North Slope Borough Mayor Harry Brower issued an order Sunday to seize all assets controlled by Ravn Air (which just filed Chapter 11 – bankruptcy) in the boundaries of the North Slope Borough. The order includes buildings, everything inside the buildings, aircraft, leases and security access codes.
The order demands the ‘voluntary’ cooperation from any current or former Ravn employees or contractors setting up freight and mail services using seized assets. Gonna be real interesting to see how he enforces that order on the employees and contractors.
The order is primarily aimed at Ravn Air assets in Barrow and Deadhorse and applies to any other equipment at any other North Slope Borough location not specifically named. The order can be found here.
The order was covered in Suzanne Downing’s Must Read Alaska with appropriate comments. Comments on the ADN article describing this action were disabled when I wrote this morning. A description of the Ravn bankruptcy announcement can be found also at the ADN.
So, what do we have here?
On the one hand, we have a business built on serving Bush Alaska, you know, the same Bush Alaska that is putting the occasional truck across a few runways to keep aircraft, passenger service and Wuhan out of the villages. I get the concern. It is a very tribal reaction, which is why tribes are no longer the preferred governing structure here in the US. Problem with doing this is that this also shuts down cargo and mail service into those very communities.
On the other hand, we have a borough mayor channeling his inner Hugo Chavez, seizing private property on state facilities built with federal dollars. As FAA and state rules don’t allow any private or commercial entity (other than security) to carry firearms on airports, a seizure order like this can be enforced pretty much without opposition – property theft via stroke of the pen.
While it appears that the Mayor intends to use the facilities and equipment to support mail and cargo service when it resumes, it is not out of the realm of possibility that he also intends to operate his own personal airline / air freight service in the North Slope Borough with whatever airframes are still there. Is he going to order the pilots to fly for him at the point of a gun?
Mayor Brower’s excuse (via the ADN) was that Ravn facilities are needed for “… food, medical supplies and medical transport.” Add to that mail and “… health and safety of its residents”, and he clearly thinks he has an excuse. Note that in all of these property rights of the business was the first thing to disappear.
The State of Alaska MUST respond to this. Forcefully. For if the North Slope Mayor can get away with this sort of high-handed, lawless action, it won’t be that long before another self-selected martinet who really enjoys using emergency orders takes the next step. What if this happens, say perhaps at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport?
There is a formal, legal process for corporate bankruptcies. It involves judges, lawyers, banks and accountants. It does not involve Borough officers with guns.
The other thing that the State needs to consider is allowing every single operator on state facilities to arm themselves, their employees and contractors. Mayor Brower wouldn’t have dared to this unless he knew that his people were armed and nobody else was.
There was a reason that those of us on the political right bought guns and ammunition during the O’Bama years. Given the ongoing run on guns and ammunition during the current festivities, it would appear that those on the political left are figuring that out. When the very governments become lawless, the citizenry will not put up with it for long. It is up to the State of Alaska to reinstate the rule of law in the North Slope Borough. Sooner would be better than later.
Alex Gimarc lives in Anchorage since retiring from the military in 1997. His interests include science and technology, environment, energy, economics, military affairs, fishing and disabilities policies. His weekly column “Interesting Items” is a summary of news stories with substantive Alaska-themed topics. He was a small business owner and Information Technology professional.