Commentary: Alaskans safely adapt to pandemic challenges

By Meda DeWitt
For The Cordova Times

Alaskans have always met challenges with resiliency and ingenuity — especially in unprecedented times, whether floods, earthquakes or a spreading coronavirus. We persevere over short-term challenges for the long-term good of our state.

As a people-powered movement already backed by more than 49,000 Alaskans of different political stripes and socio-economic backgrounds, the recall of Gov. Mike Dunleavy is no different. It’s about the long-term health of Alaska.

Starting March 20, we launched a protected and convenient way for Alaskans to sign the petition in the safety of their own homes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Registered Alaska voters can simply fill out a short request form on the Recall Dunleavy website and we will send them a personal household recall petition booklet by mail with instructions for returning it, postage prepaid.

In today’s virus-inflicted crises, the reasons we started this movement have not changed. But what has changed is how we will collect the next round of 71,252 signatures from Alaskans who want a chance at a better future. No public lines, tables, crowds or people at your door. It’s all in the security of your home.

We cannot pretend that Gov. Dunleavy’s irresponsible approach to governing our state has gone away in light of the pandemic. We remain grateful for Dr. Anne Zinke’s guidance during this crisis; however, Alaskans should know that some of the governor’s actions may lengthen or worsen this crisis.

Starting Monday, March 23, the state of Alaska began rationing Medicaid dollars that go directly to pay doctors, hospitals and clinics who treat Alaskans who rely on Medicaid for coverage (one in four of us). Dunleavy’s attempts to deliberately underfund Medicaid have weakened our healthcare system capacity, a move with frightening implications for the current public health crisis.

Meanwhile, in the heart of a pandemic, the Dunleavy administration continues its habit of saying one thing in public, and doing another behind closed doors. Immediately following multiple press conferences encouraging members of the public to stay home, the state directed employees to report to work in person, a dangerous inconsistency that puts our state workers at risk.

The governor’s recent actions fail to change the plain fact that almost 50,000 Alaskans signed the recall application last fall, and more than 30,000 Alaskans doubled down in just the past three weeks to exercise their constitutional right to recall. They believe the governor has been, and will continue to be, the wrong man for the job. They want to give Alaskans the opportunity to vote on a better future for our state.

At some point we will emerge from this public health crisis, still facing the same problems with current leadership. The man at the top has not changed, nor have the grounds of our recall: incompetence, lack of fitness, and neglect of duties.

We have not forgotten the avoidable crises that Dunleavy forced on families and businesses during his first year of office, alone. Nor can those who are directly hurt by the governor’s cavalier approach: the coastal communities served by the state ferries, university students and researchers, senior citizens, public school students and faculty, members of the business community, nor health care providers.

Alaskans’ health and safety remain our top priorities—fundamental values that sparked and underpin the recall movement. While adhering to social distancing and health recommendations from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the statutes and guidance from Alaska Division of Elections, the recall moves forward with purpose and strength.

We thank Alaskans for helping us — once again — to make history. Please stay safe, stay strong, and stay home for now. Together we will recall Governor Dunleavy. We are ready to mail a personal petition to your mailbox. It’s the safe way to make your voice heard for the future.

Meda DeWitt is chair of Recall Dunleavy. She is Tlingit from Southeast Alaska and is a lifelong Alaskan. She lives in Anchorage with her fiancé and their eight children.