The value of local historians in small-town Alaska

A woman who watches and records events in Wasilla, Alaska, notes recent history:

Dear friends,

So many people have asked me about what I know about Sarah Palin in the last 2 days that I decided to write something up . . .

Basically, Sarah Palin and Hillary Clinton have only 2 things in common: their gender and their good looks. :)

You have my permission to forward this to your friends/email contacts with my name and email address attached, but please do not post it on any websites, as there are too many kooks out there . . .

[An Alaskan]


I am a resident of Wasilla, Alaska. I have known Sarah since 1992. Everyone here knows Sarah, so it is nothing special to say we are on a first-name basis. Our children have attended the same schools. Her father was my child’s favorite substitute teacher. I also am on a first name basis with her parents and mother-in-law. I attended more City Council meetings during her administration than about 99% of the residents of the city.

She is enormously popular; in every way she’s like the most popular girl in middle school. Even men who think she is a poor choice and won’t vote for her can’t quit smiling when talking about her because
she is a “babe”.

It is astonishing and almost scary how well she can keep a secret. She kept her most recent pregnancy a secret from her children and parents for seven months.

She is “pro-life”. She recently gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby. There is no cover-up involved, here; Trig is her baby.

She is energetic and hardworking. She regularly worked out at the gym.

She is savvy. She doesn’t take positions; she just “puts things out there” and if they prove to be popular, then she takes credit.

Her husband works a union job on the North Slope for BP and is a champion snowmobile racer. Todd Palin’s kind of job is highly sought-after because of the schedule and high pay. He arranges his work schedule so he can fish for salmon in Bristol Bay for a month or so in summer, but by no stretch of the imagination is fishing their major source of income. Nor has her life-style ever been anything like that of native Alaskans.

Sarah and her whole family are avid hunters.

She’s smart.

Her experience is as mayor of a city with a population of about 5,000 (at the time), and less than 2 years as governor of a state with about 670,000 residents.

During her mayoral administration most of the actual work of running this small city was turned over to an administrator. She had been pushed to hire this administrator by party power-brokers after she had gotten herself into some trouble over precipitous firings which had given rise to a recall campaign.

Sarah campaigned in Wasilla as a “fiscal conservative”. During her 6 years as Mayor, she increased general government expenditures by over 33%. During those same 6 years the amount of taxes collected by the City increased by 38%. This was during a period of low inflation (1996-2002). She reduced progressive property taxes and increased a regressive sales tax which taxed even food. The tax cuts that she promoted benefited large corporate property owners way more than they benefited residents.

The huge increases in tax revenues during her mayoral administration weren’t enough to fund everything on her wish list though, borrowed money was needed, too. She inherited a city with zero debt, but left it with indebtedness of over $22 million. What did Mayor Palin encourage the voters to borrow money for? Was it the infrastructure that she said she supported? The sewage treatment plant that the city lacked? or a new library? No. $1m for a park. $15m-plus for construction of a multi-use sports complex which she rushed through to build on a piece of property that the City didn’t even have clear title to, that was still in litigation 7 yrs later–to the delight of the lawyers involved! The sports complex itself is a nice addition to the community but a huge money pit, not the profit-generator she claimed it would be. She also supported bonds for $5.5m for road projects that could have been done in 5-7 yrs without any borrowing.

While Mayor, City Hall was extensively remodeled and her office redecorated more than once.

These are small numbers, but Wasilla is a very small city.

As an oil producer, the high price of oil has created a budget surplus in Alaska. Rather than invest this surplus in technology that will make us energy independent and increase efficiency, as Governor she proposed distribution of this surplus to every individual in the state.

In this time of record state revenues and budget surpluses, she recommended that the state borrow/bond for road projects, even while she proposed distribution of surplus state revenues: spend today’s surplus, borrow for needs.

She’s not very tolerant of divergent opinions or open to outside ideas or compromise. As Mayor, she fought ideas that weren’t generated by her or her staff. Ideas weren’t evaluated on their merits, but on the basis of who proposed them.

While Sarah was Mayor of Wasilla she tried to fire our highly respected City Librarian because the Librarian refused to consider removing from the library some books that Sarah wanted removed. City residents rallied to the defense of the City Librarian and against Palin’s attempt at out-and-out censorship, so Palin backed down and withdrew her termination letter. People who fought her attempt to oust the Librarian are on her enemies list to this day.

Sarah complained about the “old boy’s club” when she first ran for Mayor, so what did she bring Wasilla? A new set of “old boys”. Palin fired most of the experienced staff she inherited. At the City and as Governor she hired or elevated new, inexperienced, obscure people, creating a staff totally dependent on her for their jobs and eternally grateful and fiercely loyal–loyal to the point of abusing their power to further her personal agenda, as she has acknowledged happened in the case of pressuring the State’s top cop (see below).

As Mayor, Sarah fired Wasilla’s Police Chief because he “intimidated” her, she told the press. As Governor, her recent firing of Alaska’s top cop has the ring of familiarity about it. He served at her pleasure and she had every legal right to fire him, but it’s pretty clear that an important factor in her decision to fire him was because he wouldn’t fire her sister’s ex-husband, a State Trooper. Under investigation for abuse of power, she has had to admit that more than 2 dozen contacts were made between her staff and family to the person that she later fired, pressuring him to fire her ex-brother-in-law. She tried to replace the man she fired with a man who she knew had been reprimanded for sexual harassment; when this caused a public furor, she withdrew her support.

She has bitten the hand of every person who extended theirs to her in help. The City Council person who personally escorted her around town introducing her to voters when she first ran for Wasilla City Council became one of her first targets when she was later elected Mayor. She abruptly fired her loyal City Administrator; even people who didn’t like the guy were stunned by this ruthlessness.

Fear of retribution has kept all of these people from saying anything publicly about her.

When then-Governor Murkowski was handing out political plums, Sarah got the best, Chair of the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission: one of the few jobs not in Juneau and one of the best paid. She had no background in oil & gas issues. Within months of scoring this great job which paid $122,400/yr, she was complaining in the press about the high salary. I was told that she hated that job: the commute, the structured hours, the work. Sarah became aware that a member of this Commission (who was also the State Chair of the Republican Party) engaged in unethical behavior on the job. In a gutsy move which some undoubtedly cautioned her could be political suicide, Sarah solved all her problems in one fell swoop: got out of the job she hated and garnered gobs of media attention as the patron saint of ethics and as a gutsy fighter against the “old boys’ club” when she dramatically quit, exposing this man’s ethics violations (for which he was fined).

As Mayor, she had her hand stuck out as far as anyone for pork from Senator Ted Stevens. Lately, she has castigated his pork-barrel politics and publicly humiliated him. She only opposed the “bridge to nowhere” after it became clear that it would be unwise not to.

As Governor, she gave the Legislature no direction and budget guidelines, then made a big grandstand display of line-item vetoing projects, calling them pork. Public outcry and further legislative action restored most of these projects–which had been vetoed simply because she was not aware of their importance–but with the unobservant she had gained a reputation as “anti-pork”.

She is solidly Republican: no political maverick. The State party leaders hate her because she has bit them in the back and humiliated them. Other members of the party object to her self-description as a fiscal conservative.

Around Wasilla there are people who went to high school with Sarah. They call her “Sarah Barracuda” because of her unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness. Before she became so powerful, very ugly stories circulated around town about shenanigans she pulled to be made point guard on the high school basketball team. When Sarah’s mother-in-law, a highly respected member of the community and experienced manager, ran for Mayor, Sarah refused to endorse her.

As Governor, she stepped outside of the box and put together of package of legislation known as “AGIA” that forced the oil companies to march to the beat of her drum.

Like most Alaskans, she favors drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She has questioned if the loss of sea ice is linked to global warming. She campaigned “as a private citizen” against a state initiaitive that would have either a) protected salmon streams from pollution from mines, or b) tied up in the courts all mining in thestate (depending on who you listen to). She has pushed the State’s lawsuit against the Dept. of the Interior’s decision to list polar bears as threatened species.

McCain is the oldest person to ever run for President; Sarah will be a heartbeat away from being President.

There has to be literally millions of Americans who are more knowledgeable and experienced than she.

However, there’s a lot of people who have underestimated her and are regretting it.

•“Hockey mom”: true for a few years
•“PTA mom”: true years ago when her first-born was in elementary school, not since
•“NRA supporter”: absolutely true
•social conservative: mixed. Opposes gay marriage, BUT vetoed a bill that would have denied benefits to employees in same-sex relationships (said she did this because it was unconstitutional).
•pro-creationism: mixed. Supports it, BUT did nothing as Governor to promote it.
•“Pro-life”: mixed. Knowingly gave birth to a Down’s syndrome baby BUT declined to call a special legislative session on some pro-life legislation
•“Experienced”: Some high schools have more students than Wasilla has residents. Many cities have more residents than the state of Alaska. No legislative experience other than City Council. Little hands-on supervisory or managerial experience; needed help of a city administrator to run town of about 5,000.
•political maverick: not at all
•gutsy: absolutely!
•open & transparent: ??? Good at keeping secrets. Not good at explaining actions.
•has a developed philosophy of public policy: no
•”a Greenie”: no. Turned Wasilla into a wasteland of big box stores and disconnected parking lots. Is pro-drilling off-shore and in ANWR.
•fiscal conservative: not by my definition!
•pro-infrastructure: No. Promoted a sports complex and park in a city without a sewage treatment plant or storm drainage system. Built streets to early 20th century standards.
•pro-tax relief: Lowered taxes for businesses, increased tax burden on residents
•pro-small government: No. Oversaw greatest expansion of city government in Wasilla’s history.
•pro-labor/pro-union. No. Just because her husband works union doesn’t make her pro-labor. I have seen nothing to support any claim that she is pro-labor/pro-union.


First, I have long believed in the importance of being an informed voter. I am a voter registrar. For 10 years I put on student voting programs in the schools. If you google my name ([name deleted] + Alaska), you will find references to my participation in local government, education, and PTA/parent organizations.

Secondly, I’ve always operated in the belief that “Bad things happen when good people stay silent”. Few people know as much as I do because few have gone to as many City Council  meetings.

Third, I am just a housewife. I don’t have a job she can bump me out of. I don’t belong to any organization that she can hurt. But, I am no fool; she is immensely popular here, and it is likely that this will cost me somehow in the future: that’s life.

Fourth, she has hated me since back in 1996, when I was one of the 100 or so people who rallied to support the City Librarian against Sarah’s attempt at censorship.

Fifth, I looked around and realized that everybody else was afraid to say anything because they were somehow vulnerable.

I am not a statistician. I developed the numbers for the increase in spending & taxation 2 years ago (when Palin was running for Governor) from information supplied to me by the Finance Director of the City of Wasilla, and I can’t recall exactly what I adjusted for: did I adjust for inflation? for population increases? Right now, it is impossible for a private person to get any info out of City Hall–they are swamped. So I can’t verify my numbers.

You may have noticed that there are various numbers circulating for the population of Wasilla, ranging from my “about 5,000”, up to 9,000. The day Palin’s selection was announced a city official told me that the current population is about 7,000. The official 2000 census count was
5,460. I have used about 5,000 because Palin was Mayor from 1996 to 2002, and the city was growing rapidly in the mid-90’s.

[Name withheld from this forum at writer’s request]
[e-mail address masked by MFB]
August 31, 2008

Tip of the old scrub brush to Andrew Sullivan.

Update:  Nice link from P. Z. Myers at Pharyngula, “Palinanity.”  Important video there.

17 Responses to The value of local historians in small-town Alaska

  1. Sarah rocks says:

    This article is a joke– Sarah @ HRC have 2 things in common: gender and good looks. Please that is an insult to Sarah who is way hotter than the woman with cankles and pant suits.


  2. […] The Value of Local Historians in Small Town Alaska […]


  3. […] If, however, McCain does respect her for her wealth of policy experience… no, wait. Foreign policy knowledge? No, wait, Alaska being next to Russia doesn’t translate to that. Economic experience? I guess she does have experience in fucking up an economy; ask Wasilla about its $19,000,000 of long term debt. Her experience in executive positions? Wait, no, she had to hire a city manager while she was governor due to her own incompetence. Her grasp of history is impressive, though, right? Oh, wait, no, it isn’t. […]


  4. Ed Darrell says:

    Here’s what I saw in that piece: Sarah Palin did her best to step all over the First Amendment, and a brave librarian stood up to her, protecting the Constitutional right of all Americans, even those in Wasilla, to be informed. For that brave at, Sarah Palin tried to take the job of that woman. A librarian in a small Alaskan town is unlikely to get another job, you know. Such a vicious vendetta is petty, Nixonian, and unbecoming of someone asked to take an oath to preserve, protect and defend that Constitution. Someone who goes after such a fundamental part of our liberty gets no free pass from me.

    Palin has no compunction against giving away the heritage of children, leaving Wassila deeply in debt for a building intended chiefly to flatter Sarah Palin. She took a city with solid finances, and left them indebted for at least a generation with a building whose return on investment doesn’t work.

    Two items: Running a city’s finances into the ground, using a vicious vendetta to go after the Constitution. Is there anything she did to make up for that?

    Why is it sexist to criticize a person asking for our votes for their past misdeeds, indiscretions and errors in public service? I’m missing something. Are you saying Palin should get a pass on criticism because she’s female? Which is really the sexist argument there?

    If you’re not defending Palin’s policies, then this isn’t the forum to complain, I don’t think. This woman rather complimented Palin on her family life. What is it that makes all criticism of Palin off limits?

    Sure, she’s a hypocrite on sex education. Sure that busts the federal budget and condemns a few million young women annually to at least a generation of poverty, if not a lifetime — but that’s small potatoes compared to inept budgeting. Let’s ignore the hypocrisy, and stick to government: Can anyone make a case that Palin is a good executive? I haven’t seen the case made.


  5. Catherine Sherman says:

    As soon as I read what this Alaskan wrote: that Sarah Palin and HRC only have two things in common, their gender and their good looks, I knew I couldn’t believe anything this woman wrote. A third thing they have in common is both women get things done, even if you don’t like what they get done. She says Palin is enormously popular. Is she saying HRC wasn’t popular? Both go hunting. Isn’t that another thing in common? I count five things right here.

    I’m not one of those PUMAs, by the way. I’m just a sick at heart journalist disgusted at how low things have gotten. Except, politics has always been dirty. Jefferson was often attacked in the press for various relationships he may or may not have had, for example.

    What “she who doesn’t want to be named” wrote may be all true but her statement is such a snide and petty remark that it seems more typical of a neighborhood gossip. Perhaps this is the first time in her life that anyone ever cared what this woman thought. Next she’ll be writing a Kitty Kelley type book. She says Palin is enormously popular but everyone’s afraid of her. Doesn’t add up. “Unbridled ambition and predatory ruthlessness” to get a point guard position. …Wow. Fear of retribution, bites the hand of everyone who tries to help. Come on. This sounds like a bogus history, even if much of it may be true. This writer needs to go to Hollywood.

    BTW, many other vice presidential candidates had large, colorful families, too. Oh, but they were men. Why don’t we talk about the other vp candidate’s family. Oh, I forgot, candidate’s children are off limits. I’m not defending Palin’s policies, but I wouldn’t trust that we’re getting the truth here,


  6. Kelvin Kean says:

    Ed asked “Did you happen to run into a listing of the books Mrs. Palin was trying to get banned from the Wasilla Library?”

    No. I’ve not found a list anywhere on the web, nor have people closer to Wasilla than I. But Palin seems to have real opponents in Wasilla, so I wouldn’t be surprised if a list was forthcoming the days ahead. It’s just not a matter of public record. Incidentally the the NYTimes contacted the librarian at the time, who now works elsewhere, and she declined to comment, at least for now. I can imagine she’s a stalwart librarian who just isn’t comfortable being in the public eye, but is very willing to stand up to efforts at censorship.


  7. Ed Darrell says:

    Great sleuthing,Kelvin!

    Did you happen to run into a listing of the books Mrs. Palin was trying to get banned from the Wasilla Library? I’d be very interested in that list.


  8. Kelvin Kean says:

    The letter has the ring of authenticity for me. And it has been published on a number of websites with attribution to Anne L. Kilkenny. Such a person is listed in the on-line phone book, both with and without a phone number. So the writer’s name is real. I also found the return for the 2002 fall election in Wasilla and both Anne Kilkenny and Sarah Palin were listed as writeins. Sarah Palin’s mother-in-law, Faye Palin, a supporter of abortion rights and other liberal positions, was on the losing end of that race for mayor of Wasilla. The letter just seems accurate and it’s written with explanatory detail that makes it likely the writer expected it to be read by people far from Wasilla.


  9. Ed Darrell says:

    Well, we’ll mask it here.

    I’ve been troubled by this pick all weekend, one of those nagging gut feelings that won’t go away. I awoke this morning after a nightmare about a senator we used to have, and it came clear: This woman reminds me of Paula Hawkins, on paper a nice, non-Washington experienced candidate. In person, she was a disaster, loose cannon, deal smasher, strife-sowing incompetent.

    There are so many good women in the Republican Party — what was John McCain thinking?


  10. Joe says:

    Actually, it looks like she never intended her name or email to appear on a web site. She’s not the one who posted the comment; someone posted her email as a comment without her permission, against her explicit wishes.


  11. Huh. I hadn’t realized that she had left that comment with name in the clear elsewhere. As Emily Litella used to say, “Never mind.”


  12. Joe says:

    Oops. I failed to see the link at the bottom of your post. Sorry my info wasn’t news.


  13. Joe says:

    I tracked the message down to find its origination.  It appears to be a comment posted to The Washington Independent, on the following article:

    Here is a link to the actual comment:

    This may be a hoax.  But clearly we’ve got another live one.


  14. I wasn’t trying to be prickly, but I thought it would likely promote good will all around if your correspondents’ wishes were honored. The text looks like the author was trying to be both fair and candid… a difficult feat given the political climate. I’m grateful to have had a chance to read that. I’d like it if more people felt safe in opening up.


  15. I’m still seeing her full name on the page here at the bottom of the quoted text. Her first name is still shown at the beginning of the preamble.


  16. Ed Darrell says:

    I interpreted that differently, and deleted the e-mail. Let’s be safe — you’re right. Thanks for the jab, Wesley.


  17. That’s very interesting.

    If someone sent me a chunk of text with instructions to remove their name from the text if it were to be published on a website, I know that I would either do so or not publish it at all. Leaving the name on the text with the request not to makes it look like you don’t want to receive any further commentaries of this sort from people in the future. Feel free to delete this paragraph if you touch up the post.


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