Friday, January 16, 2009

Finally Alaska's politicians realize that there is a crisis in the village of Emmonak. Gee which little anonymous blogger birdie told them that?

A heartsick letter describing cash-strapped families choosing between food and heating fuel in the village of Emmonak has state officials reconsidering a long-simmering request to declare a financial disaster in the region.

"I'm just now today getting information in from surrounding villages," said Tara Jollie, director of the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs.

A letter written by Nicholas Tucker of Emmonak describing parents battling to feed their families in his hometown -- plus concerns from others in the region -- prompted state department heads to plan a teleconference this morning. The topic: a crippling combination of high fuel prices, poor commercial fishing prospects and an unusual cold snap in the Yup'ik village and others like it.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski evoked Emmonak's struggles Thursday at a Senate committee hearing on the proposed federal economic stimulus plan. Back in the Yukon River village itself, Tucker looked for assurance the state is taking the local reports seriously.

"I wish I could take Gov. (Sarah) Palin and walk her around in the houses here," he said.
Palin spokeswoman Sharon Leighow said the governor is monitoring the scene in Emmonak but, for now, has no plans to travel to the area.

"I know the governor's very concerned ... and there's not anybody who doesn't care," Jollie said.

I just threw up in my mouth a little.

Three days! That is how long it took the State of Alaska to do a single thing about this crisis. They had not even issued a press release until late last night! In my opinion that is criminal negligence on their part!

And while they sat on their hands, Alaska bloggers, talk show hosts, and generous people from around the country rushed to provide help to these desperate people.

And now, finally, when the crescendo of angry voices is too loud to ignore, we hear a modicum of concern in the voices of our leaders. Or more accurately in the voices of our leaders spokespeople.
They were notified of this coming disaster back in October! They knew well ahead of the rest of us that this was going to be a horrible situation for these villages. Yet they did nothing!

In October the AVCP asked the state and federal governments to declare a fisheries disaster in the region, which could pave the way for emergency relief money.

The state considered the request -- which is being echoed this month by local leaders in Kotlik and Emmonak -- last year, Jollie said.

"I think we did do a review of it," she said. "I didn't do it myself, so I don't know that the numbers supported the claim."

Now with Tucker's letter highlighting economic struggles in the region, the state is taking another look at that request and others, Jollie said.

What changed?

What changed? Alaska's bloggers and radio hosts heard the story, that's what changed!

In less then a day, when the progressive community in Anchorage became aware of this situation, money was raised, food was gathered, information was disseminated, and the village of Emmonak started to feel relief. They had finally been heard.

In a matter of days our community had done what our government had failed to do. We responded.

And so far what response do we have from the people we elected to protect us from these emergency situations?

Jollie said that she doesn't want to raise false expectations and that it's too early to say what disaster relief options, if any, might apply to the region.

As for whether the feds can help, Murkowski posed that question to a Bureau of Indian Affairs official at a Senate hearing Thursday, said Murkowski spokesman Michael Brumas.

His response was they would look at providing emergency general assistance," Brumas said.

That's not a promise, but Brumas said it could mean cash for the village.

An Emmonak reference popped up in a letter from U.S. Rep. Don Young as well Thursday. Young, writing to the Environmental Protection Agency, described the village heating oil costs as well over $7 a gallon. He told the EPA it ought to waive fuel production limits at a North Pole refinery to ward off a future fuel crunch and resulting "humanitarian crisis."

So we have learned thus far that the Division of Community and Regional Affairs "does not want to raise false expectations", that Senator Lisa Murkowski "posed a question", that the BIA will "look at providing emergency general assistance"( hey it "could mean cash for the village"), and that Congressman Don Young wrote to the EPA and told them "they ought to waive future fuel production limits at a North Pole refinery".

So in a nutshell they have done NOTHING! NOTHING! NOT A GODDAMN THING!

However as much as it pains me to point this out, even though the response has been criminally inadequate, at least we have heard SOMETHING from the spokespeople for Sarah Palin, Lisa Murkowski, and Don Young.

But from newly minted Senator Mark Begich? Nothing so far. And that is personally very disappointing to me. Very disappointing.

The only person who gave anything even resembling a proper response was 2010 gubernatorial candidate Bob Poe:

I was deeply affected when I heard Nick Tucker from Emmonak speak today about the desperate situation in rural Alaska —the choice between food and warmth is one that we, as Alaskans, should never let our neighbors have to make. And although heartened Nick and his community are receiving some acknowledgement and possible help for their situation I am afraid this will not be the end to this story.

Nick is right, the writing was on the wall this summer when a barrel of oil was at 150.00 and the cost of fuel delivered to communities in the fall was over $7 a gallon before local distribution charges. Rural Alaskan villages experience an annual hardship few urban communities could imagine; they must buy all the fuel necessary to see their families through the winter on one or two purchases. I got to see this first hand as Executive Director of the Alaska Energy Authority where we made loans to assist communities in dealing with these very large and critical fuel purchases.

When I attended the Alaska Federation of Natives conference in October, in Anchorage, and had the opportunity to meet with many friends, community leaders and politicians from all over Alaska the topic of our discussions, both formal and informal, was the coming winter and the crisis it would bring to our communities. We talked about solutions and ideas to not only weather the immediate needs but also about what is it we need to do to create sustainable solutions—problems that are not solved by a check in the mail but with a long-term energy strategies that meet the needs of all Alaska.

Make no mistake about it, urban and rural Alaska is tied together—our failures are their failures, our successes are their successes. We are bound together, economically, through family ties and most importantly by our common belief in the future of Alaska.

Bob Poe
Bob Poe for Alaska

(H/T tip to Mudflats)

Yes I realize these are just words from Mr. Poe, but that is all he has the power to do right now. However it certainly feel that when he is our Governor it will never fall to the progressive community in Alaska to save a village again. I believe that Bob Poe will know exactly what to do in an emergency like this one, and how to keep it from happening in the first place.


  1. Karen Hall7:14 AM

    We "pathetic bloggers" have already provided thousands in disaster relief, and we didn't have to form a study group and analyze reports to do it, either. Sarah "2012!" Palin, Tara "I've Been Living In A Vacuum For The Past Three Days" and all the rest of Alaska's pathetic state government should be ashamed of themselves. They should try coming down from the ivory castles and BEING HUMAN for a change and see how real people live and suffer.

  2. Palin can't get out of her Ivory tower...she might get cold.

    Again... just as out of it as Bush.. he never even mentioned the plane crash, nor the Middle East last night in his speech, I guess because as far as he is concerned they don't touch him. Well this doesn't touch Sarah either. It is far enough away from her she doesn't think it should bother her. It is just natives right... not the people in Anchorage or Juneau. How self centered she is.. and self focused. She will do something before it is over to make it look like she had something to do with it I am sure.

  3. Ratfish7:59 AM

    Tara Jollie says: "I'm just now today getting information in from surrounding villages." That's right, only JUST NOW.

    "I think we did do a review of it (last year)," she said. "I didn't do it myself, so I don't know that the numbers supported the claim." She THINKS her department did a review of it, but has NO IDEA of the results IF done.

    Tara Jollie's chief qualifications for her job: ....drumroll..... friend of the Heath/Palin family.

    Good grief!

  4. Anonymous8:17 AM

    "monitoring the scene in Emmonak" Can Sarah see Emmonak from her home?

  5. Anonymous8:29 AM

    This was hand writing on the wall last summer when the house wanted to subsidize heating oil and electric cost ant the senate and governor wanted to hand out $1200.00 to every one. Is the governor even in the state??????? The legislature should be hanging there heads in shame after the way they voted on that bill. Put the blame for this on all involved, its does not make any difference that you are a representative of a different district or not it is all the State of Alaska.

  6. Anonymous9:45 AM

    Sarah doesn't have time to travel to Emmonak for this nonsense!
    She's appearing on the Glenn Beck show on Monday!


  7. It amazes me that some pro-Palinites, in some sort of knee-jerk fashion, are taking Bob Poe's statement regarding the Emmonak/rural AK villages situation as a direct attack on Sarah Palin.

    OTOH, if the shoe fits...


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