I give you this as the definitive example of why our state capitol MUST, once and for all, be moved from Juneau, Alaska:
First, the reality of Alaska's capitol city: Juneau, Alaska is not accessible by road. Really. You can get there using the state ferry system or by plane, both of which are more expensive than a flight from Anchorage to Seattle. Seriously.
Alaskans, including myself, have voted several times to move the capitol from the small town of Juneau to a small town in southcentral Alaska called Willow whose main advantage is that it accessible to the majority of the population of the state as it is located on the state rail belt system and along our major highway system. For reasons much to complicated to go into now, efforts to move our capitol to a more accessible location have continually been thwarted.
Again, the majority of the population of Alaska lives in the southcentral Alaska region. As much as 90% of the population in fact lives in Anchorage, the Mat-Su valley (Wasilla, Palmer, Willow) and Fairbanks. Why our capitol is STILL not located where we can have easy access to government and our elected officials remains a mystery. The recent revelations concerning rampant corruption amongst elected representatives might give one pause to think about the real reasons. If we can't get to the place where our state government conducts it's official business, we are less likely to be able to influence the decision making process through protests and we are less likely to be able to see whatever bad behavior is going on while the business of governance is supposedly being conducted.
Sarah Palin does not spend much time in Juneau. By choice. She lives in Wasilla and commutes to her office in Anchorage. She has said she doesn't want to move to Juneau and has yet to really take up residence in the governor's mansion. She fired the head chef at the governor's mansion because, as she explained herself, she and her family aren't there often enough to merit having a chef on call and that she's perfectly capable of cooking for her family herself. She also said she did it as a cost saving measure. So in a sense the money she is saving by not having a chef offsets what she is charging the state for per diems while staying in Wasilla and living in her own house. But it's not enough.
It is galling to me that she has billed state government for per diems for 319 days while living in her own house and eating her own food. She already makes around $125,000 per year! That is about four times more than I make per year as a working stiff! That isn't even including what her and her husband makes as commercial fishermen. Nor does it include what the "First Dude" may have made as an oil rig worker for BP on Alaska's north slope. But you'll argue that I am not governor or a public servant and you'll be correct. Yet she gets to bill the state $16,951 as her allowance for staying at her home rather than working in Juneau because of her own personal choice or convenience. We have a capitol city (for better or worse because of its remoteness from the people) and a place for her and her family to live FOR FREE and from which she can conduct her business as governor. Many times she chooses NOT to go where she belongs and Alaskans get to foot the bill for that personal choice.
Even worse though is that Alaskans also get to pay for the governor's daughters and husband who charged the state $43,490 to travel mostly between their house in Wasilla and Juneau. If they stayed where they were supposed to be, in the governor's mansion in Juneau, this wouldn't be an issue. She wouldn't be able to charge a per diem EXCEPT for when she was on official state business and the state wouldn't be paying all that money to shuttle her family around.
Politicians are supposed to be working for the people as public servants. Sometimes that means having to make hard choices and personal sacrifices -- that is supposed to come with the job. I'm not asking that they be destitute and penniless because of the costs associated with travel and living expenses. Legitimate travel expenses for conducting state business are perfectly acceptable. What I am saying is that she should only be collecting per diems on the days were she was conducting official state business. Period. So you say, but wait -- she's governor EVERY DAY so why not get the per diem EVERY DAY? Because we already pay her $125,000 (approximately... I think the exact figure is $122,500) a year for being governor. That's why.
Sarah, please use your own damn money to pay for personal choices and convenience as it pertains to the living arrangements of your family, just like the rest of us have to do every day. We should NOT be paying all those travel expenses for shuttling her family all over the state. Yes I know she is a mother and she has a special needs child that she must to be near at all times. Keeping the first family in Juneau, where they belong during her time as governor, is the solution.
If you say I'm being sexist I'll counter with this: I was a single parent. In a sense I still am even though my son is now grown and gone, supporting a family of his own. But back then I worked every day, raising my son while managing to survive without the benefit of extra per diem money AND on a salary significantly less than what she gets paid. At the time I was making about six times less than what she currently pulls down as governor because when my son was in his pre-teen and teenage years, we were quite poor. The life of a musician is like that. But I am a parent and I know a little bit about raising kids. The difference being that I had to be both father AND mother as a single parent. My choice. If anything my experience was even more difficult than hers is now. I worked three jobs -- a day job, musician on the weekends (and sometimes week night) AND as a parent. So I have little or no sympathy for what I consider to be her gaming of the system because of her personal choices. Move to Juneau where you belong once and for all or give the money back. Your choice.
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