I received a copy of the letter, written by Rhonda McBride, the outgoing advisor, which I will try and break down a little for those not familiar with Alaska (or Alaska Native) politics:
I wanted to let you know that I’m leaving my job as Rural Advisor. My last official day on the job is Wednesday, October 23rd.
The date is not meant as disrespect toward AFN. I certainly appreciate all the support and encouragement you’ve given me in the last year – and your efforts to include me.
(When she mentions AFN, she is talking about the Alaska Federation of Natives - more specifically, the "date" is in the middle of the annual AFN convention. It is the biggest gathering of Native people during the year, and many of the initiatives regarding Native people start here. For the state's Rural Advisor to leave in the middle of this convention is a pretty big deal.)
In all honesty, I have never felt authentic in my role. And I am convinced that Senator Kookesh was correct, when he said this position needs to be filled by an Alaska Native -- because there are too few Native voices on the Third Floor, and for that matter, the 17th Floor here at the Atwood Building.
(State Senator Kookesh is an Alaska Native senator, very well respected. Yet, he certainly wasn't the only one saying that this position should be filled by a Native person. McBride's position was just one that many thought should go to an Alaska Native person. And the Third Floor - and 17th Floor - is about state authorities.)
I think the Native community deserves more. An Alaska Native in this role would, by virtue of who they are, serve as an inspiration to the Governor’s staff – and would have the moral authority that a non-Native cannot. Authenticity is a powerful force, not to be underestimated.
The Palin administration is well-intended. Its efforts to help the legislature restore Community Revenue Sharing and expand Power Cost Equalization are steps in the right direction. My personal opinion is that the Division of Community and Regional Affairs needs to be restored as a department, so that Rural issues get the attention they so desperately deserve. While that may no longer be politically practical, the DCRA director needs more of a voice at the highest level of Government. Perhaps the director could become a quasi-cabinet level position.
(Okay, this is pretty critical of how Rural affairs are being handled. There's a whole lot being said in very few words, but clearly a cry for change. Which I think most involved in Rural affairs would agree is desperately needed. I myself -please see earlier posts- don't believe Palin's administration has done an eighth of what should be going on right now.)
One of the basic underlying issues in Rural Alaska is the crumbling of local government, which the dissolution of DCRA accelerated. It is tragic that some communities no longer have the capacity to complete the paperwork for PCE and Community Revenue Sharing – monies that they are entitled to as citizens of Alaska.
Tribal Governments are doing the heavy lifting in Rural Alaska, with little acknowledgement for their efforts.
(Here here! But they do get the blame when things go really wrong though... so it's kind of equal...)
I have much appreciated the mentoring I have had from Commissioner Emil Notti and former Commissioner Walt Monegan.
(This was most surprising to me. Clearly, support of Monegan is an unpopular issue in Palin's administration right now. A strong disagreement with the tone Palin's administration... which she will still be part of until next week... has taken about Monegan. It also speaks to the great respect that people had for him - and continue to have - before and after his firing.)
My job here has given me a deeper appreciation of the issues that I did not have as a journalist.My plans are to return to reporting, where I feel I can be of more use to Rural Alaskans, by bringing Alaska Native issues to the forefront.
Thanks again for all your kindness, support and advice. I hope I can continue to turn to you for help in the future.
(I don't know that I made it clear, but this letter was addressed to Alaska Native leaders.)
With respect and appreciation…
What I hope is happening here is a greater attention - and movement - on Rural and Alaska Native issues. Although so much of the news is negative right now (i.e. firing of Monegan, a great supporter of Alaska Native issues, resignation of Palin's Rural advisor,) my hope is this is the beginning of a spotlight on these issues.
Of course, that is my hope. These personnel issues are indicative of some things that aren't going on also - namely a functioning, concerted effort on current Rural and Alaska Native issues.