Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Upcoming Interview (?) with John Moller, Palin's Rural Affairs Advisor

Alaska's Executive Department Rural Affairs Coordinator, John Moller, took a tough job at a tough time. As he assumed his undefined duties, early in 2009 word was coming out of the lower Yukon River that a food and fuel crisis might become catastrophic, rather than serious, as it often does there.

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.


Philip Munger


Aussie Blue Sky said...

I have been calling his name for the last 36 hours, and no response - but that's what I expected.

Does he live in the governor's sock drawer? Does she only bring him out when he's needed to lip-sync a few of her own words also too???

Where is Moller? Gone fishing?

Anonymous said...

No surprise Phil. I've been trying to get ahold of him here in Bethel too. Looks like he is dodging his responsibilities. Palin has taught him well.

Anonymous said...

Message to John M.:

You are now associated with Palin. This is not a good thing. Just sayin.

The situation in southwest Alaska will only get worse. As the bycatch numbers continue to occur and actual ALASKAN residents must pay for the consequences, you, as a person will be 'rubber stamped' as the guy at the head of the table, who let elders starve.

Jump ship buddy. Get off the Palin band wagon. You are going to be Palin's fall guy. At the expense of your Native blood.

Make a grand exit from the Palin administration. Announce your disgust in Palin's personal policy of stayin out of fish politics, as bunk.

Dude, open your eyes, you will go down in history as a fall guy for a "caribue barbie, prancing around in tacky snowmoble gear and twittering about it"...

Palin doesn't care. Think about it John M. ... how many meetings has she had with you? Did she actually have a idea as to what your job is? or are you just some kind of rubber stamp.

JUMP SHIP! Palin ain't worth it. You will loose too much of your roots. And it you think you don't have too many roots, well, stay on the Palin ship and watch them totally disappear.

A rural resident, who knows your family tree and feel it is sad you are going to be a good useful tool, that will be thrown overboard by Palin...

Amy Jones said...

The answers to these questions are worth pursuing, but answering them in written form would be the close equivalent of writing a book! Though I would like to know what he has to say on all or most of these questions, I am not surprised he hasn't gotten back to you. Does he even have any one to assist him in replying to correspondence - or is he just out there on his own with no support staff?

Anonymous said...

That guy could party like none other out in Unalaska!

Ask him where all the coke came from out there.

Anonymous said...

Other than Palin and Moller, I've gotten good feedback from Palin administration officials including commissioners. If commissioners can take the time to respond to citizens, Moller can too. Moller communicated with me once immediately after his appointment but never since.

Palin is obviously a recluse-- if you want to see her you'd need to go to a thousand dollar a plate fundraiser on the East Coast or catch her at a parade in New York or somewhere. She wants nothing to do with Alaskans. She doesn't even seem to like this place. Apparently she'd rather live near D.C. Palin: Bon Voyage!

Anonymous said...

Why did you remove my comment about John being a hard core partier? I lived in Unalaska, I saw him.

Philip Munger said...

anon @ 10:22 - I haven't removed a comment here in days and days.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I see that. Please accept my apology. Thank you.

No more coffee for me today.

basheert said...

I see the Republican Party of Moral Outrage continues it's record breaking year with Sanford admitting he's been in Argentina having an affair and NOT naked hiking on the Appy Trail...

Who is next!

Anonymous said...

I think most of your questions are quite needed to ask and answer. But, not sure of the following ones.
--Given the diversity of Alaska Native people and communities, can any one person's "vision" be of use?
--Ditto for second question. Also, in my experience (but from only several communities in western and northern Alaska), there aren't separation between "western religions" and Alaska Native spirituality. There aren't "western religions", there are local religions believed in by local Alaska Native people.
--The last question seems unnecessarily prying.

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 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?

Aleut Granddaughter said...

Phil - those are the most EXCELLENT questions! I have been involved behind the scenes in Rural AK issues and have been so disappointed in J Moller so far. When I called his office to get his email address back in March, I was given the governor's email address (after a three day wait to return my call) to use by the gal (Katie?) who answered the phone.

I just laughed, and told her I had easily obtained his direct address from the state email system (duh - should have done that first), and WHY would I email my questions /letter to the Gov's office, who I have a real problem with? She acted a bit miffed, showing her complete lack of training in dealing with the public. I have a lot of IT and phone experience, and know that with a few clicks, the state exchange could easily accommodate a direct line to Moller.

Then, my letter, which was a request for time sensitive help - was answered over a month later. Sounds like I differ from most, at least I got a response. But the ludicrousness of responding to a letter over 30 days past a deadline was appalling. He didn't even acknowledge that the date in question was long gone.

Can you say "head up Palin's you know what?". What a waste of state money - his salary is in the 80 grand ballpark. Could we just take that money and distribute to some worthwhile energy, gardening or sanitation project in the villages? What a joke!

Anonymous said...

Alaska's Executive Department Rural Affairs Coordinato..

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