Dennis Anderson

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has decided he will go directly to the people on his Facebook page AK GOV PRESS. “If the press isn’t going to get it right…,” he declared as straddled in front of the camera with a John Wayne cockiness, “we’re going to go directly to you.”

No problem.

Fireside chats are nothing new. This isn’t revolutionary. Sen. Dan Sullivan does this as well as anyone. But the idea that he’s going to side step the press because he doesn’t like a headline seems a bit silly and to call out the Anchorage Daily News for the headline “Dunleavy sets dividend at $1,600” is arrogant.

Dunleavy told me in an interview once that he doesn’t read the local newspapers. Apparently. he reads headlines or at least his staff does. Yes, the legislature sets the PFD amount, but he holds the veto power, which makes him the most powerful governor in the US.

His back was against the wall when he signed the operating budget. And as they say, deadlines spur action, so it was either sign the bill in front of him or risk a zero-sum PFD. I don’t believe the recall movement spurred his decisions as of late. I believe he pushed his agenda to the very brink and got what he could from his smaller government platform. He played chicken with the legislature and quite frankly it was a head-on collision. Nobody can claim victory. Especially the people of Alaska.

Campaign promises often go unfulfilled. His full PFD plus back pay promises fell on deaf ears to those who knew logically it wouldn’t happen. But he’ll continue to ride his battle cry of giving the people what they want for the next three years. Whether it ever comes to fruition only time will tell. And as far as the recall movement, it’s a waste of time and effort.

I’ve said it from the beginning of my time in Alaska, a limit on the PFD is an unfair head tax. It’s a flawed way to generate revenue to cover services. The problem with the Dunleavy plan is it’s as if he really believes he will cut every service to get a full PFD payout with no alternative revenue plan.

In one of his Facebook statements he claims that in October of 2018 oil prices were at $85 per barrel, but when he took office oil prices had fallen to $55 per barrel. But no one was expecting a budget based on $85 a barrel in October so let’s not use that as an excuse to why he mismanaged the situation from the start.

The honest conversation and the budget that was originally presented did nothing but set panic in most communities in Alaska, and strife between those from different social and economic backgrounds.

The headline may have been technically wrong in the ADN story but the sub-headline and the story itself was very accurate and informative. The version on adn.com is even better complete with links to data that verify the reporting by James Brooks. Again, the headline isn’t the story.

It’s dangerous for anyone to proclaim that citizens should bypass the media and go directly to the source for political news. Every politician communicates with their constituents in varying forms from newsletters to Facebook live video feeds. I don’t read or watch any of them expecting the politician to tell on themselves. “Well this week I really didn’t do a good job and here’s why…” isn’t going to happen.

The governor wanted a conversation and he got one. If he’s expecting the media to report everything concerning his administration exactly the way he and his team wants them to then he’s continually going to be disappointed.

As long as the opinions remain on the opinion page and the reporting is of the facts in the news stories then this rhetoric that the media just won’t get it right is just that…rhetoric.

It seems more than ever now that state and local journalism need to be supported. Allowing the government to control the message short changes our democracy.

Dennis Anderson is a group publisher for Wick Communications Alaska, Colorado.

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