In early April, we crossed paths at the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council hearings on Chinook salmon bycatch, in Anchorage. Soon afterward, I wrote to him, requesting an interview. He responded favorably.
I sent him a set of questions. He wrote back, telling me he hoped to get his answers back to me by the end of the week.
That would have been the Friday that word was getting out on the beginning of the ice jam flooding along the upper Yukon, near Eagle. Dealing with that consumed most of Moller's efforts for much of May. Then, when the ice finally shoved out into the Bering Sea, it made the way for King salmon to enter that wondrous water course. Now Moller is involved in what may be one of the most delicate situations in Alaska history - defending the Palin administration and the Alaska Department of Fish & Game, as enforcement sanctions against civil disobedience play out in the river's mostly Alaska Native communities.
Over the past two weeks, I've attempted to get back in touch with John about finishing the interview. I haven't gotten any responses to e-mails or phone messages to his answering service or office staff. However, in view of the growing importance of his job, I'm now publishing my original questions he agreed to answer in late April. I hope he finds time to answer them:
Thank you for offering to take the time to review and answer my questions from Progressive Alaska. Over the past week, I have sought help with the questions from some of my friends who live in rural Alaska.
Part One - Structural Issues
Question 1: The job of Rural Advisor to the Governor of Alaska was created by Gov. Sarah Palin soon after she was elected. You are the second person to fill the position. Could you describe how the job and its responsibilities have evolved since its creation in early 2007.
Question 2: Could you describe the makeup and duties of your support staff.
Question 3: A friend from Nushagek noted that there is no toll-free number through which your office can be reached, and that the only way to reach you or leave a message is through the governor’s office. Have you heard similar complaints, and is there some sort of change in the works?
Question 4: Who is currently on the Rural Sub-cabinet, and who chairs it?
Question 5: Who is currently on the Rural Sub-cabinet advisory panel, and what organization does each member represent?
Question 6: Does the sub-cabinet meet regularly?
Question 7: When was the last meeting? The next?
Question 8: On March 26th, Gov. Pain announced the nomination of Wayne Anthony Ross to be Alaska Attorney General. By April 6th, more Alaska Native organizations publicly announced their opposition to his nomination than had been the case for any nominee to any post by this or any previous Alaska governor. On April 12th, you were interviewed by Rena Delbridge from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. When she asked you about the volume of feedback you received from the Native community, you responded, “A little bit; I hear a little bit. I have my own thoughts on it. We as Alaskans want the best person in the job that’s best for overall Alaska.”
Did you have any discussions with the governor, the governor’s staff or with Mr. Ross about the unprecedented level of concern about the nominee from rural Alaska? If not, do you perceive your lack of input into the decision to go through with what was obviously a doomed nomination vote to have caused a level of concern to your rural constituency?
Question 9: I attended a couple of sessions of the Anchorage meetings in early April of the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council. We sat next to each other for a few minutes. When I turned to introduce myself, you were gone.
The most important issue on the table was a revisiting of the Bering Sea Chinook by-catch levels. You have a highly qualified background regarding many aspects of the by-catch issues, as a fisherman, businessman, IFQ representative and former member of the council’s advisory board.
There was a high amount of concern by Alaska Native and Canadian Native groups about the sustainability of the Yukon and Kuskokwim Chinook runs in the face of high by-catch levels. The U.S. State Department is considering objecting to the level decided, as is U.S. Senator Mark Begich. Gov. Palin’s ADF&G Commissioner, Denby Lloyd is seen as instrumental in the behind-the-scenes actions which led to the level voted upon.
Do you agree with the by-catch level as now set? If, so, why? If not, what do feel should be done to change the limit?
Question 10: The conflicts between ANILCA and the Alaska Constitution were brought back into public light this spring, during the Ross hearings. In your News-Miner interview, you indicated that there is a possibility of a holistic reassessment of the impasse. Is the rural sub-cabinet dealing with these conflicts?
Part Two - Activities
Question 1: Since coming on board the administration, you’ve visited the Y-K Delta now at least three times, to my knowledge. In your News-Miner interview you touched upon some aspects of your work there. Since then, there have been a number of state efforts such as job fairs out Westward. How are they going so far?
Question 2: On your trip to Russian Mission and Marshall, the trip was sponsored by a religious aid organization. How important of a role do you see faith-based organizations in providing aid, assistance and long-term solutions in rural Alaska?
Question 3: ADF&G announced last week that there will be no commercial fishing on the Yukon River this season, due to low return estimates. Will this closure have an impact on your summer duties?
Question 4: Once the governor has finished processing pending legislation from the 2009 session, what sort of plans is your office going to be helping to implement, regarding the Federal stimulus funds that are expected to be headed to the Alaska bush?
Question 5: People in rural Alaska are often confused about overall management of resources in complicated sets of interlocking relationships between tribal, local, state Federal, and - in the case of the Yukon River Inter-Tribal Watershed Council - international agencies. Has your office been asked to come up with help that would ease understanding of how these relationships pertain to rural issues on the state level?
Question 6: What has been your most frustrating activity so far?
Question 7: What has been your most rewarding activity so far?
Part Three - Vision of the Alaska Native Community
Question 1: As Alaska’s rural advisor to the governor, your responsibilities are toward all rural residents. The job is seen, however, as that of the governor’s chief liaison with Native communities and Native leaders. Could you describe your vision of Alaska’s Native civilizations, in their cultural contexts, in 2025?
Question 2: What role do you see the spiritual dimension of Alaska’s Native civilizations in their relationship with Western religions?
Question 3: What role do you see for renewable and human-powered energy tools in the future, in regard to helping sustain the uniqueness of Alaska’s varying Native civilizations?
Question 4: Is there some elder you seek from time to time for spiritual advice regarding your Native background and your approach to your new responsibilities?
Question 5: Native Sovereignty in Alaska has a long history of contention between governors and either sovereign tribes or tribes seeking sovereignty. Are you aware of any ongoing discussions between the Department of Law and the Governor’s office on State of Alaska v. Norton that might have an impact on how you will have to explain your job role to rural Alaskans in the future?
Question 6: On a more direct, less over-arching court case effecting some rural Alaskans, State of Alaska v. Fleagle, now before the 9th circuit Court of Appeals, is specifically targeted toward one people from within your core constituency. How are you able to deal with assistance to the Ahtnas of Cristochina in performance of your job, and maintain a firewall between Department of Law actions and the community’s faith in you?
Question 7: Does your office have any responsibilities regarding implementing or not implementing aspects of Alaska Governor’s Administrative Order No. 186, or the 2001 Millennium Agreement between Alaska Tribes and the State of Alaska Executive Branch? If so, could you describe your work on these issues.
Thanks again, Mr. Moller for your agreement to spend some time answering questions on issues pertaining to your challenging, but important and necessary job.