Michael Janecek, seen here at last Tuesday's Mat-Su Democratic Party caucus, is one of the most vital and energetic people in our community, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. A retired high school teacher and coach, Mike has been instrumental in helping shape Valley high school and adult running events into the most reputable in Alaska. He's to running in the Valley what Col. Ed Strabel is to skiing. The running trails at Palmer High School, often used for the State High School Cross Country championship races, are named after Janecek. He's been the most visible sports announcer and radio commentator on Valley sports over the past 20 years.
When Mike decided to take on corruption, ineptitude and lackeyism at Matanuska Electrical Association a few years back, he was subjected to more slime, innuendo and outright lies from the local Far Right than any other candidate in our local history.
That hasn't deterred Mike from continuing to fight sleaze and corruption. He's active in the current movement to reform the MEA Board and operations along the lines of a member-responsive, 21st century utility co-op.
Mike sent me this op-ed to post:
Allow me to cut to the chase. I wish to challenge MEA to a simple no-brainer. I challenge MEA management and Board President Lee Jordan to run this coming MEA election without touching the ballots. Hire a CPA and a special lawyer that is charged with the task of certifying member signatures and counting the ballots. Tuckerman Babcock’s point of view (Hurling insults at MEA workers a bit childish) is the typical ‘childish’ reaction from MEA management. Strike the messenger not the message. It’s Mr. Carmony and Mr. Babcock that have placed fine MEA staff in harms way. Their system is dilapidated and maybe dishonest. They should always be able to prove that they are just inept not dishonest in counting ballots. So far they have not been able to do that.
Currently MEA staff takes care of the first part of member voting. Staff picks up the mailed in ballots, and checks the signature to make sure it is the signature that you signed when you became a member. In some cases this signature may have been delivered say 30 or 40 years ago. This does indeed mean that MEA staff can choose which ballots get counted. I know they will say that they have some community member as the watchdog on this, but quite frankly I don’t think we have to trust this system. MEA management should want to change this so that some critic like me can’t possibly make claims like this. They should do every thing that they can to guarantee that our election is rock solidly democratic and above reproach.
The other aspect of this issue that sticks in my craw is the fact that MEA management does not notify members whose ballots did not count. Mind you, recent elections have been finalized with winners and losers who are separated by fewer ballots than of the number of ballot that were cast out. Ask if you could see who was cast out and why and you get stonewalled. Recently the MEA Board of directors considered a motion put forward by Director Peter Burchell that would direct staff to notify those members whose ballots were cast out. The motion failed to pass 4-3. Those who chose to vote against this reasonable motion were Larry Devilbiss, David Dahms, David Glines, and Board president Lee Jordan. Those in favor of the notification effort were Katie Hurley, Lois Lester, and motion sponsor Peter Burchell. I find it hard to believe that a board member would vote against members in good standing who are robbed of their voting rights. How much more undemocratic can it get?
You might ask why we should make changes at the Board of Directors. Simply stated Lee Jordan has to go, and here’s why. Under Lee Jordan’s leadership MEA has been willing to institute bogus bylaws, and fight with any and all of the electric utilities around us. They have burned all of their bridges. They have spent millions of dollars on big fights with the IBEW, the union that provides contract negotiations and safety standards for about half of the MEA employees. They are willing to plop a coal-fired generator just outside Palmer. Combine the addition of coal trains, coal dust, heavy metals in our environment, future carbon dioxide off-set taxes, and having to make deals with an unregulated energy market, and you have your basic mess. Remember, we (member owners) never got a say in how MEA should develop energy for our consumption or if we wanted them to do that at all.
MEA management’s willingness to try to keep Mr. Tom Staudenmaier off of the ballot is clear evidence that MEA cannot be trusted with the ballot box. MEA claimed to have miss-counted signatures on Mr. Staudenmaier’s candidate petition. Could Mr. Staudenmaier represent a split in a provincial vote in Eagle River? Anybody smell a rodent? How many miscounts have happened in past elections? Eagle River / Chugiak does still have Lois Lester and David Glines representing their interests. Lois Lester is a saint, and Eagle River residents can be thankful for her service. I happen to think Tom Staudenmaier would be a good choice in this upcoming election. He has spoken often on the subject of utility consolidation that should ring true if efficiency is what your after in the utility business.
At this point we should be absolutely insulted that we have an electric utility management team (the four Board Directors named above that voted against notifying members of their loss of vote, Wayne Carmony, manager, and Tuckerman Babcock, assistant manager) actually thinking of building a coal-fired one hundred megawatt electric generator. What are they thinking? MEA management and the Board members who always vote how they’re told by the management know that only twenty percent of the members actually vote. That’s roughly 8800 votes. Spread that out over four Board candidates and all you really need to float to the top in this election is a little over 2200 votes. If you care about protecting your community from coal-fired generators and disabling a dictatorial MEA management team then you care about defeating the likes of Lee Jordan who has delivered Board leadership on MEA’s voting irregularities and their rush to build a coal fired generator in the Valley. PLEASE VOTE. I plan to vote for Peter Burchell and Janet Kincaid. And I hope that on March 1st I’ll not find anything stuck in my craw concerning ethical elections.
Update: Saturday - 11:00 a.m. -- Kevin Brown has an excellent op-ed in yesterday's Frontiersman on these same issues. Go read it!