SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska


Congressman Young comments on a variety of issues while in Ketchikan
By Mary Kauffman


February 19, 2008
Tuesday AM

Ketchikan, Alaska - During a visit to Ketchikan over Presidents' Day weekend, Congressman Don Young spoke with a group of local media on Monday responding to questions and sharing his opinions on a wide range of topics including his thoughts on the presidential candidates, the Economic Stimulus Package, energy, earmarks, Social Security, health insurance, and his upcoming 19th run for the office he currently holds.

jpg Congressman Young

With her hand over Congressman Young's heart, Lu Young poses with her husband of almost 45 years, demonstrating that marriage is a life-long commitment.
Photograph by Mary Kauffman

Sharing a personal moment prior to discussing various topics with local media, Congressman Young said that he and Mrs. Young will be celebrating their 45th wedding anniversary on February 22nd.

Of their marriage, the Congressman said, "[I've been] very fortunate. I'm one of those that has been very lucky in finding somebody who can be your friend." Together they have raised two daughters, Joni and Dawn, and have 14 grandchildren.

Cruise Ship Rule Relating to Foreign Flag Vessels

Because of a proposed change in federal rules, cities in Alaska banking on cruise ships and their passengers to pump big dollars into their local economies are wondering how this new rule might eventually affect their tourism seasons if the issue isn't resolved.

This new U.S. Customs and Border Protection proposal requires foreign-flagged cruise ships that depart from a U.S. port to spend 48 hours in a foreign port. The proposal also requires them to spend more than 24 hours in a foreign port for every two days in a U.S. port -- meaning more time in a foreign port equals less time in a U.S. port.

The original intent of the rule was aimed at helping U.S. flagged cruise ships based in Hawaii to compete against foreign cruise ships sailing from California by reducing the foreign ships' time in Hawaii. The rule intent was to close a loophole that allowed foreign-flagged ships to sail from U.S. ports to Hawaii by stopping briefly in Mexico on the way. However, the original intent of the rule was lost in the bureaucratic shuffle.

Young said, "This is an issue that we thought we'd taken care of with Norm Dicks [D-WA] in Seattle because it affects Seattle more-so than it does Southeast." This will happen because the ships that come out of Seattle will transfer over to Prince Rupert or Vancouver and come into Alaska which is a big loss to Seattle. Young said Dicks thought he had it taken care of and after reviewing the bill, Young showed Dicks that it wasn't taken care of. "The rule is specifically for Hawaii and the Norwegian Cruise Lines," said Young. What Holland American and a few other companies were doing was stopping in one small port and then going into Hawaii and Norwegian objected to that said Young.

The Cruise Ship Rule relating to foreign flag vessels affects Seattle more than anyone else and Seattle is well aware of that, said Young.

"What we're doing now is going to Chertoff and seeing if we can't get them to say no that's not the intent. It's very clear, the intent was to affect Hawaii. " Michael Chertoff is the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

If this isn't taken care of by Chertoff, Young predicted, that legislation, probably on a rider of a bill, will make sure it's clear and that the Cruise Ship Rule relating to foreign flag vessels doesn't affect Southeast Alaska's tour ship traffic. "I'm pretty optimistic that we'll be okay," said Young. He said if Chertoff doesn't clarify the issue, that there is still enough time to put it on another bill and resolve the issue.

If a legislative fix is needed, said Young, it will pass because the clarification of the intent of the rule will be put on a bill that has to pass. Young said the time frame will be made to work.

Health Insurance Plan for Fishermen

Fishermen are self-employed and it's very difficult for them to get insurance said Young. "There're reasons for this. It's a very dangerous occupation, next to farming it's probably the most dangerous occupation we have," he said.

Young said he and Sen. Ted Stevens think there is a good chance of getting the Health Insurance Plan for Fishermen passed which would provide low-cost health coverage to fishermen and their families in Alaska and other coastal states.

While national in scope, the legislation would allow fishermen in Alaska to first research the specific needs of the Alaskan fishing industry and then provide funds to implement a state-wide program for providing better access to health insurance and health care.

If passed, the Commercial Fishing Industry Health Care Coverage Act of 2008 would authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) to fund healthcare planning and implementation grants for commercial fishing states or organizations. The funding authorized in this bill would also be used to help establish health care coverage programs. The legislation would allow states or organizations to set up programs or add to existing health care programs for commercial fishermen and their families who have no health insurance or who are underinsured.

Passage of the Commercial Fishing Industry Health Care Coverage Act would specifically authorize a series of grant programs. To qualify for these funds, states or organizations must provide matching funds of $1 for every $2 in federal funding. The bill would authorize $50 million over a five year period.

Health Care

"The whole issue of health is going to be one of the major issues in the coming year," said Young. "I don't think we'll be able to solve all the problems. Unfortunately, we've never addressed the problem of health, health insurance, cost of insurance, liability of insurance as a total package."

"We've introduced legislation so that if you carry insurance it's totally tax deductible," said Young.

Congressman Young said, "I'd like to see a whole revamping of the health care system. Go into the problems. Why is it expensive for drugs? Fix that. Who's not insured, can they be insured? Fix that."

"I'm listening to all this rhetoric out of the presidential campaign and everybody has this glorious idea that everybody's going to be insured," said Young. "That doesn't solve the problem." There are other problems such as the shortage of doctors and nurses.

"We have not analyzed the total package and that's very very important we do that," he said. "And I do believe that eventually that will happen." He noted that there are less than 54 legislative days left in this session and he doesn't see anything of importance occurring in that short timeframe.

Young said, "The most immediate problem we have is the Medicare issue." He said, "The inability for doctors to receive Medicare patients because [doctors] are not being reimbursed the full costs of seeing that patient. So in turn, [the doctors] don't accept [Medicare patients]." Young said, "This is worse in Alaska than it is anywhere else." As a result, Medicare patients go to the emergency room and that clogs that system up and health care costs more said Young.

"Because other states are having a problem now," said Young, "we may be able to get that part fixed. It's time we do it."

Tongass Land Management Plan

Responding to what his thoughts on the recently released new Tongass Land Management Plan are, Young said he hasn't analyzed the plan to the point where he can say whether it's good or bad - other than that it concerns him. "I don't see the ability to offer a sustainable yield of timber. I'm a little disturbed. I've learned that the Forest Service now is taking up existing roads, taking them out of production, which makes it harder to have sales." He noted the Forest Service says they don't have the money to maintain the roads and they are liable if the roads are used.

Regarding taking up existing roads, Young said, That's bad business. "Because if we are to have ever a timber industry in southeast Alaska there has to be a steady yield of timber or you're not going to get the investment into the area."

Young said he is working with the Forest Service to some extent and the mental health programs to exchange some of the mental health lands' old growth timber for the cut timber - or new growth as it's also known. "I've advocated to the Forest Service to start looking at possibly, additionally to the mental health timber that we have a steady program of fiber through leasing long-term again."

Presidential Candidates

When Congressman Young was asked if he would support Sen. John McCain as the Republican candidate for President, Young said, "I will support the Republican candidate. I am not happy." Young said McCain is better than the Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama.

Obama is not saying a whole lot said Young. "We are one, I've yet to figure out who that one is," said Young. He said Obama sounds good but he does not have the program noting that Clinton has a better program than Obama. Young said both Clinton and Obama are both socialist and believe in socialism. "They say they believe in democracy but if you listen to what they say they believe in the government running everything, taking from those that have achieved and giving to those who haven't achieved and that's socialism," said Young. "That's up to the decision of the American public."

"My candidate has done better than he expected and [Mike] Huckabee has been my candidate from the very beginning," said Young. "He's still in the race, he's not going to leave. It takes 1,147 votes to get the nomination locked-up and McCain doesn't have it," said Young. If McCain does get the Republican nomination, "He's still better than the other two, but he's not who I would have chosen for president," said Young.

Young said his relationship with John McCain is not good in the sense that Young doesn't relate with McCain. "It's not just the bridges. I've know this man for a long time. He's behaved himself somewhat but he's not been totally good as far as one of my main issues and that's the Second Amendment," said Young. "But he's better than Obama or Hillary because they are adamantly for gun control." Young added, "I'm against gun control."

Young said he thinks Clinton will get the Democratic nomination and that the Republicans will win the race.

Public's Opinion

Young said, "We voted 1,147 times last year. Of those votes, 147 became law. Of 147, 90 of them were naming Post Offices. 20 were complementing people for picking Christmas trees up the day after Christmas or something to that extent or that ridiculous. Eleven were extensions of existing laws. It was a totally non-productive Congress."

"We have the worst [public] rating now than we've ever had in history -- and that's under Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats," said Young.

Economic Stimulus Package

Regarding the Economic Stimulus Package, "I voted in favor of this bill," said Rep. Young, "but make no mistake about it I do not think it is the answer to our needs."
jpg Don Young

Congressman Don Young
Photograph by Mary Kauffman

"If they really wanted a stimulus package they would have passed some stimuli which would have worked," said Young.

In a prepared statement released in January Young said, "It is a quick fix; a short term solution. We do need to stimulate our economy, and with energy prices sky high and temperatures below zero in parts of Alaska, I know that my constituents can use this rebate to help heat their homes and care for their families. But why don't we start thinking long-term? Why not put this money back into infrastructure projects that are already on the books, but do not have the proper funding yet?"

Young said in January, "Let's create jobs that will stimulate our economy - the answer to a robust economy is jobs for the American people. For example, if we were to explore in ANWR, not only would we be working to become energy independent, but we would also create over a million new jobs in all 50 states, not just Alaska. This would pump trillions of dollars into our economy. These are the types of long-term solutions we need to start looking into to keep our Nation strong."


Young said, "I don't believe the economy is as bad as people make it out to be. We have some problems, yes. But that's nothing new." He said there are going to be ups and downs.


Young said he doesn't see a serious clamp-down on earmarks in the future. He said earmarks are not added to a budget, they are already in the budget and those monies are designated precluding a Department of Transportation within a state or a department within the federal government from deciding where the federal dollars will be spent. "Every earmark that I have put in every bill has been asked for by a community or an individual that affects that community," said Young. "Including these bridges."

Referring to the proposed bridge to the airport on Gravina Island, "Ketchikan wasn't bashful asking for that earmark," said Young. "And I supported it 100 percent cause it's not a new idea." He added the Knik crossing in Anchorage was studied and it was almost started in 1988. Young said he designated the money because the state wouldn't do it. "That's an earmark," said Young.

He noted the Ketchikan dry dock funding was an earmark. "That was an earmark to develop an economy in this town of blue collar workers that are needed to have a sound society within a community ," said Young.

Regarding earmarks Young said, "The budget stays the exact same size. The difference is, as an elected official I get to designate and not some bureaucrat that never runs for office or in fact only supports the large metropolitan areas."

"Will we stop earmarks? No," said Young. "Will we talk about it? Yes." Young said he opposes reforming earmarks because "we're doing the right thing for the people we represent."


Young said it's difficult for elected officials get information out to the public "because very frankly it doesn't sell newspapers". He said the whole system has changed since he first ran for office. Now anyone can post anything on the internet that has no merit or justification for others to read and the person who's in public office can't even respond to it. He said no one has any responsibility in this computer age.

Young said his office is trying to get public information out but "people are not interested in the reality of things. They are more interested in the sensationalism."

Land Claims

Young said, "One of the things that I believe is that both the Native Land Claims Act and the Statehood Act have not been fully implemented as far as ownership of land." He said after almost 50 years of statehood, Alaska is still short 50 million acres of land that the state does not have title to.

There is a huge amount of land that Sealaska, the landless groups and the Native Land Claims Settlement haven't gained title to also and that's been going on since 1971, said Young.

H.R. 3560, The Southeast Alaska Native Land Entitlement Finalization Act, is bipartisan legislation introduced by Young in November 2007 that will allow the Sealaska Native Corporation to receive its remaining land conveyance under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act (ANCSA) of 1971 - after more than 35 years since the Act was signed into law.

If passed, "This legislation will redress the inequitable treatment of the Native Regional Corporation for Southeast Alaska - Sealaska Corporation - by allowing it to select its remaining land entitlement under Section 14 of ANCSA from designated federal land in Southeast Alaska," Young said in November.

When announcing the bill, Young said, "It's unfortunate that after more than 35 years since the passage of ANSCA, Sealaska has still not received conveyance of its full land entitlement. As a result of its small land entitlement, it is critical that Sealaska complete its remaining land entitlement under ANCSA in order to continue to meet the economic, social and cultural needs of its Native shareholders, and of the Native community throughout Alaska."

"Primarily there is a dispute between the agencies," said Young, "and I don't think agencies should go contrary to what the Congress passed in the law." On Monday he said, "We ought to take and get these things done as fast as possible."

Social Security - Medicare - Medicaid

"Social Security is one of those third rails that has to be addressed," said Congressman Young. Noting that Medicare and Medicaid also are issues to be addressed.

"We have to figure out a better way to finance [Social Security] or change the system where the Social Security recipients now and those, let's say, 45-years old, still receive an amount of dollars from Social Security. And the second part of that is that you are given an opportunity to develop your own Social Security system," said Young.


This will be Young's 19th election and he said he runs hard every time. He said the decision of has the job will be made by the people of the state. Young said, "I'm confident that I can do the best job of all the people that are running, I'm the best person for the job, and if I didn't believe that, I wouldn't run."

Young said he likes the job, he's good at what he does, that he has been successful at what he does, and the people of Alaska prosper from what he does.

He said he believes the people of Alaska will support him. Young said his record shows that he has done more than all the Democrat Congressmen in Washington state have done and he's in the minority and they are in the majority.


"We're doing well in Iraq," said Young. "I don't care what Obama says or Clinton says, there's not going to be any quick withdrawal from Iraq." He said if either one became president they would switch their songs quickly.

He said recent polls indicate that people believe the United States is having success in Iraq.

"Our biggest problem in Iraq is not the downfall of Saddam, it was the lack of recognition that Iraq was never a democracy," said Young. "If we were to withdraw, there would be a total collapse in my opinion and you would have holocaust beyond anyone's imagination because of the tribal consistency of Iraq."

Metlakatla Water Boundary Expansion

The Metlakatla Water Boundary Expansion petiton is a conflict issue said Young as the Ketchikan Borough has come out against the water boundary expansion. Metlakatla is petitioning the Secretary of Interior and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the people of Metlakatla have that right to do so said Young.

Regarding his opinion of the petition Young said, "I'm not going to frankly get into the middle of that briar patch right now until I study the legal ramifications and whether that can be done in fact." Young said, "There is a question as to whether it can be done. It's a petition to the Secretary and does he have a right to take an impose expansion of boundaries in navigatable waters and especially state waters."

Alaska Gas Pipeline

Young said, " We have a challenge in this state because of the lack of production of fossil fuels. We're producing about 685,000 barrels of oil a day now - down from 2 million - and it's declining quite rapidly." He said, "If we don't find some other oil to fill that pipeline, that affects the flow of revenues into the state and I don't seen any gas pipeline very quickly." He said, "Even if an agreement was reached this year it would be ten years before the line would be finished. That's ten years of no revenues."

The state is looking at a big revenue challenge in the future. Young said the only thing saving Alaska now is the $93 a barrel oil price.


"We have a serious problem in this country," said Young. "We are now burning about 20.7 million barrels of oil a day. We are importing 13.7 million barrels of oil a day. At ninety dollars a barrel, that's 450 billion dollars we're sending overseas. That comes down to a tax on every man, woman and child in this country of 1,500 dollars a year."

Young said, "There is a potential of an imploding economic factor because of that importation of oil." He said, "This country is run on oil and it will continue to be run on oil." All sorts of alternate energy can be found for 'fixed' power such as hydropower in southeast Alaska and tidal power. "But there's only one form of power that moves our products from and fro and to and fro and that's fossil fuel," said Young.

Regarding any glitches in energy supplies, Young said the lower-48 could collapse in a heartbeat.

Congressman Young said, "What Congress won't accept is we have the fossil fuel in this country. We many not always be 100 percent independent but we can stop this erosion of the 450 billion dollars a year that goes over seas." He said, "We can have a better dependency on our own fossil fuels and that means drilling offshore, that means developing our coal and developing our shale." However, opening ANWAR is nearly impossible at this time because of the makeup of the house said Young.

The Congressman said the energy bill passed by Congress has nothing in it to produce energy. He added, "The State of Alaska itself has a tremendous responsibility, which they are not grappling with." As an example, Young said heating oil fuel in his hometown of Fort Yukon is $5.50 a gallon, and you have to be heated when it's 54 below zero.

The state has to start looking at smaller energy projects within this state to keep our villages viable said Young. Southeast is blessed with hydropower and for any of the communities in southeast Alaska that are burning diesel fuel, Young said "shame on the state". The state should build the hydro-facilities and allow the communities to pay off the debt. Young said, "The state has a bigger responsibility because we have a different social structure."

While in Ketchikan, the Congressman and his wife also visited the Head Start Program and RIF (Reading Is Fundamental). Young said RIF is a great program and noted that Lu Young brought the program to Alaska twenty-five years ago. Young said he read the same story to three different classes. Also on Monday, Young had lunch and a tour of the Pioneers Home. "Well run," said Young, "the lady does a good job out there."

Young's next stop will be in Anchorage.



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