Opinion

COMMENTARY: PFD should be enshrined in Constitution for all Alaskans

My roots in Alaska go deep. I’ve had incredible opportunities here. At 93, my greatest hope is that my children and future Alaskans continue thriving here in a land of opportunity. When I arrived in Alaska after WWII I was glad to be alive. I had served over two years with a naval construction battalion on Guadalcanal and the Solomon Islands. Malaria and other jungle diseases wracked by body. I was a wreck in some ways. But Alaska provided. Alaska healed me. I met the love of my life here and raised a family in Halibut Cove. Alaska provided abundant fish and spectacular land and seascapes that made me whole. The people of Alaska were hard working, thrifty, and committed to building a better future for everyone – my kind of people. We worked following the war to build a bright and inclusive future. Statehood was the goal. Control of our destiny was the value we cherished. We achieved statehood by working together, across party lines, over geographical boundaries and in spite of personal beliefs. It had to be done and it was. The great promise of statehood ensured Alaskans would obtain the land grants and control of our inshore fisheries we needed to thrive. We selected wisely, including the incomparable lands along the Sagavanirktok River near Prudhoe Bay that yielded a stupendous amount of oil revenue. When the oil revenue started rolling into our state coffers, Alaska’s great promise appeared to have been fulfilled. But the initial bonanza of oil revenues was spent like a sailor hitting port after a long voyage. Some of us worried about spending every cent of our non-renewable oil revenue without saving for the future. Visionary legislators like Oral Freeman and Hugh Malone led the call to save a slice of our oil revenue. They were assisted by my pool playing buddy, Governor Jay Hammond, who grew up poor in upstate New York and knew the value of savings. Working together with Alaskans from across the state, we established the Permanent Fund. We only saved only 25% of the oil revenues. The rest was available and spent by the politicians. Some of it even benefited the people. Jay Hammond convinced me and many other Alaskans the only way to fully protect our Permanent Fund was to make sure each and every Alaskan had a stake in the fund. Hammond believed as long as every Alaskan obtained an uncapped dividend each year, the voters would protect the Permanent forever. Which brings me to the point I want every Alaskan to consider. The Permanent Fund, now at $65 billion, has benefited all Alaskans for decades. The current law requiring the Permanent Fund Corporation to inflation proof the fund and then pay the PFD according to a legal formula, has been a boon for every Alaskan and the private sector. Alaskans are treated equally according to this distribution law. Whether you live in Bethel or Ketchikan, Anchorage or Fairbanks, the dividend is your legal right. And why not? The dividend came from our Permanent Fund savings account – a fund established in our Constitution using the oil wealth owned in common by all Alaskans. Politicians and special interests have tried to hijack your dividend since it was established. For the first time in history they’ve succeeded. In the last three years our politicians failed to address revenue shortfalls in a responsible way. Instead, they stole thousands of dollars from you by shorting your dividend so they can spend your money on projects and activities they believe are more important than your interests. As a group, our elected officials are addicted to spending. They’ve spent down most of the state’s savings account. Now they are ignoring the law and grabbing your PFD. Eventually they’ll go after the Permanent Fund if we let them. All of us who helped establish the Permanent Fund did so to pass along a little of the oil wealth to future generations. The PFD isn’t a welfare program or a rainy-day account for government. The PFD was established so every Alaskan would share equally in the Permanent Fund earnings and to provide a firewall between the grasping hands of politicians and special interests trying to rip off our communal savings. I came back from the war in the Pacific sure in the knowledge that Alaska was a great place to live and full of opportunity. The sea and the land provided. Life was good because we all worked hard, built a better future, and saved a portion of the bounty we inherited. Letting the politicians raid our savings and cut Alaskans’ PFD is political robbery. Anything short of full constitutional protection of the PFD is unjust and robs every Alaskan of their equal share of our savings. We must defend our Permanent Fund. To do that, the original PFD law must be protected in our Alaska Constitution. Clem Tillion is a former nine-term legislator and retired commercial fisherman residing in Halibut Cove near Homer. He is the president of the Permanent Fund Defenders (www.pfdak.com) and helped design the Permanent Fund with Gov. Jay Hammond and others.

OPINION: Thank you for not voting

Forgive two movie references between the headline and this lede, 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. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Alaskans need a champion of women on the court

Should Brett Kavanaugh be nominated to take a lifelong seat on the Supreme Court? The national debate on Roe vs. Wade presents an opportunity to step back and take stock: what is the status of women’s rights in America? Will this nominee strengthen democracy, improve equality and justice for all? As a strong Alaskan and female leader, we count on Sen. Lisa Murkowski to ask these questions as she weighs her decision. Consider two things you need to control your life: 1) financial independence, and 2) freedom to control your own body. Kavanaugh poses a threat to these critical rights. His non-committal stance on Roe alarms those concerned with the freedom to choose to bear children. This question is critical to a woman’s capacity to support herself and her children, a challenge that still places women at a disadvantage. To those who assert, “women control over half the nation’s wealth,” and are therefore financially secure, I ask, what does “control” mean? And which women? Sweeping language about women unilaterally having economic power equal to men distorts truth: women still face hurdles to equality. The median pay for women on the list of the highest-paid U.S. chief executives was  $15.7 million in 2014, $1.6 million less than for men. Have we broken through the glass ceiling? Only 11 of those 200 CEOs were women. Census data confirms that women earn $.80 cents on average for each $1 dollar that men do. Progress has been hard fought and slow paced, and remains predominantly enjoyed by white women. Across all major racial and ethnic groups, women earn less than men of the same group. Female leaders in corporate America earn compensation packages that rival their male peers. But how many women make it to the top? Women of color made up only 5% of executive or senior-level managers in 2015. In 2017, Hispanic women earned 62.1% what White men earned, and Black women earned 67.7% of White men. Given the Supreme Court’s role, Kavanaugh’s nomination has tremendous impact on the future of women. Let us thank the powers that be for ‘elastic’ Constitutional interpretations - for if it were not the job of the Court to interpret, rather than simply impose, women would lack legal access to any kind of equality today. Does it not say that, “all men are created equal”?  That’s not us, ladies. To many of us, the bottom line is this: if a woman cannot 1) earn enough to support herself and 2) control her reproductive rights, then she cannot be a full participant in democracy. Voting is powerful, but only one tool. The right to decide when and if to start a family represents a significant determinant in both financial and personal freedoms. Women with children often leave the workforce to do most of the unpaid labor of raising the next generation of citizens, a well-documented setback to lifelong earning trajectories. These women are raising the our future scientists, Supreme Court nominees, social workers and manual laborers. In other words, all of us. As a single woman under 30, I want what many “up and coming” women do; home ownership, a corner desk, and financial security for the family I will start someday. I’ll need the law’s support to do that. Sen. Murkowski holds a seat in the United States Congress, whose membership is only 20% female. She knows there are inequities; she has championed women before. Now we’re counting on her to do it again. Claire Pywell resides in Anchorage with her partner, Dave. She is a volunteer with several community organizations and an avid outdoors person.  

COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 threatens TAPS operations and the environment

The Stand for Salmon movement promises “vital infrastructure will still move forward” in the event of its passage. In reality, the initiative becoming law would bring a standstill to actions that protect the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System today, while putting fish habitat around it in more jeopardy. Alyeska Pipeline Service Company operates TAPS, a vital piece of Alaska’s economic engine, and maintains its 800-mile route across more than 700 fish streams from the North Slope to Valdez. We are committed to operational excellence, long-term TAPS reliability, and the health of its surrounding environment. I know our personnel, almost all Alaskans, along with our Alaska-based industry partners, Tribal organizations, and state and federal agencies that regulate our work, share Ballot Measure 1’s supporters’ appreciation for Alaska’s special waterways and vibrant marine life. But that’s where common ground ends. Many states have lost salmon species or declared them endangered due to overfishing and blocked migration routes. Not so in Alaska, and certainly not along TAPS. We regularly clear, repair, and modify streams to maintain fish passage and prevent erosion. TAPS workers act to deliver system and environmental sustainability, not simply suppress infrastructure threats. After over 40 years of TAPS operations, our Environment, Right of Way and Baseline teams are experts in monitoring and inspecting hundreds of waterways and dozens more that connect to them along TAPS. Many hold master’s degrees in fisheries, marine biology, wildlife biology, environmental science and engineering. All take great pride in their role protecting the environment; if they don’t, they don’t work here. They know these waters, and the more than 30 fish species inhabiting them, from daily and annual surveillance and from constantly anticipating and responding to the forces of nature and Alaska’s often harsh and unpredictable weather. TAPS is already heavily regulated; we comply with requirements of more than 20 state and federal agencies. Since 2000, Alyeska has received more than 700 individual permits for routine maintenance activities, new installations, and projects along waterways to safeguard pipeline integrity and protect the environment. We hold 80 to 90 active annual permits for work in fish habitat areas. The fish habitat initiative puts at risk timely permitting and conduct of our actions. With rigid new agency review requirements and permitting criteria, and a wide-open appeals process, the initiative would complicate and delay inspection and certain maintenance activities, and create uncertainty about what is considered minor routine maintenance and grandfathered projects. Simple but important projects would face convoluted if not unpassable hurdles. And when we confront natural disasters, such as floods, fires and earthquakes, there’s no time to waste. Every spring, the Sagavanirktok River — better known as the Sag River — floods along the Dalton Highway and TAPS right of way for long stretches. Sometimes the flooding is annoying. Sometimes it’s troublesome. In spring 2015, it was disastrous. By spring’s arrival, ice buildup was 12 feet high in some places. Record-high temperatures led to swift snow melt and record river flow. Suddenly, the Sag flooded miles of the North Slope and endangered two of Alaska’s critical economic lifelines: TAPS and the Dalton Highway. TAPS personnel saw it coming. The Dalton was eventually closed, but because of very rapid preventative actions along waterways near TAPS, the pipeline and the fragile environment around it was spared catastrophic damage, and the pipeline stayed in operation. Over the weeks and months that followed, we conducted a massive cleanup, dozens of inspections, many repairs, and wide-ranging restoration of waterways and fish passages impacted by the flooding. Under this initiative even as amended, permits necessary to rapidly accomplish such critical work to protect TAPS would be more difficult to obtain, as would permits for spur dikes that redirected the Sag River’s main channel away from the Dalton Highway and the oil pipeline. TAPS, the Dalton Highway, fish streams and waterways could suffer devastating consequences. Many individuals, organizations, and local and state agencies representing diverse interests from all corners of Alaska have stepped forward to object to the risks surrounding the initiative. TAPS personnel have embodied Alaska true grit, pride and environmental stewardship from construction to today’s vision for the next 40 years of TAPS operations and the innovation it will take to achieve it. We plan to keep Alaska’s pipeline operating safely, while protecting Alaska’s environment, fish and wildlife. The initiative makes achieving that goal more difficult. If the fish habitat initiative becomes law, it will hinder and prevent Alyeska from obtaining permits needed to perform work crucial to TAPS’ safe and reliable operations in a timely way. We care deeply about Alaska’s salmon and environment; we are passionate about sustaining safe, reliable TAPS operations, and its daily contribution to the Alaska economy, long into the future. I ask you to vote No on Ballot Measure 1. Tom Barrett, a retired U.S. Coast Guard vice admiral and former deputy secretary of the Transportation Department, is president of Alyeska Pipeline Service Company.

COMMENTARY: Clarifying Endangered Species Act for modern conservation

A modern vision of conservation is one that uses federalism, public-private partnerships and market-based solutions to achieve sound stewardship. These approaches, combined with sensible regulations and the best available science, will achieve the greatest good in the longest term. Last month, the Trump administration took this approach to bringing our government’s implementation of the Endangered Species Act into the 21st century. We asked ourselves how we can enhance conservation of our most imperiled wildlife while delivering good government for our citizens. We found room for improvement in the administration of the act. When Congress created the Endangered Species Act, it built a tiered classification for our most at-risk wildlife, designing different protections for “endangered” and “threatened” species. The act was designed to give endangered species the most stringent protections while affording federal agencies the authority to tailor special rules for lower-risk, threatened species on a case-by-case basis. It may surprise most Americans, however, that the highest level of protection is often applied, regardless of the classification, through application of a “blanket rule.” The use of this rule by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service automatically elevates protections for threatened species to the same level as those given to endangered species. But automatically treating the threatened species as endangered places unnecessary regulatory burden on our citizens without additional benefit to the species. The blanket rule reflexively prohibits known habitat management practices, such as selective forest thinning and water management, that might ultimately benefit a threatened species. We need creative, incentive-based conservation, but that becomes impossible with the current blurring of the lines between the two distinctions. This muddle discourages collaborative conservation from the parties we most need to partner with us — states, Tribes and private landowners — ultimately harming species that can thrive with a more tailored approach. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency that also administers the act, understands this. NOAA has never employed a “blanket rule,” and we propose to follow this approach. The Endangered Species Act provides intensive care for the species with the greatest need in order to ensure they survive for future generations. Like with a hospital’s intensive care unit, the goal is not to keep patients there forever. The goal is recovery — to send the healthier patients home where they can continue to receive the lower level of care they still need. The criterion for admission to a hospital’s ICU is the same as it is for discharge: critical need. The same principle applies to the act, but over the years, the standards for down-listing (from endangered to threatened) and altogether delisting a species have been pushed higher than the standards for initially granting protection under the act. We are proposing to clarify that the standards for listing and delisting are identical. With limited resources, we cannot and should not keep recovered species on the list forever. We must return conservation management back to the capable hands of the states and focus our federal protections and resources on those species that need them most. These changes are just some in a series of proposals that will improve the administration of the Endangered Species Act, encouraging collaborative conservation and leveraging flexibility to incorporate innovation. We are also clarifying the meaning of certain terms that are in the act itself but not defined. For example, the law allows us to list species as threatened when they are likely to become endangered in the foreseeable future, but it does not explain what “foreseeable future” means. We aim to provide the public and our federal agencies with a universal language that will increase regulatory certainty. In addition, we want to keep everyday Americans apprised of the impact the government’s work will have on them. We will continue to consider only the best scientific and commercial data in our listing determinations, as required by the act. But collecting data about the economic impacts of a species listing and presenting it to the public increase transparency — a hallmark of good government. This is the first step in a deliberative process. Rather than allowing special-interest groups to start and end the debate, we will give everyone — including the local voice and the rural voice — an opportunity to have their say. We have kicked off a 60-day public-comment period, after which we will evaluate the feedback and move forward, making adjustments where appropriate. Familiar faces have come out in opposition to the proposal, which is no surprise, though sadly, much of their response has been hyperbolic and unhelpful in promoting constructive discussion. But they, too, should submit their ideas, because the status quo is unacceptable for everyone — including the various species of flora and fauna that merit the act’s protection.

OPINION: Attacks on speech won’t end with Jones

This defense of free speech isn’t going to begin with the obligatory preamble denouncing Alex Jones. Over the past week, Jones and his Infowars site were simultaneously sent to timeouts of various lengths ranging from 30 days to three months from Facebook and YouTube while Spotify and Apple took down multiple podcasts from Jones’ show. Twitter — perhaps shamed by the daily exposure of the hate it tolerates from the left highlighted by recent New York Times editorial board hire and open racist Sarah Jeong — has refused to follow suit despite pressure to deplatform Jones. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who himself succumbed to the left-wing online outrage mob earlier this year after he made the mistake of posting about eating at Chik-fil-A, did manage to nail the obvious problem with banishing Jones. Dorsey posted that Twitter will not take “one-off actions to make us feel good in the short term, and adding fuel to new conspiracy theories.” Bingo. There’s an old joke that goes, “just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean everyone isn’t out to get me.” In a fell swoop of virtue-signaling, Facebook, YouTube (Google), Spotify and Apple made a “feel good” decision to silence Jones that is likely the biggest gift he could have ever asked for. What’s unlikely is that the disciples of net neutrality realize they are cheering on the tech titans for actions that are the polar opposite of their claimed desire for a free and open internet where content is treated equally. But then again, self-awareness isn’t a quality generally possessed by progressives now tolerating, encouraging or outright embracing the violence of the “antifa” movement that’s made its mission to shut down any speech falling to the right side of Mao on the ideological spectrum. Because make no mistake: this isn’t going to stop with Jones. The term “alt-right” has been used for more than two years now to degrade and delegitimize the supporters of President Donald Trump as a basket of deplorable racists. These tech corporations are carrying out the censorship that the left cannot achieve at the ballot box or the Supreme Court and have crossed the Rubicon into the territory of policing speech that goes far beyond the unprotected category of incitement to violence. They have every right to boot Jones from their platforms, temporarily or permanently, if they choose. But they’re going to need to hire a whole lot more cheap foreign H1-B interns if they are going to equally police content that falls in the category of “offensive” or “hateful.” I’ll pause so you can stop laughing. The Facebook page “Occupy Democrats” has 7.4 million followers and has a typically hyperbolic photo up featuring Uncle Sam that states “If you still support Donald Trump and plan to vote for him again, you are a traitor!” Quick quiz: what’s the federal penalty for treason? Answer: the death penalty. Follow up: what are the odds Occupy Democrats ever gets its account suspended for “bullying” or “hate speech”? Answer: zero. And the press, the supposed protectors of free speech, formed their own outrage mob last week when they pressured the Newseum in Washington, D.C., to stop selling T-shirts that said “You are very fake news” in its gift shop. This tweet from Boston Globe Deputy DC Editor Matt Viser perfectly illustrates the recent twisting of the First Amendment protection of the press into some sort of blasphemy law: “This T-shirt doesn’t belong anywhere. It particularly doesn’t belong at the @Newseum, a place that celebrates journalism and has the First Amendment etched in stone outside its building.” Viser clearly wasn’t the one respondent out of 1,000 in a recent survey that could name all five protections spelled out in the First Amendment. The press coined the term “fake news” in the aftermath of the 2016 election as a way to explain the loss of the inevitable Hillary Clinton and are now outraged that it has been co-opted and turned against them. What’s obvious is that their issue is not with the term itself, but with their inability to control whom it is aimed against. This is an industry that spent the past 20 years attacking and attempting to marginalize Fox News. They are members of a progressive movement that dubbed the network “Faux News” long ago, with Urban Dictionary entries on the term dating to 2003. They were the dutiful stenographers for President Barack Obama, who routinely called out his perceived enemies in the press by name from Fox News to Rush Limbaugh to Glenn Beck to Sean Hannity. None rushed to the defense of conservatives, and there was certainly no collective outrage about a president attacking the press as there is today about Trump. While there is plenty of hand-wringing over the supposed misleading information and conspiracies from the likes of Jones being pushed on the fringes of the internet, the mainstream press so offended at being dubbed an “enemy of the people” has been pushing the Mother of All Conspiracy Theories for the past 18 months accusing Trump of colluding with Vladimir Putin to steal a presidential election. This is the same press whose talking heads routinely compare Trump to Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Mao, who ironically were all leaders of the murderous left. Of course, if that were true, Jim Acosta would be against a wall with a blindfold and a cigarette, but realizing that would take a well of historical knowledge deeper than a thimble and a better memory than a fruit fly. In other words, don’t hold your breath. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

OPINION: Trump is playing to win. Are Republicans?

The establishment defenders of the global status quo are doubling down in their battle against President Donald Trump. Citing trade and immigration, the Koch Bros. announced their intention to withhold support for Kevin Cramer against Democrat incumbent Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota in a key race the GOP seeks to flip in a state Trump won by 36 points. They might as well save their money. For the one-time elites in the Republican pundit class, think tanks and Super PACs, it must be frustrating to realize their utter impotence to move the needle against Trump with GOP voters who back him by a nearly 9-1 margin. Much like President Bushes 41 and 43 and failed Republican presidential candidates Sen. John McCain and Mitt Romney — who, thanks to their criticism of Trump, have all enjoyed an image rehabilitation from the media and Democrats that once demonized them — the bogeymen Koch Bros. and their agenda of open borders for trade and immigration are aligning with the left. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is also investing heavily in an anti-tariff campaign, highlighting as an example the dilemma of craft brewers dealing with duties on aluminum imports in a July 26 post. One can only wonder where the chamber was in the last decade as China began dumping below market price aluminum in the U.S. to ease the glut of overcapacity it built up as it went from 11 percent of global production in 2000 to more than half just 15 years later. According to data from the Aluminum Association, “U.S. imports of semi-fabricated aluminum products from China grew 183 percent between 2012 through 2015 before leveling off (in 2016).” The association notes that, “Eight U.S. based aluminum smelters have either closed or curtailed since 2014 meaning only five smelters are operating in the United States today and only two at full capacity. This represents the lowest level of U.S. production since just after World War II.” This is the status quo the U.S. Chamber is trying to preserve and which Trump is trying to upend. Tariffs are a negotiating tool, albeit a blunt one, but Trump was not elected to keep the Koch Bros. or the U.S. Chamber happy. He promised to disrupt the system and negotiate better deals, and unlike most every other Republican politician who spent cycle after cycle pledging to repeal and replace Obamacare or enforce the border and immigration law, he is keeping those promises. Of course there will be short-term pain for some sectors, either from retaliatory tariffs on American exports or higher costs for domestic manufacturers who still need steel and aluminum from foreign sources until the decimation of our industries can be reversed through restarting mills or opening new ones. Another blunt tool wielded by Trump was the $12 billion proposal to aid the the agricultural sector facing those tit-for-tat tariffs as China and Mexico try to hit him in his red state bases. That drew the ire of our own Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who complained that the Alaskan seafood industry wasn’t included despite its heavy reliance on trade with China that is largely comprised of fish being sent there for processing and then reentering the U.S. or other markets. The question not being asked is why is it more economic to send product all the way to China for processing before it is sold in the U.S.? That work could and should be done here in Alaska. Copper River Seafoods operates a year-round processing plant in Anchorage that employs nearly 200 people producing fish for Walmart. Avoiding a trade conflict with China will not answer that question or lead to more value-added processing in Alaska. Nor does it make sense to abide a system in which we continue to pump hundreds of billions per year into a country that is building militarized islands in the South China Sea, waging cyber warfare and intellectual property theft against us and even threatening our airlines that won’t print its approved version of the map of Taiwan. What Trump’s agri-bailout signaled to the world is that the U.S. is willing to take a punch in the course of winning the fight. It was also an action that couldn’t legitimately be criticized by other countries given their own subsidies, bailouts and protectionism for favored industries. As a result, the European Union’s trade representative flew across the pond to Trump’s turf to start negotiating a solution. Trump worked to find new markets in the EU for products like American soybeans hit by Chinese tariffs. The Putin puppet is also trying to replace Russia as the dominant energy supplier to Europe. The American energy sector, now the world’s largest producer of oil and gas, is also feeling the effect of the metal tariffs. The possible impact on the ultimate price of the Alaska LNG Project has been tossed around as well, but at the last board of directors meeting company executives reported they’d identified potential U.S. sources for rolled 42-inch steel pipe. The demand for U.S. energy isn’t going anywhere even if there are intermediate increases in costs. Sanctions are about to be reimposed on Iran with the U.S. set to cut off the despotic mullahs’ crude oil cash stream used to export terrorism and crush its people. Supply is dwindling from the failed socialist state of Venezuela and there are ongoing production disruptions in the failed state of Libya created by former President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Trump is presiding over a U.S. economy with a booming energy sector, historically low unemployment, rising wages and soaring consumer confidence. He’s negotiating from a position of strength with every intention to win while the Washington Generals that make up the GOP establishment and donor classes are trying to throw the game. At least they’ll have their token Republican talking head slots on MSNBC as a consolation prize. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: State-run Health Care Authority a bad idea for employees

An Alaska government takeover of healthcare is in the works. This plan will increase state spending, grow healthcare costs, and result in less flexible, less effective care. We’ve seen this story before. This time, it is called the Alaska Health Care Authority, or HCA, which creates a structure that expands the size of Alaska’s bureaucracy at a time when Alaska’s government is struggling to fund public education and infrastructure, and is cutting your Permanent Fund dividend. The current administration and several legislators support the idea, and have allocated hundreds of thousands of state dollars to study the concept. While the concept may be well-intended, it is a misguided effort to address Alaska’s very complex, high cost healthcare system. We all recognize a need to cut healthcare costs. And I appreciate the administrative and legislative efforts to find cost savings. But an HCA is a bad idea for many reasons. Under the proposed HCA, the State of Alaska would force every state agency, state corporation, University of Alaska and school district employee and retiree and, potentially, every political subdivision employee and retiree, to get their health care coverage through a new government bureaucracy. In other words, establishing an HCA would force more than 50,000 Alaskans to change their health plans.   The proposed state-run HCA would take over privately-managed health plans, requiring Alaskans to abandon their well-managed healthcare plans with adequate reserves for emergencies, to state plans that are struggling to stay solvent. How would you react if you had an innovative, effective health plan that worked for your family, and you were informed that this coverage would now be to the supervision of the State of Alaska? Under a Health Care Authority, your coverage would become part of Alaska’s fiscal struggles. Despite the idealism of those who would like to create and implement an HCA, this concept serves no one well. Last year the State of Alaska conducted three studies on the topic. They all speculated that an HCA could save healthcare costs for the State of Alaska, but only if all publicly-funded entities are required to participate in the program. They highlight health authorities in Washington and Oregon and mention Hawaii as model examples. These studies overlook glaring concerns that Alaskans deserve to know: Washington’s HCA miscalculated and underfunded its budget by $463 million in 2016. An Oregon State audit found approximately 41 percent of the Medicaid enrollees in the Oregon HCA were ineligible, resulting in $88 million in avoidable costs during a six-month period in 2017. Oregon school districts that rejected participation in the Oregon HCA offer better benefits at lower administrative costs, thereby saving the school districts funds to offer superior pay and hire more teachers. Hawaii has had no functioning Health Authority since 2015, yet the State of Alaska continues to publish that Hawaii has a model that Alaskans could emulate. Other issues include the fact these reports reflect a biased, predetermined outcome, as the only private sector assistance in developing or completing the studies were paid consultants and advocates of the HCA. At present, there is no funding mechanism associated with the proposed HCA. While we lack details around implementation, it is fair to say this change would require hiring new employees, new software programs, and significant onboarding work. HCA is reminiscent of Senate Bill 91, the crime reform bill that legislators scrambled to fix; it lacked effective analysis, and now many people are demanding its repeal. These are just some of the holes in state-funded studies that advocate for the HCA.  Rather than addressing these deficiencies, the State of Alaska simply cites the reports as justification for moving forward with the HCA concept. In fact, the state scheduled two public meetings, on Aug. 9 and 30, 2018, to discuss the governance structure of a proposed HCA. This is premature. Rather than proceeding to discuss the HCA governance structure, the state should first restore the credibility of the process. Unless we are confident that an HCA can institute competitive and common-sense private sector practices, the Alaska HCA concept should be scrapped, and we should look seriously at other means of reducing healthcare costs for all Alaskans. The HCA story is a fictional narrative in need of a replacement. Fred Brown is the executive director of the Pacific Health Coalition. PHC is comprised of over 45 member health benefit plans in Alaska and the Pacific Northwest. These member funds represent over 100,000 employees and their dependents in Alaska. He can be reached at [email protected]  

COMMENTARY: For women, Kavanaugh's confirmation is about more than Roe v. Wade

The word "women" appears in the Democratic Party platform 49 times. By comparison, the word "men" appears four times. Women and girls have three sections of the platform devoted entirely to them. These three sections discuss protecting women's rights (two sections) and ending violence against women (one section). If one were to consider only the DNC platform, women are victims in an unforgiving world. Whether it be to their rights or physical safety, women are under threat at every turn. The growing economic status of women, however, is largely ignored. According to Forbes, women now earn over half of all bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees. Seventy percent of women with children under the age of 18 work outside the home, and women serve as the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of these households. Women hold over half of all management and professional positions. And, perhaps most surprising given the Democrats' focus on guaranteed equal pay, women control over half of the nation's personal wealth. Women are, as the vernacular goes, #winning. This growing force includes unmarried women. Per Harvard University, unmarried women are buying homes at twice the rate of unmarried men, and unmarried women comprise more than a full third of real estate ownership growth since 1994. In addition to their growing educational, financial, and professional stature, women are also exercising their political voices; according to Rutgers University, women outvote men, both nominally and proportionally. From their platform, Democrats appear to be champions of women. So why are they infantilizing a group of people who are outperforming their male counterparts in a wide range of factors? We have now seen two weeks' worth of lobbying against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Many of the objections cite women's rights as a reason to deny this (or, indeed, any) conservative nomination. By making Roe v. Wade the lynchpin of these protests, however, Democrats ignore all the other issues important to women as breadwinners, heads of households, and business people. Women, both single and hitched, are a block of power and wealth. Such a group would surely want predictable laws on a wide range of issues — taxation, regulation, patents, defense, and free speech to name a few. By interpreting the laws as written, Brett Kavanaugh would provide stability in interpreting constitutional provisions. As seen, women are not shy about voting for both the people and policies they desire. Correspondingly, they should have faith that the laws put into place by those candidates for whom they vote will not be revamped at the whim of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, the court, as a wholly unelected body, can give ever-broadening powers to government based upon an elastic construction of constitutional interpretation. As a single woman under the age of 30, I fit the mold for these new, up-and-coming females. I have a house, a master’s degree, and many professional aspirations. I am also a constituent and supporter of Sen. Murkowski's. I hope she does the right thing. Sarah Brown was born and raised in Fairbanks and is a graduate of West Valley High School. She received her bachelor’s degree in economics from the Wharton School of Business (University of Pennsylvania) and her master’s degree from the University of Oxford (England). She can be reached at [email protected]

OPINION: A smoking gun that shot blanks

The Journal was involved in two stories this past week we wanted no part of, but that ended up presenting a textbook case study in how and how not to practice journalism. On Friday, July 13, Republican blogger Suzanne Downing put up a post under a click-bait headline of “Smoking Gun” accusing Gov. Bill Walker of breaking state law by submitting an opinion column with a link to a campaign video and the Journal and its parent newspaper the Anchorage Daily News of committing campaign finance violations by publishing it. On Tuesday, July 17, the House Subcommittee on Ethics was presented with the deposition of former Journal reporter Naomi Klouda in the case against Rep. David Eastman, who was booted from the Ethics panel this session by a 31-6 vote based on a finding that he violated Alaska law by revealing the existence of an ethics complaint against Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux to Klouda on April 28, 2017. The Journal’s involvement in the Eastman case began that day when Klouda did what real reporters do when they are presented with an allegation: she attempted to verify it. In the case of Eastman, she was actually following his own advice when he told her that she should call the Legislative Ethics Office and ask Administrator Jerry Anderson about a complaint that had been filed within the previous week against LeDoux. Unbeknownst to Klouda at the time, though Anderson would quickly make her aware, ethics complaints are confidential until they are resolved. Anderson informed her that he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of any complaint and asked who had told her about it. Klouda, whose interview with Eastman was entirely on the record, told Anderson that he had told her to call the Ethics office and ask about LeDoux. Because we could not confirm the existence of the complaint, and after Anderson informed us of the serious nature of anyone disclosing a pending complaint, we did not report Eastman’s allegation against LeDoux. A couple weeks later, Klouda and I met with Anderson at his cramped Downtown Anchorage office where for the second of four times, including a deposition given under oath, she recounted in exact detail what Eastman told her that day. Unlike Eastman, her version of events has never changed, and his attorney was left with nothing else but to attack her preservation of notes despite all the contemporaneous documentation at the time, the phone records that show she called Anderson immediately after talking to Eastman and Anderson’s own sworn testimony that all support Klouda’s account. When we reported on the Ethics committee’s recommendation to remove Eastman this past January, LeDoux did confirm that a complaint had indeed been filed against her. We learned on July 17 that the complaint had actually been filed April 27, 2017, the day before Eastman told Klouda to call the Ethics Office and ask about it. The reason for the alarm expressed by Anderson on receiving Klouda’s inquiry the very day after a confidential complaint was filed suddenly became clear during the July 17 hearing. Besides attacking Klouda’s notes by introducing the entirely irrelevant Reuters guidebook and inventing other standards for reporters out of thin air, Eastman’s attorney argued that it wasn’t reasonable to believe that he would do something so stupid as to violate the ethics law by telling her about a pending complaint against a fellow legislator. Just because an action is stupid doesn’t mean people don’t do it, which brings us to Downing and the striking contrast with Klouda. Without a shred of evidence, Downing accused the governor of using state resources to promote a campaign video and the Journal and ADN of being accomplices in the violation by publishing the column with the link to YouTube. Downing didn’t contact ADN Opinion Editor Tom Hewitt to ask about the origin of the column or what the editorial policy is regarding submissions by candidates. Nor did she contact yours truly despite having my cell phone number. Instead, she published a piece of fake news with no reporting and appointed herself as judge and jury of the Alaska Public Offices Commission to declare it was only a question of how many, not if any, legal violations took place. Klouda attempted to verify an allegation before publishing it. Downing made no attempt to verify her allegations. When Klouda could not confirm the existence of a complaint, we did not publish the allegation. Even after being informed that the Walker column came from the campaign and not from his state office, Downing has yet to correct or update her post as of the morning of July 18. Klouda had no agenda when she called the Ethics Office to check on Eastman’s allegation. Downing’s anti-Walker agenda is plastered all over her blog. If the Journal shared Downing’s lack of standards, we could have reported Eastman’s allegation of a complaint and the details he described to Klouda along with the obligatory “could not confirm or deny” from Anderson. We instead chose to be responsible and regardless of how the Ethics committee ultimately rules, Klouda’s effort to get the story right was presented in detail during the July 17 hearing as Eastman’s attorney was left with only an emotional misdirection about her credibility and a defense that boiled down to his client not being that dumb. Downing won’t make that same argument but the next time you read one of her attacks on her ideological foes keep in mind her standards when she writes about her friends. Editor's note: On July 19, the House Subcommittee on Legislative Ethics upheld its decision that Eastman violated the law by disclosing the existence of the complaint to Klouda. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Without better habitat protections, salmon are vulnerable

As a commercial fisherman for over four decades, I am supporting Ballot Initiative 1 and voting “Yes for Salmon.” I have participated in a variety of fisheries around the state from Southeast to the Bering Sea, and have experienced a multitude of uncertainties inherent in the business. Fish stocks fluctuate, weather conditions vary, markets can be fickle, mechanical breakdowns happen, foreign exchange rates rise and fall, and politics shift with the wind, to name a few. Exposure to risk — both physical and financial — plays an especially outsized role in commercial fishing, but like any other type of business, finding some level of predictability is a key to success. Although there are many risk factors beyond our control, Alaska fishermen are lucky to have predictability when it comes to management of fisheries. The mandate for sustainable resource use in Article 8 of the Alaska Constitution provides a foundation for a sophisticated management system administered by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The department uses the best available science and data collection methods along with a participatory public process at the Board of Fisheries to develop regulations that promote sustainable resource use. That predictability allows fishermen like me to make better decisions about my business that have ripple effects on family, crew, community and throughout the economy. Alaska’s fishery management system may be the envy of the world, but we are clearly vulnerable when it comes to protection of freshwater habitat. Throughout the northern hemisphere, where salmon were once bountiful, most places have seen their great runs diminish to a mere trickle or even lost altogether. The causes for salmon run decimation are well documented and nearly always related to loss of habitat. It’s often not from any one factor or project, but the cumulative effect of many disruptions. One only needs to look at the Pacific Northwest as an example of the loss and subsequent difficulty in rehabilitating those once-abundant stocks. I am hoping that Alaska will learn from the mistakes of others and act to effectively protect salmon habitat before it is too late. While some claim that Alaska has “robust” permitting laws, the few column inches pertaining to salmon habitat protection in the voluminous book of fishery statutes (Title 16) is grossly insufficient. ADFG — the agency with actual responsibility for upholding the constitutional mandate — needs the authority required to assure that salmon habitat is protected. Present habitat permitting laws date back to statehood 60 years ago at a time when our population was 224,000 residents, a third of today’s roughly 740,000! Over the years since statehood, many have recognized the shortcomings of the present guiding statute (AS 16.05.871 section d), which states that “The commissioner shall approve the proposed construction, work, or use in writing unless the commissioner finds the plans and specifications insufficient for the proper protection of fish and game.” “Proper protection” falls for short of a “robust” standard that will bring us the salmon-enhanced future that most of us desire. Two years ago, the Board of Fisheries stepped in with a request to the Legislature for changes to the permitting statutes. Alaska Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, rose to the challenge with proposed legislation, but the bill never made it out of committee. Legislative inaction has made the “Yes for Salmon” ballot initiative a credible alternative if salmon habitat is to be protected. With increasing pressure to develop Alaska’s non-renewable resources, the threat to salmon habitat is real. The status quo may be appealing to development interests, but unless costs are internalized — borne by the entity undertaking the project, the rest of us end up paying the price. When considering salmon habitat protection, Ben Franklin might have altered his famous axiom to state that “an ounce of prevention is worth a ton of cure.” So, I am supporting the “Yes for Salmon” initiative because there is nothing in the present statutes that will preclude a long-term decline in salmon viability as the state becomes more developed. The initiative clarifies what constitutes “proper protection” of fish and game, sets up a permitting process that is transparent and workable, and recognizes that not only has the state of Alaska changed, but the state of the science is also far more advanced. Chip Treinen of Anchorage holds an MBA from Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley and has over 40 years of fishing experience in Alaska’s waters.

COMMENTARY: Stand for Salmon will hurt rural Alaska

Generations of Alaska Native people have revered salmon for its life-sustaining properties and role in the growth and survival of our communities. To say that Alaska Native people respect fish, especially salmon, is an understatement. Salmon constitutes a big part of who we are as Native people. As a proud Alaska Native woman and the Executive Director of the ANCSA Regional Association, I have the privilege of working with the CEOs of the twelve Alaska Native Regional Corporations. Together, our corporations, formed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971, are owned by over 127,000 Alaska Native people. The Association exists to promote and foster the continued growth and economic strength of the Alaska Native Regional Corporations on behalf of their shareholders. Our mission is simple: collaborate to create a sustainable socioeconomic future for Alaska Native people. Recently, our organization took a public stand opposing Ballot Measure 1, also called “Stand for Salmon,” which its organizers claim is designed to protect fish, including salmon. Some Alaskans question why we became involved, and why we chose not to support the Ballot Measure. It’s critical for our shareholders and others to understand that the position we took was in no way “anti-salmon,” as some false accusations have claimed. On the contrary, our position is very much pro-Alaska, and especially pro-rural Alaska. Salmon have provided the bedrock of our communities for hundreds of years and must be protected for the next generations; no one disputes that core precept. But this ballot measure is so deeply flawed, and does so little to actually protect salmon that we were compelled to speak against it. Indeed, we feel so strongly about this issue that we have committed our official support to the ballot measure group, Stand for Alaska, which opposes the Stand for Salmon measure. It’s important to note that we do not take issue with the purported purpose of Ballot Measure 1, which claims a desire to protect fish, especially salmon. However, when more is learned about the ballot measure, including who wrote it, the lack of public input, the legal questions it raises, and the economic harm that it would cause to our communities, we could not in good faith stay silent. Not only would its passage jeopardize important resource development projects in Alaska, but also smaller infrastructure projects in rural Alaska. I listened with great interest when Doyon Ltd. President and CEO Aaron Schutt told a group that if the ballot measure passes, water and sewer projects would become all but impossible to construct in rural Alaska. As an organization whose membership is dedicated to improving the quality of life for thousands of Alaska Native shareholders and descendants, we can’t allow this to happen. We must stand together and reject this ballot measure that purports to be designed to protect salmon, but that will likely set our communities and Alaska Native people back by decades. Salmon has sustained our people for many generations; it’s become a part of who we are as people and what has allowed our communities to thrive and exist today. It represents our past, present, and future — and it’s engrained in our heritage. But on this issue, we must join and stand together for Alaska and our future by voting no on Ballot Measure 1. ^ Kim Reitmeier is the executive director of the ANCSA Regional Association.

OPINION: Times adds to escalating rhetoric of incitement

Democrats sure love to quote mob movies when they want to sound tough. Back in 2008, then-Sen. Barack Obama was at a fundraiser in Philadelphia when he referenced “the Chicago Way” as described by Sean Connery’s Jim Malone in “The Untouchables.” “If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun,” said Obama, who rose to power from the Chicago political scene. “Because from what I understand, folks in Philly like a good brawl. I’ve seen Eagles fans.” There’s no need to imagine the sort of breathless pearl-clutching from so-called progressives had such a statement emanated from Obama’s opponent Sen. John McCain or his running mate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Just a few years later, a deranged individual who believed the government was using grammar as a means of mind control shot up a constituent gathering in Arizona hosted by Rep. Gabby Giffords. Before the blood dried or the bodies of the six killed turned cold, the fingers were being pointed at Palin for inspiring the shooter because she’d included Giffords’ district in a standard-issue map of targeted congressional seats. The disgusting smear against Palin was repeated just more than a year ago by the New York Times editorial board when a fan of Bernie Sanders and Rachel Maddow attempted to assassinate Republican members of Congress on June 14, 2017, at a baseball practice in Alexandria, Va. Only because Capital Police were on hand to protect the third-ranking member of the House leadership, Rep. Steve Scalise, who was gravely wounded in the attack, did we narrowly avoid the worst political bloodbath in our nation’s history. Unlike the Giffords shooter, the political motivation of the man who attacked the Republican members was splattered all over his social media accounts. So what did the Times do with this evidence? Go after Palin, of course. “Was this attack evidence of how vicious American politics has become? Probably,” the Times editorial board wrote the following day. “In 2011, when Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in a supermarket parking lot, grievously wounding Representative Gabby Giffords and killing six people, including a 9-year-old girl, the link to political incitement was clear. Before the shooting, Sarah Palin’s political action committee circulated a map of targeted electoral districts that put Ms. Giffords and 19 other Democrats under stylized cross hairs.” The Times was eventually forced to issue a correction that noted there were zero links between Palin and Loughner, and she unsuccessfully sued the paper for defamation. The case was dismissed because she couldn’t prove the editorial writers knew what they were writing was false, despite the fact the claim against Palin had been debunked for years. Turns out ignorance is a defense. Now, with violence and harassment against members of President Donald Trump’s administration and his supporters on the rise and being actively encouraged by the likes of Rep. Maxine Waters, the Times has decided to throw more gasoline on the fire. On July 6, in a rallying cry to Democrats to oppose whomever Trump would eventually nominate to the Supreme Court to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy, the editorial board wrote: “This is all the more reason for Democrats and progressives to take a page from “The Godfather” and go to the mattresses on this issue. “… This call to arms may sound overly dramatic. It’s not.” “Going to the mattresses” means going to war with rival mafia families. Whether in the movies or real life, it means blood in the streets. It means a series of attacks and retaliations carried out by mob soldiers who lie low in bare apartments lacking furniture with mattresses on the floor. If Democrats didn’t have double standards, they wouldn’t have any at all. We don’t even have to wait to see if the unhinged rhetoric of the left will inspire actual violence. The assassination attempt on Scalise and his fellow Republicans proves it already has. A man has been arrested for threatening to kill Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai and his family over net neutrality. Yes, net neutrality. Sen. Rand Paul, who was on the baseball field with Scalise getting shot at and later had his ribs broken in an assault by his neighbor, was the subject of additional threats recently and Capital Police arrested a man for threatening to chop him and his family up with an ax. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has now been harassed multiple times in public by progressive activists, who have also gotten in the face of his wife and Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Simply wearing a Make America Great Again hat is now an invite to assault, as we saw in Texas where a 16-year-old had his ripped off and a drink thrown in his face at a Whataburger by a member of the Texas Green Party. The anger on the left has boiled over, and as long as the hateful demonization of Republicans keeps up it won’t be long before we see a repeat of the attack at a baseball field. America will reject the left’s tactics this fall. Republicans will hold the House, expand their majority in the Senate and cement control of the Supreme Court with the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh. To borrow another phrase from “The Godfather” that the Times can understand, Trump is going to settle all family business. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Sweeney will be champion for Native issues at federal level

The U.S. Senate’s recent confirmation of Tara Sweeney as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs at the Department of the Interior is a positive move, and Cherokee Nation looks forward to working with her on issues important to Indian Country. She is the first Alaska Native to serve as the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs and the first woman in the post since Ada Deer served in that capacity for President Bill Clinton. Throughout her many years of work on behalf of the Native people in her home state of Alaska, Sweeney is a strong voice on a multitude of issues, from tribal self-determination to the promotion of economic development opportunities. She has also championed increased access to capital for underserved Native American populations. That depth of knowledge and passion will be a benefit for all Native people in the United States, especially since the role of Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs plays a critical role in the government-to-government relationship the federal government has with tribal nations. Closer to home, Sweeney provided her expertise to Cherokee Nation Businesses by serving on its Economic Development New Market Tax Credit Advisory Board. She is aware of our efforts and successes in economic development that is reshaping northeast Oklahoma, where we employ over 11,000 people and have a $2.03 billion impact on the state. We utilize the dollars generated by our business success and federal funding to make a positive impact on more than 360,000 Cherokees we serve through the development of affordable housing, health care facilities, education and job creation. For us at the Cherokee Nation, it is important to have a knowledgeable and skilled person in this role, especially as we continue to advocate for issues affecting our service programs, land and other resources. O ther priorities Cherokee Nation is pursuing on Capitol Hill include funding for staffing and operations for our expansion at W.W. Hastings Hospital, a joint venture project with the Bureau of Indian Education at Sequoyah High School, amendments to the federal “47 Act,” or Stigler Act, to protect certain land ownership rights for citizens of the Five Civilized Tribes in Oklahoma, and continued funding for federal programs important to tribal governments. These priorities would not be possible without a solid working relationship and partnership with the federal government and the Department of the Interior. Bill John Baker is the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation. This column originally appeared July 9 at Native News Online.(nativenewsonline.net).

OPINION: The pointless pander by Walker-Mallott on Pebble

Gov. Bill Walker and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott are serious about seeking reelection, but it appears they are abandoning any attempt to win the support of the resource development industry. How successful their effort will be remains to be seen, but after splitting off GOP votes from former Gov. Sean Parnell in 2014 the new strategy is apparently to siphon votes from Democrat challenger and former Sen. Mark Begich. Running to the left in 2018 after appealing to Lisa Murkowski moderates as a nonthreatening alternative to Parnell in 2014 is the only explanation for the letter signed by Walker and Mallott submitted to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on June 29. At the end of the scoping period in preparation for the environmental impact statement process for the proposed Pebble mine, Walker and Mallott asked the Corps to suspend the entire effort. To be sure, Walker and Mallott declared their opposition to Pebble in 2014, which is not a controversial position to take in Alaska. But members of the resource industry who were willing to overlook that position quickly found out that was the only position he was forthcoming about. Walker pledged to keep the current process for the Alaska LNG Project on track; instead he immediately began to undermine it to wrest state control from the producers. After endorsing its repeal, Walker pledged to support the results of the referendum that August that upheld the current oil production tax known as SB 21; instead he introduced a series of oil tax hikes and over two years he vetoed $630 million in payments owed to small oil and gas exploration companies that deepened the state recession and wrecked the state’s credibility with investors. He also picked a fight over the Prudhoe Bay plan of development — a typically routine annual filing that defines expected drilling and production estimates — by trying to extract detailed information about natural gas sales and marketing from the three owners of the field. Walker and Mallott clearly don’t believe they’ll be able to fool the industry twice, so they are following Begich’s lead. Begich gave his position on Pebble to Laine Welch of Fish Radio published June 13 in which he said that the first thing he would do as governor would be to inform the Corps that state lands or right-of-way access would not be granted and that the state would not participate in the effort. That would “finally put an end to this project,” Begich said. Walker and Mallott wrote in their letter that they will continue to “champion” resource development such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or building the gas pipeline, however, “the (Pebble Limited Partnership) has yet to demonstrate to us or the Alaska public that they have proposed a feasible and realistic project. Without, at minimum a preliminary economic assessment, but preferably a pre-feasibility study, the Corps will be unable to take a hard look at all reasonable alternatives in the draft EIS.” Don’t look now, but the exact arguments they make against Pebble can easily be applied to ANWR and Walker’s dream of the gasline. There is as yet no economic assessment to justify drilling in ANWR, currently in the EIS process, and opponents make the same case that there is no economic rationale for the effort. Demonstrating a “feasible and realistic project” is also a hurdle the Alaska LNG Project, also in the EIS process, is far from clearing. The short-circuiting of the permit process to stop projects is the favored strategy of Alaska’s many opponents to responsible development. Advocating the Corps take just such a step against Pebble reveals the claim to be resource champions as a truly hollow one and betrays their request as the pointless pander that it is. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: Time for Alaska industries to evolve and Stand for Salmon

Here in Dillingham, at the confluence of the Nushagak and Wood Rivers, sockeye salmon are arriving in significant waves — silver tsunamis of biomass, truly our Alaskan Gold. And through the window of my office in Dillingham, I’m watching 737 and C-130 aircraft loaded down with tens of thousands of pounds of fresh fillets lift off for Anchorage. It’s almost the height of fishing season. And as this town is transformed from sleepy outpost to buzzing commercial hive, I’m reminded once again how biological health and market evolution are combining to benefit thousands of families invested in their commercial fishing enterprises. This $1.5 billion, 14,000-job Bristol Bay sockeye economy rests on healthy salmon habitat and clean water throughout the Nushagak and Kvichak watersheds. We have the most pristine rivers, lakes, and wetlands ecosystem anywhere in the North Pacific. That allows all these fish to come home and seed a voluminous next generation. And it affords the next round of smolts the best possible environment to grow to maturity and head to the sea. Any major threat to habitat is a threat to our economy. That’s why the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp., charged with sustainably developing the region’s marine resources, has come out in favor of stronger salmon habitat protections that will be in front of voters this fall — the Yes for Salmon initiative. And that’s why we’ve consistently spoken out against the Pebble Mine proposed for the headwaters of the Nushagak — where the mine would wipe out 30 miles of salmon streams and tributaries and 3,000 acres of adjacent wetlands, just in its first phase. But we also know that the we can’t get complacent with mother nature’s bounty and simply maintain the status quo. Over the last three years, our organization has joined with private sector partners and fishermen in Bristol Bay to drive a massive shift from delivering canned salmon to now producing frozen and fresh products that consumers are demanding. We have helped hundreds of boats add chilling capacity onboard, and processors are increasingly shifting to fillets and portions. This is moving Bristol Bay salmon up the value chain, bringing higher prices and opening up more and more market share for Bristol Bay products here in the United States. It increases the annual impact from Alaskan salmon on the American economy — now pegged at $4.2 billion. Other Alaskan industries know the mantra of adapting, evolving and bringing greater value to customers and society. As a state, we stand on the threshold of another opportunity. By adopting the development standards outlined in the Yes for Salmon initiative, Alaska will set the pace for how to grow responsibly while also protecting the fish and game that are central to our way of life and our economy. We know it’s possible for Alaskan industries to develop major projects responsibly: the Trans-Alaska pipeline was built without any major damage to habitat, because state government at the time believed in strong oversight and committed resources to monitor construction. But because we have no clear scientific standards on the books for permitting development in salmon habitat, the system is open to exploitation and influence in Juneau. And it simply does not have the needed rigor to handle the next generation of mines such as Pebble. Now is the time for Alaska to lead on responsible development. I believe in the importance of oil, gas and mining. I come from a family of South Dakota Black Hills settlers who balanced gold mining interests with community interests and I have no interest in seeing these industries falter. Having studied the initiative and weighed the merits of our public support for some time, I can honestly say this will not shutter these important sectors. It will encourage them to grow correctly, by not irreparably harming key salmon habitat. If we want a future in salmon, we need to have future-oriented business community. And that means tending to the needs of this impressive, home grown, renewable economy that depends on our careful stewardship. ^ Norman Van Vactor is president and CEO of Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation.

COMMENTARY: Stand for Salmon initiative is too extreme

Although our economy is struggling, there are new opportunities on the horizon. At our shop in Fairbanks, Flowline Alaska Inc., we are gearing up for new projects and are excited for the future. But Ballot Measure 1 threatens new opportunities for our family-owned company and my community here in Fairbanks. As written, Ballot Measure 1 imposes new regulations that would jeopardize not only new development projects, but also existing ones. And it’s not just mining and oil development. We’re talking about critical, local infrastructure upgrades that are badly needed in many communities. Roads, dams, wastewater treatment facilities and airports, just to name a few, all require many permits. Whether we’re building, repairing or replacing an existing structure, Ballot Measure 1 will make necessary infrastructure projects cost prohibitive or impossible. Flowline is focused on oil and gas and jobs for Alaskans. We proudly call Fairbanks home, and we care deeply about what happens here. The fact that Ballot Measure 1 would make it more difficult for our community to grow and prosper is unacceptable. Alaska has promising economic and employment prospects just within reach: new oil fields, the opening of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and even a natural gas pipeline project. These opportunities provide more than a few jobs; they offer new sources of revenue for the state and local communities, and more money flowing into the Alaska Permanent Fund. Under Ballot Measure 1, those opportunities could be postponed — possibly forever. Alaska can’t wait any longer for more jobs and new sources of state revenue. Alaska can’t afford to take on new and different regulations when our current ones are viewed with respect by other states. To embrace an extreme and untested permitting system that risks a shutdown of existing operations and puts new projects in the deep freeze would be self-defeating and not in the best interests of Alaskans who value jobs and a strong economy. My family has enjoyed many summers catching salmon on the Gulkana River. We want salmon to be protected just like everyone else, but we don’t have to abandon economic growth and job creation in order to protect our fish. Alaskans work very hard to have both economic development and strong salmon runs. In many cases, development projects have actually enhanced fish habitat. Just look at what Red Dog mine did for Middle Fork Creek. A once uninhabitable river is now a home to fish thanks to mining. That might be a hard concept for the folks in the Lower 48 who funded this measure to understand, but we do things differently here in Alaska. I’d like to think that means we do it better. Alaska can enjoy both a good economy and strong salmon protections, but not if we pass Ballot Measure 1. Please join me in voting “no” on Ballot Measure 1. Genevieve Schok Jr. works in management at Flowline Alaska, Inc.

OPINION: Employers have every right to Stand for Alaska

The usual ado is being made about so-called “Outside” corporations contributing millions of dollars toward the defeat of the Stand for Salmon initiative that could appear on the ballot this November. While the Supreme Court ponders the constitutionality of the measure after oral arguments in April with a decision to be issued in September, the companies with billions worth of investments at stake have plunked down $5 million collectively for the opposition group Stand for Alaska as of the most recent public reports. They include Kinross Gold Corp., which just announced a $100 million expansion of the Fort Knox mine near Fairbanks, and the parent company of the proposed Donlin gold mine that is nearing the end of the environmental review process and has a construction price tag north of $5 billion. There’s also ConocoPhillips, which has spent billions over the past several years to bring CD-5 into production and to develop the Greater Mooses Tooth-1 project that will start adding oil to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline System this year to be followed not long after by Greater Mooses Tooth-2. Those three combined projects will add nearly 100,000 barrels to the daily throughput of TAPS at no small cost to ConocoPhillips and no small benefit to the state treasury and Permanent Fund. Other contributors include the owner of the Kensington gold mine near Juneau, which went through a 20-year fight with environmental groups before beginning operations, and the owner of the Red Dog mine in Northwest Alaska that also cleared multiple obstacles by opponents before becoming one of the state’s great resource development success stories. Yet despite these and other companies’ long histories in Alaska, their tens of thousands in employees, billions in payroll through direct and indirect jobs along with generous contributions to the state’s nonprofits, arts and education programs, they are still cast as “Outsiders” attempting to unfairly use their monetary resources to “exploit” the state. The refrain has become as tired and predictable as “it’s our oil.” Even setting aside companies whose headquarters may be located outside the state’s borders, there is no shortage of local companies and groups opposing the measure represented by the Alaska Support Industry Alliance, the Resource Development Council, the Alaska Chamber and the biggest local chambers of commerce in the state including Anchorage, Juneau, Ketchikan and Fairbanks. There’s also the Alaska Native regional corporations, with the exception of the Pebble-opposition captured Bristol Bay Native Corp., who have joined together against the Stand for Salmon initiative. All outsiders, right? The argument is ridiculous on its face, but the attitude is pervasive and it should be no surprise the resource industry that has built Alaska and shoulders virtually the entire burden of taxation is not messing around when it comes to defeating the measure or waiting to see if the Supreme Court does the right thing and strikes it down as an unconstitutional seizure of the Legislature’s authority. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

COMMENTARY: FCC is committed to rural telemedicine in Alaska

One of my earliest trips as a Federal Communications Commission commissioner was to a health care clinic in Fort Yukon, Alaska, population 554. The clinic may not have all the amenities of a big-city hospital, but it does have a broadband connection. High-speed internet access has made a big difference for this clinic. It’s meant access to doctors far away who can review medical information beamed to them by a local nurse. Fort Yukon’s story isn’t unique. Today, communications technology has fundamentally transformed the delivery of health care in rural America. Telemedicine can help address the workforce shortages that are too common in rural health facilities. Rural patients can use interactive videoconferencing to consult with specialists anywhere in the country — expert care that was unavailable and unimaginable not long ago. Chronic disease management has been revolutionized as wearable sensors can detect real-time complications and alert a family member or first responder to intervene. Digital tools can empower people with diabetes to monitor their blood-glucose levels. Bottom line: digital medicine helps rural communities increase access to health care, reduce costs, and improving patient outcomes. No state stands to benefit more from telemedicine than Alaska, which is home to many of the most remote communities in America. In a filing with the FCC, the Alaska Native Health Consortium estimated that 20 percent of Alaska Natives rely on telehealth, and that remote consultations within their network save $10 million annually in avoided travel costs. They put it simply: “(W)e cannot provide care in rural Alaska without telecommunications.” But there’s a fundamental challenge in Alaska, as in many parts of the Lower 48: promoting enough broadband to support digital health services. Nearly one-quarter of Alaskans can’t access fixed broadband service to support high-bandwidth applications like telemedicine. In rural areas, that number is dramatically higher. Established in 1997, the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program is an essential tool for closing these gaps in internet access. This program helps health care providers afford the connectivity that they need to better serve patients. But it’s facing some real problems. Most significantly, the program is currently underfunded. Its budget hasn’t increased a dime beyond its initial allocation of $400 million a year in the late 1990s. A second problem is that under today’s rules, if the program is oversubscribed (that is, if more than $400 million in reimbursements is requested from the program), every recipient sees a funding reduction. In 2016, program recipients saw a 7.5 percent trim in support. For funding year 2017, we’re looking at a chop of up to 26 percent. We need to update the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program to better reflect the needs of and advances in digital health care. That’s why I recently introduced a plan to increase the program’s annual funding cap from $400 million to $571 million. This new spending level reflects where the cap would be today if it had been adjusted for inflation all these years. This 43 percent increase would apply to the 2017 funding year in order to give rural health care providers immediate relief. Going forward, the plan would also give providers more certainty by adjusting the cap annually for inflation and allowing unused funds from prior years to be carried forward to future years. Notably, support for this approach is bipartisan. This May, Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan joined a coalition of 30 U.S. Senators from Alaska to Alabama and New Hampshire to New Mexico in calling on the FCC to increase the Rural Health Care Program’s spending cap. And the Trump Administration has broadly recognized the value of telemedicine, especially for veterans. And this proposal is just a start. We also need to make sure that every dollar spent in the program is spent wisely to benefit health care providers in Alaska and their patients. That’s why the FCC is moving forward on a separate track to make sure that the program functions more efficiently. This proposal is also personal. I grew up in rural Kansas, the child of rural doctors. I can remember my father waking up early to make long drives to small towns in order to treat patients who otherwise would never see a specialist. For me, this issue isn’t about technology; it’s about people and their ability to access to basic care they need to lead healthy lives. As long as I am FCC chairman, one of this agency’s top priorities will be harnessing the power of communications technology to improve health care in rural America. Devoting the resources necessary to make the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program a 21st-century tool will go a long way toward achieving this result. ^ Ajit Pai is the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission.

OPINION: Trump’s win in Singapore another blow to resistance

The major buildup of the U.S. missile defenses at Fort Greely continues, but the possibility their capability will be tested against an attack from North Korea is less now than it was a week ago thanks to President Donald Trump. Trump’s June 12 summit with Kim Jong Un, though the redundant cast list of media, Democrats and NeverTrumpers predictably tried their best to discredit it, was an unquestionable success of diplomacy the aforementioned Peanut Gallery claimed he’d be incapable of pulling off. This same clownshoe-clad posse that carried water for President Barack Obama’s deal with Iran bound in cheesecloth and sealed with pallets of cash, his normalization of relations with the Castro brothers and his post-election “flexibility” offer to Vladimir Putin is now attempting to argue with a straight face that Trump was swindled in Singapore. Giving up nothing more than a photo op and a pause in military exercises with South Korea, the securing of an agreement to finally repatriate the remains of thousands of U.S. casualties in the Korean War represents an achievement no president has managed in 65 years despite several other “deals” with the so-called hermit kingdom. That’s in addition to the freedom for three American hostages held by the Kim regime achieved without billions of dollars, sanction relief or the release of Taliban leaders that Obama exchanged. If nothing else comes of this summit, the return of American soldiers to their families is a historic feat on its own. But there will never be any concession of a Trump victory by his increasingly unhinged opponents, who would probably give up the climate change cause if the president suddenly embraced it. Trump famously bragged that people would “get tired of winning” if he were elected, yet there’s no sign of fatigue so far either for his supporters or members of the #resistance that apparently still believe screaming “F*** Trump” on live TV will win regular Americans to their cause. The stock market is up; unemployment is down to record lows across every demographic group including African Americans; wages are rising; and job openings topped the number of people looking for work for the first time ever in April. Obama once snickered that there’s no “waving a magic wand” to create jobs. He and others scoffed at Trump predicting 3 percent GDP growth. The measly 1.5 percent average growth over Obama’s eight years — the worst of any president since World War II despite near-zero interest rates and trillions in stimulus aided by endless “quantitative easing,” aka printing money, by the Federal Reserve — was dubbed the new normal. The Atlanta Federal Reserve is projecting GDP growth could top 4 percent for the second quarter. Meanwhile, the national media continues to drop once proudly-held standards of ethics and best practices in the name of taking Trump down as the intelligence community across the alphabet is concurrently exposed for its malfeasance and treachery under Obama’s watch in the false belief that Hillary Clinton would win and its abuses would never come to light. Resorting to porn stars and disgraced figures like James Clapper, John Brennan and James Comey has done nothing but backfire upon them all as Trump has let this farce play out with Robert Mueller indicting Russian trolls and nonexistent companies with his dream team of Democrat-donating lawyers and exiled lovebird agents Peter Strzok and Lisa Page. The same media that forced the revelation of Trump attorney Michael Cohen’s clients after Mueller’s lackeys in New York raided his office now howl with indignation when one of their cohort had her phone and email metadata seized after it was discovered she was sleeping with her source that was illegally leaking classified information from the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Schadenfreude doesn’t even begin to capture the karmic tail-kicking being administered to Trump’s ankle-nipping pursuers. House Misery Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-lusional, has called the tax relief “crumbs”, defended the “spark of divinity” in MS-13 gang members and poo-pooed the jobs numbers with a sarcastic “hip hip hooray.” Democrats are running on tax hikes, open borders and impeachment with billionaire Tom Steyer proving that there is actually a bigger waste of money for rich guys than donating it to Jeb Bush. Good luck with that. The RNC is flush; the DNC is broke. Half the Democrats in the Senate are up for reelection but their adherence to Chuck Schumer’s obstruction strategy will likely have them in Washington during August voting against Trump’s nominees while 10 GOP challengers in states won by Trump get the field to themselves. Wile E. Coyote hatched better plans. And somewhere, Jim Acosta is crying in the shower. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

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