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Alaska editorials

November 26, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Nov. 25, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: A needed step against illegal camps: The challenge is to get homeless residents into existing shelters

Removing the illegal campsites of homeless people is a delicate affair. It’s delicate because the people living in such places may have problems that the more fortunate among us can’t fully understand.

Those problems may involve mental health. They may involve physical health that has precluded employment and, therefore, regular housing. They may be purely economic, for it is said that millions of people across the nation are just one paycheck away from homelessness.

Nevertheless, last week’s decision by the Fairbanks City Council to put into city code a process by which the Police Department can eliminate illegal campsites on public property is a necessary step.

As noted in the ordinance that established the new code, these illegal campsites don’t have trash and human waste facilities. Aside from being unsightly, the lack of those facilities is a health risk to the people living in the campsites. And these camps sometimes breed illegal activity.

The creation of the campsite removal ordinance would be a problem if the city didn’t have ample places for people to stay. The ordinance notes, however, that the city “does not have a shortage of safe shelter options for the homeless population.” Some people are simply choosing to not use those valuable resources, so the city has chosen to empower the Police Department to remove the campsites.

There won’t be raids aimed at closing campsites, however. That’s because the city has taken care to require that plenty of notice be given to the people living in these camps that it’s time to pack up. That applies to camps on public land that hasn’t been posted with signs warning against trespassing or illegal camping. Anyone found camping on public land that does have those signs, however, will be given only one hour to remove their belongings. There’s also an allowable appeal to the mayor, making it clear that the city has taken care to treat camp residents with dignity.

Especially important is the inclusion of a provision requiring that an individual’s personal property be stored for a limited time if that person is not there to retrieve it at the time the camp is being cleared.

Police Chief Eric Jewkes, speaking at Monday’s council meeting, noted the importance of respecting the personal property of a homeless person.

“We know they’re people. We know that even though it may be stuff and it may look like junk, it’s all they have, and it’s important to them, so we don’t take that for granted,” he said.

That statement alone should give residents every reason to believe that the Police Department will humanely enforce this necessary addition to the city code. The remaining challenge is to coax those who occupy these camps to use the shelter that is available in the community.

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Nov. 26, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Set a deadline

Alaska’s congressional delegation — along with all in Congress — should address the problem of migrant caravans, immigration and border security. It’s a humanitarian issue, which has far too long been a political pawn.

Most of the immigrants wouldn’t leave their homes in other countries if life there offered security and opportunity. Folks like to be at home.

Of course, some migrants have problems of their own; they’re criminals connected to drug cartels. That’s another aspect of the immigration crisis.

Some in the caravans, and even some who had reached the U.S./Mexican border, have already returned home. Some by not being allowed asylum in the United States and others by choice.

If Congress seriously wanted to deal with the problem — whether it’s the Democrat-controlled House or the Republican-dominated Senate — it would begin by setting a deadline. A hard deadline for a solution.

In truth, some members of Congress do wish to address the concerns of this nation as it pertains to the issues mentioned above. But others simply want to be contrary.

Both sides should agree to penalties to be imposed on themselves if they don’t reach a consensus by a deadline about how to handle the crisis in the best interests of all concerned. Then get to work on the solution or solutions.

The first step in coming to resolution is to set a deadline. It needs to be both House and Senate leadership, working with the executive branch — preferably by giving their word and honoring it — committed to the deadline.

Solutions come quickest when a deadline is set by honorable men and women.

If they aren’t honorable, then Congress isn’t their rightful place.

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Nov. 25, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Shop local every day. Your community will benefit.

Officially, “Small Business Saturday” takes place two days after Thanksgiving, a shopping holiday designed by American Express to promote local businesses often overlooked in the Black Friday rush. But even if you don’t remember to make a point of shopping local on the designated day, shopping local on any day is just as important. And make no mistake, investing in businesses that invest in our communities is vitally important. There are few choices you can make as a consumer that have greater local impact than to keep your money supporting businesses and people close to home.

Alaska knows a thing or two about small businesses and startup culture. Last year, the nonprofit Kauffman Foundation ranked our state third in the U.S. for the number of new businesses per capita. What’s more, Alaska leads in helping close the gender gap in business ownership: Alaska has the highest rate of woman-owned startups of any state, according to the foundation’s analysis. Certainly, there is room for improvement: The state has historically been poor at scaling up new businesses beyond a handful of employees, and the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation found shortcomings related to high-tech needs such as software development, ranking Alaska near the bottom for knowledge workers.

Alaska’s local businesses contribute a great deal to the state’s economic well-being. Small businesses are among the most optimistic sectors of the Alaska economy, with 94 percent of the participants in a 2017 survey by the Alaska Small Business Development Center indicating they planned to expand or grow their business. And the multiplier effect that comes from money remaining in our community and being recycled between local merchants, rather than exported to Outside businesses, has powerful benefits that lift up not only business owners, but also their employees and the communities they serve. Local businesses keep millions of dollars circulating in our cities and we are all the richer for it, however indirectly.

Ultimately, one of the most powerful arguments to shop locally is not economic but personal. It’s hard — perhaps impossible — to put an economic value on a local used bookstore where the cashiers are people you grew up with and who text you when a book comes in they know you’d like. It’s hard to put a price on being able to walk down the street to a bakery owned by one of your neighbors, where they give away free hot chocolate to trick-or-treaters on Halloween. It’s hard to quantify what it means to go to a pizza place and know that you’re helping make fellow Alaskans’ dreams come true by supporting them.

So shop local, today and every day. This is Alaska, of course, and there are plenty of items for which we’ll always rely on larger retailers based Outside. There’s no need to worry about endangering their livelihood. But purchasing items crafted locally, from beer to art to furniture to clothing, contributes to our communities in ways far beyond what we can measure. When you can, support businesses close to home.

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