Is “Multipurpose” Just Another Word for Poorly Done?

I was a bit distressed, considering the state our trails are in, to read about the proposed ordinance to make electric bikes legal on our trails.  Let us reflect for just a moment…

  • Is there a general speed limit on our trails?
  • Are there specific speed limits that address trail circumstances and conditions (turn radius and the number of turns, width of trail, slope, lateral visibility, other traffic, etc.)?
  • Is there any enforcement on our trails?

I think by and large the answer to these questions is a resounding, “NO!”, and yet suddenly, without regard to the multitude of issues we do face on our multpurpose trails (yes, horses are allowed on our trails…) here we have an ordinance about an electric bike.

Are we first going to do something about the presumably illegal Segues and powered wheelchairs on our trails? How about the loose dogs fouling our greenbelts? Or should we think about the thousands of kids illegal biking on the trails without helmets?

The simple fact of the matter is that we have a number of criteria for the funding of “trails”, yet we seem incapable of effectively managing use of those trails once they are built.

A two hundred pound individual moving at 25 mph down an MOA bike path on a bicycle colliding with an unmanaged two year old suddenly dashing across the trail is a recipe for disaster – yet we seem unconcerned. Missoula and other locations try to address some of these issues by creating BERMED bike lanes that allow high speed bicycles to use city streets without fear of automobiles, while other cities provide what amount to bicycle only highways (keeping the three parents with the 3 double wide strollers stopping to chat from shutting down the trail). We put some paint on the road and look the other way…

Cologne Bike Highways

And wait!  There’s more!  Despite Danny Sullivan’s protestations (and the Mayor’s decision to keep Mr. Rodda in place), we have a huge burden of deferred maintenance, an ongoing crisis in grossly inadequate construction practice in laying trail, and unmet continuity issues. Do we continue to argue that maintenance of trails only be managed through State Cap Budget items? Why use local bonding to deploy apparently inappropriate or inadequate infrastructure (wooden bridges, anyone)? Is it time to put a stop to “partners” running our parks?  How do we balance ENFORCEMENT of trail usage mandates as against planning, design, construction, and maintenance of those resources?

I think it only fair to say that Mr. Traini has the cart before the horse.

Time for State Employees to Walk in Others’ Shoes

I sent the e-mail below to the Medicaid Expansion Coordinator and the DPA Director, Sean O’Brien as a follow up to my prior investigation. It has only been a couple of days, but I suppose I really am not expecting much of anything with respect to a substantive response.  Like so much else, we have here a potentially great idea, with simply horrendous implementation.

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Dear Ms. Martin,

While I have been more than willing to accept what the Chris
Ashenbrenner had to say about the problems with the roll-out of the
Medicaid Expansion, any experience dealing with the claimant side of the
system is immediately explanatory of why there are so many people angry
and frustrated  with that system.

To start with, much of the information received by applicants from DPA
offices, or provided on the ARIES website, is inaccurate or misleading.
When I have tried to bring that to the attention of agency personnel, I
have been blown off, with the result that to my way of thinking,
nothing is ever going to be done to fix it. By way of example, if you
are dumped into ARIES by healthcare.gov, your application does not show
up in ARIES, even AFTER someone has looked at the file and sent you a
demand for verification letter.  If you have an application on file, you
must be able to confirm the status of that application through ARIES.
Period.

Anyone who thinks this

That was not the greatest explanation, so let me try again.  
The number you reported prefixed with a T is a temporary 
application number while the application is in processing.   
No access is available at the self-service portal (where 
application was made) while in this temporary status.  
The application has been transferred (electronically) to 
an office for processing.  After the case is processed and 
approved it will be assigned a permanent number starting with 
a 3.  This permanent number can then be used to access features 
provided on the portal. 
is in any way explanatory (or satisfactory) needs to see a mental health
professional. Let's see... it suggests that the application number does
not become an application number until the application is not longer an
application, and suggests, contrary to what the ARIES site says, that
you can see the status of your application based on your application
number...  but of course since the only number you get while your
application is an application is the application number and that
application number is not an application number, it is fairly obviously
that most of what one might have tried to do for an hour trying to use
web tools to determine the status of an application has been totally
wasted.  Moreover, any attempt to speak to someone at the DPA office
results in you being put in a queue to leave a message which is never
returned.

As far as the back log is concerned, since it is fairly evident that no
one is doing triage on the applications, and a call to the published
telephone number about emergent issues results only in an e-mail to an
office manager who already is failing to triage applications, it is
pretty clear why applicants are getting steamed. For example, waiting 6
or 7 weeks to THEN tell an applicant he has 1 week to send in dozens of
documents while making it impossible for the applicant to discuss with
anyone the document request is, in a word, bizarre. And YES, that
is exactly what DPA is doing.  Calls to claim workers are not returned.
When they are, no message is left. And no call backs are ever attempted.

Indeed, as relates to FFM referrals, since data will in fact be sparse
because it is all electronic and no documents are accepted, you know
that no application will be accepted without receipt of additional
documentation where there is any evidence of self-employment, and yet
you sit on those applications.  Where gross FFM income is below $19000
you STILL sit on those applications, and eventually ask the applicant to
prove expenses, when it makes no difference what the expanses were if
the gross income was below the target income level (if I have $12000 in
W2 income and and $6000 in gross self employment income, it doesn't make
any difference what my business expenses are, I am still eligible).

And what IS one supposed to do in response to a request that simply
says, "Provide documentation of expenses." What expenses? What kind of
documentation? Questions? Sorry, you may NOT speak to anyone who can
answer them 

As far as published data, it is frankly unbelievable, and while there
may be an explanation for why it seems incredible, the Department does
itself no service by not providing same.  By way of example, consider
this data:

                             "Jan-16"   "Feb-16"  "Mar-16"
"Incoming Work"              "4,352"    "3,672"    "4,501"
"Work Completed              "5,136"    "5,075"    "5,042"
"True Application Backlog"   "2,692"    "1,573"    "2,053"

How can you have an Application Backlog of 1573 in February, complete
541 more applications in March than came in, and then have a resulting
backlog of 480 more than you had in February?

And providers. I have spoken to quite a few over the last several
weeks.  Many are just fed up and are ready to quit accepting Medicaid.
Yes, they have been told to go ahead and treat as Medicaid will
eventually pay (really?), but all the provider has is a voice on a
telephone, and that does not pay the bills if payment is in fact NOT
forthcoming. Thankfully, many will simply hold the bill for 30 days.
And if a provider won't hold the bill, and won;t serve you because
Medicaid can't provide even a claimant number?  Well, you are in a sense
worse off than you were before Expansion, aren't you?

The system simply is not working well for those who need it to work for
them, in no small part because communication is non-existent, and
urgency is treated with casual disregard by the system.  We can do better.

Marc

Marc Grober, Esq.
5610 Radcliff Dr.
Anchorage Alaska 99504
email: marc@interak.com
cell:  (907)2272417

SB174 | An Open Letter to the Alaska House Judiciary Committee

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I apparently (and unfortunately) missed the discussion in the House (and Senate) education committees on the intersection of SB174 and the Gun Free School Zones Act of 1990 as amended by theScreen Shot 2016-04-12 at 7.47.50 AM Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (and interpreted by the 9th Circuit).

As I read the Act, it would prohibit firearms, for example, in most of UAA’s West Campus (in as much as UAA property is not “private” property and lies within 1000 feet of a series of public schools (Lake Otis Elementary and KCC).

It seems pretty clear that there needs to be an extended fiscal note to address the full and true cost of this legislation, from the hundreds of thousands the Legislative Council would have to spend to attempt to challenge the federal Act, to the hundreds of thousands that the University system has indicated it will take to implement the Bill (should it be adopted over the objections of the UA system.)

Of course, there are other questions besides those of a pecuniary nature. For example, how will UA students know when they are in a Gun Free School Zone, and what might happen when Law Enforcement attempts to apprehend a person on UA campus in possession of a firearm within such a School Zone. Is the Legislature going to try and bar APD, AST, and the FBI from enforcing federal law on UA property? And how would the legislature actually manage that. Of course, it gets messier by the minute, because with a right to stand one’s ground and make a citizen’s arrest, it is only a matter of time before we have a shoot-out on West Campus, with stray bullets whizzing through elementary classroom windows. Yes, I am sure that all those Lake Otis students will feel much safe with the adoption of SB174 (though I am concerned that some unpatriotic bozos might well try to set up a defensive perimeter at the extent of the Gun Free School Zone and man that perimeter with armed guards – some people!)

While I do understand that the House majority is willing to invest time and energy in any proposition that avoids addressing the critical need to adopt at least a 15% nominal top rate graduated income tax, I am sure that in your eagerness to promote your legislative agenda you will, as always, act diligently, rationally and deliberately to address ALL the ramifications of such legislation, and, in the event that you don’t manage that, at least make it clear how you are going to fund both sides of the extended litigation and havoc you will otherwise be creating.

Marc Grober

Catch the Wave

Recently I came across a bit of a celebration with regard to the passage in the Alaska House (which at this moment is presiding over Alaska’s historic budgetary meltdown) of HB275, a bill that provides for an Inidigenous People’s Day in Alaska. Super… I am excited any time something that is not overwhelmingly toxic passes either chamber of the Alaska Legislature. But upon review of the bill (which I found a bit confusing – here you check for yourself – http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/get_bill_text.asp?hsid=HB0275C&session=29) I was left in the lurch: what is the definition of indigenous people, and if it is defined with respect to a window of immigration as to a specific geography, what are the specifics as to that window and that geography? – Are we in fact rejecting the late arriving Inuit, who came to Alaska thousands of years after most of Beringia popped on in? Inquiring minds and all…

A friend argued that Harriet (Harriet Drummond, the Democratic Representative who introduced the bill, and the gracious lady who allows my friend to co-habit with her on occasion),

walks through and names the Tribes affected. She discusses science and engineering and traditional knowledge that need to be part of a paradigm of rational discourse framing solutions for the future. The epistemology analysis of Dr. Oscar Kwagley suggests a trans-personal logic that is not consensual but imperative. Dr. Kleinfeld’s monograph suggesting spatial intelligence, a useful skill when applied to the White Alice Sites in the 1950s, might have relevance to the multi-layered challenges of Arctic and Northern development. Harriet’s point: engaging the indigenous knowledge network is not mere tokenism but a potentially critical part of our socioeconomic future.

Uh-oh! Despite what some of you may think, I take what my friends say (well, at least what some of my friends say) seriously (perhaps that is one reason I don’t have …. well that IS another story…) so I understood that an substantive response must be tendered, and thus I find myself here, writing to myself about stuff that few, if any, would consider, were it not for its very provocative implications (which have a tendency, as provocative shit does, to run off with us). But that is perhaps why Raven loves old farts; we hang around for the punch line. So off we go!

Unfortunately Judith’s work in this area (Kleinfeld, 1973) is predicated on a dubious framework (multiple intelligences, etc) that produces lots of theoretical conjecture and, frankly, no evidentiary support. Nevertheless, it DOES seem to coddle the views of Jensen et al. (a fact that appears to tickle her funny bone, though I think many would be indignant at her playfulness). Even without such aggravation, the horrific looks on the faces of those attending sessions of the local (Anchorage) RTI conferences in past years when experts actually explained the impact of non-verbal culture on children was a sight to behold, lol. In sum, while there are some intellectual curiosities for some of us to ponder there, Judith presents a Pandora’s box, a box perhaps best left unopened?

That is not to say that any data or perspective should be ignored, and narrow-minded disregard for data is problematic, even when it mandates racially segregated health centers wink emoticon But orally collected and transmitted data is demonstrably dubious at best and while some of it could be very accurate, it would be difficult to distinguish the noise from the signal. Compare our consternation over the literature of the Abrahamic religions and you can see how utterly impossible it becomes in just hundreds of years, let alone thousands.

waveAs far as Oscar is concerned, I have chatted about “Native ways of knowing” before. Unfortunately, much of the discussion revolving around such argument may be important as an aspect of Native cultural identity, but pales beyond that. In fact, it is the SAME argument that Christian apologists use to dispute the efficacy of science, lol. Unfortunately for them, their arguments are devastated because their premise is unfounded, the same premise Oscar argues, that science presumes a specific worldview and set of religious beliefs. But science is agnostic.

I am certainly NOT suggesting that scientific inquiry can be ignored simply because of the tradition in which it was pursued (though the context and constraints of such tradition must be taken into account.) By way of example, cultural empiricism such as described by Kim Tingley (2016) can happily be reconciled with modern geophysics.

 


Kawagley, Angayuqaq Oscar, Delena Norris-Tull, and Roger A. Norris-Tull. “The Indigenous Worldview of Yupiaq Culture: Its Scientific Nature and Relevance to the Practice and Teaching of Science.” Journal of Research in Science Teaching 35, no. 2 (February 1, 1998): 133–144. Accessed April 1, 2016. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/(SICI)1098-2736(199802)35:2<133::AID-TEA4>3.0.CO;2-T/abstract.

Kleinfeld, J. S. “Intellectual Strengths in Culturally Different Groups: An Eskimo Illustration.” Review of Educational Research 43, no. 3 (1973): 341–359. Accessed April 1, 2016. http://www.jstor.org/stable/1170109.

Raghavan, Maanasa, Matthias Steinrücken, Kelley Harris, Stephan Schiffels, Simon Rasmussen, Michael DeGiorgio, Anders Albrechtsen, et al. “Genomic Evidence for the Pleistocene and Recent Population History of Native Americans.” Science 349, no. 6250 (August 21, 2015): aab3884. Accessed September 8, 2015. http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/aab3884.

Tingley, Kim. “The Secrets of the Wave Pilots.” The New York Times, March 17, 2016. Accessed April 2, 2016. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/20/magazine/the-secrets-of-the-wave-pilots.html.

snow_goggles

Berko Panders to DIPs

A few days ago the Anchorage Dispatch News stated that, “the Berkowitz administration recommends using the surplus for a combination of property tax relief and bolstering the city’s savings.” There was no mention of the SAP debacle. There was no mention of the fact that few in Anchorage make any net payment for any State or Local service (as it turns out, the money paid to Alaskan households by the State in the form of the Permanent Fund Dividend typically exceeds the total tax paid by Anchorage households, which was modest to begin with.)

The bottom line is that the people who do make a net payment are those who do not need tax relief.  They are households of 2 or fewer persons residing in homes valued in excess of $350,000 (and to secure a mortgage of that size we are talking a household income of over $150,000/yr.) Yes, there could be some single parents in that crowd, but we are REALLY talking about DINKs (dual income- no kids) — I prefer dual income professionals…

Give us a break, Ethan….

 

Champs (or Chumps?)

Contrary to the claims of success made in this March 22nd Press Release  no programming implemented by anyone has been demonstrated to have a direct impact on childhood obesity in Anchorage. In fact, as the CDC Report data (such as they are revealed) indicate, during the target window obesity actually increased and any changes were likely random and insignificant.

I suppose the niggling bit is how ASD and the State expects to retain the respect of its students when it is publishing such nonsense. Here we are, telling students they need to be critical thinkers, while we peddle porridge suitable for Little Effie and the Hollow Men.

On the other hand, I was very impressed with the work Trey Coker did with NANA. Granted that it was a corporate attempt to buy “hearts and minds”, but it also dramatically impacted obesity by simply radically increasing activity. In comparison, the policy initiatives engaged in by the State and District had the actual effect of increasing caloric density at the vending machines and eventually reducing the funds available for increasing activity.

I am certainly concerned about childhood obesity, but I would have rather seen a press release that told the truth about where we are, than engage in such shallow attempted manipulation of data to argue success of dubious programs (and that heralded “success” means that we won’t change tactics!) Any high school Stats student could run down why the conclusions in this paper (let alone the press release based upon it) are laughable, and yet they are peddled to the public much like we were sold “Mission Accomplished”.

Yes, the reliance on p values has been decried in the academic literature. Yes, the confidence intervals render the results almost laughable. Yes, the variation makes Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 8.13.35 AMany trend line likely an artifact. Yes, the text descriptions, looking at percentage change over base, as opposed to percentage no longer obese, is misleading. Yes, BMI is not an accurate gauge of obesity. And yes, there is no evidence that ANY of the strategies applauded was in fact causally related to any change in the weight of any student.

But, how could anyone engage in selling this hooey to students with a straight face? Do we really think our kids don’t know this is make-believe, or are we in such dire straits that in fact, our kids are just as foolish as their parents?