Dunleavy budget 'roadshow' draws opposition in Nome
Once it went off the road system, the format for Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget "roadshow" seemingly wrecked this week.
The series of meetings around the state were advertised as community-based discussions of Dunleavy's proposed budget, which includes many sharp cuts to state programs.
One woman, Brenda Evak, was detained at the Nome airport but released without charges after police said she yelled and stomped her feet toward Dunleavy.
People attending the meetings had been required to register online beforehand and agree to certain conditions with host Americans for Prosperity-Alaska. A release form warned anyone failing to meet the terms could be asked to leave the event.
Nome Nugget editor Diana Haecker told KTVA people were being allowed into the Nome meeting without advance registration. As at the two previous meetings, people were given cards to write any questions they might have for the governor.
But one Alaska Native leader was not content with the setup. Melanie Bahnke, the president of regional non-profit corporation Kawerak, raised her hand.
Haecker said no one on the administration's panel responded to Bahnke, until a couple of people in the audience mentioned the Native leader should be allowed to speak.
Bahnke can be seen in a video posted on the Nome Nugget's Facebook page addressing the panel. She criticized the lack of interaction with the community, saying the protocol in Nome is to be more inclusive and not limit access to elected officials.
"In terms of your process for allowing us to only address you through these cards," Bahnke said, "if you want to truly have a dialogue, that's not the way to go about it. That's not how we typically do things here in Nome."
Bahnke suggested Dunleavy return to Nome on Kawerak's dime for a more open forum on how his proposed budget would impact those in the region.
She also had words for Office of Budget and Management Director Donna Arduin, who has worked for several governors in other states.
This comment is for you, Donna. While you were allowed to speak for a little bit you used the word "our." And with all due respect, you may have a job for eight years but our descendants – and I'm not just talking about the Alaska Native community here, because we have several non-Native families who have ties in this region that go back over a hundred years and who intend to live here too – we are going to be here for another 10,000 years. So please, don't use the word "our" while referring to our state's people.
Haecker called Bahnke's actions "democracy in action." She said the governor acknowledged Bahnke's comments and said he'd get back to her.
Dunleavy's next "roadshow" meetings will be in Fairbanks and the Mat-Su.
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