Fiscal plan must strengthen Permanent Fund

Although I am in agreement with many of Gov. Bill Walker’s proposals to balance Alaska’s budget, I do not agree with his plan to restructure the Permanent Fund and to cap the Permanent Fund dividend to help balance the budget. I believe the Permanent Fund and the dividend must remain permanent and unaltered for the benefit of all Alaskans, both now and in the future.
There has been much discussion regarding Alaska’s worsening fiscal woes, precipitated mainly by the drop in oil prices and declining production. But much responsibility for our huge deficit must be laid at the feet of government, which historically has encouraged bloated spending while refusing to address the growing budget with proactive cost containment or revenue-enhancing measures.

Alaska needs to open discussion about alcohol addiction, recovery

Like many Alaskans, our family hosted more than a dozen visitors from out of state this summer. Most of them fell in love with our state on bright, sunshine-filled days as they gazed at gorgeous glaciers and salmon splashing in the streams. It’s hard not to love Alaska in the summer, and more than a few of these visitors professed intentions to return, some to stay. They started asking questions about the winter, the culture, the economy.
Inevitably, the conversation would always turn to the tough facts — our high rates of domestic violence, sexual assault, child abuse, seasonal depression and alcoholism. Now, add to that the rising rates of opioid use and addiction, and the shiny package seems to lose its luster.

Working together to prevent suicide

Next week is National Suicide Prevention Week, Sept. 5 – 11. World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10.
Alaska has a high rate of suicide. In 2014, according to the CDC, our state was ranked second in the nation for death by suicide. In that same year, Alaska was rated the highest in the nation for youth ages 15-24, to die by suicide.

North Slope gas: ‘You dig, or we will’

In the final stages of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, many quit their jobs prior to the completion of TAPS because they wanted to be first in line to work on the gasline. Alaska expected construction to begin that quickly, but that was nearly 40 years ago. Efforts to monetize the billions of dollars of stranded North Slope gas, such as the projects advanced by the Yukon Pacific Corporation and the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, did not materialize — primarily due to lack of access to gas. For the first time, Alaska now has assurances by the North Slope leaseholders that the gasline project will have access to North Slope gas.
World-renowned energy analyst Wood Mackenzie recently evaluated the economic viability of the currently structured AKLNG project and concluded the existing model of multiple producers owning and financing the project will not work. The producers agreed, but testified before the Joint Resources Committee that the project itself is not dead. In BP-Alaska’s testimony, for example, the company equated the significance of the project to its portfolio to a billion barrels of oil — a project they urged should continue to go forward.

Letters – Sept. 8

Rounding up thank-yous I would like to extend a heartfelt thank you to the numerous event participants, volunteers and those who contributed to the 2016 Rounds for the Rink on Aug. 20. The annual fundraiser benefits the Homer Hockey Association and Kevin Bell Arena. Thank you to the hole sponsors: Café Cups, the Grog Shop, […]

Tribal court leaders discuss banishment, baggage checks for liquor and drugs

In some villages, tribal courts have banished offenders for bootlegging and domestic violence. In others, tribal courts are conducting searches of passengers on incoming flights to stop the flow of alcohol and other drugs.
In a three-day conference this week on tribal court development, speakers mentioned these and other enforcement steps as examples of how tribal court operations are taking shape in Alaska, including some steps that would not be permitted under state and federal laws.

Alaskans deserve fair and honest elections

Fair and honest elections are the bedrock on which our democracy is built. They allow us to settle our differences with the pen instead of the sword that plagues so much of the rest of the world today.
Fair and honest elections should not be allowed to become a partisan issue in this state. Fair and honest elections are not a Democrat issue or a Republican issue. They are an all-Alaska issue.
Problems have been detected in the primary election held on Aug. 16 of this year. Yes, a majority of the problems have popped up in a Democrat primary in Northwest Alaska, but clean elections are not a regional problem. They are an all-Alaska problem.

Law banning small homes counter to Alaska values

Last week, Wasilla banned tiny houses. The city said it was concerned that the tiny homes would encourage ghetto-like conditions if the small, compact homes so popular in Lower 48 cities these days were to be rented out at budget prices. So, to prevent that from happening, the same council who allowed a parade of box stores into their community said single family dwellings must be 700 square feet or larger.
The tiny home craze has caught on with many, especially those looking for a way out of cost-prohibitive housing prices in large cities. While many city codes require homes of a certain size, building a small home on the bed of a typical flatbed trailer bypasses that code because the structure is no longer permanent. Instead, it’s a mobile.
Advocates for these small homes say they are the answer to the housing crisis many face in urban areas. They are typically built with all the features of a larger home, just on a much smaller scale (think boat cabin galley-size stoves and sinks).

Let’s talk, not litigate, over Indian Country in Alaska

Since we came into office, the topic of tribes placing lands into trust in Alaska has engendered some of the most passionate comments and concerns we have heard on any issue.
Many believe this action will further empower tribes to become more self-sufficient while improving the quality of life throughout rural Alaska — a goal we all share.
Those with strong state’s rights convictions are concerned it may weaken state authority and make an already overly complicated fish and game management system more difficult and impact the constitutional requirement of sustained yield.

Letters to the Editor – Sept. 1

You — and your kids — are what you eat With the new school year starting, parents’ to-do lists are now filled with shopping for school clothes, school supplies and school food. That’s right — school food! In past years, our nation’s schools were used by the USDA as a dumping ground for surplus meat […]

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