Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Senator Ted Stevens, Lion Of Both the Senate and Alaska

Senator Ted Stevens, Died on Monday evening in A plane crash near Dillingham Alaska. His legend is as big as the State of Alaska itself. Though there are those who criticize his methods, No One can say that he did not do everything that he could for his beloved state.
Surprisingly, for one so devoted to this state his life began in Indiana, followed by a move to California, even becoming a Surfer for a time in High School. When WWII began he joined the Air force, and as show in the Photo above was a transport pilot to "The Fighting Tigers" in the Chinese Theatre, even earning the Yuan Hai Medal awarded by the Chinese Nationalist government as well as Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal from our own government. After The War he attended Harvard Law School under the GI bill and graduated in 1950.

Ted Worked in Washington DC for a number of years as a lawyer before a Job Offer Brought him to Alaska in 1953 with his first wife Ann. Loading up their 1947 Buick and traveling on a $600 loan from, they drove across country from Washington, D.C., and up the Alaska Highway in the dead of winter, arriving in Fairbanks in February 1953. Stevens later recalled kidding Gov. Walter Hickel about the loan. "He likes to say that he came to Alaska with 37 cents in his pocket," he said of Hickel. "I came $600 in debt."Ann Stevens recalled in 1968 that they made the move to Alaska "on a six-month trial basis." He was soon Tapped to Become the US District Attorney for the Region, ans was appointed by Eisenhower on March 30, 1954. Stevens soon gained a reputation as an active prosecutor who vigorously prosecuted violations of federal and territorial liquor, drug, and prostitution laws,characterized by Fairbanks area homesteader Niilo Koponen (who later served in the Alaska State House of Representatives from 1982–1991) as "this rough tough shorty of a district attorney who was going to crush crime." Stevens sometimes accompanied U.S. Marshals on raids. As recounted years later by Justice Jay Rabinowitz, "U.S. marshals went in with Tommy guns and Ted led the charge, smoking a stogie and with six guns on his hips."

Ted's next adventure involved working for Alaska Statehood. Known as Mr. Alaska, renaming his office at the Interior Department "Alaska Headquarters". Improvising as only an Alaskan can, Ted worked over Washington DC as had never been done before. Stevens, working closely with the Alaska Statehood Committee from his office at Interior, hired Margaret Atwood, daughter of Anchorage Times publisher Robert Atwood, who was chairman of the Alaska Statehood Committee, to work with him in the Interior Department. Stevens and the younger Atwood created file cards on members of Congress based on "whether they were Rotarians or Kiwanians or Catholics or Baptists and veterans or loggers, the whole thing," Stevens said a 1977 interview. "And we'd assigned these Alaskans to go talk to individual members of the Senate and split them down on the basis of people that had something in common with them." The lobbying campaign extended to presidential press conferences. "We set Ike up quite often at press conferences by planting questions about Alaska statehood," Stevens said in the 1977 interview. "We never let a press conference go by without getting someone to try to ask him about statehood." Newspapers were also targeted, according to Stevens. "We planted editorials in weeklies and dailies and newspapers in the district of people we thought were opposed to us or states where they were opposed to us so that suddenly they were thinking twice about opposing us." The Alaska Statehood Act became law with Eisenhower's signature on July 7, 1958, and Alaska formally was admitted to statehood on January 3, 1959, when Eisenhower signed the Alaska Statehood Proclamation. Ted was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives in 1964. He was appointed a US Senator in 1968 and kept getting elected until the loss in 2008 by less than 3742 votes due to trumped up charges by his political rivals that were later dismissed due to prosecutorial misconduct.

Ted, Holding a Live Red King Crab in Washington DC 1974 was known for his blunt, sometime abrasive language, which could only serve to endear him to most Alaskans. He Famously complained on the Senate floor in 1982 that he hated living in crime-riddled Washington, D.C., saying,
"If I had an opportunity to select where the capital would be, it certainly would not be here ... God forbid that anyone will ever tell me that the city of Washington is my home. It is not. I detest it. I really do"
When he succeeded Mark Hatfield as Appropriations Committee chairman in 1997, he told his colleagues,
"Senator Hatfield had the patience of Job and the disposition of a saint. I don't. The watch has changed. I'm a mean, miserable SOB."
"We ask for special consideration," Stevens is not too shy to say, "because no one else is that far away, no one else has the problems that we have or the potential that we have, and no one else deals with the federal government day in and day out the way we do."

At some point, probably in the 1990s, Alaskans began referring matter-of-factly to funding for federal projects as "Stevens money." He argued that Alaska had special needs and special handicaps and therefore deserved special treatment. "Congress has not awakened to the fact that we've got a state with one-fifth the land in this country. My mission is to try to make Congress understand that the promise of statehood is that we should have the ability to establish a workable private-enterprise economy in the areas of Alaska that want it. And that's basically 90% of the state." His prowess was legendary. In 1998, Stevens sought a land trade for a seven-mile road through the Izembeck National Wildlife Refuge -- which the Clinton Interior Department wanted to declare off-limits -- so that the tiny Aleutian village of King Cove would have access to medical facilities. The administration offered three alternatives; Stevens took all three: $37.7 million for an airport road, medical clinic and doctor and nurse. In 1998, he set up the Denali Commission (Denali is the Native name of Mount McKinley), which funds infrastructure projects -- water and sewer, electricity -- in central Alaska, to the tune of $38 million in 2001, $45 million in 2002 and $48 million in 2003. When a Stevens aide showed Stevens an Anchorage Daily News article about a volunteer group that had raised $6,000 to promote a string of public-use huts linked by hiking trails, he thought it was a good idea and, without consulting the group, put in $500,000 for a backcountry hut network at Snow River near Seward. "That's crazy!" exulted the group's vice president. "There's, like, tears in my eyes." It could be argued that Stevens was less a legislator than he was a philanthropist in the mode of John D. Rockefeller or Andrew Carnegie.
The list of Alaska projects Stevens funded was long: $17 million for anti-alcohol funding, $5.5 million to the National Energy Technology Laboratory at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, $35 million for Denali Commission rural health clinics, $10 million for the Alaska Fisheries Marketing Board (created in a 2002 appropriation), $16.8 million for sea lion research at the Alaska SeaLife Center (a pollock fishery was closed because of a decline in number of sea lions), $150,000 for a botanical garden in Anchorage, $900,000 for an aquarium in Ketchikan and $525,000 to upgrade a quarry in Nome, $400,000 for an Anchorage homeless shelter, $750,000 for quarry upgrades for the Bering Straits Native corporation, $7.5 million for Army housing in Alaska, $450,000 for research on salmon as baby food. He inserted into appropriations provisions limiting judicial review of timber sales in the Tongass National Forest, 200 seasonal visas for Japanese technicians to evaluate salmon eggs (the Japanese will only buy them if they are Japanese-inspected and without those sales some fisheries would be unprofitable). Even Stevens's critics conceded that he did not shovel money into projects willy-nilly. He shifted money around if he thought it was not well spent and, past the age of 80, he was still prepared to defend every single project on the merits. Proposals to require identification of the proposers of earmarks seemed unlikely to phase Stevens; he was happy to take credit for his work. And he became angry when Alaska projects were challenged. In October 2005, when Senator Tom Coburn moved to defund the Ketchikan-Gravina bridge -- a "bridge to nowhere" to its critics -- and use the money to rebuild the I-10 bridge in New Orleans destroyed by Hurricane Katrina, Stevens responded stormily. "I will put the Senate on notice -- and I don't kid people -- if the Senate decides to discriminate against our state, to take money from our state, I'll resign from this body. This is not the Senate I came to. This is not the Senate I've devoted 37 years to, if one senator can decide he'll take all the money from one state to solve a problem of another." It was effective: Coburn's amendment was rejected 82-15.
After the framing of the Native Claims Act -- perhaps the most creative and successful legislation concerning American aboriginal peoples -- Stevens continued to work tirelessly to help Alaska Natives, who vote heavily Democratic in most elections. They voted overwhelmingly for Stevens in later elections, but he could have won without their support easily. He skillfully elicited consensus with Native leaders when opinion was divided, getting more health and sanitation aid to Bush villages and funding for health research on fetal alcohol syndrome and cancers common among Natives, and to gain preference in federal contracting for Native corporations. At the same time, Stevens was not uncritical of Native leaders. In October 2002, he urged the Alaska Federation of Natives not to funnel its requests for federal money through the 229 individual village-based tribes granted official status by the Clinton administration, but to consolidate federal requests so that "the very, very poor communities that don't have that ability to hire consultants, to hire grantsmen, people to write applications," get assistance. In a January 2004 appropriation, he set up a commission to draw up a new legal and governmental system for rural Alaska and an economic development commission funded through the Denali Commission to "promote private sector investment to reduce poverty in economically distressed rural villages." He evidently wanted to prevent the emergence of a separate Native legal system. As he said on the Alaska Public Radio Network, "The road they're on now is the road to the destruction of statehood, because the Native population is increasing at a much greater rate than the non-Native population. I don't know if you realize that. And they want to have total jurisdiction over anything that happens in a village without regard to state law and without regard to federal law."
Stevens played a crucial role in the 1970s in getting the oil pipeline approved. More recently he tried to advance proposals for a natural gas pipeline. For years oil drillers in Prudhoe Bay have been pumping natural gas back into the ground; there are an estimated 30 trillion cubic feet there and another 70 trillion cubic feet elsewhere on the North Slope -- all undeliverable to customers without a pipeline. Pipeline provisions had been included in the 2001 and 2003 energy bills -- a loan guarantee of 80% of construction costs, a price floor for the producers, accelerated depreciation, limited judicial review -- but the energy bill remained stalled for other reasons. In October 2004 Stevens decided to insert the pipeline provisions, except for the price floor, into the must-pass military construction appropriation; he also got accelerated depreciation into the corporate tax bill. The rider specified a route through central Alaska, not directly east into Canada, and provided for in-state use of gas. Then-Governor Frank Murkowski quickly solicited contracts from two consortiums, one being the three North Slope oil companies, the other a pipeline company with Native corporation participation; Stevens endorsed Murkowski's proposal that the state have an equity share. There are still other barriers to overcome -- federal and Canadian regulatory approval, private financing -- but the gas pipeline, for the first time, seems likely to be built. And in 2004 he secured approval of loan guarantees for a natural gas pipeline.
Stevens's work did not go unappreciated. In January 2000, he was named Alaskan of the Century. In July 2000, Anchorage Airport was named the Ted Stevens International Airport and the Challenger Center in Kenai became the Ted and Catherine Stevens Center for Space Science Technology.
I personally only got meet Senator Ted Stevens once, but It pretty much changed my life.
I was in the Ted Stevens Airport in Anchorage on my way back from my Dutch Harbor/Unalaska job interview/site tour with Unisea. The Senator was being hurried through the airport but I stepped forward and held out my hand to shake. He thanked me as I wished him the best of luck for the trumped up trial he was currently facing. He asked what I was doing in Alaska and I said I was here for a Job Interview. He told me to "Take it and never Look back. Alaska is the best place on Earth." and with that he was on his way.
Thanks Ted, and God Bless You.


mamawas said...

Shaking the Seantor's hand was a great opportunity and obviously memorable for you CB.

I have visited the Ted Stevens airport twice just this year as you know. There are museum level art and static displays of AK's natural wonders throughout the facility. I snapped many pix of the facility's displays.

Others were also marveling and snapping their own photographs.

Your (soon) next scheduled ANC trip will feel different knowing the namesake has passed.

Margrita said...

CB what a great experience you had to shake his hand. He will be missed. I send thoughts and prayers to his family and to the family of the others those who are missing and those who died.
Going through the Anc. airport will seem different with his passing.

amulbunny's random thoughts said...

I just found out that he was an alumni of my daughter's high school. The school board put a wreath in front of his classes momento on their quad.