Inside the Capital City
“This is not about me,” the Lead Coordinator said as he slipped into Kima Hamilton’s jeep. The Anchorage-based poet was transporting Kokayi Nosakhere to the Ted Steven’s International Airport. His flight for Juneau left at 8 am.
“This is about the babies,” Nosakhere continued. “I don’t know of any culture that doesn’t believe in feeding children before feeding adults. On this the human family is in full agreement: we think babies deserve to eat. The House Finance Committee somehow is in disagreement. This Hunger Strike is designed to spark a conversation over how this is even possible inside of our democracy.”
Nosakhere was received by Juneau-based activist, Christina Mounce at 9:37 am on February 7,2012. The Juneau Hunger Strike was that many hours long.
Mounce wasted no time explaining the realities of Capital City politics. 1) The 27th Session of the Alaskan Legislature is comprised of human beings. Flesh and blood men and women. No mysterious powers are at work outside of the need to feed both the ego and media with huge doses of attention.
2) The Capital City is built along the slope of Mt. Juneau. Meaning, from marine dock at sea-level, there exists approximately 200 yards of level ground then – boom! – solid rock becomes the only reality. Consequently, in addition to streets, an intricate network of stairs, help citizens navigate up and down the mountain to various buildings. (Neither aspect is something a man on a hunger strike can appreciate.)
3) The Capital City is comprised of five boroughs, each with their own personalities. Such are the personalities that Lemoncreek, Auke Bay, Douglass, the Valley and Downtown do not speak directly to each other. The best way to circulate a message is through word of mouth.
After depositing his belongings, Mounce gave Nosakhere a full tour of the boroughs. The highlight was visiting the University of Alaska, Southeast. The campus is practically a nature preserve. The floating dock revealed a blue-green sub-arctic ocean renewing itself with Spring’s new life.
Day One ended with a tour inside the capital building itself. The Lead Coordinator was surprised at how small many of the offices are. Just like an episode of The West Wing. Surprisingly, the halls were filled with laughter and camaraderie. Nosakhere was reminded that the Session has lasted less than a month. 90 days are allotted.
The Lead Coordinator spent most of Day Two alone, assessing resources and planning. When he did venture out, he was drawn to the Used Bookstores, which are of unusual quality in Juneau.
Day Three found Nosakhere attending a State Affairs Committee meeting where he was prepared to testify in support of Alaska denouncing Corporate Personhood. (Anchorage-based columnist, Elstun Lauesen, theorizes that the influence of oil interests is holding up Senate Bill 3 – A School Meals Bill.) The issue did not come up.
Following the meeting, Nosakhere sat briefly with Representative Bob Lynn, who offered very insightful advice.
Then, it was off to touch bases with the anti-hunger network. Mounce introduced the Lead Coordinator to The Glory Hole, a soup kitchen and shelter. It appears to be an established fixture in the community as several individuals were congregated in and around it.
A visit was also made to Resurrection Lutheran Church, where a food panty distributes food five days a week.
Nosakhere spent the rest of the afternoon attending a House Finance Committee meeting, scheduling meetings with lawmakers and visiting Senate Bettye Davis, the only elected African American in Alaska.
Friday found the Lead Coordinator studying the situation, asking more questions. He attended a House Education Committee meeting where the Chief Financial Officer of the Kodiak School District made a report. He was able to state as a fact that 2,512 students are served by the District. A deficit of $3,515,522 is being experienced. 70% of District funding comes from the State Legislature. Only 4.55% comes from federal sources.
On Day Five (Saturday) the pressure campaign to inspire the Alaska House Finance Committee to address the hunger of 51,000 Alaskan children began with community boards. In three out of five boroughs, what the Movement is calling a “Humanity Poster” was put up alongside a biography of the Lead Coordinator.
At the time of this writing, the Hunger Strike is seven days old.
The Movement is asking those who would like to assist in this effort to contact a member of the House Finance Committee and request Senate Bill 3, the School Meals Bill, be scheduled for an up or down vote on the House Floor.
The Members of the House Finance Committee are:
1) Co-Chair – Mr. Bill Stotlze (R – District 16): (907) 465-4958
2) Co-Chair – Bill Thomas (R – District 5): (907) 465 – 3732
3) Vice Chair – Anna Fairclough (R – District 17) : (907) 465 – 3777
4) Member – Mia Costello (R – District 27) : (907) 465 – 4968
5) Member – Bryce Edgmon (D – District 37) : (907) 465-4451
6) Member – Reggie Joule (D – District 40) : (907) 465 – 4833
7) Member – Mark Neuman (R – District 15) : (907) 465 – 2679
8) Member – Tammie Wilson (R – District 11) : (907) 465 – 4797
9) Member – Mike Doogan (D – District 25) : (907) 465 – 4998
10) Member – Les Gara (D – District 23) : (907) 465 – 2647
11) Member – David Guttenberg (D – District 8) : (907) 465 – 4457
12) Alternate Member – Mike Hawker (R – District 32) : (907) 465 – 4949