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Gov. Dunleavy To Discuss Budget in Nome During Controversial Public Forum

Overhead view of people gathering at a meeting with woman speaking at a podium up front.
Citizens gathered in Old St. Joe's for September 20th's public meeting on IPOP's proposed mining operation. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.

Governor Mike Dunleavy announced on Monday a series of statewide discussions on his proposal for the permanent fiscal plan, which will take place in various communities. One of the Governor’s visits is scheduled for Nome on March 27, but the conditions of the discussion are controversial.

Dunleavy’s press secretary, Matthew Shuckerow, says the forum at Old St. Joe’s is not a private event and will be free and open to the public. According to Americans for Prosperity-Alaska (AFP), this Nome-event is being hosted by AFP and will feature a forum with “policy experts.”

Some, like Senator Donny Olson, have claimed that AFP’s involvement will limit attendees’ rights, if they choose to participate at all. Olson says based on the terms stated on the AFP website, the forum attendees will have to sign a waiver upon entering the venue.

“I want to thank all of those people that called down here and were in support of the governor coming on up here [to Nome] but were taken aback when they read things like: ‘You will irrevocably consent to authorize AFP and its affiliates, employees, and related companies and contractors to record, film, photograph, broadcast, and otherwise capture during the event, their likeness and not have any type of recourse from it.’”

Although Sen. Olson is thankful for the governor’s planned visit, he feels AFP’s presence will restrict certain individuals from voicing their opinions, specifically his constituents.

“People in my district, in Nome in particular, were feeling very disenfranchised and were planning on going out and protesting, having a demonstration outside the meeting place at Old St. Joe’s. So in order to not make it an embarrassing situation, or a situation that’s going to cause more division between the governor and the people in my constituency and people who may have voted for him as well, I decided to go ahead and make an offer.”

Yesterday, the legislator from Golovin delivered a letter to the governor’s office, offering to pay for the governor’s use of the community hall in Nome, but only if Americans for Prosperity was left out of the forum.

Shuckerow explained that the governor is trying to speak to as many people as possible, regardless of their political affiliation. He referenced a statement released yesterday by AFP in Alaska, which does reiterate there is no cost to register for the event and media are encouraged to attend.

However, participants are required to register through an online event link, which Olson says might present a problem for his constituents with poor internet access. AFP says the public event is first-come-first-served until capacity is reached, and only those who are registered will be permitted to attend.

According to Shuckerow, the governor will give a budget presentation and there will be opportunities for questions during his visit, but this is different from the Legislature’s process of accepting public input.

The Alaska policy forum in Nome will feature the regional director for AFP, Governor Dunleavy, the Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin, and others as panelists.

The event description states the discussion will focus on, “why Alaska must face its fiscal reality and implement reforms to curb government’s habit of overspending.”

It is unclear if the governor plans to accept Sen. Olson’s offer to pay for the use of Old St. Joe’s, the host venue, during the forum next week.

Image at top: file photo: a citizens’ gathering in Nome’s Old St. Joe’s meeting hall in September 2018. Photo: Margaret DeMaioribus, KNOM.

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