Vern Weiss was interviewed by Bill Schneider with Karen Brewster and Karen Perdue on April 24, 2007 in the Butrovich Building at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He lives in Nenana, but was interviewed while he was in Fairbanks on other business. Karen Perdue, Associate Vice-President for Health Programs for the University of Alaska helped with the interview. As former State Commissioner of Health and Social Services she has personal interest in the Mental Health Trust case and knew Vern. Vern Weiss was the lead name on the 1982 lawsuit filed against the State of Alaska for misuse of the Mental Health Trust. As the parent of a child with mental illness, Vern tells a compelling story of his frustrations with the State's mental health programs and his role in the lawsuit and settlement.
Digital Asset Information
Project: Alaska Mental Health Trust History
Date of Interview: Apr 24, 2007
Narrator(s): Vern Weiss
Interviewer(s): Bill Schneider, Karen Brewster
Transcriber: Carol McCue
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: Personal background of growing up in Southern Illinois.
Section 2: Four years of service in the Naval Air Force stationed in Hawaii, and different jobs he held during this time.
Section 3: Honorable discharge from the Naval Air Force, his educational background, marriage and raising a family.
Section 4: Finding his way into the Mental Health system because he was seeking services for his mentally impaired child, and involvement with the lawsuit over the Trust lands.
Section 5: His son’s mental disability and experience with Alaska’s mental health system.
Section 6: Difficulties Carl Weiss has had living with mental illness.
Section 7: Struggling with his son’s illness, and trying to get help from the system and the schools.
Section 8: Trying to get professional help for his son and the lack of quality care.
Section 9: How Steve Cowper became involved with the Trust case and the lawsuit Weiss filed against the State of Alaska, and the network of supporters and allies he developed.
Section 10: Getting involved in the mental health system and lawsuit because of a desire for better services for his son, and role in the settlement process.
Section 11: Funding for the Mental Health Trust and management of resources and land.
Section 12: Mental Health Trust Authority board, and mining revenue supporting the Mental Health Trust.
Section 13: Setting up health clinics in railbelt communities of interior Alaska, and opinion about the Mental Health Trust Authority.
Section 14: Effects of the mental health trust lawsuit and opinion about government versus private control of the Trust.
Section 15: Conflict with environmental groups over land selections during the Trust land settlement.
Section 16: Past and present treatment of the mentally ill, and his involvement with the mental health system and organizations.
Section 17: The process of acquiring lands and pushing to settle the Trust lands case by freezing the assets, and his opinion about whether the settlement was a fair deal.
Section 18: Role in the settlement lawsuit as a representative for the public, and people he considers to be heroes of the effort.
Section 19: Other people he worked with during the settlement period, and disagreement with the Alliance for the Mentally Ill in Alaska over issues and lobbying during the settlement.
Section 20: Impact of his involvement with the trust settlement.
Section 21: Conflict with the State Department of Natural Resources over the management of the Trust lands and funds.
Section 22: Update about his son’s life and effect of the Mental Health Trust case.
Section 23: Suspicion about decisions made by the State government over mining contracts.
Click play, then use Sections or Transcript to navigate the interview.
After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
Section 1: BILL SCHNEIDER: Today is April 24th, 2007, I'm Bill Schneider. Karen Brewster and Karen Perdue are here, and we have the pleasure today of talking with Vern Weiss. And I appreciate you making time to ‑‑ to do this. And I'm sorry about your ankle, I'm sure it hurts, but I'm glad we could catch you.
VERN WEISS: Yeah, well, I'm finally glad we caught up. I wasn't sure what day when I talked to you, what we had, I've been busy with other things, kind of got off track.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, that's fine. I'm just glad you can do it now. Let's start by having you talk a little bit about your life very briefly and how you came to Alaska.
VERN WEISS: Well, I'm a Korean vet. And I was born and raised in Illinois in the farm country. And my parents were owners of a dry cleaning business, tailoring and shoe repair shop. And there's just two brothers, me and my brother.
We ‑‑ we grew up on the ‑‑ you know, all of us right there in Southern Illinois on the old Lincoln Trail. It goes to Springfield. And we turned part of that property into ‑‑ into a state park, they call it Red Hill State Park now. It's about a thousand, 1500 acres.
Section 2: And that's when the Korean War broke out. I was just turning 19. Or I was going on. And they were going to catch me if I didn't go to college, so I ‑‑ I volunteered to go into the Naval Air Force. I spent four years in there, and I traveled not too awful much.
We ‑‑ I got ‑‑ I wound up going to Great Lakes for my basic and then I went down to Jacksonville, Florida, for one course there, and it was in aviation maintenance, and then to Memphis, Tennessee, and then out to the Golden Gate, San Francisco. That's the first time I ever saw the Pacific Ocean there when I was 20. Then we went to Hawaii. Seasick.
I spent two and a half years in an 800‑man squadron. And during that time, I shore patrolled, Hawaiian Services Police. And they had ‑‑ they had ‑‑ we had to rotate in and out of special duties. I got a good lifeguard job for about four or five months, and that was nice.
And then the rest of it is just maintenance. We were around aircraft carriers, like the Oriskany, and the Kearsarge would come into Pearl Harbor. We'd unload the battered airplanes or whatever was tore up and send them to O & R, which is an overhaul and repair service in the Main ‑‑ in the Mainland.
Section 3: And during that time, I was interested in all the sports that went on around Hawaii. I surfed and did a little scuba diving. And that was about ‑‑ recreation. That was about the extent of it at that time.
I got ‑‑ 1955 I was stationed in San Diego and I was discharged, honorable discharge. And from then on, I started going to college here and there. And from Utah State to San Mateo College in California, and junior college in Indiana.
During that time, I picked up a lot of trade ‑‑ several different trades in the construction business, and I started building and working for myself.
I finally wound up getting married in Hawaii. And there was three children, three ‑‑ the two ‑‑ two boys and a girl. The girl lives in Utah, she has three ‑‑ I have three grandchildren from her family. And my son, older son has two.
He's on the Yukon River here as a captain, and I'm proud to say he was probably one of the best captains that ever hit the river. He ‑‑ he made it in three years, after he was 18 years old, he came up here and went one year to school, and he just didn't want it, he wanted that river. And there was nothing I could do.
I guess you say you tell them what you want them to do, but you don't ‑‑ they are going to do what they want to do, whatever. If it's ‑‑ if it's got that much draw to their future. And he's done real well.
I've been married to my ‑‑ my present wife for over 20 ‑‑ around 25 years now. We got married in Hawaii. And I've been up in ‑‑ I worked the pipeline. Followed the construction from the Pump Station 1 all the way down to the bridge, Yukon Bridge.
Section 4: And then I bought a business in Nenana and I got into the mental health system through Steve Cowper, Governor Cowper. He ‑‑ they found out about us because we had a ‑‑ a child that was impaired at birth, and we were trying to get services for him and without too much success at that time. That was the early '80s.
The trust ‑‑ trust lands were being managed by DNR, and I met the attorneys that were in charge of the ‑‑ the class action against the state on the ‑‑ on the trust permit on trust lands, and I represented the people versus the state for over 20 years. A long, drawn‑out affair.
We were in and out of Juneau I don't know how many times. All kinds of environmentalists were tackling this during that time, and everything from the trout fishermen to the Sierra Club. They basically were just holding up our progress in getting the settlement done fairly.
And it was ‑‑ it was still sort of an open issue whenever we finished up. I think you might agree with that, Karen. Still is, in my mind. So I may have to go back and just shake things up again.
Section 5: BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's back up and would you talk a little bit about your son. Is it Carl?
VERN WEISS: Carl?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah.
VERN WEISS: He had oxygen starvation ‑‑ starvation, I think. This is the basic original problem that we weren't aware of it, but I did have it recorded in the process of him being delivered.
I was in the room whenever they delivered him, and I noticed that the umbilical cord was over the top of his head as he was being delivered. And that ‑‑ goodness, 5, 10 minutes maybe, maybe longer.
At about two years ‑‑ two to three years old, I realized there was something going on and we had to find out what ‑‑ what was happening. And we went to the clinics in Seattle and took some EKG's, tests on the brain, and we couldn't really find anything wrong.
And it was just from then on, to make a long story short, and what the efforts were to find out really what was happening, we went through just about every evaluation there was in the books. And they never could come up with anything that was ‑‑ that fit the ‑‑ fit the symptoms except for the oxygen starvation.
And it hasn't been put into the records officially for Carl to understand this. We're the only ‑‑ I'm the only one who actually would ‑‑ could testify to that ‑‑ that situation, if he needed to know more about his history.
We had to release him out of the API or the mental health system here in Alaska when he was 21. He proved to them that he could survive. And from then on, I've had a couple of rounds where he showed up in Newark, New Jersey. I happened to be in Florida about that time. I was shocked that he was over there. I couldn't find ‑‑ I didn't know exactly how he got there.
Section 6: But there was a church group out at this area. I persuaded him to come into their organization, and from there, they went to a church camp in California. And he decided he was going to go for a hitchhike across the country.
And pickup trucks and big semis and whatever got him to Newark. And he wound up into staying with a truck driver and the truck driver's mother, and they were ‑‑ they were Black ‑‑ it was a Black family.
But the driver was a ‑‑ he was on drugs. And he got all the ‑‑ all of my ‑‑ all the money that Carl had on him. And he asked for more.
And I said, well, all I'm going to send to you is enough to get you to Seattle, and if you get to Seattle, I'll get a ticket for you to get back home. And somehow they cashed the money. I don't know what they did, but he lost it again.
And I called the ‑‑ I called the state agency, Yvonne Jacobson, and talked to her about the situation, and they said, okay, we'll get him. And he was in a clinic.
I ‑‑ I did find somebody that could understand what was going on, or partially, and finally I said, make sure he's in a hospital and watched, you know, in a secure area. And don't let him get out or escort him to the plane or whatever, but don't let him out of your sight.
So he wound up back up here in Anchorage and into the system again. And he was getting Social Security of about 8 or $900 a month. And that's all that he was living on. He wouldn't ‑‑ he wouldn't work. He just absolutely would not work. The kid was a ‑‑ physically sound as anybody could be, but mentally, just there was no drive to take responsibility and go out and make a living.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Before Steve Cowper arrived, what was your experience with the mental health system?
VERN WEISS: We couldn't get any ‑‑ any activity or any issues like evaluations and whatever, out of ‑‑ through the school system in Nenana. We found his ‑‑ his records under the desk of the superintendents, or just laying in files.
They weren't ‑‑ they were more or less discarded or hid out of sight. And they were just hoping that Carl would just go away.
But there was no way this could happen. The kid was doing all kinds of crazy ‑‑ I mean, just all ‑‑ all kinds of mischief and everything was going on around him.
And he had a ‑‑ sort of a ‑‑ an attitude that he liked ‑‑ he liked anybody that was Black, for some reason, he would ‑‑ he liked Black people.
And if there was a wrestler or a big tough guy like a gorilla or whatever, and there was a lot of noise from cars that were racing or what, different ‑‑ different issues that sort of ‑‑ I guess it was ‑‑ the aggressive sounds and attitudes that people had that attracted him.
He didn't like anything that was mental. He didn't understand jokes, he didn't understand poetry, he didn't understand a whole ‑‑ actually, he couldn't ‑‑ he couldn't really say what he was doing at the moment was wrong. He didn't know ‑‑ he couldn't ‑‑ he couldn't analyze anything. The right side of the brain didn't connect with the left side. And then the feedback of what to do with it was never there.
So to me the birth problem was mainly the cause. But ‑‑ but the schools ignored those kids. They didn't care whether they lived or died at that time. And I went to Healy to question them down there, and the supervisor ‑‑ superintendent wouldn't even talk to me when he found out who I was. He just absolutely ignored it.
I wanted to put ‑‑ I wanted to put a mental health agent into the school there at Healy because I knew there was some problems there, too. And ‑‑ and then Nenana, they ‑‑ they didn't have anybody until ‑‑ who was there. There was a Linda somebody, I think, that had the ‑‑ she was an attorney for the children here.
KAREN PURDUE: I don't remember.
VERN WEISS: Real skinny. Yeah.
KAREN PURDUE: I don't remember her name.
VERN WEISS: Oh, what was her name. She was a good attorney, but they had attorneys for these children at that age to take care of them and make sure that they was being treated right and ‑‑ and going through the programs that they needed to go through.
Section 8: There was several different things that they could ‑‑ they could ‑‑ they would try to get them involved in such as summer camps and FAA training for ‑‑ what was that program that they had for kids.
KAREN PURDUE: Civil Air Patrol?
VERN WEISS: Civil Air Patrol. He tried that, didn't work. He just didn't ‑‑ they went up in a glider and I don't know whether he enjoyed it or what, but he never did go back up the second time.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So this would have been around what year?
VERN WEISS: 19 ‑‑ oh, about in the '80s. Let's see, we started moving into ‑‑ well, we brought him to this center right off of ‑‑ was it Fahrenkamp?
KAREN BREWSTER: The Fahrenkamp Center?
KAREN PURDUE: Yeah, but I don't think it was there in the early '80s.
VERN WEISS: This ‑‑
KAREN PURDUE: Yeah, the Fahrenkamp Center is here.
VERN WEISS: Yeah. They ‑‑ they had ‑‑ they had classes there. And that's where they got the ‑‑ oh, I want to call it where the parents volunteer to take care of kids like him.
KAREN PURDUE: Respite ‑‑ respite care.
VERN WEISS: Respite care. We had two or three respite care systems going, and none of them worked out. Because he just ‑‑ he would backfire on them and just run them silly. So that sometime one guy's wife was just about to have a nervous breakdown for the stunts he was pulling.
And there was nothing ‑‑ there was nothing that was physically done to him, it was what he was thinking and how he was thinking. Especially when he got curious about certain things sexually and he just flipped everybody out.
And he didn't know how to ask a question or receive the answer. And he ‑‑ all these oddball things, he did ‑‑ you just take for granted you could do, you know what ‑‑ you know how to handle it, but ‑‑ but he didn't ‑‑ he could not handle anything that was ‑‑ that was, oh, a practical approach on anything other than just going out and kicking a can and hearing it ring. That was about it.
Section 9: BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, let's back up a little bit, then. At what point did ‑‑ and why did Steve Cowper arrive at your doorstep?
VERN WEISS: Because he found out that we were concerned parents that wanted to see some ‑‑ some progress in treatment, and ‑‑ and analyzing what the ‑‑ was wrong with his mind.
And we couldn't ‑‑ we couldn't get any satisfactory results from the school system in Nenana. They didn't even know where to send him. And they wouldn't ‑‑ they wouldn't give us any information or what to do with him until this ‑‑ I think it was ‑‑ well, Steve Cowper walked into our office first, and then I saw the attorney the second time.
And things started up and then we brought him into the Fahrenkamp Center and left him there for evaluations and schooling, and then let ‑‑ we ‑‑ we tried the respite care system. It didn't work. It wasn't successful with him.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But what was ‑‑ what was in it for Steve? What was ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Political reasons. I know that the mental health system was pretty well at the bottom of the barrel for cash to operate, and when we opened the case up officially, the money started coming in, bringing ‑‑ you know, bring up the budget ‑‑ I'm not sure how much it was increased, probably 50, 75 million. Maybe 100.
Somewhere in there that first four or five years. And I think ‑‑ my guess right now is probably about 250 million.
KAREN PURDUE: It was probably more than that.
VERN WEISS: Maybe. Well, you're probably closer to it than I am.
But anyway, I know they run the rocks. And then there was always fighting over API down there and wondering what to do with that. And they were all ‑‑ Juneau was pulling one direction and Anchorage was going another. And I don't think when I left in the '90s they were still settled over API. What did they do with it?
KAREN PURDUE: Replaced it.
VERN WEISS: Replaced it? Shut it down?
KAREN PURDUE: Built a new building.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But backing up, had you been outspoken that he would know about you? Or...
VERN WEISS: I think we ‑‑ I don't know how that ‑‑ I think there was a school nurse or somebody in Nenana that tipped the mental health system off.
And then his ‑‑ Cowper's connection to the mental health was ‑‑ I just don't know how he met up with them. But I know that he was interested in getting this issue out in front of him so that he could be kind of the leader in it and getting the ball rolling, and it was going to help him politically in Juneau, which he was doing a good thing.
He wasn't ‑‑ he was trying to get something to happen that had ‑‑ that should have ‑‑ should have been started years and years before that.
And I think it was around '84 or '85 that David Walker came into the picture. Jim Gottstein, I think, was already there. John Malone was in the picture, too, out of Bethel. And Vicky. Karen ‑‑ Sharon or Karen, Sharon Lobaugh. She was a wife of a veterinarian in Juneau. And what was Pat's last name? Pat ‑‑
KAREN PURDUE: Clasby.
VERN WEISS: Clasby, yeah. And then there was ‑‑ oh, there was just dozens of these guys around, I mean, that had a lot ‑‑ the mental health system had ‑‑ the board of directors, and I don't think I can remember half of them anymore.
BILL SCHNEIDER: We're picking up the click.
VERN WEISS: Oh, okay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Hang on just a second. Let's just see, how is the sound coming across?
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, I can hear the background noise but Vernon is louder than the background.
KAREN PURDUE: Let me go tell her to keep it down over there. We'll get some water, too.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, let's stop for just a minute. This is good.
VERN WEISS: Yeah. This is 25 years ago.
KAREN BREWSTER: It's still running.
BILL SCHNEIDER: You're doing well. You're doing a good job. Well, we can why don't we just say for the purposes of the transcription that we'll pick up on.
Let's go back on.
Section 10: KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. We're back on. So your involvement after Steve Cowper took on the case and David Walker became involved, you continued to be involved.
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Let's trace the history of your involvement and ‑‑ and tell me why you stayed involved.
VERN WEISS: Well, mainly it was there was there was no real answer to what was wrong with my son. I wanted to pursue that farther. And we had a lot of discussions with Washington D.C., their headquarters back there, but they couldn't come up with much more than what we had right here in Anchorage ‑‑ in the state of Alaska. It was all the same scenario, just about.
They ‑‑ and you wound up listening to everybody, well, this is autism, this is ‑‑ oh, let's see. There was this other ‑‑ they were ‑‑ they were using medications that were just outrageous.
I took my ‑‑ I brought Carl home one day and he was normally alert and just, you know, watching everything and jabbering everywhere and his lower lip was just drooping down. You could see he wasn't mentally alert and he was like some little drooling baby. And that was ‑‑ that wasn't the answer.
They said, well, he's really quiet, he's behaving. The reason he's behaving is he's drugged up so bad he can't do anything. Or he couldn't even think to be naughty. But all of us fought our different battles.
Karen ‑‑ or Sharon Lobaugh, her kid would go crazy in the house and just tear up things. And he loved knives. He had me scared one day, I was down there, and he was up there in the kitchen, he wanted to cook, show me how to cook. And he had all the butcher knives out and everything else. And I was sitting there, boy, getting a little uptight watching that emotion going on, I didn't know whether he was going to decide to dice me up and put me in the skillet or not.
But I ‑‑ I just, you know, kind of played along with his little game, let him ‑‑ let him do his ‑‑ or fantasy or whatever you want to call it right there ‑‑ right there by himself. Thanked him and I got out of there.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But you stayed involved quite awhile.
VERN WEISS: Yeah. I stayed involved then until about 1998, '99.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And tell us about some of the things you did.
VERN WEISS: Well, I ‑‑ I was in touch with Gottstein, Jim Gottstein an awful lot and Dave Walker. And we ‑‑ we were either going to court in Anchorage or Fairbanks.
Megan Green was one of the ‑‑ one of the judges up here. She was in on the final closure of the ‑‑ of the Mental Health Trust issue, which at that point we decided, well, it's ‑‑ at the best, it was a win‑win.
It wasn't anywhere, in my mind, totally ‑‑ totally settled, it was because they split our issues off, a team, Phil Volland, Jeff Jessee, and Usibelli, and who else was involved in that? They went to Juneau.
And there was no transparency in their meetings. All we would do is just find out that there was a meeting. So they split ‑‑ actually split this issue to get us off and out to where they ‑‑ we could say uncle and just stop and forget it. That's about all ‑‑ all that happened.
Section 11: Usibelli got their way, they ‑‑ I think they wound up there maybe at 10 percent duty they paid on their production, someplace in there, it hadn't changed. We didn't get anything out of any of the oil fields.
Fort Knox up here, Jeff Jessee said he was satisfied with the agreement they had, but they signed an ‑‑ a contract with Fort Knox that was weak, very, very weak because what they had ‑‑ they had the cart before the horse. They ‑‑ they let Fort Knox cook their books.
They was taking all the gold in. But ‑‑ but they wouldn't balance their books out until everything was processed, and they'd sent where ‑‑ sent the products ‑‑ product out of state and was looking for more gold. By the time they got done with it, there wasn't anything left on the table for mental health.
And the last word I got, maybe I'm wrong on this one, but they hadn't collected a darn thing for 10 years.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Are you saying that the money went back into exploration?
VERN WEISS: Back into exploration and mental health did not get anything out of Fort Knox. Have you ‑‑ have you been in on any of this issue at all? Well, this is the information that's come ‑‑ come to me. And I don't think they are wrong about it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So there were issues about the types of investments and types of settlement.
VERN WEISS: Right. Well, the main issues was just the replacement of the valuable property. We were working with a ‑‑ they estimated the trust to be about ‑‑ let's see, about 5 to 6 billion ‑‑ 5.3 or 6.3 billion dollars was what the value of the original trust was estimated at.
And that was all gold, minerals, timber, fisheries, farmlands, and the space that they had in Anchorage, and river estuaries, expansion of the cities, like ‑‑ like Fairbanks and Anchorage, they ‑‑ they took over a lot of mental health land.
And they could never give ‑‑ give it back to where it's ‑‑ or replace it in any sort of a way. It was just too complicated.
We had to ‑‑ we had ‑‑ then that forced the attorneys to go looking for something that was equivalent to the loss. And so we wound up with the Goodpaster gold fields. And not too much else other than the Chugach Range up in the ‑‑ there by Anchorage.
And Inumitsu had an interest in the coal mining out of Palmer up towards Tok, or what is it, going out towards the Copper River. There's a glacier when you leave Palmer on the right‑hand side, there's a big gold field ‑‑ I mean, a coal field, or up in that area there.
KAREN PURDUE: Uh‑hum. Uh‑hum. Uh‑hum.
VERN WEISS: That could be ‑‑ I'm not sure. But anyway, Inumitsu was a large ‑‑ a real big coal mining firm out of ‑‑ out of Japan that wanted to live out ‑‑ and at that time we had a lis pendens on every inch of the trust that we could find so that they couldn't sell it or ‑‑ or purchase it or anything at that point until we got this grant settled. And that moved it forward for awhile.
But then there was a lot of impatience in Juneau and DNR, Usibelli, and there was no more transparency with what Usibelli was doing. And we ‑‑ we were trying to keep up with getting a fair shake out of things no matter which way it turned.
And it finally wound up in Megan Green's lap here in Fairbanks to make some of the final decisions of how ‑‑ how it was going to be managed.
Section 12: I'm not sure, I think the Governor did the appointments on ‑‑ on the Trust Authority. There was five guys in there, five of them. Jeff Jessee, John Malone, one guy that knew Max, had about five or six of them. But I don't know who is still on there. I don't know who is left.
KAREN PURDUE: John is the original ‑‑ he's still a trustee.
VERN WEISS: He's still in there, huh?
KAREN PURDUE: Jeff is the director, executive director.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So just for the explanation for the people listening and for ourselves here, on the Usibelli, was ‑‑ what was the issue there in terms of had Usibelli purchased land that was originally trust land or was it different?
VERN WEISS: They were mining it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: They were mining it?
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay. And so a share of that was supposed to go back?
VERN WEISS: Yeah. I think it was around 10 ‑‑ 10 or 11 percent ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
VERN WEISS: ‑‑ to the mental health. And I'm not sure what ‑‑ what their budget was at any time. I'm going to say we were really turning into the trust at that point. All I know is that they were probably doing a better job than they did in the very beginning.
But Usibelli, they are just like any other big business here in Alaska, they run ‑‑ they run the show.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Uh‑hum.
VERN WEISS: They are going to get what they want whether you like it or not.
KAREN BREWSTER: Well, were those Mental Health Trust lands ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Yeah. They were ‑‑ they ‑‑
KAREN BREWSTER: ‑‑ that had been sold to them by the state?
VERN WEISS: I think what they did is they just leased it. They didn't ‑‑ they didn't own the property. They leased the rights to mine it.
KAREN BREWSTER: Okay.
VERN WEISS: I don't know how much there's ‑‑ there's... And up there all they have been doing as far as I know is strip mining, and then reclaiming the ‑‑ the ground, which I guess they are doing all right on that.
Section 13: BILL SCHNEIDER: When we were talking at lunch, you mentioned that you were also active over the years in setting up clinics?
VERN WEISS: Yeah, I set up four clinics.
BILL SCHNEIDER: When did you do that?
VERN WEISS: Right about 1990, '91.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Tell us about that.
VERN WEISS: Well, I found out that there was a ‑‑ there was some information in the ‑‑ at the commissioner's office about they were thinking about doing a grant up in the northern region of the Railbelt there, and I looked into it and it was just sitting there without any attention at all. It was just ‑‑ just a piece of paper then.
And I asked around and I said, what's ‑‑ what's the possibilities of getting that grant written and get us going? And that's four stations, one in Cantwell, one in Healy, one in Anderson and the main office is in Nenana. And the commissioner said yes.
And there was kind of a pinch on time, I think, there. I had about 48 hours to get that grant done, and Dr. ‑‑ what's his name? He worked for David Walker. With David Walker.
KAREN PURDUE: He worked with David Walker?
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
KAREN PURDUE: Dr. ‑‑ you mean he was working with the state or was he ‑‑
VERN WEISS: He was working with David Walker. He was a ‑‑ he was a colonel in the Air Force, I think.
KAREN PURDUE: We're talking about Railbelt Mental Health?
VERN WEISS: No, not Railbelt. I'm talking about ‑‑ it was this paperwork on the grant that had ‑‑ or I mean, the ‑‑ the proposal, I guess, was just laying in the commissioner's office, and they weren't activating it or doing anything with it, so I took it upon myself to get busy on something.
And in about 48 hours, I had a grant. And it was written down there. What's his name. Scholl.
KAREN PURDUE: Dennis?
VERN WEISS: Dennis Scholl. Dr. Scholl.
KAREN PURDUE: Yes, Dennis. Yes.
VERN WEISS: He wrote the grant. Or he helped write it. I got all the paperwork and said, well, there it is. I'd never wrote a grant in my life and didn't know the A from Z on those things. I needed help.
And then at first Dennis didn't want to have anything to do with it, and I just went over there with tears in my eyes, I wanted to have that grant bad. And he did it.
And then we came up here and had meetings, town meetings in Healy and at Nenana, and we invited the people in from Cantwell and Anderson to attend the meetings, and then we wound up taking in the Native tribes that were ‑‑ one tribe, the Athabascans, I believe, that we went into Copper Center.
So they are under that umbrella down there, too, on way up here. I don't know what the budget is anymore, but I'll bet it's pretty close to 7‑ or 800,000.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Did you benefit from that, or did Carl benefit from that?
VERN WEISS: I never drew a penny out of anything. All I got is my transportation paid for here and there.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Did ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Carl ‑‑ Carl didn't get anything, either. He just got his Social Security and that was it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But he didn't benefit from those services at that point?
VERN WEISS: Pardon?
BILL SCHNEIDER: But he didn't benefit from the services at that time?
VERN WEISS: Carl was getting services. Yeah, he was getting a lot of it. But it was just one right after another was a failure, one right after another. They would try one thing and then they would try something else, and ‑‑ and they ‑‑ he went through just about everything from ‑‑ you know, I think he tried out every quiet room in the country.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But when you were ‑‑ when were you working on this grant, this 48‑hour grant, was Carl still at home at that point?
VERN WEISS: Let's see. He was here in Fairbanks.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
KAREN BREWSTER: So he didn't ‑‑ once those clinics were set up, he was no longer needing their services?
VERN WEISS: Well, he didn't need the ‑‑ the counseling down there. That's mostly based around family issues and drug addictions and whatever. And then the ‑‑ the more complicated problems come here to Fairbanks.
BILL SCHNEIDER: How did you hear about that grant opportunity?
VERN WEISS: Well, it was ‑‑ it was through the commissioner's office. I don't remember exactly how. There was a ‑‑ I think it was probably Yvonne Jacobs that tipped me off. She always knew what was happening down there more than anybody, I think. And ‑‑
KAREN BREWSTER: Did you serve on the Mental Health Trust Authority Board after the lawsuit was settled?
VERN WEISS: No. No. I wasn't very well liked after I left.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Why was that?
VERN WEISS: I was too bullheaded on a few things. I knew we weren't getting a fair shake, or I had the ‑‑ you know, the intuition to know that there was some stuff going on that shouldn't have gone on. And I couldn't put a finger on it, but I knew it was wrong.
And they didn't want anybody in there that would do oversight on them. They all wanted ‑‑ they wanted the guys that was ‑‑ their heads were turned all in one direction, and their thoughts and issues were all about in line and that's the way it worked.
And it worked pretty well, I think, for quite a bit ‑‑ I would say about half, two‑thirds of the time, it was working okay, but there's other things that they are not paying attention to. They are selling land off the trust that's under priced.
Section 14: Now, this came out of Juneau just recently. There was, I think, 470 ‑‑ between 4 and 500 acres north of Juneau that went to contractors for a sum, right on the beach. And DNR had their fingers right in there as usual doing the deed. What do we want to do?
KAREN PURDUE: I don't want to mess up your interview. You know, I'd like to talk to you, but this is your day, let's talk about your things.
VERN WEISS: Well, my memory is full of holes on this because that's been a long time ago. And I had probably 6‑ or 700 pounds of paperwork.
KAREN PURDUE: Uh‑hum.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, it's amazing that you were involved as long as you were and even after Carl had left home. And you were pretty dedicated to it.
VERN WEISS: Well, I wanted to see it work. I wanted to see it work like it should. Because, like I say, we had ‑‑ even ‑‑ even Hammond was against it. And I was surprised. And he was one ‑‑ I think he was one of the guys that probably had ‑‑ was in on the ‑‑ a charter, the original charter for Alaska.
And then between Hammond and two or three other governors, they didn't want any trusts. In fact, they didn't even want the trust for this to be allowed for the university. They wanted to dissolve it because they were ‑‑ I mean, they thought there was Juneau over out ‑‑ it was going to affect the state's treasury and not give them enough revenues to do their business in Juneau, you know the song and dance.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, I guess that raises the overall question of how well has it worked out? How well has the idea of trust lands and a settlement worked out for people that need that mental health assistance?
VERN WEISS: I think they still need that. If it was really managed, that they should take DNR out of the mental health system, period. And have a management firm take care of that, take care of the revenues and the contracts and everything. Get them away from the government and ‑‑ and work it from that direction because we're not getting a fair shake.
There's ‑‑ land is the most valuable thing in the world. And that was one of the statements I made at the last ‑‑ one of the last hearings. I mean, you cannot replace it. It's there. You've got to use it, you know, you make your money off of it, you live off of it, you've got ‑‑ your future's there and the past is there, everything. It doesn't change.
Section 15: BILL SCHNEIDER: Let me ‑‑ let me ask one more question and then maybe the Karen's have questions.
You mentioned earlier that the environment ‑‑ environmentalists had held up the settlement. Could you elaborate on that?
VERN WEISS: I wish I had the list. We had ‑‑ number one, we had the Sierra Club. Trout ‑‑ trout fishermen, the trappers, and the ‑‑ the greenies side, I don't know who all they were. There was about a dozen of them just sitting there with their hand out. And the biggest ‑‑ the biggest one was the Sierra Club.
And I don't know how many attorneys they had, I know they had about three or four that I knew of. But they were always suing us about everything, every time we would take a turn, like picking up only the wells down in the Cook Inlet, or moving north and going into Prudhoe Bay, and doing ‑‑ doing something up there.
I don't know for sure how many places we picked on to trade off, you know, and get ‑‑ get back equal value that was stolen out of our trust, literally just taken out of it. They didn't ‑‑ they didn't probably exchange a dime hardly in a lot of cases.
But it ‑‑ whenever the ‑‑ whenever the Sierra Club would get done with one issue, they would send us ‑‑ send us a bill and we had to pay for it. The mental health paid for everything to be sued.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Now, what would you do?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, I'm a little confused. So you mean when there was an exchange that was going to take place, they would hold it up because they were concerned?
VERN WEISS: They would ‑‑ they would fight it for some reason or another, you know.
BILL SCHNEIDER: But how could they then bill you, bill the Mental Health Trust?
VERN WEISS: That's what I'd like to know. That's a good question.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Okay.
VERN WEISS: Why don't they ‑‑ why don't they do the state?
KAREN PURDUE: I don't know. I'm not familiar with that. I didn't understand that.
VERN WEISS: That's what was happening. I didn't understand it, either. Somebody was filling their pockets on it pretty darn healthy. I mean, it was up in the millions that they got us for just legal ‑‑ legal issues.
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, I guess the course in all the interviews we've been doing is the issue of making money off of land has really created issues with all sorts of different groups because of the competition for it.
VERN WEISS: You know, it ‑‑ well, look at Anchorage. It was ‑‑ 90 percent of that land, I think, down there was mental health, the flat area there. And all of it's developed. You're not going to get anything back out of that very easy. That's a trade‑off.
KAREN PURDUE: The original selections, you know, were around townsites, they did an excellent job around townsites and coal fields, and so on, and a lot of that land then had been given away by the state and/or by the statehood transfer. So Juneau's the same. There are large, large areas of Juneau that are ‑‑ still are Mental Health Trust.
VERN WEISS: Yeah, there is. And there's ‑‑ there's ‑‑ I don't know whether ‑‑ whether they changed the ‑‑ the trust lands there in Nenana, but there was several ‑‑ several sections of land north and west and a little bit south of us. And then east they had, I would say, about 15, 20 sections of land, at least, up the Tanana River.
And then the first big valley, just east of the railroad bridge, there's a huge valley back in there. And then they ran across this down south ‑‑ southeast of Nenana through ‑‑ across the river, some swampy land, some timber, and grassy stretches and ‑‑ in that area. But some of it's been homestead land for maybe three or four acres, lots and things like that.
But what's happening now ‑‑ I'll bet you in 20 years, if they open up the gas fields, you'll have gas wells right out here in your backyard. All the way to Holy Cross. Because they've got 3.3 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves in a 10‑mile section right there, just across the ‑‑ the Nenana River from us in Nenana.
Section 16: KAREN PURDUE: I have a couple of comments and then a question for you. The ‑‑ it's just amazing to me, like Bill said, how long you stuck with this. And it must have been ‑‑ it must have been given you a little thought when Steve Cowper came to you and said I want to put your name on this lawsuit and sort of put yourself out there on an issue that, you know, let's face it, in the old days, still even today, it's sort of a stigma to ‑‑ to talk about mental health issues.
VERN WEISS: Well, I had an aunt when I was a kid about that tall, I remember they had her in place in Annon, in Illinois. And she would sit around and pick the threads out of her dress all day long. And they would have to replace it. She would just pick it to pieces. And you couldn't keep her at home.
She was intelligent, she could read and write, nice, she wasn't mean or anything like that, but just couldn't function. And they kept her there all her life in a sanatorium, and that was the old way of doing things in those days, you just stored them away.
But what happened in those situations is if I didn't like you and you were my daughter, or you had a ‑‑ a husband or somebody that thought you was a little screwy or something, and put her in a sanatorium and that was it for you for the rest of your life. No getting out of it.
And now they overrode that and left, you know, since the mental health systems have been changed a lot in the last 25 years, 30 years, that's one thing they got rid of.
And then they went the opposite direction, they went, rolled over like we were talking about before, individual records and things were top secret. You could not move your mental health system in ‑‑ into the police station or your records, you couldn't get them to the FBI, you wouldn't give it ‑‑ not even the government, federal government could have access to it.
And that ‑‑ that seemed to be okay at first, but then what happened here a week ago in Virginia, that just blew that all to pieces. And you and I know that. I mean, if there's something wrong with somebody, they send them into school, they are a danger to themselves or somebody else around them, the school should know.
KAREN PURDUE: It's a struggle in our society back and forth.
VERN WEISS: Yeah. Yeah. Well, it's our Constitution. There's problems there that's not been right or righted for certain things.
KAREN PURDUE: Yeah. Like what you're saying is you ‑‑ as I hear you saying anyway, you know, that there were other family and other things you had seen, you felt like it was kind of a rights issue, an equal rights or justice issue for ‑‑ I don't want to put words in your mouth.
VERN WEISS: Well, it was ‑‑ yes. That's part of it, yeah. That was part of it. But it ‑‑ my ‑‑ my goal was to find out what the cause ‑‑ what was the cause, for sure, and if it's curable. We never came up with a valid answer. All those years that we had Carl in this system here, they never really evaluated him promptly or right. They would guess.
And, I mean, he had everything from schizophrenia to autism, and they had him under anger control treatments. They couldn't figure out what was really going.
But to be around a kid like that, you know darn well he's hearing everything, but he would ‑‑ and the only thing that would stick with him is some sort of a physical thing.
There was strong, big and strong, maybe they would pick up a boulder and throw it like Mr. ‑‑ what is that guy in ‑‑ the Black guy that used to be on a series? And Carl ‑‑ Carl thought that was the greatest guy in the world. He worshiped him.
Or anybody that drove a fast car or a big car, made a lot of noise. He would take Social Security and he'd spend all his money on gas just to ride with somebody that had a noisy car. You'd ask him where it went, he would never tell you. He would not. He would clam up like a clam and you couldn't get anything out of him.
KAREN PURDUE: Did you ever think, though, when Steve Cowper came to you that day and you put your name on that lawsuit that it would be 15 years and 600 feet of paper later? Did you ever think.
VERN WEISS: I never thought about it like that. I just thought it ‑‑ we've got a problem here and if we can help in some way to get it done ‑‑ I mean, to, you know, get it right, whatever's needed.
I had no idea about the Morningside or what was going on in Anchorage with the clinics down there, South-central. I didn't have any idea there. I never met anybody at all until I met the ‑‑ I was invited into the Mental Health Trust to ‑‑ or the ‑‑ it was Alaska Mental Health Association or something like that in Anchorage.
It wasn't ‑‑ it wasn't the state board or anything like that, never did get on that. I was on the ‑‑ on the ‑‑
KAREN BREWSTER: Is it the Alaska Alliance For the Mentally Ill?
VERN WEISS: Yeah. Alaska Alliance For the Mentally Ill. And I was also connected up with the national. I went out to two or three seminars ‑‑ two or three ‑‑ what do you call them ‑‑ not seminars, but ‑‑
KAREN BREWSTER: Conferences?
VERN WEISS: Conferences. Yeah.
KAREN PURDUE: Well, another question I had for you was about the time you talked about the land, how valuable the land was, and the land over time is way more valuable than money.
VERN WEISS: Right.
KAREN PURDUE: And I know that in the middle of the settlement and near the end, that was the big ‑‑ that was one of the big issues, and you kind of alluded to that, which was should there just be a land settlement or should it be a cash and a land settlement, or more cash, you know, less land, that kind of thing.
Section 17: And then also the issue, I think, that seems like one of the things the trust got was this sort of a governance idea, this idea of being involved with the trust and advising the Governor on the mental health appropriations and so on. So it's kind of a wandering question, but...
VERN WEISS: Was that through the Trust Authority?
KAREN PURDUE: Yeah, where they advised the Governor on this ‑‑
VERN WEISS: I never got into the bylaws on that end of it. I don't know whether ‑‑ what kind of ‑‑
KAREN PURDUE: But do you remember the time when there was the trade‑offs going on? Is that an accurate perception?
VERN WEISS: I don't have a ‑‑ I don't remember in detail anything like that. I just remember when they started kind of hinting around of who was going to be on the trust.
KAREN PURDUE: Yeah, but I mean on the issue of land versus money, and that whole issue.
VERN WEISS: That was not a very clear subject on ‑‑ for ‑‑ for me, or what David Walker or Jim Gottstein had on their minds.
That was a ‑‑ a decision, I think, was made in the court, and they just took what was, you know, done through the ‑‑ through the judges that made the decisions. There was a lot of proposals.
Well, now, you know, see, this lis pendens that we had where we couldn't ‑‑ we froze everything in the trust. You couldn't sell or buy.
And that ‑‑ that's what really stirred things up around the state and got everybody moving. And that ‑‑ so it pushed it towards a settlement sooner.
And then after ‑‑ after ‑‑ let's see. When did they lift it ‑‑ I don't think they lifted the lis pendens on the entire trust until sometime in the early '90s. It was still there. I'm almost sure it was.
And then after that, what we ‑‑ what we were striving to get was an equal trade. Land for land or a gold mine for a gold mine or maybe equivalent in oil, or whatever, you know, whatever.
And then we wanted the timber, some timber lands, you know, that had some value to it. And a lot of that would have been in south ‑‑ south ‑‑ Southeastern Alaska and some of the coastal forests down there, I think. But it was ‑‑ now, there's ‑‑ that's part of ‑‑ that's part of what the ‑‑ the way it's detailed, I didn't get to see all the details on those things.
There's one guy that had control over the mapping, and he and I got along pretty good, but I was more or less fascinated on what was going on in Denali because I had some friends down there that lost their mines, gold mines, and they told them just to shut down and leave their ‑‑ leave their sheds and everything there.
That Joe Jahola (phonetic) was one of them that he was the last depot chief or manager there in Nenana. And him and his wife, they had ‑‑ they had a good gold mine out there in the Kantishna area. And in fact, I got one of their old trucks they used to haul gas and stuff in out in ‑‑ out in that area in the summer.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you're saying the settlement, you feel, wasn't an equal deal?
VERN WEISS: No.
KAREN BREWSTER: Equally ‑‑
VERN WEISS: No. No. Not by any chance. What we ‑‑ what they ‑‑ the Trust Authority had no really choices to make because what ‑‑ what they did, when they ‑‑ when they said we could have the Chugach settlement, I don't know how many thousands of acres is in that. I have no idea.
But it was a heck of a lot of mountains, straight up and straight down. What are you going to do with a glacier? It kind of felt a little odd, you know. It's not very much ‑‑ not much you can do with that. And ‑‑
KAREN PURDUE: And I think that's why some of the money came forward, some of the cash came forward ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Could have been.
KAREN PURDUE: ‑‑ it seemed to me.
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
Section 18: KAREN BREWSTER: So what was -- during that whole 20 years of the settlement lawsuit and back and forth, what exactly was your role during that period?
VERN WEISS: I was just a representative for the public. People versus the state.
KAREN BREWSTER: So you would go to testify at things?
VERN WEISS: My attorneys did all the talking, I did the listening. I'll be frank with you, a lot of it went right over my head. I didn't even know what was going on for the first four or five years. It was soaking in, but I didn't know how much was really sticking. And sometimes you'd be pretty clear on what was going on and ‑‑ and I know ‑‑ I know a lot of times I went snooping around on my own, see what was happening.
I remember one of the guys that was on the other side, I used to try to get him to go out and have coffee. He said, I can't do that, Vern. Why not? He says, this ‑‑ this is not right. You just can't do it. Confidentiality.
BILL SCHNEIDER: So Vern, who were ‑‑ who were some of the heroes of this fight?
VERN WEISS: You know, I ‑‑ I would ‑‑ I just couldn't ‑‑ I would say David Walker would be. I think David was really trying to get a ‑‑ get something done right and so was Jim Gottstein.
Jim Gottstein had a problem, he was mentally ill when he was a kid, he pulled some pranks that almost lost his life over, and he ‑‑ and he more or less settled down and did pretty good. He's a real estate attorney.
And David was a ‑‑ an attorney for government issues. He knew ‑‑ he knew pretty well what was going on inside the ‑‑ inside the committees and everything like this.
He could sit at meetings and ‑‑ and we would go ‑‑ we would go in and listen to what the issues were about, and then David ‑‑ David ‑‑ I think they had about 30 ‑‑ 35 or 40 people working for them at the time, at the peak of it, right there in Anchorage. And David is somewhere in Virginia, I think. He moved out of town.
Section 19: KAREN BREWSTER: What about the opposite ‑‑ you just asked about heroes. What about the ‑‑ what's the opposite of heroes?
BILL SCHNEIDER: Being careful not to slander anyone.
VERN WEISS: Politically correct.
BILL SCHNEIDER: No. No, you don't even have to be politically correct.
KAREN BREWSTER: Who did you find that you may have had difficulties with?
VERN WEISS: Phil Volland, Jeff Jessee, John Malone. I told you about I locked heads with them, and Sharon Lobaugh. She come out in tears one day while we were in Sitka or someplace, just squabbling about something. I didn't even know what she was talking about.
KAREN BREWSTER: What were some of the issues you locked heads with?
VERN WEISS: It just ‑‑ it just was ‑‑ they ‑‑ the Alliance For the Mentally Ill in Alaska wanted me to represent them, and I didn't mind being, you know, a member of the group, but I was not going to lean towards just their ‑‑ their ideas and take the blame for whatever their favors were or whatever they wanted to present to the government or DNR, their complaints and all that sort of things.
It was basically around a half a dozen people, and we've mentioned most of them. And John Malone was after me more or less just to move it all the way over to the right on their side, and I didn't ‑‑ I didn't do that. Stayed in the middle.
I wanted ‑‑ I wanted to be as fair as possible and do what I could, but when ‑‑ when we ended that court sessions up here in Fairbanks, I was kind of glad to see the end of that.
And then I got involved in the Railbelt and carried that on for another six years, somewhere in there, board chairman for a while. And I organized a ‑‑ another outfit 35, 40 people to represent the Railbelt as an Alliance For the Mentally Ill, they called them RAMI.
And we had a full set of bylaws and a bank account, secretary, treasurer, and the whole works. And I knew as soon as I left that group it was going to die and it did. Just no interest.
Section 20: KAREN PURDUE: Did you ever talk to Steve Cowper after he became Governor or, you know, once he had to step out of the case, did you ‑‑
VERN WEISS: No. The only time ‑‑ yeah, me and Steve talked maybe about two or three minutes over the telephone one time. It was a question I had to ask him. And then he said, Vern, you know, I'm really sorry for some reasons about that mental health stuff.
He said, I ‑‑ I've had ‑‑ I brought a lot of people into it and it turned their lives upside down, made a big ‑‑ or just more or less absorbed their time. And maybe just turned in the wrong way where if they would have been going on the same track, it would have probably been okay.
But he was a little bit ‑‑ you know, I think he was a little ‑‑ what do I want to say. He was satisfied in one way, but dissatisfied in the other, disappointed that he hadn't ‑‑ that he kind of realized that he had pushed people too far. But basically, I think he was a pretty good guy.
KAREN PURDUE: Were you happy that he came in and asked you to do this? I mean ‑‑
VERN WEISS: I had no feelings one way or the other. I thought it was just an opportunity to do something for our community and our kids. And I didn't realize exactly what I was really going to be up to. And it's one of those things that will grow in your backyard and pretty soon you don't know ‑‑ you're out in the field with all the rest of them, wondering how you got there.
Because I got thousands of miles of travel all over this state back and forth between Juneau, Sitka, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Cincinnati. I didn't get back to Washington D.C. I kind of wanted to go back there. It's the only place I didn't really get into.
Section 21: KAREN BREWSTER: I have another question about the fact that this settlement took so long. And you sort of mentioned the environmentalists holding it up and suing. I'm wondering about the state in the Department of Natural Resources and your interactions with them, how that went.
VERN WEISS: DNR was very stubborn. They ‑‑ they were kind of going on their own ‑‑ out on their own hook and managing it and taking care of the selling the land and trading this and that. And they weren't making very good decisions for the mental health budgets that they needed appropriations annually.
I think what had happened, I'm not going to say for sure, but most ‑‑ a greater percentage of that and the benefits went into the ‑‑ the state's coffers. There wasn't any designated money coming back into the mental health department.
And Jim Gottstein was in there for a purpose. He ‑‑ he knew what it was to have mental illness himself, and other people around him, and he's ‑‑ he's ‑‑ he's a champion, a fighter for mental health rights. I ‑‑ you know, this ‑‑ this is a whole new chapter now and people don't even remember what happened. A few of us get a little spotty things, but ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Well, I think this has been really helpful.
VERN WEISS: But I think ‑‑ I think I can probably get you some documents about that high to the sky. Some of them are really important issues in the middle of it, some ‑‑
BILL SCHNEIDER: Yeah, and you had mentioned someone who interviewed you ‑‑
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: ‑‑ and we can work on getting that name and address, we'd like to ‑‑
VERN WEISS: I will.
BILL SCHNEIDER: ‑‑ work on that.
VERN WEISS: I'll get that. It's in my index at home.
Section 22: BILL SCHNEIDER: Thank you very much for taking the time today.
VERN WEISS: Well, I don't feel like I really gave you a fair, a straight enough ‑‑ I mean, enough information. I know there's a lot more there, but I just can't remember it.
BILL SCHNEIDER: I think your personal story is what's important.
VERN WEISS: Yeah.
BILL SCHNEIDER: And your son's.
VERN WEISS: Well, he's surviving.
KAREN PURDUE: Where is he now?
VERN WEISS: Surfing. He's in Honolulu.
KAREN PURDUE: Oh. That's wonderful.
VERN WEISS: He just wound up down there all of a sudden. And his mom was down there, that was his -- he found out about that and that's how he got ‑‑ how he went down there, looking for her. He didn't know where she lived, but he found her. I don't know how he did it.
He has ‑‑ he has a sense about traveling and directions. But when we traveled into the Midwest back in the early '80 ‑‑ well, mid '80s, I ‑‑ I didn't think he could read a map. But that little devil picked it up quicker than anybody. He knew what he was doing and he liked it.
KAREN PURDUE: So how old is he today? How old is he?
VERN WEISS: Let's see. He was born in 19 ‑‑ let's see. '70 ‑‑ December of '75 in Providence.
Section 23: KAREN BREWSTER: Is there anything else that you wanted to talk about that we haven't asked the questions about?
VERN WEISS: You know, I ‑‑ I don't know whether anybody wants to go political on it, but I'd like to see somebody initiate a move to open this up again and challenge DNR on their transactions down in Juneau, to start with.
And also to make challenges against the contract with Fort Knox, their ‑‑ I don't think they are getting a fair shake at all.
I could be wrong, you know, as rumors are, and I haven't been active in the middle of things, and people have told me this several times, and that's what's going on up there right now. They are cooking the books.
They are ‑‑ there's two ways of doing a contract. And if a guy's not honest and they got the gold mine, like these people up here do, they can write a contract to you and say, okay, here you are, you're going to get 10 percent, 20 percent, or 50 percent, but you're only ‑‑ you're ‑‑ but when do you get it?
You don't ‑‑ you don't get it at the end of it because this is what they want you to do, or wind up with, is there's ‑‑ all the money is spent by the time that it gets to you, and your royalties aren't collectible, they are broke.
What you want to do is get right off the top of the wellhead or right at the mine, what's coming out there daily, or weekly, or monthly. And that's how you get your ‑‑ get your full amount. Watch your ‑‑ watch your contracts. Because contractors are crooked. There's hundreds of them around that will do it.
And the Canadians. I don't trust them, I don't trust Gibraltar Mines, I don't trust BP, Conoco Phillips, any of them. They are just ‑‑ I read the paper the other day, do you know how much that Permanent Fund is up to now? $37 billion. That's what it's sitting on now. We could buy out that dern pipeline up there, all of us.
BILL SCHNEIDER: All right. Thank you.