Shine a light on Bethel’s mental health issues

It’s really sad about what I just heard today (December 5th, 2020). It’s about a young guy that I personally know and I can attest to the fact that he has a mental illness. He was trying to rob some people with an axe and he got shot.

I didn’t hear any gunshots. I was here at home and I’m like 500 yards from there.

Last week I was out for a walk. I saw him acting irregular, he was in front of me a couple hundred yards and he had something like a hockey stick without the end on it or a giant leveler or something. He kept turning around and taunting. I don’t know if he was taunting me or what or just talking to the wind. That confirmed it for me that he was mentally ill.

I know the guy had mental health issues but he also has people here that weren’t really backing him up and here it comes down to him trying to rob a coffee shop and he got shot. How is it that people don’t notice – those that are closer to him?

We need to address the problems we have here. For such a small community we are so blessed to be isolated from the rest of the world, in my own opinion, but still bad things happen. It is a big issue and times are weird right now.

It’s also important to me that people have this information and that it’s not just swept under the rug. Where are we at people? And this is happening? Couldn’t we get a little closer?

How in the world does this happen in a small community? Somebody sees him on the highway like I did last week and just drive by.

I tried to help the guy personally, I had given this person a brand new pair of Lacrosse boots and he was okay. I knew something was wrong and I tried to cheer him up. I still have the boots right now that I traded him for, didn’t expect anything back, just trying to help him out.

He was homeless.

How could nobody else fill in the blanks, and in a small community like this to not notice that that’s happening? He might not be the only one.

Mike Reuter

Bethel, AK

Disaster declarations needed

A letter to the Honorable Governor Michael Dunleavy dated November 25, 2020.

Governor Dunleavy,

We are writing to share our support for the requests made by our constituents to declare a fishing disaster for the 2020 Yukon River Salmon Season and the 2020 Norton Sound Commercial Chum and Coho Salmon Season.

The 2020 commercial salmon fisheries were devasting for Norton Sound and Yukon River fishermen, processors, local vendors, and municipalities. Yukon River fishermen experienced a 97% decrease in harvests compared to 2019, which equaled a loss of over $1.9 million.

Norton Sound fishermen experienced an 87% decrease in harvest and a loss of over $1.7 million. There are few employment opportunities in these regions and many of our constituents rely on the salmon fishing industry for their annual income. These losses have been felt on many levels for families and communities unable to meet basic needs.

Three organizations representing constituents in our region have sent you requests to declare fishing disaster declarations for the 2020 salmon season: Norton Sound Economic Development Council letter dated 9/15/20 and a joint letter dated 10/8/20 from the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association (YRDFA) and the Yukon Delta Fisheries Development Association. Recently, the YRDFA provided your office with resolutions and letters from 16 village tribal councils, village corporations, and municipal governments outlining the hardships experienced by their communities and requesting a fishing disaster be declared.

Thank you for your attention and consideration of this important issue affecting families and communities of the Norton Sound and Yukon River regions. We urge you to review this information and respectfully ask for your support in declaring a fisheries disaster for the 2020 Yukon River Salmon Season and the 2020 Norton Sound Commercial Chum and Coho Salmon Season.

Rep. Neal Foster, House District 39

Sen. Donny Olson, Senate District T

Alaska State Legislature

Governor Dunleavy Makes Alaska a Hostile Place

What would you say if your daughter, sister, or best friend confided she had received inappropriate text messages from a supervisor—comments on her appearance, invitations for late night drinks at his home, questions about whether her children slept in her bed?

What if she received 558 such messages and they were accompanied by not just heart emojis but unwanted physical touch? What if she said she had repeatedly tried to brush off these advances (tactfully, because she couldn’t afford to lose her job) but the harassment continued? For months.

Your first reaction would likely be anger and very possibly fear for her safety. Then you would immediately urge her to notify her supervisor’s boss. This is exactly what an unnamed state worker did this spring when Governor Dunleavy’s former Attorney General Kevin Clarkson launched a barrage of texts, hair-stroking, hugs, and kisses.

First, she approached the governor’s Chief of Staff, Ben Stevens, who told her to keep quiet. She had a meeting with Governor Dunleavy himself, too, after which he took no action. (Only after the story was reported this fall by local media did Clarkson resign.)

Unions have a name for the kind of willful neglect demonstrated by Governor Dunleavy and his top advisors: contributing to a hostile work environment.

It didn’t surprise me that the governor was unmoved by his employee’s personal and professional suffering and the gross imbalances of power that eventually made her leave a job she needed and loved. After all, his tenure had been marked by a hostility so extreme that Alaskans are in the midst of an effort to recall him.

From the moment Dunleavy took office the disdain for his own employees was on full display. Demanding fealty pledges from exempt longtime dedicated state employees, firing of those whose political ideology he disagreed with, or simply firing employees for activities they engaged in outside of work foretold how callous the incoming administration was determined to act when it came to dealing with state employees.

Governor Dunleavy’s first budget in February of 2019 was designed to intimidate the very people he was elected to serve, with a proposed 25% cut to education, a 40% cut to the UA system, $714 million in Medicaid cuts, and an end to ferry service, among many others. It was a program of shock and awe, to use a military term.

Alaskans were frightened at what these cuts would mean for their jobs, their children, elderly relatives, and the future of their state. The governor ignored their letters and phone calls, their emails and legislative testimony. These Alaskans weren’t his constituents, they were the enemy.

The governor went on to create a hostile environment in the legislature, too. Do you remember the red veto pen he kept in his breast pocket, a threat to lawmakers who might dare stand up for average Alaskans relying on schools, healthcare, and transportation? Eventually, he even sued the legislature over the school funding cuts it denied him, so badly did he want to bring public education to its knees.

The ways in which Governor Dunleavy has tried to make Alaskans suffer are too many to list here, but if you look around your community you’ll see the scars.

Had Alaska been under the protection of a union like mine, we could have helped it make a good case in court for pain and suffering. It turns out Alaskans found the power and protection they needed elsewhere—in our laws and constitution.

When the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed that Governor Dunleavy broke the law and violated the constitution (on multiple occasions) during his campaign of intimidation, the way was paved for a recall effort that is now approaching a special election.

As a union leader, I regret I’m unable to directly help Governor Dunleavy’s staffer fight for her workplace rights (she isn’t a union member). What I can do is help my fellow Alaskans fight for the foundations of our state—our people, our laws, and our constitution—which remain in the Dunleavy administration’s line of fire.

Visit the Recall Dunleavy website to request a mail-in petition. This effort needs just over 22,000 more signatures to reach an election, and yours can be the one that gets us there so we can finally put an end to this reign of error.

Vince Beltrami, Executive President

Alaska AFL-CIO, Alaska’s largest and oldest federation of labor unions

Example: 9075434113