School district seeks to stay afloat in a sea of economic challenges

Some people believe the school year is a marathon, but I liken it to a 400-meter run — the toughest race to run. We have precious hours, minutes and seconds with students in the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District. Our nearly 8,800 students with diverse backgrounds and learning needs require parents, support staff, teachers and administrators to maintain focus, while moving briskly to meet their varied needs. We do this to keep students on track to achieve success and a meaningful high school diploma. In a few short months, several hundred students will walk across a stage to receive a diploma, and head into their future beyond K-12 education. It seems like a long race, but it happens fast.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Oil prices should not determine spill prevention

Among the many lessons learned from the Exxon Valdez oil spill was that it was almost inevitable. “Success bred complacency; complacency bred neglect; neglect increased the risk—until the right combination of errors finally led to an accident of disastrous proportions.” (Alaska Oil Spill Commission 1990.)
To combat that complacency, Congress created Regional Citizens Advisory Councils. As long as oil is moved, explored or developed in the waters from Cook Inlet and Prince William Sound it will be subject to citizen oversight to protect those and nearby water bodies. Congress recognized that regardless of advances in oil spill prevention and response there will always be risks.

Let’s keep local sandhill cranes safe

For the past few weeks, Kachemak Crane Watch has been receiving reports of sandhill cranes walking roads in town that are very busy with speeding cars and near power lines. Callers are asking why cranes are in this part of town, in the middle of the street. Many callers are concerned for the cranes and noted people in the area are feeding them corn to attract the cranes to their homes.
When I have given Kachemak Crane Watch presentations about cranes and folks ask if it is OK to put out corn, I tell them corn should not be put out to attract cranes if they live near power lines, near a busy street or congested areas where cranes walk down or alongside the road, or where cranes crossing the road might get hit by a car.

It’s time for Homer to move forward

Now that summer has faded into autumn, attention turns to the work of community. My comments are based on observations and professional activities in the engineering and construction trades.
It is painfully obvious that we are faced with dwindling state and city financial resources, thus local attention should be paid to improving the existing industries necessary to sustain our community. The city should consider spending money wisely to improve commerce.

Why I will vote ‘no’ on HEA exemption

In October 2016, Homer Electric Association will ask members to vote to exempt HEA from regulation by the Regulatory Commission of Alaska. On its website, HEA urges its members to vote for “local control,” to give the Board of Directors oversight of the cooperative.
On the HEA website, and in its August Courier, HEA lists three potential benefits of exemption from RCA regulation — or what HEA terms “local control.” I will address each of these three points as I explain my reasons for voting “NO” on my ballot in October.
Assurance that locally elected leaders are driving the decision making of our utility.

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