By Dermot Cole
Administration Commissioner Kelly Tshibaka is picking up where Donna Arduin left off as the leader of the tone-deaf division of the Dunleavy administration, where the motto is “Not my problem.”
As of Oct. 1, many thousands of Alaskans will find themselves unable to fly because they don’t have the right kind of ID acceptable to the federal TSA pooh-bahs.
This could easily become a crisis, especially in rural areas among old people who speak English as a second language. When they get sick, they will be unable to fly because they don’t have the right kind of ID card. Travel nightmares by the thousands are headed our way if something doesn’t happen quick.
Years of state delay and bungling in Juneau and Washington, D.C., are to blame for the Real ID mess.
The Dunleavy administration could face up to the challenge, admit the scope of the threat, and make a major effort to prevent a fiasco in the fall.
There will be life-and-death situations in which people without the right ID card will be unable to fly through any airport staffed by TSA. The public outcry in the aftermath will be intense.
The Dunleavy administration “solution” is to tell Alaskans that this is not the state’s fault.
And it is not something that Tshibaka’s department is required to fix because there are lot of options for Alaskans to get TSA-approved IDs, most of them from the feds.
She told legislators last week she is not asking for a supplemental appropriation to make a major rural campaign on the new ID cards because many rural communities have not asked for help, the state has a law on the books prohibiting the state from requiring anyone to have a Real ID and there are 30 alternative forms of ID that will work.
Here is a list of some of the options her department suggests: a U.S. passport, a U.S. passport card, a military ID, a tribal ID, a Canadian driver’s license, a passport from a foreign government, an HSPD-12 PIV card, a U.S. employment authorization card, a transportation worker identification, a U.S. Merchant Marine credential, a DHS trusted traveler card, a border crossing card and a permanent resident card.
While Tshibaka told the Senate Finance Committee the requirements for a tribal ID are less than those for a state Real ID driver’s license, the acting head of the Division of Motor Vehicles told House members earlier in the week that she did not know what the application requirements are for tribal IDs because each one may be different. “Call the tribes,” she suggested.
As to whether a tribal ID would be sufficient, I have doubts that TSA agents in say, Alabama, would accept a card of someone from Aleknagik. The state has no idea how many tribal ID cardholders there are in Alaska.
When Sen. Lyman Hoffman bemoaned Tshibaka’s failure to seek legislative funding support for a greater state outreach effort, Tshibaka responded with Arduin-level arrogance, talking up passports, military ID cards and tribal ID cards.
“We want everybody to choose for themselves what form of ID is best for you,” she said. She said the technical problems with sending the new sophisticated camera equipment to rural areas are significant.
Hoffman said Tshibaka should be asking for more money and staff to fix the problems. “Lives may be in danger because you are waiting for them to request services that they are unaware that they may need,” Hoffman said.
He said he would hold her responsible for failing to make this a priority.
She responded, “I don’t make budget requests that aren’t supported by data,” mentioning that it has been 15 years since the federal law was approved, there are alternatives and others to blame, etc.
“Do your homework,” Hoffman snapped.
Dermot Cole can be reached at email@example.com