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Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions


By Austin Otos


August 14, 2021
Saturday PM

I recently had the opportunity to attend the 2021 Conference of Young Alaskans (COYA) hosted by Alaska Municipal League (AML) in Fairbanks. 55 student delegates from around the State of Alaska traveled to Fairbanks to get a crash course in local government, resolution writing, and networking with other elected leaders from around the state. The conference was modeled off of the 55 delegates who crafted the Alaska State Constitution. The youth attendees crafted resolutions intended to be delivered to all mayors of Alaska. Each resolution focused on key issues that impact local government including: economic development, public safety, education, public utilities, energy, and public transportation. In order to craft the resolutions, the delegates were split into committees that focused on those core topics. After three days in committees the delegates crafted a resolution on each topic and presented it to the whole body to be voted on. This type of model is one of the more effective and traditional ways of lawmaking. The overall idea of the exercise was to show the delegates that it is more productive to divide tasks amongst members of a large governing body instead of getting bogged down in debate over the finer details.

Aside from resolution writing, the conference showed youth delegates the ins and outs of local government. Often, people have an idea of what local government does but don’t understand the more detailed tasks they do on a day-to- day basis. Workshops were set up to convey that local government is where a lot of the work is done when it comes to implementation of policy. A wide range of panelists sat in on the workshops from municipal employees, elected officials, non-profits, and for-profit entities, showcasing the large collaboration that local governments have with other community organizations. I ran a workshop called “local government fishbowl” where current local elected officials explained their connection to local government. Some of the questions posed to elected officials were: What draws you to local government?; How does state and federal government impact your decision-making?: and, How does the class of your borough or city impact what you do? I was able to explain some of the challenges that the Ketchikan Gateway Borough faces when it comes to new housing development because we lack road powers as a 2nd Class Borough. Understanding the limits of what a borough or city can or cannot do helps guide policy on what issues a local governing body can tackle.

The last component of the conference was based around networking with public officials around Alaska. Mayors, legislators, and local elected officials met one-on-one with the youth delegates to explain what it is like to be in government. I described the challenges and benefits of being in office as a younger person and the reality vs. expectation you have of government before you get elected. Some of the recommendations that the youth delegates brought up to improve local government were: engage the younger generation by having more of a presence on all social media platforms; better access and direction on where to get public information (website design); and continuing to work on diversification. These main takeaways will help better guide local government into the future and stay relevant, accessible, and transparent for the newer young generations.

Austin Otos
Ketchikan, Alaska


About: Austin Otos is a Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Member


Editor's Note:

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.

Received August 09, 2021 - Published August 14, 2021

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