Commentary: After a Supreme Court win, Alaskans have right, responsibility to recall

By Joe Usibelli Sr. and Vic Fischer
For The Cordova Times

On May 8, the Alaska Supreme Court affirmed the right of Alaskans to hold a recall election. As co-chairs of the Alaskan effort to remove Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office, we write with an urgent message: our state’s future is in our collective hands. If you have not already signed a recall petition in 2020, now is the time to request a household booklet online and sign again.

After months of stall tactics by the governor, the Alaska Supreme Court has put to rest all legal challenges to the recall. Its ruling confirmed what we knew all along: Gov. Dunleavy acted incompetently, demonstrated lack of fitness, and violated Alaska law and the Alaska Constitution. No amount of foot-dragging, even by state leaders, can change those facts. We won. The recall is moving forward with speed.

In the shadow of COVID-19, many Alaskans are spending every waking hour homeschooling children and scrambling to pay household bills. While you’ve been sheltering in place, away from jobs, friends, and group gatherings in an effort to keep your fellow Alaskans safe, Governor Dunleavy has been busy — doubling down on the same extreme vetoes to higher education, healthcare, public radio, school bond debt reimbursement, and coastal infrastructure he made last year.

The difference? This time he cut crucial services in the midst of a global pandemic, injecting economic risk and additional instability during a time when we can least afford it. The governor’s new vetoes this spring send a fresh wave of harm to rural Alaskans, to businesses in coastal communities, and to hospitals preparing for a second surge of COVID-19 cases as we begin to ease distancing restrictions. Despite deafening outcry from every corner of the state, our governor has not listened to Alaskans over the past year, nor has he learned.

As bi-partisan Recall Dunleavy co-chairs, we have collectively lived in Alaska for over 150 years, investing our lives and careers in this great state. Together, we are business leaders, keepers of culture, trustees of higher education, and a signer of the Alaska Constitution. We bring this time-tested perspective: our state is experiencing—and will continue to experience—debilitating levels of economic stress and uncertainty as long as Governor Dunleavy remains in office. His behavior demonstrates a pattern of brutal red-pen vetoes that will repeat itself until he is recalled.

In the months to come, Alaska will begin its recovery from COVID-19 and the task of guiding our economic comeback will be enormous. At such a time we’ll be in grave need of a leader with common sense, a grasp of economics, and the well-being of all Alaskans at heart. Dunleavy is not that leader.

Before the pandemic, Recall Dunleavy collected more than 30,000 petition signatures in less than three weeks; a total that typically takes about three months for ballot initiatives to collect. We’re halfway to our goal of 71,252 signatures, but we need your help to collect the rest as soon as possible for submission to the Department of Elections this summer.

Alaskans, the Supreme Court has cleared our way to recall. Sign the petition as soon as possible by requesting a booklet at the Recall Dunleavy website. Regardless of party affiliation, each and every one of us is now endowed with the right and the responsibility to put the following question on the ballot: shall we, the people of Alaska, remove Gov. Dunleavy from office based on the grounds of incompetence, lack of fitness, and violating Alaska law and the Alaska Constitution? The choice is ours to make.

Joseph Usibelli Sr. is chairman of the board of Usibelli Coal Mine, Inc. Victor Fischer served in Alaska’s territorial Legislature and is the last living member of the group of 55 men and women who wrote Alaska’s State Constitution. Both serve as co-chairs to Recall Dunleavy.