The rain was falling in Anchorage on Monday and the city outside the big, plate-glass windows of the Nesbett Courthouse was gray and bleak and about as ugly as it can get when the subject of whose lying on their Alaska Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) arose.
Inside a fifth floor courtroom, Tony Hopfinger, the former editor of the Alaska Dispatch News, had just admitted to signing the declaration that states “I certify that on the date of application…I was and intended to remain an Alaska resident indefinitely.”
The PFD question was raised by David Gross, an attorney for former Alaska Dispatch News owner Alice Rogoff. Gross was trying to undermine Hopfinger’s credibility in a $1 million lawsuit he filed against Rogoff.
Gross wanted to know if it was appropriate for Hopfinger to swear that he planned to stay when he was planning to leave.
Hopfinger said it was inappropriate. He said later he’d never really given much thought to that claim at the top of the application.
“Are you going to return” the money, Gross wanted to know.
“Sure, why not,” Hopfinger said.
The questions put to Hopfinger about the PFD ended there, but they continued to spur discussions among a small group of court observers outside the courtroom during the next break.
Almost all of them admitted to having, or having had, thoughts about leaving Alaska to live in friendlier climes. One of those in the group was a good friend of former Anchorage Daily News editor Howard Weaver, who grew up in Alaska, left for California and never came back.
There are some great areas to live in California if you can afford them. The days are sunny and a whole lot longer than in the north. Even when the sun shows itself, Anchorage is decidedly not sunny in November or December or January.
The sun rose at 9:34 a.m. in Anchorage on Monday and set at 3:59 p.m. and in between the sky never really reached a stage anywhere close to bright.
It was a day on which those of a certain age couldn’t help but think about leaving Alaska. Maybe it was an age thing one of them observed. Historically, Alaska was a place for the young.
Most people left or died before they reached old age. The 1910 U.S. Census reported only 1.7 percent of the population was 65 or older. The number is now more than six times that and growing annually, though it is unclear how many winter full time in-country.
And others, well, they’re regularly thinking about leaving, or are parents of children who filed that “last” PFD before leaving, or have former Alaskan friends who thought the PFD was compensation for time-served and not an ironclad commitment to “remain an Alaska resident indefinitely.”
How many can really, honestly answer that they never plan to leave Alaska or that they’ve never thought about it? And if you’ve even thought about it, well, wouldn’t the proper answer be “I intend to remain in Alaska as long as I can take it?”
Meanwhile, how many know someone who should get in line behind Hopfinger at the payback window?