Town Hall

Valley legislators sat and listened to the concerns of their constituents on Saturday at the Palmer Senior Center.

PALMER — Valley legislators sat and listened to the concerns of their constituents on Saturday at the Palmer Senior Center.

With the start of the 31st Alaska Legislature just weeks away, elected officials are busy filing bills and preparing priorities for the upcoming session. A handful of concerned citizens came to the Palmer Senior Center to let their legislators know what they think.

Alaska State Fair President Steve Brown had a very specific request for legislators.

“The Alaska State Fair is considered one of the top five must see state fairs in the country. The alcohol control board has recommended denying our liquor license because we do not meet the definition of a recreational event,” Brown said.

Brown remarked sarcastically at the notion that the State Fair is not a recreational event.

“So hopefully when y’all go to Juneau, you can address that. So come on out to the state fair and don’t have any fun because it’s not a recreational event,” Brown said.

Brown’s turn at the microphone was one of the only that rendered applause. Many constituents were concerned about topics that have dominated the Alaskan political climate in recent memory: crime, budget and education.

John Nelson, a financial advisor in the Mat-Su Borough, was unhappy with the passage of HB376 during the last session. He would like to see revisions to that bill during the next session, as well as what he sees is a lucrative opportunity for the state.

“A state owned bank by us, the people of Alaska, will save us hundreds of millions of dollars,” Nelson said.

Joe Schlanger determined that the failure of Ballot Measure 1 during the November election meant that the state should open up more natural resources.

“What you need to do is open up these mines,” Schlanger said. “Resource development could pay for all of the schools, lower our property taxes, so much. But one of the reasons I’m here is to open up the Port Mack Rail.”

Schlanger was adamant that the Rail be finished to further economic opportunity in the Valley.

“They even shut it down so people couldn’t snowmachine there, but whatever,” Schlanger said.

One of the issues that received a surprising amount of dialogue was that of Father’s Rights. David Vesper, Director of the Alaska Father’s Rights Movement, shared a story of a man who was traveling to see his child and could not make the town hall to share his own story. Chuck Kaucic was among those who echoed Vespers’ sentiments.

“I support David Vespers previous presentation regarding shared 50 percent parental custody. You all agree that crime is an issue here in the Valley, this is in my experience over 37 years has been a crime how fathers have been treated, denied access to their children, financially mistreated, and mentally mistreated,” Kaucic said.

Emil Shelton gave a speech well over the allotted two minutes in which he described himself as the poster child for father’s rights. Shelton was arrested 84 times without conviction and spent eight years without seeing his children.

“You need to be the first in the nation to piggyback a law where if you make a false accusation and it’s proven it didn’t happen, you get charged for what you accused that person of. It’s only right,” Shelton said.

A number of different folks made reference to Alaskan education in their speeches, but few centered their comments around it. Johnny Murdock was particularly disappointed that Alaska spends so much on education per student, yet performs so low.

“These kids can’t read. They can’t think. They’re inarticulate and it ain’t their fault,” Murdock said.

Greg Pugh, who sits on the Mat-Su Borough Platting Board, argued that for every bill that becomes a law, three need to be repealed. Pugh feels that overregulation is restricting liberty. Pugh also had strong feelings on education.

“Parents need to be the authority of education and nothing more,” Pugh said.

As has been the case at nearly every town hall over the past year, crime and SB91 were the main focus for many concerned constituents. Patty Fisher from Meadow Lakes believes that part of the answer is to employ more Alaska State Troopers.

“I’m here for the Meadow Lakes Community Council to say, yes we need more troopers,” Fisher said.

Edie Grunwald charged the legislators to get all of their business done in the allotted 90 days, but her number one goal is to repeal SB91.

“I just got finished with a trial. We had three people, witnesses that were arrests and two of them unwilling. They were on drugs, messed up they got arrested and put in pre trial and they were pretty dried up by Monday when it came court time, and they were like brand new people. So it does work to put them in there and give them a chance to feel how it is to be normal again,” Grunwald said. “Right now I have high hopes with you guys. I did last time. I’m excited to see you sent back to do a great job with our Governor and I have high expectations too, so make sure that you represent our rights, our freedoms, including gun rights. Make sure that all of our constitutional rights are looked at, correctional facilities employees mandate random drug testing.”

Contact Frontiersman reporter Tim Rockey at tim.rockey@frontiersman.com.

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