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Alaska Editorials

August 27, 2018

Here is a sampling of Alaska editorials:

Aug. 22, 2018

Ketchikan Daily News: Edible Alaska

When the governor signed a seed bank bill in Palmer, it’s likely Ketchikan hardly noticed.

First, Palmer is more than 775 miles north of here.

Second, it’s peppered with farmland, and Ketchikan doesn’t farm.

It doesn’t farm. It grows in greenhouses during a summer like this. Or maybe a few outdoor gardens. Local produce is coming from one or the other, and it’s been wonderful to taste.

Fresh cucumbers. Fresh tomatoes. Fresh beans. They make a delicious and healthy meal when combined with wild salmon or halibut. The meal can be topped off with a pie made with locally picked blueberries.

This goes to show that Alaska can feed itself.

The importance of that was spelled out by Gov. Bill Walker.

He signed a bill that helps to establish community seed banks.

The bill notes the importance of Alaskans sharing local knowledge and resources pertaining to agriculture — whether farms, greenhouses or gardens — and what seeds have been tried and tested for success in Alaska. It speaks to grains, fruits and vegetables, as well as flowers and other commercially viable plants.

Walker pointed out that when Alaska became a state, Alaska grew 50 percent of its food. It grows 5 percent today.

When you think about it, food production reduces reliance on other states and nations to feed Alaska. It decreases the costs of shipping food to Alaska. It’s an investment in local farmers, businesses, communities and the state’s economy.

And agriculture isn’t all that different from commercial fisheries about which Ketchikan is well informed.

Alaska should do all it can be become self-reliant when it comes to its food. This bill, which was signed oh so far away, is significant to Ketchikan.

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Aug. 26, 2018

Anchorage Daily News: Dimond incident reminds that hazing is always harmful

On a trip to Fairbanks for a game against Lathrop last weekend, members of the Dimond High School football team are alleged to have committed an egregious hazing incident that, according to some reports, constituted sexual assault. Anchorage police are investigating; the team’s game this week was canceled, and Superintendent Deena Bishop underscored the seriousness of what is said to have happened. The allegations of what happened shock the conscience. If they are substantiated, serious consequences for the team and those responsible will be warranted. But even without an objective account yet established of what happened, one thing should be recognized as true: Hazing, in all its forms and at all its levels of severity, is harmful and unacceptable. We should all stand against it.

There has been backlash against the use of the term ‘hazing’ to describe what is alleged in the Dimond incident. Many feel it minimizes the severity of what happened. Although we should certainly guard against the use of euphemism to distance ourselves from the truth of an incident, the fact of the matter is that regardless of what happened at Lathrop last weekend, it was hazing. Like assault, hazing encompasses a spectrum of behavior that ranges in seriousness from putting people in fear of harm to causing them grave injury. And, also like assault, there is no point along that spectrum that is acceptable.

One doesn’t have to go far to find how dangerous hazing can be: On Friday, a Pennsylvania court heard arguments in the case of a college freshman who died of injuries he sustained in 2017 while being hazed before entry to a fraternity. Closer to home, two hazing incidents in 1999 put a cloud over the season of Service High School’s football team, and a 2005 paddling incident at West High led to the suspension of nine upperclassmen.

Fortunately, hazing incidents that approach the level of severity of what is alleged to have happened during the Dimond incident are relatively rare. But hazing that takes the form of shaming others or bullying them is commonplace, and it too can have serious negative impacts on students. The legacy of harassment, abuse and humiliation stretches far beyond the incident itself, for years and even decades afterward. And although some claim zero-tolerance policies for hazing are evidence that young people today are somehow weaker or less resilient than those of previous generations, that’s just not accurate.

Make no mistake, team bonding is vitally important. But there are ways to promote unity and cohesion among athletes and group members that don’t involve coercion or compulsion to embarrass one another. It’s the responsibility of our adults, coaches, group leaders, parents — all of us — to teach our children proper limits, good judgment and respectful behavior. Hazing is a clear signal that we have failed in that mission.

Ultimately, there’s no way to ensure that what one person feels is an acceptable way to establish a bond or bring others into a group is acceptable to another except by their free, uncoerced consent. And in a state that regularly ranks at the top for the worst rates of sexual assault, every Alaskan must be crystal clear on the importance of consent and the right of every person to feel safe. Teaching those lessons and being consistent about them means we cannot accept hazing as acceptable in any form, under any circumstances. If we see it, we must speak against it, and stop it if we can. We owe that to each other.

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Aug. 23, 2018

Alaska Journal of Commerce: Thank you for not voting

Forgive two movie references between the headline and this lead, but Everything is Awesome if turnout is any indication about how Alaskans are feeling about the state of the state.

Recession, unemployment, negative migration, addiction, crime and the Permanent Fund Dividend have dominated the news and internet comments for the past three years, yet fewer than 1 in 5 Alaskans cast ballots in the Aug. 21 primary.

There are plenty of good reasons for that. The Democrat race for governor was essentially uncontested, there was no U.S. Senate race or ballot initiatives, the incumbent Gov. Bill Walker wasn’t on the ballot and as usual many House and Senate races had fewer choices than an election in North Korea.

As expected, former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy crushed latecomer and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell in the GOP primary by a 2-1 margin. Treadwell, who vastly overestimated his name recognition and ability to parachute into the race at the filing deadline as a last-ditch alternative to Dunleavy for the party establishment, sang a song of sour grapes as the results came in.

“We have to bring the Republican Party together because right now the ideas that we brought forward on trying to save jobs, build jobs in this economy, having experienced people run this thing, we did not get very much attention,” Treadwell told the Anchorage Daily News. “The biggest issue was who was tallest.”

Unconstrained by holding any elected office, Treadwell had more than a year to run, make his case and raise money to earn the GOP nod — there was even a gap where Dunleavy suspended his campaign for health reasons — but he apparently believed he could stroll to a win in a couple months if only he’d gotten more attention.

Note to Mead: You can’t beat something with nothing, and looking for scapegoats anywhere but the mirror is a bigger waste of time than your short-lived campaign.

But back to the turnout, which while largely explainable was baffling in a few notable contested races.

In Eagle River, the race to fill former Sen. Anna MacKinnon’s seat between two well-known politicians was a blowout win for Rep. Lora Reinbold over Rep. Dan Saddler by nearly 800 votes but fewer than 5,000 people voted in a district of nearly 29,000 registered voters.

In House District 25, House Minority Leader Charisse Millett was sacked by newcomer Josh Revak with neither accumulating even 1,000 votes. With turnout of just 11 percent, Revak had a lead of 916 to 685 in a district with more than 14,000 voters.

But wait, it gets worse.

Over in Muldoon, House Rules Chair and the Legislature’s most prolific fundraiser Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux couldn’t even turn out 300 people to vote for her.

She ended the night trailing by 3 votes, 294-291, and may yet pull out a win, but it is still a pathetic showing for the would-be kingmaker.

LeDoux and Millett, who both voted for fully funding the PFD this past session, may well go down to defeat, and even in races where candidates made it an issue the results were decidedly mixed.

Paying a “full” dividend is just not an animating issue for the majority of Alaskans, despite what Dunleavy’s win might indicate.

The issue did appear to bite a member of the Senate Majority leadership with Peter Miccicche trailing by 12 votes in his race on the Kenai Peninsula.

But like Millett, his loss, if it holds, can just as easily be blamed on complacency as a reduced PFD that is still bigger than all but seven that have been paid in state history.

Whether the internet-amplified anger over the PFD translates to a Legislature that will send a formula-funded dividend to the governor’s desk remains to be seen, but if Tuesday was any indication the issue did not drive turnout in any race.

The math of a three-way contest rather than the math of calculating the PFD still appears to be the most decisive factor heading into November.

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Aug. 23, 2018

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Voter turnout was abysmal

Alaska’s primary election has come and gone and voter turnout was abysmal.

Fewer than 1 in 5 registered voters in Alaska participated. The upshot? The 2018 primary election voter turnout of 18.2 percent was nearly 1 percent higher than the 2016 primary election. That’s an improvement, but still sad. There is generally a giant leap in excitement and participation from the primary to the general election. With only one contested local legislative primary — Bart LeBon handily dispatched his opponent, Wolfgang Falke — it’s easy to see why participation was lacking. It should be noted these numbers are with 98.64 percent of votes being counted.

Even so, the Daily News-Miner remains ever optimistic in its resolve to encourage voter participation and civic engagement.

History reveals a heartening trend that voter participation will increase dramatically for the coming Nov. 6 general election. In 2016, the Alaska general election saw 60.77 percent voter turnout, up from 17.22 percent in the primary that year. Even in 2014, a year without a presidential election, there was a near 20 percent increase from 39.02 percent to 56.08 percent. The high turnout in 2014 may have been from the marijuana legalization initiative.

Hopefully history will repeat itself and Alaska’s voter turnout will improve markedly in the general election, which offers the following ballot choices:

. It should not surprise anyone that U.S. Rep. Don Young won the Republican primary with more than 70 percent of the vote in a three-way primary. He has 22 elections of campaign experience under his belt. At age 85, he is the longest-serving member of the House, and he seems sharp as ever. His challenger is Alyse Galvin, an independent who secured the Democratic primary with more than half the votes in a four-way race. Her following appears to be a threat to Rep. Young but will it be enough?

. It appears that Democrats, some moderates and some independents, are already chafing at the idea of former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich and Gov. Bill Walker splitting the vote. This, the argument goes, gives GOP gubernatorial candidate Mike Dunleavy the upper hand. Under the current circumstance, is Mr. Dunleavy’s campaign for governor good as won? Supporters of Mr. Begich and Gov. Walker have a valid argument.

. Locally, the general election will feature more contests than the primary. Mr. LeBon will face Assemblywoman Kathryn Dodge for House District 1 in Fairbanks.

. In House District 2, east Fairbanks, Assemblyman Van Lawrence, a Democrat, is challenging four-term GOP Rep. Steve Thompson.

. Republican Rep. Tammie Wilson is unopposed for House District 3 in North Pole.

. In House District 4, Ester and Goldstream, Democrat Grier Hopkins and Republican Jim Sackett will compete for a spot left vacant by Rep. David Guttenberg who announced his retirement after the legislative session.

. In District A, Senate President Pete Kelly is being challenged by Rep. Scott Kawasaki, who is house majority leader. Of all the legislative races, this one could offer the most fireworks since it pits these two legislative leaders — each of them have brought contrasting political ideologies to Juneau — against each other.

. Republican Sen. Click Bishop will run unopposed in Senate District C.

. And there is icing on the cake: the controversial Stand for Salmon initiative. The initiative seeks to enact salmon and wildlife habitat protections. Those in opposition believe it goes too far in protecting the salmon, to the point that it would harm future developments in Alaska.

If you were not able to vote in the primary election, you have until Oct. 6 to register to vote in the general election.

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