Direct Appeal to Rep. Stoltze – Why, Sir?
Dear Representative Bill Stoltze,
The “liberal” education I received in the “humanities” at the University of Alaska, Anchorage taught me that you cannot “force” salient individuals to do anything. Only physical – or structural – violence can achieve such a goal. American historians, such as the late Howard Zinn condemned the actions of those who, like the Pinkertons, who place citizens under duress. It is a form of injustice.
I was also raised with the heroic example of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who modeled the Mahatma, Mohandas Gandhi. My father shaped my mentality by saying, “We inspire people to make decisions of their own free will through the merits of our arguments. Violence is used only to preserve one’s life, family or community from immediate harm.”
I state this as a prologue. I wish to frame the following communication in universal terms, which is how I view the subject of child hunger.
On February 28, 2012 Channel 2 (KTUU) reporter Dan Fiorucci informed the Alaskan public that 44% of school children across the State qualify for free and reduced school breakfast and lunch.
This is such an astounding number that Mr. Fiorucci was left compelled to put it in context. “Nosakhere says that 52,000 Alaskan schoolchildren — or 44 percent of the state’s 119,000 schoolchildren in public schools — are poor enough to qualify for subsidized meals. Another 10,000 Alaskan children are home schooled.
While the proportion of Alaska public schoolchildren qualifiying for subsidized meals seems surprisingly high, it is not out of line with the rest of the country. The New York Times has reported that as recently as 2006, approximately 50 percent of all the public schoolchildren in the nation qualified for subsidized meals at school.”
To qualify for free/reduced School Breakfast and Lunch a household’s income must be slightly above (125%) at, or below the federal poverty line. In 2009 I organized a letter campaign to address Alaska’s minimum wage. Thanks to 251 letters, it rose 60 cents from $7.15 to $7.75.
Juneau activist Christina Mounce decided to crunch some numbers. “Minimum Wage in AK is $7.75/hr. I challenge anyone who believes that everyone accepting welfare in our state are ‘moochers’ to live off of $1240/month.
She continues, “Now factor in that you are lucky if you can find a one bedroom in this town for $800, not including utilities. That leaves you with $440. Factor in utilities, we’ll budget for $75 a month, and you’re at $365. Now, you can’t afford a car on this budget so you ride the bus. That’s another $36 for yourself, and then $12 for any youth. So, for this example, we’ll keep it to one child. We’re now at $317.
“But wait, who is watching your child while you’re working 40 hours a week? In Juneau, the non-profit child care centers charge $938/month/child for full time, 5 days a week, care. So, you are now in a deficit of $-621/ month. As it is, you can not even afford rent and child care while making minimum wage without assistance.
“Hopefully the food banks/pantries can provide you with some food. But, unfortunately, food pantries can usually only provide bread and baked goods. So now, on top of being poor, you’re fat from eating nothing but baked goods and bread, yet still vitamin deprived from crappy food. Minimum wage jobs rarely provide benefits, so hopefully you don’t get sick.”
I have chosen personal employment on the front-lines of addressing poverty. For the last year I have given my talents to Ninestar Education and Employment Services. We assist persons in accessing the American Dream of Self-Actualization. At last count, I have over 70 persons on my caseload.
We do not “threaten” or “force” persons to comply with the rules and regulations of ATAP at Ninestar. Why? It doesn’t work. Instead, we make appeals to the citizen’s sense of parental responsibility and self-worth. We find that such appeals inspire our clients to secure meaningful employment and reach economic self-sufficiency.
The Juneau Hunger Strike comes as a last resort, Sir. It follows four years of near constant advocacy for a School Meals Bills. Food Bank of Alaska, the leading anti-hunger organization in the State, has devoted six years of its resources towards this goal. It took two years to find a legislator brave enough to sponsor such a Bill.
In 2009, Senator Bill Wielechowski sponsored Senate Bill 213. It passed the Senate, then entered the House Finance Committee. SB 213 sat before you, Rep. Stoltze, for two years before it expired. In 24 months no one in the anti-hunger community learned what, if any, objections to SB 213 exited in your mind. Do you want to know why? Because you chose not to communicate those objections.
In 2011, undaunted, Senator Bill Wielechowski bravely sponsored a Second School Meals Bill, the current Senate Bill 3 (SB 3). Considering the facts already presented in this communication, SB 3 passed the Senate with full bi-partisan support. Meaning, your Republican colleagues – see Sen. Kevin Meyers – voted for it, Sir.
The merits of SB 3 are so sound that the Anchorage Assembly endorses it, along with Community Councils, Borourgh Councils, food pantries and concerned citizens.
However, SB 3 has entered your House Finance Committee and to the date of this writing failed to appear on your schedule for discussions.
The reason why is paradoxical.
Seeking an answer to that question, on February 7, 2012 I landed in Juneau at 9:36 am – on a hunger strike. I began a healthy, muscular 260 pounds. It took 12 days and a call from the most widely distributed newspaper in Alaska before you informed the anti-hunger network the nature of your opposition.
And what did you say? Any comments concerning the merits of SB 3 or the support it has received? No, the very first statement out of your mouth was, “I don’t appreciate a mandate.” You appear, Rep. Stoltze, to be more concerned about the affront upon your perceived sense of political stature than the well-being of 44% of Alaska’s school children.
It took 10 more days of The Juneau Hunger Strike to receive a second statement from you. This time it came before KTUU’s cameras. And what did you say? You repeated your first statement, as if this is an ego-based contest between you and me.
Forgive me Sir. May I ask a few questions?
Can you imagine how the ‘demand’ that you perform your publicly sworn duty being perceived as an affront upon your ego is perceived by Alaskan households experiencing hunger?
Are you aware that this is an election year? Are you concerned about how Chugiak households feel about your leadership? Aren’t you worried about the material you are giving your political enemies? Aren’t you concerned about how quiet conservative talk radio is on this issue?
To date, Sir, I have lost 41 pounds. But, I have not lost my resolve or conviction that all of Alaska’s children deserve to eat. I am lost on how to inspire someone who refuses to answer four written request to meet with him and asked security to prevent me from entering his office again.
Lastly, I am lost over what “power” a School Meals Bill – and a starving man – has which so offends your ego.
Representative Stoltze, for the sake of 52,000 hungry Alaskan children, please perform your job and hold hearings on Senate Bill 3.
Thank you for reading these few words.