of the middle class.
On Labor Day, let’s truly celebrate the laborer and never forget what it was like before unions fought for decent wages and benefits. It’s not a time we should be trying to return to.

Elise Patkotak • 03:51 AM •
Wednesday, September 02, 2015
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And why does he have his arm around my mother? And does my father know about him? So many questions… so few answers…
And may I be the first to say, I love her shoes!
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Elise Patkotak • 03:02 AM •
Tuesday, September 01, 2015

I am totally ignoring President Obama’s visit to Alaska, which has Alaskans either thrilled or angry depending on whether you are trying to work, walk or drive downtown. I am ignoring this event because everyone with access to a computer is writing about it. Me? I’m headed to Bird TLC for my Tuesday shift where I will smile and laugh happily surrounded by bird poop and frozen mice.
Everyone marches to the beat of their own drum.

Elise Patkotak • 03:50 AM •
Monday, August 31, 2015
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A challenge to my cousins (cousin) and brother who I know read this blog regularly… name these girls!
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Elise Patkotak • 03:40 AM •
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 •

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