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Homeland Security Pays Dividends for Alaska

Posted on Oct 31, 2008
AP photo / Al Grillo

A crowd at a restaurant in Wasilla cheers during the September telecast of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accepting the Republican nomination for vice president.

(Page 3)

In the years immediately following 9/11, the Department of Homeland Security distributed some of its grants in equal proportions to states and based others on population. The actual likelihood of a terrorist attack occurring in one place over another wasn’t a major consideration. Since that time, direct homeland security grants for Alaska have begun to diminish, which Brodigan admits is reasonable.

“I think the chance of this area having a 9/11-type event is remote compared to larger areas in the lower 48 and the different infrastructure down there,” Brodigan said. “So I understand the cutback and I certainly agree with it.”

Before then, however, the borough also purchased a $427,000 hazardous materials truck that serves as a mobile decontamination system and includes a computer program for plotting potentially deadly chemical plumes. It’s kept at a fire station in downtown Wasilla. An additional $325,000 in grants enabled the borough to obtain 92 digital radios that comply with the state’s interoperable communications initiative.

In other instances, Wasilla found a way to finance public safety and law enforcement projects through additional types of nonlocal assistance, such as earmarks shepherded in part by a Washington lobbyist the city hired while Palin was mayor.


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Wasilla negotiated for two or three years with neighboring towns over a plan to consolidate dispatch services regionally. Until then, the city paid fees to nearby Palmer for the service but wanted greater control over the system, said former borough Fire Chief Jack Krill Sr.

When the issue of control could not be resolved, Wasilla went its own way and created Wasilla Regional Dispatch Center, or MatCom as it’s known. It was built using a $1-million federal appropriation secured in 2001 before Palin left office. The earmark was in one of the first major appropriations bills signed by President Bush after the 9/11 attacks, known as the Combating Terrorism Act.

The city secured yet another $750,000 earmark the following year for the center from an omnibus appropriations bill, while $600,000 more in Justice Department grants later paid for the installation of a computer-aided dispatch system. Not to be outdone, neighboring Palmer joined the fray and won a similar amount in federal aid for its own computerized dispatch upgrades. 

Jack Krill Jr., who became the borough’s fire chief after his father’s retirement but eventually left for a job in Idaho, said the community where he used to work “is not big enough to run millions of dollars into two different systems.”

“It seemed like kind of a waste of money, because they were both doing their own software and they weren’t necessarily compatible with each other,” Krill said.

Another of Palin’s accomplishments, the Wasilla Multi-Use Sports Complex, was financed with $14.7 million in bond sales authorized by local voters in 2002, but the city ended up paying $1.3 million more than expected following a land dispute. Officials had hoped from the beginning that it could double as an emergency evacuation facility, though there wasn’t enough money available at the time, according to complex manager Bruce Urban.

So as governor, Palin last year secured a $630,000 appropriation from the state’s budget, allowing the complex to add on an industrial-size kitchen and serve residents needing shelter in emergencies. The funding led to charges that Palin was biased toward her hometown because elsewhere she’d made big spending cuts—including dozens of sports-related projects around Alaska, according to local press accounts. 

Urban said that if a major disaster occurred in the area again, residents wouldn’t need to fill up the local schools and prevent students from continuing classes. School buildings and churches were used to house victims of the Big Lake fire.

“Can we use [the kitchen] for purposes other than an evacuation shelter? Well, of course we can,” Urban said. “We can use it for banquets, we can use it for luncheons, we can use it for a number of things.”

Statewide, Alaska has also enjoyed the clout of two senior Republicans—Rep. Don Young and Sen. Ted Stevens—well known for delivering earmarks to their constituents that are frequently criticized as pork. Both have recently been mired in corruption probes; a jury found Stevens guilty this month of failing to report $250,000 in gifts. After 9/11, many such appropriations took on a new sense of urgency, expedited for the purpose of securing the homeland.

Congress made establishing interoperable communications among local, state and federal officials a top priority after 9/11, and the Alaska land mobile radio system is considered one of the most advanced in the country, heavily backed by $80 million worth of earmarks written by Stevens into several defense appropriations bills.

Local authorities then used homeland security grants for digital equipment that allowed them to become subscribers to the network. About 3,000 national defense personnel stationed in the state are also today connected to it, said Heather Handyside, a deputy city manager for Anchorage who sat on an executive council overseeing the initiative.

In fact, Handyside, also Anchorage’s former homeland security and emergency management director, faced grumbling from local emergency responders working inside the Anchorage municipality because she emphasized communications improvements with the city’s own grant money while other areas indulged in bomb robots, boats and antiballistics apparel.

“I know a lot of communities were buying new rigs for responders, the fancy gadgets. ... We were trying to do what we thought would make the most sense,” Handyside said. “... I think in the early years it was such an incredible administrative process in terms of purchasing things and figuring out the grant procedures; that played a huge role in why things may have gotten muddled in the smaller communities, because it takes a level of administration that’s maybe not there.”

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By hippy pam, November 4, 2008 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

And I sure hope their “STAR” candidate gets to return to LOSER…........

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By Clash, November 1, 2008 at 3:17 pm Link to this comment

It is really good to know that we have sent so much money to Alaska from the home land security fund, while armed mexican sodiers cross the border in military vehicles with mounted machine guns protecting drug traffickers and doing who knows what in john mcains home stae of Arizona. So much for the war on drugs and home land security.Just another good joke from the people who brought you the fall of America.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 31, 2008 at 5:06 pm Link to this comment


President Sarah Palin

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By Outraged, October 31, 2008 at 4:40 pm Link to this comment

Since it is Halloween, I thought I say something REALLY scary…..


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By davidperi, October 31, 2008 at 1:18 pm Link to this comment

Michael Moore on said later in his 1 hr interview with Amy that if that ain´t socialism what is…commenting on how every Alaskan received money from tax revenues.  The Republicans really have a twisted view on socialism.

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By LoisO, October 31, 2008 at 11:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I guess Palin doesn’t consider it Socialism if HER constituents benefit from this re-distribution of wealth.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 31, 2008 at 10:11 am Link to this comment

Cichawoda, October 31 at 7:52 am #

I live in a donor state (puts in more dollars into the Fed than it gets out) and I think the beggar states suck. I am also surprised that this is not more of an issue with donor state voters. Alaskans, most of the Bible belt states live off of the larges of the states they hate. It’s time to ask for our money back.

Ask??  Heck, DEMAND our money back! Since Bush was a big practitioner of the “spoils system” I think we should take it back—let EVERY state get as much back from the feds as it puts in. And if there’s less, divide the burden equally.  So, nobody in Alabama or Alaska should be seeing $1.80 to $2.00 for every dollar they are taxed, and we in NJ should get back $1 for every $1 we send, not $0.65!

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By Hulk2008, October 31, 2008 at 10:07 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Since this is Halloween, it’s ironic that I recently found an article describing a study about attitudes among liberals and conservatives.  Turns out that liberals tend to be less “afraid” overall - more trusting, sometimes almost to the point of being too trusting.  Conservatives go to the other extreme - fearing all things real and imagined even when unwarranted.  Just look at the “base” that shows up at the campaign rallies:  the liberal Dems all want their rallies to be love-ins while the Repubs use all kinds of divisive hate-filled diatribes.  To our dismay, the last 8 years (and maybe beyond) have been a crescendo of increasing division.  The neo-cons have been able to play out, at taxpayer expense and at the expense of our personal freedoms, the building of overwhelming offensive military capability.  They are pleased to be able to swat a gnat with a megaton warhead.  And they seem to never be satisfied with mere “overwhelming”  - they strive to go beyond. 
    Let’s hope the pendulum will begin to swing the other way ..... and with luck, will not swing past the middle.  Could be the only “silver lining” in the economic storm clouds.

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By ThisIsNotADrill, October 31, 2008 at 9:44 am Link to this comment
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The biggest reason that idiots have been installed in Alaska is because of HAARP.  Soon-to-be-former Sen. Stevens and Gov. Palin.  (How low can they go.)  Anyone with an inkling of IQ would cause problems for HAARP. Also other similar facilities around the world. So of course money is getting pumped into Alaska. It’s got the single biggest WMD on the planet.

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By Cichawoda, October 31, 2008 at 8:52 am Link to this comment

I live in a donor state (puts in more dollars into the Fed than it gets out) and I think the beggar states suck. I am also surprised that this is not more of an issue with donor state voters. Alaskans, most of the Bible belt states live off of the larges of the states they hate. It’s time to ask for our money back.

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By Rodger lemonde, October 31, 2008 at 8:32 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

You betcha! wink wink

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By Groovesmoothly, October 31, 2008 at 8:04 am Link to this comment

I’m pretty sure that is a small necessity to have a HAZ-MAT team/truck when you are the meth capital of the great white tundra. Several years ago in Dallas a neighbor got busted growing some weed. The DEA thought it was a meth lab they were busting and they had a full HAZ-MAT team brought in from Oklahoma in case it blew-up. In the end the only thing that blew-up was their case due to faulty warrants and the Feds bailing when they only found 8 plants in a closet.

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By Big Wes, October 31, 2008 at 6:31 am Link to this comment

In the beginning of the DHS grant process, the State Homeland Security Grant program allocated money to each state based upon a formula.  This money was administered by the states and passed along to local jurisdiction through various methods (formula or competitive grants).  There are also a number of “competitive” grant programs sponsored by DHS and FEMA.  I think these are where the rural states had an “unfair” advantage against their urban counterparts.

I’m a grant writer in a rural state and I’ve worked with many of the DHS-funded grant programs.  I see these programs as a way of “compensating” for years of underfunding of public safety agencies in rural areas.  Emergency services were never really a priority until 9/11 and then the federal and state governments realized most communities were woefully equipped and prepared.  Suddenly, these DHS grants open up and small communities in the middle of nowhere are getting hundreds of thousands of dollars for equipment because they were pitifully equipped and had no real means of remedying this disparity with local funds.  The communities I work with made wise investments in things like Enhanced 911, but the way the guidelines were written and the money was being distributed, there was a huge potential for money to be thrown awayon crap projects.

Of course politics plays a huge role in the process as well.  Politics influenced the writing of the guidelines that governed the distribution of funds.  If a rural state had influential federal representatives, it would get Homeland Security dollars.  As an insider into the process, I can say that in the area where I work, the money was used to make enhancements to public safety that most communities needed, but could not afford.  In 2006, the county where I live lacked enhanced 911, so if you called 911 and could not speak to dispatcher, you were screwed.  I feel safer know that if I dial 911, the dispatchers now have access to premises information via a computer display.  I think projects like this are worthy of the investments. Whether Podunkville needs four wheelers and mobile command centers with every bell and whistle is debatable.

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By Purple Girl, October 31, 2008 at 5:54 am Link to this comment

Reason this admin colluded with the Georgian Pres to spark a conflict? Why McCain has their Lobbyist on staff as a ‘campaign’ advisor?
Reason the Picked this obscure no name as VP who already has delusions of granduer?
Of course how many of US actually Knew who Cheney was until he slitered out from under his shadowy rock. I’d never noticed him, and I have been accutely aware of a trend towards WW3 since Reagan.
No wonder they are claiming ‘Foreign Policy’ experience they have been gearing her stae up for a launch for the Next big War.
No wonder she ‘KNOWS’ we are no on the count Down to Armegeddon, she’s been intrical in it’s build up.
I often say I am an atheist, one for convenience not to have to explain my philosophy, but also to make it clear I do NOT beleive in their dogma they equate to their ‘God’. But in a weird way I am almost wishful their so called ‘Judgement day’ is at hand, but Not by Their ‘God’. I relish the idea that it is What will deem them Unworthy and Damned. Or at least I know I will not be getting on the same ‘bus’ as them thus I will not have to spend eternity with them- a bonus even if I were Hell bound.

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By Dr. Knowitall, PhD, PhD, October 31, 2008 at 4:24 am Link to this comment

More and more, I’m believing that if legislation is going to be passed to make it possible for municipalities and individuals to dip into the Federal treasury and people don’t take advantage of it, they have little justification in complaining about banks dipping into the Fed. treasury (our money) for a trillion buck lollipop or the DOD doing the same. 

That’s why I fully support earmarks and pork.  As long as it’s there, and our gov. wants to be altruistic, take advantage.  If you don’t like it that this state or that city got a 1/2 million for one project or another, call your rep and ask him/her “when the hell are you going to get us something?”  This is America, for god’s sake.  Or, if you’re a moral-type person, call him/her and give ‘em hell for being so free with your hard-earned tax money.  And then, grovel.

S.P. can help assure her re-election as Alaska Gov. by promising that it’s her goal to not only get more federal pork for Alaska, but to bring home the whole damn pig. 

Like the guy said, if we don’t take it, someone else will.  Spread the Wealth.  Yea, socialism.

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By Inherit The Wind, October 31, 2008 at 4:17 am Link to this comment

Red states love to talk about cutting out government programs but they are the first in line for EVERYTHING they can get.

Most red states are being subsidized by us blue staters: For every dollar we send the Feds in NJ, they spend about 65 cents in NJ.  For every dollar Alaska sends the Feds, THEY get $1.82.  In red state after red state this is true.

They are happy to be rugged independents and spit at coastal liberals as “lib’rals” and “socialists” but they’d be Third World without us!

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