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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

Proposed Budget Cuts to Community-based Support Services

By Janalee Minnich Gage


March 05, 2016
Saturday AM

These are my feelings, and views only and not that of the Ketchikan City Council. Public testimony on March 1st regarding Alaska Legislative Proposed Budget Cuts to Community-based Support Services.

I was born and raised in Ketchikan Alaska, and I am part of the Ketchikan City Council. In this life of mine so far I have had the pleasure to living in several places including two other Alaska communities Kotzebue and Kenai. I will state that these are my feelings and I do not speak for the Ketchikan City Council or anyone else.

I am a working disabled individual who became disabled 20 years ago, I have experienced the hardship of spending two years in physical rehab, fighting for SSI, living on $700 a month in Disability and $200 a month in food stamps and have seen the disregard and bias attitude first hand from those who do not understand how one s life can be changed in the blink of an eye no fault of their own. Over the years I have had my share of nasty comments but this story fits the message you are sending our community.

In 2003 I moved to Kotzebue, Alaska, to begin a new job, and my first week there I encountered a stranger who walked up to me in the post office and said, This is no place for a cripple to live. I turned to this man who wasn t from Kotzebue Alaska and said, "Sir, could you direct me to where the village for the disabled is, so that I might go and live among my kind? He of course stomped off angry, but I never forgot that feeling and shock he left me with and the thought that there are so many others who think like this man.

I will ask the same of Mrs Gattis, the other House Finance Committee members and our community of Alaska. Is this the message you really want to send? By making these cuts you are handing lifelong generations of Alaskans who were born, raised, and whose blood sweat and tears went into making this home a Blue ticket out of town.

Every one of these programs is a vital part of our infrastructure, built by generations of Alaskans to protect us all in our time of need. It saddens and angers me that we can even begin to think about such heavy cuts on each and every one of these programs, before we consider our duty as a state to take care of our own, especially our elders. I want you to think about all our ancestors in the past 90 years, one of them my great-great grandmother who believed in the rights of all Alaskans to stay home and not be forced to move out of state because there were no services. I want you to think about so many families who were ripped apart, never seeing their siblings again, because they were sent to institutions. I highly recommend you all sit down and think about, what if tomorrow I wake up and have a disability, would I like to be told I had to move to another state never to see my family or home again, so that I might receive services? Course if you aren t a true Alaskan, and maybe th
is sounds rude but one with generations, blood ties to the land but want to boast about how you ve been here 20 or more years, and plan on being a snow bird when you retire. You are not a true Alaskan, you don t have a clue and you are not invested in this as your home and the people in it as family.

Like Mrs Gattis said. If you can't afford to live here, move. WOW, is all I can say, it pains me to think that you could be so callus, and so arrogant to think that one day you won t end up like we all do, elderly and in one way or another disabled. I am not sure where you are originally from, but maybe you should move instead, and go back to wince you came, because based on this statement you did not think about the true natives of Alaska, whom you will force out too.

I highly recommend we all sit down and think about, what if tomorrow I wake up and have a disability, would I like to be told I had to move to another state never to see my family or home again, so that I might receive services?

I do not make a lot of money, but if it means shipping family, friends and our communities out of state, I will gladly pay an income Tax, because I would much rather see my money stay in the State of Alaska before it goes to the Federal Government.

Let's think about the many amazing volunteers that work on the public radio programs to make sure that all our communities have access to the news, local PSAs , The emergency response notices, council meetings, and even more important weather notices when weather takes a dangerous shift. It may not be expensive to get internet in some of the larger areas of Alaska, but if you live in rural Alaska the internet, television, phones aren t always an option. Yes, people choose to live this way but they still deserve our respect as a member of this community.

As a community member of Alaska, I will gladly pay if it means a healthier community for our children, and behavioral services for those who desperately need them. I will gladly pay more in sales tax, and state tax on groceries if it means building new industries, and natural resources, especially if it means, not depending solely on oil, but instead invests in local businesses and building a stronger, supportive, and vital education program for our children from 0-college so that we may grow stronger as a state and build an even stronger community for the future of our children s children.

I already Pick, Click and Give with a portion of my dividend and although my youngest child is graduating this year I would much rather lose a few dollars of my dividend to support the extracurricular activities, college programs, and healthy activities, as well as the prospect of buying Alaskan grown and raised meat, dairy and vegetables. So that our kids see Alaska as home and a future, so they keep investing in Alaska as their future and their children s future, instead of moving someplace else.

If we do not take care of each other, and our children will never learn the importance of community, and the importance of taking care of us when we can no longer do so. Everyone needs to chip in, and everyone needs to take responsibility but we all need to understand that we all find a time in our lives when we need help from others. Today our country is being pulled apart by hate and finger pointing, with no answers in site. Alaskan s have always been resourceful, and we have one of the richest states in the union when it comes to resources. Let s do what we need to do today to keep our programs, and build on our other resources other than oil.

I do not envy this job you have in front of you, but not everyone lives in the big city of Anchorage and surrounding areas. Let s make the tuff choices with respect, dignity and a conscious responsibility, because one day it will be us in need of one of these services.

Thank you for your time and consideration,

Janalee Minnich Gage
Ketchikan, Alaska

About: "Janalee Minnich Gage is a photographer who recently did a show in October 2014 at the Main Street Gallery Called: Look, See, Hear, & Listen, which can currently be viewed at the Southeast Discover Center. The show is in Regards to the treatment of those with disabilities. Janalee lives with a disability and is a lifelong resident of Ketchikan; she is the daughter of Janet and John Minnich, Grand Daughter to Jane & James Church, Thelma and John Minnich, Great Granddaughter of Jack and Elaine Talbot, and the Great -Great Granddaughter of Harriet and Forest Hunt.She recently was elected to the Ketchikan City Council for a three year term. She attended Otis Parsons School of Design in Los Angeles from 1986 to 1990 to study a Bachelor in Photography."

Received March 03, 2016 - Published March 05, 2016

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