On the evening of Bash the Feds Day in Alaska — after Sens. Lisa Murkowski, R, and Mark Begich, D, got done dumping on the overlords far away in the nation's capital — the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration got its meeting started, and there was nothing but civility and thank-yous.
God bless technology.
Two years ago, NOAA went to Homer at the end of the Kenai Peninsula some 220 road miles south of Anchorage to explain its plan to take halibut away from tens of thousands of charter boat clients and give the big flatfish to 1,431 commercial fishermen. Needless to say, the NOAA bureaucrats who showed up in the self-proclaimed Halibut Capital of the World got roasted.
This time, in a masterful display of bureaucratic cunning, they hid behind the security forces at the Juneau Federal Building and did the whole meeting by phone. What transpired sounded like the worst of local candidate debates on a public radio station in the hinterlands.
Julie Speegle, NOAA's Alaska spokeswoman, played the role of moderator after warning those online that meeting was purely "informational." The comments of those who dialed in would not be considered by NOAA in its review of proposed regulations, she said, and the comments from the federal officials in attendance were "not official agency responses."
"Please say on topic and be respectful," she added.
And then the show was under way, with the former TV news producer turned public affairs officer playing the part of moderator and a gang of bureaucrats from the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council -- NOAA entities both -- assuming the roles of political candidates.
NMFS Alaska Region Assistant Administrator Glenn Merrill was online, but didn't say much other than to reference the earlier meeting in Homer.
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