SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


The Borough & City Lobbing trip to Juneau
By Samuel Bergeron


February 18, 2008
Monday AM

Last week, Mayor Weinstein and I had the pleasure of representing the City of Ketchikan, along with other area representatives including: the Borough (Mayor Williams, Assemblymen John Harrington and David Landis, Deputy Clerk Kacie Paxton and Attorney Scott Brandt Erickson), Saxman Mayor Charles Denny, Ketchikan General Hospital administrators Patrick Branco and Joan Nugent; and Oceans Alaska Director John Tighe and Terry Gardiner in the annual lobbing trip to Juneau. Leading the delegation was City and Borough Lobbyist Ray Matiashowski.

Before we made the lobbing trip to Juneau, the City, Borough and Saxman compiled the Ketchikan Community Legislative Priorities booklet. This well considered document is the Capital Improvements Projects wish prioritized. Topping the list was the funding for the new fire stations in the Borough as well as the City. Next, was the library, slated to go on the old Main School site. We asked for funding for the completion of the new Saxman Community Center, to replace the one that was crushed by heavy snow fall nine years ago. All-in-all there was 39 projects we were seeking funding for. Obviously, we won't get funding for all of them, but it does give our delegation and elected representatives an idea of what our needs and priorities are as a community.

The first observation I wish to share with all of you was the professionalism of the Ketchikan delegation as a whole, as well as the Southeast delegation in the Alaska State Legislature lead by Senator Bert Stedman and Representative Kyle Johansson and their respective staffs. Senator Stedman, in his capacity as Co- Chair of the Senate Finance Committee is in an unprecedented position to benefit Ketchikan and all of Southeast in his position as Co- Chair of Finance. Additionally, and to his credit, Senator Stedman has been a large part of the lessening of ugly, non-productive partisan politics. Democrats and Republicans alike echoed praise and respect for our delegation. That bodes well for all of the people they represent. Well done Bert. Well done Kyle.

The big unknown of this trip was what Governor Palin is going to do with the capital budget. Terry Gardiner repeatedly expressed his concerns with the ever shrinking economies of "Coastal Alaska". Pointing out to all we visited that Alaska as a whole is growing, but Southeast Alaska and other coastal regions are losing population. "What do we do?" I hope we don't do what Governor Palin is suggesting and save all of the $4.5 billion budget surplus, but instead fund the direly needed infrastructure in Southeast that is largely already in-place in the rest of Alaska that is now enjoying a robust and growing economies. That would mean to fund the Ketchikan Community Legislative Priorities List in a large part as well as the electrical intertie and the AMHS ferries that enables commerce to flourish in our Island communities. We would also like to see funding for our schools on the operations and capital side that doesn't punish us for having a shrinking economy and school enrollment base (70% reimbursement instead of 65%).

I strongly believe that we will continue the economic downturn unless we invest in ourselves and put the infrastructure in place that can and will stem this economic recession we in the Southeast have been experiencing since the demise of the timber industry and all the ancillary jobs that went with it. The ball is truly in the Governor's court as far as the capital projects list is concerned; I hope she does the right thing. I know our delegation, led by Senator Stedman will.

Unlike the unincorporated boroughs who seek 99% funding for their schools and capital projects, we seek no more than 70% for schools and 50% or less on our other capital projects. We want the State to play a partnership role in our economy; not as a sole benefactor. I wish to again thank all those who participated as you all did a great job representing your community.

Samuel Bergeron
Ketchikan, AK

About: Samuel Bergeron is a member of the Ketchikan City Council.

Received February 17, 2008 - Published February 18, 2008


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