Tuesday, December 05, 2006

It's Official - You Can Call Alaska's Sarah Palin "Governor"

Alaska's Sarah Palin (pictured at left, courtesy of Sarah Palin's Campaign Website) was formally sworn in as the state's 11th governor (9 different people actually occupying the office) and first female governor at Fairbanks' Carlson Center on Monday, December 4th, 2006, accompanied by her husband Todd Palin, who humorously refers to himself as the "First Dude". Governor Palin chose to swear in at Fairbanks in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of Alaska's first constitutional convention, which was held in Fairbanks. Some skeptics thought Governor Palin was trying to snub Juneau for supporting Tony Knowles during the election, but such was not the case.

Media Story Links: I chose to delay posting until most of the local news organizations weighed in. Numerous stories published, links listed here:

-Fairbanks Daily News-Miner published three stories on December 5th:
-- Gov Palin Takes Office
-- Students Witness Historic Ceremony
-- After Pomp And Circumstance, The Big Job Begins

-Anchorage Daily News

-KTVF Channel 11 Fairbanks

-KTUU Channel 2 Anchorage - includes video link to swearing-in

-KTVA Channel 11 Anchorage

-KIMO Channel 13 Anchorage

-MatSu Valley Frontiersman, Governor Palin's hometown newspaper includes a story and a separate opinion column, which clearly is favorable.

Synopsis: The applause built for a full minute after Sarah Palin took the oath making her Alaska's new governor Monday. Then, from somewhere high in the seats of the Carlson Center sports arena, the chanting started: "Sarah! Sarah! Sarah!"

"OK, the governor said cease and desist," said the event's emcee, Libby Riddles, quieting the crowd of thousands. Riddles was the first woman to win the 1,100-mile Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, and it's no coincidence she was asked to host the swearing-in ceremony of the state's first female governor. "She was an underdog. She was a risk-taker, kind of an outsider," Palin said in describing Riddles, but also defining her own rise from a small-town mayor and Republican Party maverick to the state's top political job.

In her inaugural address on Monday, Palin hit the theme of resource development hard -- especially oil and gas. But she also pledged to drive a hard bargain with anyone who wants a piece of Alaska's natural resources. "I will unambiguously, steadfastly and doggedly guard the interests of this great state as a mother naturally guards her own," she said.

Palin, decrying Alaska's abysmal statewide 40% high school graduation rate, also emphasized education, particularly through vocational training, pledged to defend the state's values, and would insist on an ethical government. She also vowed to provide for public infrastructure and public safety and give schools what they need to excel. In turn, she demanded that Alaskans take responsibility for bettering their lives. "Alaskans, hold me accountable", she told the crowd, "and right back at you. I"ll expect a lot from you, too". She told people not to be afraid of Federal funding drying up now that Alaska's powerful delegation is in the minority in Congress. "Instead, let's make our wealth again," she said.

Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, who was also sworn in Monday and is running Palin's budget transition team, echoed the same theme. He told the crowd that the state faces a period of belt-tightening. "Soon you will see evidence that the days of large state budget surpluses are over," Parnell said. "Oil production and prices are dropping, while state spending has risen dramatically and unsustainably." Parnell also pledged to use more state resources to help combat domestic violence and suicide.

Governor Palin's desired first priority will be to work on the proposed natural gas pipeline contract. Beginning Tuesday December 5th, Palin, Parnell, acting Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford and newly appointed Department of Revenue Commissioner Patrick Galvin will meet with the three North Slope oil producers -- BP, Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil -- with whom Murkowski negotiated his deal. The plan never was ratified by the Legislature. The new administration will also talk with as many as nine other groups as part of Palin's plan to let anyone who is interested compete to offer the best deal. "New players" specifically identified include the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, TransCanada, MidAmerican Energy Holdings, the BG Group, Shell and Chevron. Governor Palin promised her pipeline contract negotiations would ultimately be open and transparent.

Her staff estimated as many as 5,000 people attended the inauguration Monday, including some 1,600 Fairbanks-area students.

Outgoing Governor Frank Murkowski no-showed the event. He and his wife are currently in New York, preparing to take a round-the-world cruise. While some people might accuse him of "sour grapes", I think Murkowski was conscious of his low popularity and probably felt his presence at Palin's inauguration would be divisive and detract from the moment.

At 42, Palin is the youngest governor in Alaska's history.

Short-Term Challenges

1). Find people to help her run the state and get them up to speed. While she's assembled an impressive transition team to help her, she's only named five commissioners so far, and must choose the reaminder from hundreds of applicants.

2). Assemble a comprehensive proposal for state spending. Palin has to submit operating and capital budgets to state lawmakers by December 15th, but can make changes during a grace period extending into the legislative session. She said at the press conference that her budget team was taking a close look at Murkowski’s proposal and would be making recommendations to her in the coming days.

3). Resolve the issue of benefits for same-sex partners of state employees. The Alaska Supreme Court previously ordered the state to offer them by January 1st, 2007 but the Murkowski Administration refused, citing a lack of authority. State lawmakers failed to grant that authority and took steps to block the benefits. Palin now faces a deadline of December 22nd to decide whether to allow state regulations that would implement the benefits. She's planning to put together a team to review her options.

4). Continue negotiations on the proposed natural gas pipeline. During this week, Palin, Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell, and Acting Natural Resources Commissioner Marty Rutherford will be meeting with potential sponsors of a natural gas pipeline project to hear their vision for getting a pipeline built. Each entity will get 45 minutes to make their initial pitch. Palin, who said the pipeline work was her first priority, also promised to introduce a bill the first day of the legislative session that would lay out the requirements and incentives applicable to any pipeline project.

And Governor Palin and Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell wasted little time getting started. According to a story by KIMO Channel 13 in Anchorage, they spent their first full day on the job in meetings with potential producers. Besides the "big three" of Exxon, BP, and Conoco, Palin and Parnell met with TransCanada and another Canadian company, Enbridge. More meetings with more producers will take place on Wednesday (December 6th). ABC Alaska News was told the meetings Tuesday were pretty much a meet-and-greet getting the foundations laid for future negotiations.

KIMO Channel 13 was able to grab only a very quick interview with Palin between meetings. She says her first day is going just as planned. "I'm going to be reading all the information that's been provided for us today by these companies, those who are saying these are our idea's these are our road maps we want to provide you, again in terms of commercializing Alaska’s gas. Here's what we can offer the state of Alaska. So, I’m going to be reading a lot of information tonight,” Palin said. “Top priority for our agenda is gas-line negotiations," Palin continued. "It’s just a great opportunity for the lieutenant governor and me and our Department of Natural Resources officials and Department of Revenue personnel to be in there meeting with independents and oil producers, companies who want to share with us how they want to commercialize our gas”.

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  1. I can't believe how people are falling for this "fresh face" bullshit. Look at the people that chaired her campaign, look at the Murkowski retreads she has held over. Her husband works for the oil industry but yet she says she is going to "protect" Alaska resources from who has been putting food on her table? She thinks she can negotiate with someone other than the people that own the rights to the gas for a gas pipeline? She can make any deal she wants with a company to build a pipeline but unless "the big three" go along with it they have no gas to ship.

    You can call her Governor, I'll call her naive and stupid.


  2. Her campaign co-chairs, Walter Hickel and Wayne Anthony Ross, are not exactly Murkowski retreads. And I don't see a problem with keeping a few Murkowski holdovers for continuity, so long as they're the right people for the job.

    And those ownership rights to the gas are not as unequivocal as one might believe. Frank Murkowski finally revoked Exxon's Point Thomson lease (after they sat on it for 30 years and did NOTHING with it).

    In terms of technical qualifications, Andrew Halcro was clearly the most qualified candidate. But his social libertarianism doesn't play well in a red state. What Halcro should have emphasized is that although he's absolutely pro-choice on abortion, he opposes any public funding of abortion. This is a position many people could learn to live with.

    I think we'll find that much of the Palin vote was much more anti-Frank and anti-Tony rather than pro-Sarah.