At just after noon on Good Friday, Dan DeSloover walked across Main Street toward the Alaska State Capitol with a large canvas and bits of PVC pipe under his arm.
Many of the legislators had gone home for the Easter weekend, but DeSloover wasn’t taking the day off.
Almost every day during this legislative session, DeSloover has stood across the street from the Capitol holding up a large sign that urges lawmakers to make health care easier to access, fund education, take action on climate change, end tax breaks for oil companies and institute a progressive income tax.
As a light rain fell Friday, DeSloover and his father Paul unrolled the large canvas and fastened the PVC pipe around it. They raised it up and turned the canvas to face the Capitol. Lin Davis, who has become a frequent cohort of DeSloover’s, held one side while DeSloover held the other.
DeSloover, 39, said he’s always called his state and national legislators, but decided to do something a little different this session.
“I wanted to think of something I could do every day that would sort of remind me to be active,” DeSloover said, “and I wanted it to be something that would be visible for people … I was like, ‘I want to be there for people who already are trying to do these things to show solidarity and support.’”
After the November election, DeSloover began thinking about something different to do. He knew that incoming Gov. Mike Dunleavy would propose large cuts to state spending, and DeSloover wanted to remind lawmakers of the importance of funding key state programs and preparing for the future.
DeSloover, who works for the state, has spent almost every lunch break since the beginning of session in January standing with his sign facing the Capitol. He said he tries to eat something quickly during a brief morning break, as he doesn’t usually have time to eat during his actual lunch break these days.
It’s gained the attention of people walking by and of people in the offices. Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, had an office facing south for the first part of session and was able to look down and see DeSloover. She even joined him and held one end of the sign up one day.
“I admire his dedication to holding us accountable and to helping us move Alaska forward,” Hannan said via email. “His intent is to help shift legislative and public conversations toward policies that are equitable to all citizens and less beholden to big industry.”
Not everyone has been so on board with DeSloover’s wish list. He said that while 95 percent of the feedback he hears is positive, some people pass by and say the ideas are foolish. Some engage him in conversation, which DeSloover said he enjoys. Davis has stood nearby during many of these interactions and said she’s impressed with how civil they are.
“He’s so inspiring,” Davis said recently. “He loves engaging with the community, people who want to talk about these points. He’s very good at it. He has a listening manner that’s respectful, so when people who don’t agree with us come forward, it’s civil and very respectful.”
Multiple times, DeSloover has called out to Office of Management and Budget Director Donna Arduin as she’s walked by. Prior to the governor’s budget proposal coming out Feb. 13, DeSloover saw Arduin walking by and looking at the sign. He asked her if she approved of any of the ideas, he recalled, and she looked away. He’s still waiting to interact with Dunleavy, too.
“I have not seen the governor,” DeSloover said. “I keep hoping I will, but he must take a different route.”
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have come up to express that they appreciate him taking action, DeSloover said. Though not everyone agrees with him, he believes that the quiet, respectful daily protest is worth keeping up until the end of session — whenever that is.
“I’ve been really encouraged by the legislators coming up and saying, ‘This has been very helpful to me. I’m glad you’re here. It helps me feel like we’re all together on this,’” DeSloover said. “I feel like it’s had a really positive impact, so I definitely want to keep it up.”
• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.