Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, March 21, 2002

Legislator's trip to Las Vegas did not cost Alaskans a dime

This letter is being written in response to a letter, which appeared in the Peninsula Clarion, dated March 18. Mrs. Hal Smalley criticized a trip I took to Las Vegas just a week ago.

While I did travel to Las Vegas during the Energy Council break, my motives were a bit different than described in her letter.

As many of you know, my father, Bill Chenault, has been in failing health for a number of years. He and my mother, Helen, winter in Bullhead City, Ariz., where my father is in an assisted living facility. He was not able to come home to Kenai last summer, due to his inability to travel.

Las Vegas is the nearest large airport to Bullhead City. I rented a car and proceeded to my parents and spent time with them and my 87-year-old grandmother. Yes, I did gamble, and spent a night on the town with my 87-year old grandmother. I did golf, and I was in Las Vegas for two days en route to Arizona.

I also did several chores my mother needed to have done around her house. I took my dad out of the facility and spent quality time with him for the first time in nearly 18 months. I took him to dinner and, yes, to a casino. I enjoyed the time with my dad and was fortunate to be able to be with him. I feel it is in very poor taste to be critical of me spending time with my mother, father and grandmother. One never is sure there will be a next time.

I paid for the trip out of my own pocket, spent time with my family and enjoyed the time with my folks. So let's get the facts straight. I went on my own dime and did not claim per diem for the days I was out of Juneau.

The letter, which appeared March 18, was misleading at best and a lie at the worst. If there is any doubt my mother, Helen, wrote a note, confirming the facts. I can honestly look my constituents straight in the face and tell them my trip to visit my family did not cost the state of Alaska one dime. The only thing it cost was my time, and as far as I am concerned it was time well spent.

None of this changes the fact that it is still of the utmost importance to be fiscally responsible. I love children and am very reluctant to cut any program, which may be good for kids. I have four of my own and understand how important it is they receive good medical care and education. My family goes camping every summer, and I understand how important state parks can be. Programs for children and education are of the utmost importance.

Sadly, the state of Alaska has been led by an administration with no accountability. The Knowles administration is still spending unchecked amounts of money on travel and contracts with no incentive to save anything. For amplification please call me.

I hold to the guest editorial printed in the March 11 Peninsula Clarion. If you have any further concerns or questions please call my office at 800-469-3779.

Rep. Mike Chenault


Americans take nation for granted

I was talking to an acquaintance from France, and during the course of the conversation this acquaintance mentioned that the United States is the best place to live in the world. But the only ones who don't seem to know this are the ones who live here. I've heard this remark before, but I thought about it after we parted: The United States of America is the best place to live, and I would not leave, but it's very sad and scary to know that the remark is true.

Cheri Edwards


Board of Fish failed to act on Kenai River habitat issues

The Board of Fish process is unique for a public process, but different than the one described in the March 12 Peninsula Clarion. The committee process adds to the length of these meetings and excludes the public. Only those with deep pockets can attend in total. In fact, advisory committees received per diem for five days of a 21-day meeting.

No action was taken on the habitat issue, and new regs actually will advance habitat damage on the Kasilof River. Vice Chair Coffey threatened some participants. Coffey, board member Umpenhauer and Chairman Dersham have all been guests at the Kenai Classic and voted while they had a conflict of interest. The board will be back in 2005 just like they were here for habitat in 1999, and now not again in 2002.

Odd how retention of early king salmon engages with the start of the Kenai Classic. How lucky we are to have this complex issue explained to us simple, bucolic types. How about a few more answers? It costs $200,000 for the derby, over $100,000 in salary, and the hotel bills for the guides from the board meeting; so what does the nonprofit Kenai River Sportfishing Association Inc. do with the remaining $700,000?

The Deshka River was closed for conservation. What we have is a gutless board and a gutted king salmon run. Money talks, and Brett Huber begins the campaign for his Board of Fish appointment. What boneheaded, pretzel logic, bio-babble do we have to look forward to in the future?

John McCombs


Way district jobs were nixed should be cause for concern

I read about the five district jobs that were eliminated without surprise. I have worked for this district way too long not to know that cuts always occur bottom up. What was appalling was that the five affected individuals, many of them with years and years of district service found out the same way I did, in the newspapers.

It is a remarkable discourtesy, and I cannot remember a more egregious one in 25 years. Those responsible, the superintendent and associate superintendents, were "out of town and unavailable for comment," according to the report. What fortuitous timing for them.

Those five people will be absorbed, and five non-tenured teachers will lose their jobs. Wake-up call, anyone?

More than 1,200 people work for the district, pay taxes, shop locally, own homes, volunteer, attend churches, support communities, vote regularly and help make quality of life good on the peninsula by their presence. We are not the enemy, but this action and the way it was accomplished makes me feel like we're viewed that way.

What about cutting from the top down? The Clarion should review the travel funds, professional development allotments, gas reimbursement, catering and other executive perks that never seem to go away no matter how "dire" things are.

Consider some of the positions and some of the personnel who work there. Our personal director has zero knowledge and experience in education. Zero.

Yet, he's making hire-fire decisions about the people who educate your child. The reason he was hired -- to front negotiations -- was eliminated due to his outrageous behavior. If he isn't qualified to be a personnel director for a multi-million dollar corporation like our district, why is he there? What liability due to his inexperience and demeanor is he perhaps piling up for the district taxpayers to eventually foot, I would like to know. Also, if we do see him go, and it would seem a likely scenario eventually, are we going to have to pay $90,000 to buy him out since the district extended his contract into next year? These are reasonable questions from a taxpayer, someone who is one of the many bosses of the people hired to run this district. They are the collective finances in troubled times. If waste is going on, we have the right to ask these questions.

There are more than 1,200 of us in this bargaining unit, and if we ever block voted there would be no borough assembly, city council or school board that could get elected without us. Perhaps in the fall we need to examine our invisible school board and consider a house cleaning. Some of those silent people have been there too long, and none of this business would have been possible without their OK.

I am appalled they think so little of us.

I am sorry, Dorothy, Ben, Mo, Phil and Carol, for the utter lack of decency accorded to you in this matter. The unit feels for you, I know. If any teacher or support staff is still wavering over what to believe and which side is concerned about your well being and that of the children and parents of this district, remember this action.

I personally stand with the people who work hard to educate children, keep the schools in shape and assist learning for our students. I hope that anyone out there within the sound of my voice does as well. If you do, call the central office: 262-5846.

Semper fi.

C. E. Bishop, teacher


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