Anne Kilkenny - Alaskan Democrat
I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah Palin since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child's favourite teacher.
I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99 per cent of the residents of the city.
She is enormously popular; in every way she's like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won't vote for her can't quit smiling when talking about her because she is a 'babe'.
It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months. She is 'pro-life'. She recently gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.
She is energetic and hard-working. She regularly worked out at the gym. She is savvy. She doesn't take positions; she just 'puts things out there' and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.
Her husband Todd Palin works a trade union job on the North Slope for British Petroleum and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd's kind of job is highly sought-after because of the generous schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in the summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing the Palin family's major source of income. Nor has Sarah's life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.
Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters. She's smart. Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time of Sarah's election), and less than two years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.
During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.
Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a 'fiscal conservative'. During her six years as mayor, she increased general government expenditures by more than 33 per cent. During those same six years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38 per cent.
This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.
The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren't enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Sarah encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library?
No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn't even have clear title to, that was still in litigation seven years later--to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in five-seven years without any borrowing.
While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodelled and her office redecorated more than once. These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city. As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.
In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today's surplus, borrow for needs.
She's not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As mayor, she fought ideas that weren't generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren't evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.
While Sarah was mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected city librarian because the librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defence of the city librarian and against Sarah's attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Sarah backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the librarian are on her enemies list to this day.
Sarah complained about the 'old boy's club' when she first ran for mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of 'old boys'. She fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal--loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the state's top cop (see below).
As mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla's Police Chief because he 'intimidated' her, she told the press. As governor, her recent firing of Alaska's top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it's pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn't fire her sister's ex-husband, a state trooper.
Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furore, she withdrew her support.
She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The city council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal city administrator; even people who didn't like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.
Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her. Then governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau (Alaska's capital) and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil and gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400 a year, she was complaining in the press about the high salary.
I was told that she hated that job: the long commute from home in another town, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behaviour on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the 'old boys' club' when she dramatically quit, exposing this man's ethics violations (for which he was fined).
As mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the white elephant 'bridge to nowhere' construction project after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.
As governor, she gave the state legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork ('pork barrel' is used to described city hall corruption). Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects - which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance. But Sarah's stance gained her a reputation as 'anti-pork'.
She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The state party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.
Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her 'Sarah Barracuda' because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah's mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.
As governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as 'AGIA' that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.
Like most Alaskans, she favours drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned 'as a private citizen' against a state initiative that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in the state (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State's lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior's decision to list polar bears as threatened species.
McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being US President.
There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she. However, there are a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.
Sarah's claims Vs fact
•'Parent Teacher Association mom': true. Years ago when her first-born was in elementary
school, not since
•'National Rifle Association supporter': absolutely true
• Social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, But vetoed a bill
that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships
(said she did this because it was unconstitutional).
• Pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, But did nothing as Governor to
•'Pro-life': mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down's syndrome baby
But declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life
• Experienced: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has
residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska.
No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on
supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city
administrator to run town of about 5,000.
• Political maverick: not at all
• Gutsy: absolutely
• Open and transparent: Good at keeping secrets. Not good at
• Has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
• A Green: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores
and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in Alaska NationalWildlife Reserve.
• Fiscal conservative: not by my definition.
• Pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city
without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built
streets to early 20th century standards.
• Pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden
• Pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city
government in Wasilla's history.
• Pro-labour/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works for a trade union
doesn't make her pro-labour. I have seen nothing to support any claim
that she is pro-labour/pro-union.