A radio-controlled skunk owned by "Brother" Tom Patmor, of Clam Gulch, sprays a model of a jet airplane Patmor used to represent a plane Gov. Murkowski wants to lease during a protest in downtown Kenai on Wednesday. "I don't even think twice about emberassing politicians," Patmor said.
Photo by Matt Tunseth
Even though he's known as the self-proclaimed "Mayor of Clam Gulch," "Brother" Tom Patmor has little love for political types.
"I don't even think twice about embarrassing politicians," Patmor said from a street corner in downtown Kenai on Wednesday.
Had Gov. Frank Murkowski seen Patmor's impromptu street protest against Murkowski's plan to lease a jet aircraft for state use, it's unlikely he would have been able to keep from blushing.
Standing along the busy Kenai Spur Highway, Patmor and an associate who said his name was Frank held signs that read "Governor's Jet Stinks" while waving to passing motorists.
But that's not all.
Along with the signs, Patmor also brought along a radio-controlled skunk and a cardboard model of an airplane for the occasion. During the protest, Patmor's skunk periodically sprayed a jet of water from its backside onto the jet Patmor's way of demonstrating his and his toy pet's displeasure with the jet plan.
"We really think it stinks," Patmor said.
Murkowski originally asked the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to buy a new jet to be used by the governor and the Alaska Department of Public Safety. When that plan fell through, he asked the Legislature to fund the plane. That idea was crushed by state legislators in January, but Murkowski said last month that he still wants to try selling a plane the state already owns in order to pay for a jet lease.
The plan has been harshly criticized by state legislators who think it's a waste of money and that the governor simply wants to be able to travel in style.
For his part, Patmor believes the state could spend its money on much better things, such as purchasing fire-fighting equipment. He pointed out that when a wildfire near Homer began burning earlier this month, the state was caught unprepared to deal with the crisis.
"They had to hustle a plane between Nenana and Homer," he said. "They need tankers all over the state."
Gov. Murkowski's press secretary Becky Hultburg said Friday that Murkowski has no intention of backing down from the plan to lease a jet.
"The governor still believes it's the right thing to do," Hultburg said.
She said the issue has been overly politicized and not judged on the plan's merits.
"This has been turned into a political issue," she said.
Hultburg pointed out that Alaska is the largest state in the union and that an upgrade to the state's aviation fleet is more than justified.
"This is an aviation-dependent state," she said.
Patmor said he doubts much will change due to his protest. He said the event Wednesday was his way of speaking out against what he says is simply a ploy on the governor's part to get a plush ride to ferry him around.
"He's just a spoiled brat," Patmor said. "He thinks he has to get his way all the time. But he doesn't."
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