Gov. Michael J. Dunleavy has all but abandoned his fiscal agenda that was marked by his 2019 firing of Donna Arduin by an email from his then-Chief of Staff Ben Stevens. Arduin’s sin seems to be that she was doing her job, serving as both the administration face for difficult budget cuts and serving as the lightning rod for the governor in dealing with the backlash from the opposition to those cuts.
Dunleavy has decided to compromise on the PFD issue, meaning no statutory PFD or repayment of what Gov. Bill Walker took from Alaskans to grow government.
Dunleavy’s cuts since have been neither deep nor designed to promote dialogue with the Legislature. The Legislature has his measure and largely ignores the governor.
Dunleavy’s leadership failures are his greatest weakness. Dunleavy has adopted former Gov. Sean Parnell’s retiring, lackluster presence by remaining in the background and hiding rather than confronting the opposition or the problem. It was the failure in leadership that cost Parnell his office.
We still have a failed education system in the Bush and elsewhere in Alaska where money continues to be poured into a bottomless pit that produces only failure.
It should be noted that the state Senate failed to pass a measure to prevent Critical Race Theory in Alaska’s education curriculum. Dunleavy is losing a chance to show leadership by barring the Marxist agenda in our schools through an executive order.
Dunleavy managed to lose legislative support in 2019 when he turned his back on those legislators who supported his budget cuts and his attempt to hold a special session in Wasilla. Those legislators who supported him paid egregiously for their support of the governor. Dunleavy just walked away and let them swing in the wind. They lost committee appointments and were sanctioned by former Sen. Cathy Giessel and Rep. Bryce Edgmon, the Senate and House leadership at the time.
Dunleavy’s support of mining seemed to be invested in dinners with Pebble’s Australian company pogues rather than working to restore 50 million acres of ANILCA lands to multiple use status for development in compliance with the Statehood Compact. Further, the state needs to enforce access across state and federal lands.
Dunleavy’s Bush law enforcement initiative ground to a halt with his firing of Amanda Price earlier this summer, the former commissioner of the Department of Public Safety (DPS). Price was fired by an email from Dunleavy’s latest chief of staff, Randy Rualo. It is my understanding that Price’s sin was a conflict with one of Dunleavy’s supporters within DPS.
As part of the law enforcement initiative and to mitigate the collapse of the Army National Guard in the Bush, Dunlevy ordered MG Torrence Saxe to restore the Alaska State Defense Force as a state military police constabulary. Dunleavy’s Department of Military and Veterans Affairs (DMVA) refuses to accomplish his will. He has what can only be termed open insubordination in his organized militia where his or, rather, Walker’s Alaska State Defense Force is concerned. Even with an operations model, a training syllabus, eight years of successful operational history (2001-2009), a mandate for the mission as a state military police constabulary under AS 26.05.070, and no cost to the state, the ASDF leadership has refused the order of the governor. The law did not change in the intervening time that would bar the change in mission, but the ASDF and DMVA leadership became woke. Part of that woke is a belief that the militia should not act in an armed capacity.
This is an egregious failure, as Alaska is made less secure and Alaskans less safe. In this, Dunleavy emulates former governors Parnell and Walker.
Dunleavy’s conduct is reminiscent of Parnell’s failure regarding the collapse of the Army National Guard in the Bush and the illegalities that came to surface in 2014. The Parnell administration ignored drug running, misappropriation of government property, coercion of witnesses and whistleblowers, several rapes, and the rape and murder of SSG Michele M. Clark. The murder of SSG Clark was never solved. However, according to the Dunleavy administration, everything is hunky dory at the DMVA. Nothing to see here. Given the insubordination of the leadership of the ASDF and the commissioner/TAG, nothing could be further from the truth.
An unelected doctor yarded this governor around during the Covid-19 response, thereby increasing the cost, damages, and harm to Alaskans and Alaska’s economy. This governor let fear and conjecture do great harm that continues to this day.
Every restaurant is closed in Seward because of a labor shortage due to Covid-19 unemployment funds that pay people to stay home.
As Dunleavy runs for reelection, he will stand or fall based upon his defense of his record. Given his failures, that defense should be interesting.
Larry Wood is a longtime Alaskan and businessman living on Lazy Mountain near Palmer.