Alaska’s Challenges Demand Answers
|Ric Davidge is co-founder and “referee” of the AK Roundtable.|
In educational terms, one generation transfers knowledge to the next by what has been called the Intergenerational Transfer of Cognitive Knowledge. That is what our teachers and schools are supposed to be doing—imparting the common knowledge to young Alaskans necessary to promote best interests of families and society in each new generation. Additionally, we all learn some things through exposure to other persons who are not specifically designated as teachers. Senior members of the community will naturally gather regularly to share information freely, and anyone lucky enough to be in attendance at such gatherings can learn a lot.
Alaska Native cultures actively honor the transfer of wisdom from elders.
This writer discovered how this worked while living aboard a boat in Juneau during the 1980s. A group of local residents met regularly at City Café to do what is euphemistically referred to as shooting the bull. Former local elected officials and teachers, tradesmen, local business owners and state/local government workers, regularly met for coffee and toast or breakfast for a couple of informative hours. Conversations were between individual participants, or everybody would talk around a certain topic of the day. It represented a transfer of knowledge and experience. Many of these people would relate how certain things used to be done a certain way and why they are now done differently.
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Change is not always good.
Today in Anchorage an organization has evolved out of what began as the kind of coffee-clutch I once experienced in Juneau. I know of other such regular gatherings at certain restaurants around Anchorage, but I
became interested in this particular gathering because it has an elevated mission—actually promoting deep understanding of issues impacting Alaska—called the AK Roundtable.
|A recent view of the AK Roundtable.|
Conceived in frustration.
I became angry with the Alaska Republican Party—and resigned after being chairman of the Platform Committee and a District Chairman for many years, and active in many other ways, explained Ric Davidge, a co-founder. I just got pissed off because nobody would DO anything. We have had a Republican majority of voters in the state for years but when we elect Republicans they change when they get to Juneau.
Some apparently don’t know how to be consistently conservative.
Davidge continued: So I started having a weekly luncheon on Thursdays. Anybody could come and join a friendly chit-chat. It evolved from one hour to an hour and a half to two hours and next we had elected officials showing up.
|Usually on Zoom, Holly Sheldon Lee is an active member of AK Roundtable, sometimes coming to Anchorage from her home in Talkeetna.|
Participants are mostly conservative, and information is about matters about which all are concerned.
It came to be a place where people could be very honest and talk about how they felt about something—put it on the table and have a conversation about it—and sometimes even now I have to be the referee in the
meetings, continued Davidge.
Near the conclusion of each meeting the chair goes around the table and asks if anybody has any further matter to bring up.
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Shooting the Bull.
One day at the public restaurant where we were meeting, one of our members observed that it appeared we were being taped, explained Davidge. I looked over and a person had put their phone in a place to record our meeting. I decided we needed to find another meeting place.
|Ray Kreig provides the meeting place for AK Roundtable 201 Barrow St.|
The meetings are currently held at a location owned by Ray Kreig and the mammoth table is actually an oval. No minutes are kept and anyone who doesn’t identify themselves on the conference call are cut off. Depending on what is going on they have 20 to 60 participants including zoom.
We have had Democrats come to the Roundtable, too, continued Davidge; Meg Zaletel from the Assembly came to the AK Roundtable. She sat there for an hour and a half getting her butt kicked. She called me afterward and said: “I learned more in that meeting than I have in almost any meeting I have been at.”
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Transfer of information works through thesis-antithesis-synthesis.
Davidge says the group has come to realize that information generated among participating members could be instructional for candidates aspiring for elected office. Toward that end the group has begun producing policy books on all important issues of our state and city, beginning with a book on Homelessness. Davidge authors and produces the books–with contributions from subject matter experts in the group–and pays for a limited production run of each book. He sells them for $10 to cover costs.
These are books heavy with data, context, and analysis of policy with an eye for meaningful change. Twelve such books are in progress.
We have built several candidates–who are now elected officials–who previously came regularly to the AK Roundtable, said Davidge. They had the opportunity anytime to ask any question, and sit at the table and participate. Some were never going to run for elected office but in some cases we convinced members of the need for competent candidates to run for certain seats in the Alaska Legislature. Our goal is to educate competent, limited government, candidates and begin the process of Right-Sizing our Alaska State Government. We need people who know it is necessary and want to know how to cut our state budget. Of course that isn’t going to happen right now–but by getting competent people into office the process can begin around the edges prior to the next election.
|A group of Alaska Legislators posed for this picture with guests recently at the AK Roundtable.|
Davidge adds: Hopefully the Alaska Legislature will have a good solid majority in the house of 25—not 20, not 21 but a solid 25—and
in the Senate at least 13 to 14 solid competent conservative Alaskan elected officials.
|Eagle River Rep. Ken McCarty is a frequent participant at the AK Roundtable.|
An ambitious goal, to educate candidates; so what qualifies this group to have impact? Recruiting and preparing quality candidates for public office is something the political parties used to do. Now Democrats run
as Republicans and year after year some Republicans cop out to give the Democrats the reigns in Juneau (including most significantly my own Eagle River Rep. Kelly Merrick).
Ranked Choice voting further muddies the water.
What does “Right-Sizing Government” mean?
We have a book in production about that topic, but when government is bloated it costs more than it should, services have not improved, and waste encourages corruption, Davidge said. I experienced how that happens as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Ronald Reagan.
Davidge worked in Washington D.C. for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens before being appointed by Pres. Reagan.
It became very clear to me that the problem wasn’t with Democrats or Republications but with Washington DC itself, said Davidge. There is a different reality inside the beltway than across America. Corruption there was up to your neck. I was very fortunate that we had an Inspector General who was a retired marine and straight as hell. He came to my office the first day and said: “let me tell you what is going on here.” I said: “I have been here before,” and he said: “You don’t know shit.”
Anyway, he explained to me how lobbyists of the various entities work to manipulate persons in critical positions to say yes or no, continued Davidge. The IG told me: “If you go to a restaurant in town here, and you are having a beer or whatever at the bar, and some good-looking woman comes over and sits next to you–and starts making the moves–I guarantee somebody is paying her to do it.”
Two days later it happened. A block away from the White House at Dîner en Blanc —a great restaurant—this woman started making the moves. I asked her: “Whose paying you?”
I was happily married and had a couple of kids and yet every time I turned around some woman was putting the move on me, Davidge said. I grew up in Hollywood California, so I understood what was going on. But it got to the point that I told the president: “I’ve been here five years, it’s time to go home to Alaska.”
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Alaskans cannot know what is happening in political power centers like Washington DC, or even Juneau, without witnessing it themselves. As someone who lived in Juneau 20 years, and actively attempted to influence public policy for employers who benefited from state spending, this writer understands the nature of the swamp at the state level. Few Alaskans can know that, but we depend upon the integrity of state and national elected officials to honor the trust of those who elected them to swim among snakes and alligators.
And then there is the bureaucracy.
In my position I fired lots of people for cause—including the chief financial officer of the National Park Service (NPS), continued Davidge. But when I told Reagan I was ready to go home after five years, he said: “I can’t let you go home right now, you’ve got a couple more things to do.”
Davidge explained the back-game: Reagan’s first bill was a re-write of the Economic Recovery Tax Act necessary in the face of President Jimmy Carter’s failed economic policies. One of the things in that bill was a provision authored by Davidge, for restoration of historic properties, allowing recovery of all expenses over a five-year period. In four years more historic properties were restored than had occurred in the history of the United States, according to Davidge.
Davidge explained: I figured out that If I made this an economic incentive instead of a regulatory requirement,
we would get a better outcome. The response exploded, and that angered the Radical Left, but it was the best approach. I looked at a lot of the restored historic properties that people and businesses wanted to restore, but they weren’t going to do it without an economic incentive as opposed to a federal regulatory
|Ric Davidge discussed his life experience and the AK Roundtable over lunch for this story.|
My wife was finishing her degree in Speech Language Pathology at the University of Maryland, and because of her fiscal support she was going to work for the Public Health Service, Davidge continued. I asked the President if he could get her assigned to Alaska. When she finished her program, she was reassigned to Alaska and we returned home.
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During the time when Davidge worked for Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, he witnessed first-hand herculean efforts in Washington DC, to address failure to transmit Alaska lands to the state under the Statehood Act passed in 1959. There remain today many issues dealing with public access, wildlife management, and use of federal lands.
I have written several confidential documents at the request of certain elected officials, said Davidge. Many of them have to do with Alaska Lands and the continued federal colonial attitude. We need to continually consider “What does State sovereignty really mean?”
Book in process.
Davidge said: The report from the Citizen’s Advisory Committee on Public Lands, which I initiated and got passed in the Alaska Legislature with Sen. Bettye Fahrenkamp, was the result of what I had discovered when one day Sen. Stevens came into my office and said: “Some total whacko with big beard and long hair came into the Senate Appropriations Committee and started telling us about all this corrupt stuff going on in the Alaska Park Service. He said “it’s not believable, find out who this guy is and what’s going on.”
What I learned from that guy, Chuck Cushman, was that under President Jimmy Carter the NPS, US Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and other agencies were using what is known as a Declaration of Taking–posting notice on the door of property owners stating: “This property now belongs to the US Government, please contact this (certain) court to find out when you can be paid,” said Davidge. In most cases this was directly contrary to federal laws that created these areas. I sent a copy to the Attorney General. THAT caused an interesting meeting.
This was happening all over the country. Alaska lands were also a target especially sportsmen like hunting guides.
So, we did several things. First, I was able to get the General Accounting Office to do a series of investigations, Davidge said. They began with the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area that Cushman had told us about. We discovered that this ‘park’ was created by Rep. John Seiberling, House Chair of the Interior Affairs Committee. His own home was in the area along with a friend who was the publisher of a local paper. They wanted to stop residential development, but we learned Chairman Seiberling constructed a special provision that allowed him to donate his property to the state and the state to the NPS. This enabled him to keep residence on the property and home, to remain that way until his youngest grandson passed. The NPS took care of all his property at no cost to him.
From Seiberling obituary:
Sen. Stevens requested the report, and it was a very good report. It exposed all the corruption Rep. Seiberling was involved in.
Ted directed me to deliver that report to Seiberling personally, said Davidge. This gave Ted some leverage
in finishing the Alaska Lands Act. There were many more such GAO reports that even shocked the US Attorney General.
What about the AK Roundtable book on Education at the printer now?
First, WE don’t call it public education, we call it government education, said Davidge. We know the reason THEY call it public education is to get around the idea of government control but the AK Roundtable tries very hard to be very clear about the facts.
Right off the bat the book recognizes the current Anchorage crisis of felony unlawful exploitation of minors under the law:
Alaska Statutes 11.41.436 and 11.41.455 describe the circumstances that define the felony of unlawful exploitation of a minor:
(a) An offender commits the crime of sexual abuse of a minor in the second degree if…
(4) being 16 years of age or older, the offender aids, induces, causes, or encourages a person who is under 16 years of age to engage in conduct described in AS 11.41.455 (a)(2) – (6);
*and* the offender occupies a position of authority in relation to the victim.
Alaska Statute 11.41.455 graphically describes the kinds of sexual activities the minor may be induced into performing by the
exploitative adult who is grooming them. As we know, the process of grooming a child for future exploitation begins slowly, the perpetrator often starting by showing the child pornographic materials.
How is this different from the adults within the school district providing our children with easily accessible pornographic
These people are effectively babysitting our children with our trust.
How would you feel if you found out that the babysitter you left your children with one evening had been showing them pornographic and
sexually explicit materials while you were out to dinner on date night?
Also from the Education Book developed by AK Roundtable:
School Management and Functional Results, and Reorganization
We support ‘results management’ and it must be required by law. This is a systemic programmatically integrated management tool, and the only effective measure of our public investments into all thing’s government service. It simply means that the results of government services are measured no longer by just process, and these measurements are audited biannually to ensure their honesty, so that the people can actually see and measure and clearly understand the value of such services compared to their investments (taxes) and other funds. As a result of federal and then state actions requiring student testing by states, we finally have a measure of the results of our investments into PreK – 12 education both private and government.
Alaska spends more money per student per capita than any other state in America – and any other nation per capita, and has, in almost all cases, the lowest reading and math scores in the nation. Why?
As Alaskans we all need to ask more questions of our government. It seems appropriate that persons who have traditional American values should want to address the crisis of ignorance in our time. The AK Roundtable is a good place to air the questions many are asking.
IZA Institute of Labor Statistics study, 2011
 40th Anniversary of Reagan’s Economic Recovery Tax Act, August 10, 2021
Anchorage schools remove ‘Gender Queer’ graphic memoir from school shelves, November 13,2019, https://mustreadalaska.com/anchorage-schools-remove-gender-queer-graphic-memoir-from-school-shelves/