Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Nearly 300 voters sign petition to recall Dunleavy


August 8, 2019

Kyle Clayton

Luck Dunbar signs the petition to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy. Annie Boyce, a local organizer, helped to gather signatures during First Friday events.

As of Wednesday, 294 Haines residents have joined a statewide movement to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy on grounds of violating state law, misusing state funds, improperly using line-item veto powers and acting incompetently.

Local organizers took to the streets at Haines' First Friday to gain signatures it mailed to Anchorage on August 5. Recall events were scheduled last week for 20 other communities including Juneau, Anchorage and Fairbanks.

The recall application claims Dunleavy broke the law by refusing to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of nominations, misused state funds by authorizing the purchase of electronic advertisements without proper disclosure, improperly used the line-item veto, and proved incompetence when he mistakenly vetoed $18 million more than he told legislatures he would.

Kevin Forester, pen in hand, said he was signing the petition because Dunleavy was "trying to chase all the educated people out of the state and make it a resource extraction colony."

University of Alaska students and preschools both stand to lose unprecedented funding after budget cuts. The university will lose 41 percent of its state money-- $130 million-and is in talks of consolidating accreditation to a single school and cutting staff and programs. Head start early childhood education programs for low-income families will have to close several branches throughout the state after total state defunding.

Ruth Dick signed the petition because of her personal experience with the cuts. In April, her dentist pulled all of her bottom teeth. Then, in the middle of a multi-session procedure, she learned she was no longer covered by Medicaid.

Dunleavy's line-item vetoes cut $50 million from Medicaid funding, and $27 million in adult Medicaid dental coverage.

"I had to come up with $260 bucks before my next appointment, which was a week," Dick said. "I got some help, but it was a lot for me." Dick, who just turned 70, said that the budget cuts may force her to move to Juneau where she'd have access to essential services.

"So much of what he's targeting is the most vulnerable people in society," Nancy Nash said.

Petition spokesperson Anne Boyce said the actions of Gov. Dunleavy are "sometimes illegal, sometimes unconstitutional, but always cruel."

"It's interesting that the governor opposes tax increases, but has no problem with local governments having to increase their taxes to meet obligations the state is reneging on," Boyce said. "In Haines, this means an extra $450,000 draw from tax receipts to pay off our school bond debts, and that's just for this year."

The bond payment will be paid for in 2020 with reserve funds, as property tax mill rates were set in June and cannot be changed. Borough manager Debra Schnabel said that property taxes will be raised next year to pay for the bonds.

Moving forward, the Recall Dunleavy group needs to gain a total of 28,501 signatures--or 10 percent of voters who participated in the last general election-to apply with the Division of Elections.

If certified, the application will then become a petition and require signatures once again. This time, 25 percent of all voters in the past election.

An election would take place within 90 days of the ballot being certified. If successful, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer will take Dunleavy's place.

An Alaskan governor has never been recalled before, though a 1992 attempt to recall then Lt. Gov. Jack Coghill failed in the Fairbanks superior court based on insufficient grounds.

Co-chairs of the organizing effort are Joe Usibelli, chair of Usibelli coal mine; Vic Fischer, a former Democratic state senator and delegate to the 1955 Alaska Constitutional Convention; and Arliss Sturgulewski, a former Republican state senator from Anchorage.

Dunleavy responded to the recall effort at a press conference in mid-July, calling it "all part of politics."


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