Celtic Diva's Blue Oasis: The Alaska Mythbusters--teleconference with Gov. Tony Knowles and Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Alaska Mythbusters--teleconference with Gov. Tony Knowles and Ketchikan Mayor Bob Weinstein

Today, the Obama Campaign launched "Alaska Mythbusters," a group of Alaskans who have followed Governor Palin’s career and will set the record straight about whether Palin has what it takes to bring the change that’s needed in Washington, DC. Former AK Governor Tony Knowles and Mayor Bob Weinstein of Ketchikan, the city of the "Bridge to Nowhere," headlined a press conference call this morning on Palin’s Alaska Record.

Gov. Knowles started by saying that as a former governor, normally he "was reluctant to critique sitting governor." However, in this situation it is not just a sitting governor, it is a candidate for VP just "one heartbeat from the Presidency."

He then went on to discuss the "serious concerns" he had about her qualifications--the fact that McCain chose her with a "serious investigation going on," —citizens said needed to be one to “clear the air.” Said Knowles, "It's more important now that the results should be known to the American people."

“Troopergate”

Gov. Knowles discussed the history leading up to the entire "Troopergate" scandal, covered as it became public (and even before it was public) on this blog.

He emphasized that two rarely-covered facts about the investigation are that 1) it was a Legislative-initiated investigation which hasn't happened before in the history of the State and 2) it is also a Republican-controlled investigation as the Judiciary Committee has a Republican majority.

Gov. Knowles also pointed out that this was a “very serious charge” which was asking the question: can a governor interfere with the results of this case and by means of a personal vendetta extract further punishment from Officer Wooten?

Gov. Knowles also discussed "character" of the people running for an important office and how he's seen Sarah Palin change from publicly stated comments and open cooperation to now being represented by a state-funded lawyer who has said none of her Administration will cooperate. Not only that, but Frank Bailey, who was put on paid leave to cooperate is also not doing so. The other outrageous aspect to this investigation is that Gov Palin filed an ethics complaint against herself to try and get the whole case referred to the personnel committee which makes it's decisions in executive session (behind closed doors) and wouldn't render an opinion for about four months. (And as Bob Weinstein pointed out later, all members are appointed by the Governor.

"Bridge(s) to Nowhere"

Bob Weinstein, the Mayor of Ketchikan, discussed the "Growing credibility gap between what Sarah Palin says and what the facts are." His specific task was to explain the truth behind the "Bridge(s) to Nowhere."

The true name for the originally-referenced bridge was the "Gravina Island Access Project" and the purpose was to provice Ketchikan with better access to Gravina Island--partially because the airport was there and the other part was because not much land for us to develop on Ketchikan and it was used up. Gravina has thousands of acres available. It was deemed a necessary project

In 2005, Congress included 450 million in 4 earmarks for the two bridge projects. In late 2005/early 2006 3 of the 4 earmarks were stripped from the budget. However, the State of Alaska received all 450 million dollars!

So, not only did the bridge earmarks get yanked BEFORE SHE WAS EVEN GOVERNOR, the State received EVERY DIME of that 450 million so SHE NEVER SAID "NO" to anything!!!!

Mayor Weinstein pointed out that during her September 2006 campaign for Governor at a stop in Ketchikan, Sarah Palin was asked if she supported the Gravina Island project. She clearly stated her support, to the point of calling the use of the phrase “bridge to nowhere” a "derogatory term" comparable to calling someone from MatSu “Valley Trash.” In a separate interview on that same day, she said that we had to "come to defense of Southeast Alaska" and not allow "spinmeisters" to determine our resource development.

In an article from October 2006, the Anchorage Daily News also confirmed her support for both bridges.

The Governor released a Sept. 2007 press release at 5:00 AM East Coast time Alaska Time (9:00 AM EST, so it was to make the media on the East Coast) cancelling the Gravina bridge project...there was no communication with the Congressional delegation, Ketchikan or anyone else involved. She promised to come to Ketchikan to explain but has never done that.

"Earmarks"

Mayor Weinstein also pointed out that despite Palins claim of fighting "earmarks" she actually loves them. Sarah Palin aggressively pursued earmarks while she was Mayor of Wasilla and since becoming Governor she used the same lobbyists Ketchikan hired to push the Bridge project. As Governor, Palin has requested 750 million in Federal earmarks.

Tony Knowles also pointed out one more interesting bit of information, that the second "Bridge to Nowhere" was the Knik Arm Bridge which would cross from Anchorage to Point MacKenzie...benefitting the Governor's precious Wasilla. That project is far from "dead" and is moving forward.

As Governor Knowles quipped..."she said “thanks” without the “no thanks”".

Bob Weinstein also pointed out that a 48 million earmark was not stripped from the Ketchikan project and the contract was awarded to construct 3.25 mile road. Even when they cancelled the Juneau access road they DID NOT cancel the Gravina road. So now, the Gravina Highway (since it has no bridge attached) really is a "road to nowhere."

The DNC plans on regular "Mythbusting" telecons and I hope they happen often. It will be interesting to see if they actually make an impact.

***UPDATE***

Per Mayor Weinstein:

Re your story

You wrote: Mayor Weinstein also pointed out that despite Palins claim of
fighting "earmarks" she actually loves them. Sarah Palin aggressively
pursued earmarks while she was Mayor of Wasilla and since becoming Governor
has used the same lobbyists Ketchikan hired to push the Bridge project. As
Governor, Palin has requested 750 million in Federal earmarks.

Being a picky person--the press release- I'm told- was sent out 5:00 AM
Alaska time, not EST, to meet the national media news cycle.

As governor Palin does not use the same DC lobbyist (Steve Silver) as
Ketchikan (borough) did for bridge. She used him when she was mayor.

Regards.

Bob


Sorry, I normally fact check what I heard based on the press release that is normally sent out right after a teleconference, but I didn't get one. (Dangers of being your own "ears" and editor.)

I thank the Mayor for his corrections and for reading the blog and I've encorporated these changes above!

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I thought the B2N was just infrastructure for the town. Do you think SP was up to something?

I worry that she will be a cruel parent taking food from one child's plate to give to the neighbor kid that the kids didn't want there in the first place!

9/10/2008 7:23 PM  
Blogger Philip Munger said...

Great coverage, great article! Wish I could have been there, CD.

9/10/2008 10:58 PM  
Blogger Jen said...

love that you posted this! want EVERYONE to know. can i copy/paste and link back to you on my blog? i heard this call on POTUS 08 XM radio and had two sleeping kids in the car...had to pee and so i didn't get to hear it all. have been searching web high and low. glad to hear an objective voice from what must be on this issue, at times, met with formidable push back. keep up the good work!

9/10/2008 10:58 PM  
Blogger CelticDiva said...

Thanks, Phil!

And Jen, link away!

9/10/2008 11:34 PM  
Blogger Lazarhat said...

Other things about the Gravina Island Access Project you are forgetting:

This happened on Frank Murkowski's watch. Mrs. Murkowski's family has owned land on the island for a long time, so the bridge would have allowed them to perhaps subdivide that land and make a killing on the real estate market prior to the first wave of expected development.

Not only that but at the time Murkowski was dinged by the media (a tiny wrist slap) for NOT revealing this fact on his financial disclosure forms (shades of Uncle Ted). He suggested it was an oversight and claimed that it wasn't on his financial disclosure forms because the land was actually owned by Mrs. Murkowski, passed down to her by her family.

If memory serves me, the problem was that it wasn't on her original disclosure form either, being added later as an amendment.

The other idea is that the earmarks for this project were supposed to be MATCHED by state money dollar for dollar to fund the project. You are correct that the state received it anyhow despite the fact that it was killed by pressure from other senators in D.C. for being another example of Stevens' pork barrel politics. Uncle Ted had to take the specific purpose off of that particular earmark and yet the money went to Alaska anyhow. What is funny is that you didn't hear much bitching about it in D.C. after that, even though we still got every penny of the original earmark, just the occasional "bridges to nowhere" meme reference.

Which only proved to me that the people who complained about the earmark weren't REALLY concerned about saving money but rather more about scoring points for campaigns and with their own constituents back home. When Uncle Ted started to spill his guts to the media about earmarks by other senators for their home states, everybody clammed up about "earmarks".

It was however Sarah Palin who drove the stake through the heart of the project when the political heat got too hot (a chickenshit maneuver, IMO) when instead she should have carried out her original promise of support for the project and coughed up the cash to build this "vital infrastructure". She didn't, the money was spent elsewhere and the rest is history. And not a very ethical, honest or honorable history if you ask me.

So just a couple of other points I remember from that time period. The disclosure forms are public and I remember downloading and reading the PDFs at the time. You could probably find them again if need be... the other information is taken from my recollection of the events in the media as I followed them at that time.

-Laz

9/11/2008 8:50 AM  

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