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Alaska editorials

November 12, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Nov. 8, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Do the right thing

Alaska likes to do the right thing.

Alaska and the United States are wealthy by most standards; most Alaskans have what’s absolutely necessary.

So when another need arises, it’s appropriate to work together to meet it.

Such is the case with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s nutrition assistance programs.

The USDA has decided to buy up to $30 million of Alaska seafood for its various nutrition programs. The seafood of focus is pollock.

Now, it’s not all about meeting the need of consumers. It will help the commercial pollock industry, as well. It has been affected by the retaliatory tariffs from China. These tariffs come in response to tariffs imposed by the United States on China.

The USDA decision will help fishermen and Alaska’s coastal communities.

But it also will provide food — and a healthy one at that — for Americans who benefit from the USDA nutrition programs, often including lunches in schools across the country.

This is a win-win for Alaska and Alaskans, which is the result of Alaska’s senators — Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan — pursing the prospect with the USDA.

This is the result of effective Alaskans in Washington, D.C., where getting the right thing done is something to applaud.

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Nov. 11, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Veterans have shaped Alaska through their service

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A century ago, the “war to end all wars” came to its official end in a rail car in Europe, taking effect at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Known as Armistice Day, the event became an official U.S. holiday to remember the contributions of those who had fought in the war, and in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower expanded its scope to commemorate the service of all U.S. veterans, renaming it Veterans Day.

Since the days of the American Revolution, the U.S. has owed a great debt to its service members, one not quantifiable in any list of victories or policy accomplishments. An incredible 16.1 million U.S. veterans are alive today who have served in at least one war, from World War II to Afghanistan. Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita of any U.S. state; one in 10 Alaskans is a veteran.

Alaska has always depended heavily upon the contributions of veterans — even before its military infrastructure was expanded during World War II, the first World War was a massive influence on the territory. When the U.S. signaled it would join the war effort in Europe, many of the young men who worked on small mining claims in Alaska went Outside to enlist. A total of 10,000 Alaskans enlisted, some of whom died in service to their country. Others perished in the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, and some never returned to Alaska upon completing their service. The combined effect of the war and the flu devastated the territory, decimating some towns and accelerating the move toward corporate mining.

The story of veterans in Alaska can’t be told in numbers. It’s better expressed in stories like that of Alaska-born Medal of Honor recipient Archie Van Winkle. A staff sergeant in the Korean War, Van Winkle and his unit came under attack by a larger North Korean force. He “boldly spearheaded a determined attack through withering fire,” Van Winkle’s citation reads, going on to say that “though he and all the others who charged with him were wounded, (he) succeeded in enabling his platoon to gain the fire superiority and the opportunity to reorganize.” Wounded in the arm and chest from enemy fire and a hand grenade, “he staunchly refused evacuation and continued to shout orders and words of encouragement to his depleted and battered platoon.”

Alaska has ties to other Medal of Honor recipients with similarly harrowing stories — Drew Dix, who earned his medal as a staff sergeant in Vietnam, finished his service at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and retired in the Interior, where he still lives. And medical sergeant Ronald J. Shurer, born in Fairbanks, was awarded the Medal of Honor earlier this year for his heroism in a 2008 battle in which he saved the lives of four critically wounded U.S. soldiers and 10 injured Afghan commandos until teammates arrived.

Casualty counts have fallen in recent conflicts as the U.S. military shifts to tactics and technology that limits exposure of large masses of troops to enemy fire. But in some regards, war never changes. Our understanding of the effects of combat service on veterans is increasing, but we still suffer major deficits in our ability to treat not just physical wounds but also post-traumatic stress disorder and the psychological burden of war. We must continue to do better for those who have done their best for us.

A century after the “war to end all wars,” it’s clear that war has not and will not end, despite our continuing, essential pursuit of that goal. Whether their service is performed fighting the wars we cannot avoid or deterring the ones we can, America’s veterans are owed a great debt by our nation, and one that we should remember on this day and all others.

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Nov. 10, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Time to put university lands in its own hands

The subject of transferring more state land to the University of Alaska so that the university can manage it as a revenue source to supplement its budget shouldn’t seem like a controversial subject. The university has been managing land for revenue for years.

And yet the idea of giving more land to the university has proved time and again to be a difficult task.

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy, in a wide-ranging meeting with the Daily News-Miner editorial board two weeks before the election, discussed giving more state land to the university. He’s clearly a strong supporter of the idea and seems unfazed by the prospect of environmental groups filing lawsuits to block any such transfer.

A governor doesn’t have the authority to unilaterally transfer land to the university. The transfer would have to first be in the form of a bill approved by the Legislature and then sent to the governor for signing. And that’s where previous land transfers to the university have fallen apart.

Former Gov. Tony Knowles, who served from 1994 to 2002, vetoed university lands legislation three times. The Legislature overrode his third veto, in 2000, but Gov. Knowles refused to recognize the override, saying it required a three-quarters vote of the joint Legislature because the lands transfer was akin to an appropriations bill, which under the Alaska Constitution require the higher veto override threshold. The Legislature’s override was on a vote of 41-19, however, barely achieving the two-thirds total required to override nonappropriations bills.

The Legislature sued to force Gov. Knowles to recognize the veto override and to implement the land transfer, and the case found its way to the Alaska Supreme Court, which ruled in the Legislature’s favor. The Alaska Center for the Environment, the Northern Alaska Environmental Center, and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council also became involved.

Nearly four years had passed from the date of the governor’s veto to the date of the Supreme Court’s decision.

So you can clearly see that university lands bills are easily contentious.

But that shouldn’t stop the new governor and the next Legislature from trying.

And Gov.-elect Dunleavy doesn’t seem to be one who will shy from a fight.

“There’s got to be a discussion with folks in the state of Alaska,” Mr. Dunleavy said in his meeting with the Daily News-Miner editorial board. “If we want these programs, we have to be able to produce revenue to support these programs. And if we have land that we can monetize, that has minerals on it, timber on it, you name it, we should be able to do that. That was the purpose of the land, especially for things like the university and the Mental Health Trust Fund.

“So some of these same groups that are suing and preventing that land from being monetized are some of the same people that want more spending in programs,” he said. “Well how do you get that? Just take it from you and give it to him when we have all these possibilities in terms of resource development? So that’s what I would do with university: Sit down with them, work with them on identifying land, and getting ready for the lawsuits I guess that people would send our way.”

The University of Alaska needs more land. It should have more land.

A 1993 report by Terrence Cole, chairman the University of Alaska Fairbanks History Department at the time, includes a history of the university’s land grants. It explains how the university’s land grant fell victim to Alaska statehood:

“With the passage of the Alaska statehood bill in 1958, the university’s legal rights to further land under the 1915 (land grant) reservation were extinguished. The statehood act repealed the 1915 reservation because Congress apparently believed the enormous statehood entitlement of more than 103 million acres — far larger than that of any other state in American history — would provide sufficient resources so that the 49th state could adequately support its university.”

“Alaska Delegate E.L. ‘Bob’ Bartlett agreed with the majority of Congress that by not targeting specific amounts of land for specific purposes, such as had traditionally been done for the support of higher education elsewhere, the new state would have greater flexibility and more control of its own affairs.”

“But the cost of this greater freedom in land choice was a vastly smaller educational land grant for Alaska.”

There’s one important caution that should accompany any effort to give the university more land for income generation, however: It can take a long time for any additional land to lead to actual income, so legislators and the governor shouldn’t think they can reduce the university’s budget instantly, if that is indeed their intention in giving the university more land. The university’s budget has been cut several times in recent years already.

With that point acknowledged, let’s hope the next governor and next Legislature can agree on a plan to get more land into the university’s hands.

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