Courtesy Image / Pat Race

Courtesy Image / Pat Race

Opinion: Recall effort is necessary to hold governor accountable

“We can’t assume someone else is going to do the work of holding him accountable…”

  • Thursday, February 11, 2021 9:54pm
  • Opinion

By Pat Race

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has violated our state constitution, broken the law and misspent state funds for partisan political purposes. Those are the grounds for the recall effort which were affirmed by the Alaska Supreme Court this summer.

Opponents of the recall have tried to minimize the governor’s transgressions — he only violated the constitution a little bit, after all. He only spent a few thousand bucks on illegal political mailers. He only illegally vetoed $334,700 from the courts as an act of retribution because … he was “starting a conversation?”

[Opinion: Is the Dunleavy recall opening Pandora’s box?]

If you live in Southeast Alaska like me, you’ve seen the impacts of that one-sided “conversation.” You’ve seen the Alaska Marine Highway System mismanaged to the point that communities have had to wait months between visits. You’ve seen the university system drained of funding and cast into crisis. You’ve watched as talented friends and neighbors have had to pack up their belongings and leave the state for other opportunities.

I still can’t believe some of the things in that first budget. Dunleavy handed it off to Donna Arduin, a person with no context and no experience in Alaska, and she put it through the shredder. Families and seniors were cast into crisis by a proposal to increase fees at our Pioneer Homes as much as 140%. Budget cuts eliminated revenue neutral programs like the Ocean Rangers. Public Media was defunded. Alaska became the only state without an arts council after the Alaska State Council on the Arts was eliminated.

A few line items were pulled out of the fire by the Legislature, but it’s worth remembering that time for what it was: total chaos.

Grover Norquist said, “I don’t want to abolish government. I simply want to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.” This seems like the inspiration for the Dunleavy model. The problem is that we rely on that government for basic safety and services. We shouldn’t want to drown the government in a bathtub, we should want to see it operating efficiently, transparently and competently.

The recall effort erupted from that first budget, and hundreds of statewide volunteers collected tens of thousands of signatures in just a few weeks. Dunleavy was forced to do damage control; he jettisoned Arduin and Tuckerman Babcock, but the changes were superficial, rearranging deck chairs on the MV Taku.

Just this week, the courts ruled that the governor again violated state law and the Alaska Constitution when he broke a contract with the state’s largest public-employee union.

It’s clear to see that these are not accidental steps over the line. This is an established, ongoing pattern of bad faith governance. It adds up and it matters.

The Dunleavy administration also refuses to communicate with the public. A string of scandals in the attorney general’s office hasn’t resulted in a single press availability. Their stonewalling is so bad that the Alaska Press Club was compelled to issue an unprecedented letter asking the governor to “return to the practice of taking reporters’ questions.”

We can’t just put our heads down and muddle through another two years.

In January, we stepped up our efforts to get the recall across the finish line.

We’ve got fewer than 21,000 signatures to collect, and we aim to get there in six to eight weeks. These past two weeks we sent out 10,000 sign-from-home signature booklets to Alaskans who want to get their name in the hat, and we’re going to get people out collecting signatures in person where it’s safe to do so.

We’re getting close. And that’s why you’re going to see and hear more attempts to pour cold water on the effort. Plenty of harrumphing and hand wringing to endure, but it’s time to get this done.

When a governor fails us so terribly, the recall is our right and our recourse as citizens. We can’t assume someone else is going to do the work of holding him accountable for his illegal actions and there’s really no one else who will.

Get a signature booklet at RecallDunleavy.org or make a donation today.

Pat Race is a filmmaker and illustrator whose work can be found at the Alaska Robotics Gallery on Front Street in Juneau. He grew up in Lingít Aaní and received a degree in computer science from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He currently serves on the steering committee for the Recall Dunleavy campaign.

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