Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Answering The Governor and The ADN

Last Friday after reading this Compass article from Governor Palin and this back patting editorial from the Daily News editors, I wrote and submitted the following piece.
The Daily News editors may be prideful that fiscal conservatism means the State university system only got 4 percent of what they asked for, I find it shameful. While it is somewhat heartening they recognized UAA’s basic need for a new arena, it is disappointing that they used a metaphor poorly to make their point that the state isn’t responsible for getting it going. “Like a family with a one car garage and 4 cars?” A family that needs more space for their cars is a mostly specious comparison though. It may be accurate in the sense that there isn’t enough space in the garage for all the vehicles, but it doesn’t recognize that without the garage space, 3 of those cars will find another garage in which to park. For many of Anchorages best and brightest young people, parking at home isn’t an option they consider. Why? Because there are better garages in virtually any one of 49 other states. Shouldn’t we be trying to keep that 4 car family together?

The bottom line here is whether UAA can build itself into a garage where those other 3 cars want to park. There are two primary factors young adults use when selecting a school: education and environment. Since its inception and integration with Anchorage Community College the University has tried to steadily increase and expand it’s educational opportunities. Sadly though, the environment has remained the much the same. The experience of being a student at UAA is largely unique (in a bad way) among State-sponsored educational institutions in this great country.

Most (if not all) other state schools in this country (including UAF) provide a worthy environment in terms of those experiences important to collage aged students. In order for UAA to take the necessary steps to create a campus where students want to be, they must dramatically improve the culture and student experience (environment) as well as those important educational options. Involvement with the schools sports programs is one important aspect of that cultural experience. Take a look at almost any other state university and you’ll see student populations engaged and energized by their schools sports programs. Not at UAA though.

What happens when the best and brightest go elsewhere for the all-important collegiate experience? They stay there and instead of coming home to build the future Alaska, they put their talents to work somewhere else. Population growth in Alaska is largely a factor of outsiders moving here versus the next generation staying and participating in that future. In my mind, that means we Alaskans will simply become a conglomeration of emigrants who’ll eventually have no unique Alaskan identity. It is a shortsighted and inaccurate view to think we can’t afford to improve UAA. It’s shortsighted because a failure to invest in the future guarantees a future that only includes things from the present. It’s inaccurate because there is 39 billion Permanent Fund dollars (growing at a rate of 1.5 billion dollars a year) waiting to be invested in Alaska’s future.

Many other state and national governments have in place and/or are adopting Permanent Fund-like programs from their oil revenues. That’s a testament to Alaska’s leadership in managing the future. One thing though that most of those “Funds” have (and we don’t) is some recognition that investing in publicly funded post-secondary education is an important factor for guaranteeing positive future growth. They’re committing those funds to that important investment. But hey, we own a Mall in Virginia, right?

UAA’s planned arena is one part of an important larger effort to improve student culture and will become a valuable asset to the community at large. To advocate that such a role is the responsibility of the private sector is beyond my comprehension. Like every other state’s citizens it is our responsibility to fund our state universities. Alaskans need to speak out and demand our Permanent Fund begin investing locally in our future. The Permanent Fund is fully capable and our legislators need to direct them appropriately.
The paper has two primary ways in which it takes and publishes views from the community. The first is the "Letter to the Editor" (225 word limit) and the second is the "Compass" section (675 word limit). Today, after calling and leaving a voice message, I received the following notice via email from Matt Zencey the Editorial Page Editor for the ADN.
Mr. Dunlop,
I got your phone message. Frankly, this would need too much editing
and rewriting to be suitable for a full length op-ed in the Daily News.
You're welcome to condense it to a 225 word letter, focusing on your
main points: You think we're wrong; state funding for an arena is
appropriate because A. it will help UAA retain talented Alaska students by
improving the campus environment and B. we can afford it because we have
the Permanent Fund.
Your letter can be submitted to

Matthew Zencey
Editorial Page Editor
Anchorage Daily News
So that's that. I could have just posted that instead of submitting it to the ADN but most of it you've probably heard me say here before. I thought I made my points within their guidelines. It is 669 words; their limit is 675. Outside of that, their guidelines allow them a pretty wide variety of reasons to decide against printing. I didn't respond to Mr. Zencey's email.


Suze said...

So, condense it and resubmit it. And I won't say, well, you know what.

Donald said...

I've got no desire to write a 225 word "Letter to the Editor" that's why I submitted a Compass piece. I'm not succinct and I know I'm not.

I obviously have strong feelings about all the various aspects (the arena, state politics and funding) of the subject. I expressed myself in a manner that any ADN reader could understand. Perhaps it is long (as you suggested) but it is within their guidelines. It isn't obtuse or offensive.

Lastly, the words are mine and if I'm all good with the way they're organized then why should the ADN be concerned about what people think about the "style" of my writing and/or whether or not the article is up to some journalistic "columner" standard.

Have you read any other Compass pieces? I'd encourage you to do so. Note the authors.

While ADN solicits these articles from the wide community, in practice it only seems to publish columns from Government people and lobbyist or activist type folks. Here's a breakdown from the last two weeks ...

Rep. Mike Doogan
Cheryl Hilmes -- peace activist
Frances Nelson -- Environmental Coordinator for village near Pebble Mine
Sarah James -- Gwich'in Steering Committe Chair
Rep. John Harris
The Governher
Minister Warren Blackford -- Unity Church/Spiritual Consultant
Nina Cornett -- Private Citizen of Cooper Landing
Mark Richards -- Chairman of Backcountry Hunters and Anglers
James Labelle -- Private Citizen working for a Regional Native Corp writing about racism
Dan Coffey -- Chair of Anchorage Assembly
Dan Marshall -- Member of Kenai Area Fishermans Coalition
David Cuddy -- Rich Private Citizen/Former state legislator
Rep. Bob Roses
John Blaine -- Community activist

You won't find anyone so anonymous as me published there. Compass pieces are for those in our community that already have "standing".

It serves no purpose for the ADN to publish something from a nobody. But making sure that community leaders and politicians get their say benefits the ADN as far as PR these people spread around. Had the UAA Blueliners Booster Club President submitted my exact words it probably would have been printed. If Steve Cobb had, I can virtually guarantee it would have been.

Nobody's get 225 words.

Screw the ADN and the horse they ride around on.

Anonymous said...

Ah man, I say you send it in Donald -- it's GREAT!

I thought that Compass section was also called "Voices from the Community" or something like that?

Title? You don't need no stinkin' title... JUST SEND IT IN!!!

Larissa :o)

Donald said...

Thanks. I did submit it. And it's clear to me that they wouldn't print it even if I rewrote it to an A+ level in a Journalism 400 class and resubmitted it. But I'm satisfied with the content and the editing I've already done. Any changes I'd make would be superficial and wouldln't change their mind about it's "suitability".

What I have done is written an email to Patrick Dougherty who maintains the "Editors Blog" at the ADN (who'd printed my long letter in Feb/Mar about the sorry state of ADN coverage of UAA) asking him to change the subtext for Compass to "Views from the In-Crowd" instead of "Views from the Community". Check the "Blogs" section online to see if he addresses my latest bitching.

Post a Comment