Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

‘Override! Override! Override!’ Hundreds turn out in Juneau to protest Dunleavy’s vetoes

The response was overwhelming.

Union members, students, teachers, community activists and all manner of concerned citizens gathered in front of the Alaska Capitol at noon Monday.

The rally was organized to protest the proposed $400 million in cuts made to government programs by Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s vetoes of line items in the state budget. Protesters also called on state legislators to override at least some of those cuts.

“This is not where I want to be today,” said Emily Wall, professor of English at the University of Alaska Southeast. “But we’re all here fighting for our university. I’m very concerned about all the education cuts,” she said.

[Capitol Live: Senate and House leaders answer questions about action-packed first day of special session]

The rally was opened by drumming and singing by members of the Yees Ku Oo Dancers, a multicultural group with members from various backgrounds. The song, sung in the Tsimshian language, was written by troupe member Nancy Barnes, who performed at the rally.

“It’s just a happy song,” Barnes said. “We wanted to start out that way. To get everybody in the mood.”

Juneau Mayor Beth Weldon was the first to speak.

“We are concerned as to how the governor’s vetoes will impact our state,” she said. “We respectfully ask (legislators) to override the vetoes.”

Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Many of the speakers noted that difficult decisions had to be made concerning the state budget, but that such deep and extensive cuts would cripple the state for generations.

We will continue to suffer job loss and outward migration if these vetoes are allowed,” said Nadine Lefebvre, president of the Alaska Labor Council, AFL-CIO.

Many of the speakers stressed that such massive cuts to the state budget, particularly those to the state’s education system, would make the state less attractive to investment and leave the state ill-equipped to compete in a competitive marketplace.

Amy Jo Meiners, former Alaska teacher of the year, talked about the challenges schools face trying to plan amid unpredictable funding.

“Teachers fear pink slips,” she said. “How can we expect people to live with that fear, year after year?”

Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Hundreds attend a rally in front of the Capitol calling for an override of Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetos on the first day of the Second Special Session of the Alaska Legislature in Juneau on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

“We’re setting our students up to fail,” Israa Kako, a former pre-school teacher and advocate for early education said.

“This is not Kansas,” Brian Holst, Executive Director of the Juneau Economic Development Council and Juneau School Board president said, referring to the massive cuts to public services made in that state. “Dividends do little towards job creation,” he said.

“Is Governor Dunleavy walking back his ‘open for business’ promise? Yes! He is,” said Kate Troll, a former Juneau Assembly member. “He promised not to cut. ‘No pain for Alaska,’ he said.”

The overall sentiment at the rally was perhaps best articulated by Jane Andreen of AARP: “We’re doubling the (Permanent Fund Dividend) at the expense of state services.”

Dunleavy has promised to pay a roughly $3,000 dividend this year, what he says is the full statutory amount. The governor has also said that legislators who voted against the full amount are doing so to fund an “unsustainable budget.”

A special session to address the vetoes has been scheduled for Wednesday, but with the legislature split between Juneau and Wasilla, the outcome of the political standoff remains up in the air.


• Contact reporter Peter Segall at 523-2228 or psegall@juneauempire.com.


More in News

The Juneau Police Department has issued a warning to mariners to secure their gear after a string of recent thefts in Juneau’s harbors, including a generator. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
JPD investigates rash of thefts near harbors

A reward is offered for information leading to progress on the case.

Police calls for Thursday, Sept. 17, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

State department warns of social media pyramid scheme

It’s likely operating in multiple communities.

Police calls for Wednesday, Sept. 16, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Nutcracker is on the verge of defeat at the hands of the Mouse King in this December 2019 photo. This year would have been the 13th consecutive year Juneau Dance Theatre staged a full performance of the famous ballet, but it has been canceled because of the pandemic.(Courtesy Photo / Juneau Dance Theatre)
Annual ballet performances canceled

A digital alternative is in the works.

A 32-year-old woman was arrested for the stabbing of a 26-year-old man near Safeway early Sunday morning, a Juneau Police Department spokesperson said on Sept. 14, 2020. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Man hospitalized, woman arrested after early morning stabbing

A suspect is being held in custody after being arrested without incident.

Police calls for Monday, Sept. 15, 2020

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Public hearings for a pair of measures that will appear on ballots come Election Day will be held by telephone. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Dates set for ballot measure hearings

They’re later this month.

Photos: Art in Unusual Places

Reader-submitted photos.

Most Read