Early in 2019, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy unleashed his budget disaster on our state. In February, he announced a 41% cut in state funds to the University of Alaska, for a total of $136M in cuts. The cuts would have decimated the University, requiring us to lay off 31% of faculty and staff, close campuses, sell off assets, shutter many student services, terminate the academic bureaucracies at the three universities. and consolidate as many functions and programs as possible. But the university was not Dunleavy’s only target. Also included was a massive cut to schools, dramatic increases to the rates elders pay to live at state Pioneer Homes, elimination of the Marine Highway, cuts to social services, cuts to Medicaid, cuts to dental care for poor people, and seizure of local municipal property taxes on oil lands. Although the Alaska State Legislature later passed a reasonable budget that restored the majority of the cuts, Dunleavy used his constitutional authority to line item veto nearly every one. The legislature tried to override the vetoes, but was unsuccessful.
The mastermind behind the budget cuts and the austerity budget was Donna Arduin, a Republican budget hawk who has assisted many other right-wing governors to cut state budgets. Google her. You will certainly cringe.
But meanwhile, over the summer, as the budget drama unfolded and as the majority of university workers, students, and the general public agonized over the state’s future, I took a cartooning class from Jamie Smith . The class met four nights a week for three hours each. Class meetings were a blessing for me. For three hours at a time, I could forget that my university was imploding, that people were worrying themselves to death, that my colleagues and students were leaving in droves. And then, about the middle of class, Jamie introduced us to the art of the editorial cartoon. And so I learned how to draw cartoons better, to have more action, to have stronger and more pointed ideas.
Jamie also taught us how to do French cut mini comix. These are eight cartoons on a regular sheet of paper, folded and cut to be a little booklet. I found mini comix to be a wonderful tool for analysis.About mid-summer, a group of Alaskan started work on a recall campaign. Over the rest of the summer, the campaign really took off, with nearly 50,000 Alaskan registered voters signing the petition to apply for a recall. The group obtained 10,000–nearly half of the required number–in the first week or two. Dunleavy started to soften his blows on the state shortly thereafter. For example, he made a deal with the University of Alaska Board of Regents to cut only $70M, and to cut that over a three year period. The recall campaign was working.
Then Dunleavy suddenly fired his chief of staff, quickly followed by terminating Donna Arduin. Or, rather, reassigning her to a lesser paid position out of the way. Even though Dunleavy insists that the recall campaign did not affect his decisions, clearly it did. Power to the People, ya’ll.