Of M&M's, fecal coliform and the military

Posted: Sunday, January 14, 2001

House Finance Co-Chairman Eldon Mulder has some advice for state executive branch managers: "Act as if you're the stockbroker and we're the investor."

Or to put it another way: "We're not investing in the Department of Natural Resources. We're investing in resource development."

With that, Mulder, an Anchorage Republican, reaffirmed his commitment to "missions and measures," criteria in state law for judging departmental objectives and performance.

In honor of the oft-repeated phrase, Fairbanks Democrat John Davies handed out M&Ms to Finance Committee members just before the first hearing began Wednesday. He said there was no particular symbolism, and indeed no commissioners melted in Mulder's hands this week.

But Mulder said more work needs to be done on the missions and measures, and said they should be applied to programs, not just to departments and divisions. He described that as the answer to the question of what follows the Republican majority's five-year budget-cutting plan, which ended last session.

Mulder said he's not looking for a lot of detail, praising the brevity of the mission statement for the Department of Labor and Workforce Development: "To promote safe and fair working conditions and to advance opportunities for employment."

Labor Commissioner Ed Flanagan had some humorous observations on department performance.

On the downside, Flanagan recently got stuck in the Labor building's elevator for about 20 minutes. He noted that elevator inspections had been cut back.

But he said state demographer Greg Williams, in his annual update of Alaska population figures, had estimated 627,100 state residents for last year. The actual head count released by the U.S. Census Bureau for 2000 was 626,932.

Flanagan said: "I gave Greg a hard time for being off by 200, and he said, 'They missed some people.'"

Rep. Bill Williams of Saxman was feeling ill even before Michele Brown started talking about fecal coliform. In a discussion that Brown, commissioner of Environmental Conservation, conceded was "gross," she discussed wastewater discharges from cruise ships with the House Finance Committee.

Williams was in and out of the hearing room, reportedly having eaten some suspect seafood. But the rest of the committee also might have been feeling a little seasick with talk of human and animal waste being dumped in Alaska waters.

Bunde inquired whether state ferries are having the same difficulty with high fecal coliform counts in discharges. Brown said no, adding that the richer diet on cruise ships gives them more to contend with in the way of wastewater.

Juneau Democratic Rep. Beth Kerttula, who turned 45 Monday, had mixed feelings about being stopped by a legislative aide and being asked for which lawmaker she works.

"That was humbling," Kerttula told amused participants in the first Bill Egan Forum of the session, held Thursday at the Baranof Hotel. "But in a way it made feel good because most of the aides are fairly young and attractive people. And I thought maybe that was a good thing."

Rep. Bill Hudson, a Juneau Republican who sits on House Finance, said Gov. Tony Knowles should have been bolder in his State of the State address and called for specific new revenues right away, rather than just a "trigger" in the future.

"Obviously, there are some hard decisions that are going to face the Alaska family," Hudson said. "I think that the governor's got nothing to lose when he steps up and says something that's honest."

Upon seeing Rep. Scott Ogan on crutches and in a cast, Attorney General Bruce Botelho said: "I'm sure there will be legions of stories about how he earned it."

Ogan, a Palmer Republican, replied: "You should have seen the other guy." But he admitted his real adversary had been a patch of ice.

"Mr. Chairman, I stand disillusioned," Botelho said.

Quote marks:

"The governor discussed trigger. We'd like to see what the rest of the gun looks like." - House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat, reacting to the governor's call for a revenue "trigger" when reserves run low.

"Military intelligence is not an oxymoron. Military food is." - Rep. Richard Foster, a Nome Democrat.

Bill McAllister can be reached at billm@juneauempire.com.



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