- Associated Press - Monday, June 30, 2014

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

June 29, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: First Senate event sees meaningful contrasts among contenders

Thursday’s debate between Republican hopefuls for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Mark Begich was a meaningful kickoff to the body of the primary campaign that will be decided Aug. 19. As Alaskans are well aware, the race already has been underway for some time, but with the primary election now less than two months away, it’s clear that candidates Mead Treadwell, Dan Sullivan and Joe Miller are beginning to press harder. That pressure is being applied both to what the candidates see as the failings of Sen. Begich and to one another - after all, only one will survive to continue their campaign in the general election.

To that end, attendees at the debate Thursday evening at East Anchorage High School saw the candidates draw some of the sharpest contrasts yet made between themselves and their opponents. Some of those contrasts will be useful for voters who have yet to make up their minds, while others appeared to be pre-tested gotcha lines and red meat meant more to appeal to the party base than to set realistic goals.

One meaningful contrast that emerged was a pronounced difference in foreign policy vision between Mr. Miller and his opponents, particularly Mr. Sullivan. Mr. Miller told the crowd at the debate that he rejects the long-standing policy of nation building overseas by the U.S. military, saying that America has had little success in bringing freedoms like those enjoyed at home to other countries. Those statements run sharply counter to both Mr. Sullivan’s views and his résumé - he worked under Condoleezza Rice in the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and later served in President George W. Bush’s State Department as assistant secretary of state for energy, economics and business. His stance on policy reflects that service - he stated in the debate that he believes in American exceptionalism and sees the country’s overseas deployments as protecting others from tyranny.

Other moments at the debate, however, were less helpful for those looking for realistic policy goals. At one point, Mr. Miller cited the scrutiny of political groups by the Internal Revenue Service. He told attendees that the country should abolish not just the IRS but also income tax altogether. That scheme is not only politically unworkable but, if implemented, would massive impacts on essential services like education, transportation, and national defense without other tax revenues to replace them. While Mr. Miller may well believe that the I.R.S. should be reformed or eliminated, it would be more responsible to outline a plan by which the country’s business wouldn’t face an existential disruption rather than simply tapping into resentment of Washington, D.C., and its revenue collection efforts. And back-and-forth exchanges between Mr. Treadwell and Mr. Sullivan about who does more improper funding outside the state might make for a good attack ad, but we’d rather see substantive debate over campaign finance reform than one-liners meant to get quick applause.

There’s still a good amount of time left before the primary election, and several more debates between the candidates are scheduled to take place in that time. We’re optimistic that future events will see even more focus on substantive issues and less on “gotcha” moments.

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June 28, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Youth homeless shelter provides vital service for wayward teens

Along with melting snow, spring this year brought the opening of a long-awaited community resource: a shelter aimed at providing housing for the Interior’s homeless youths. On April 4, Fairbanks Youth Advocates celebrated the official opening of its new facility, known as The Door.

Officials at FYA said The Door arose out of an unfilled need in Fairbanks. Since the Fairbanks Native Association closed a similar facility nearly a decade ago, there had been no shelter options for homeless teenagers. Although many were able to find shelter with friends or family members, harsh Fairbanks winters made the societal issue a safety concern that couldn’t be ignored.

There are a surprising number of homeless teens in Fairbanks, though exact figures are hard to pin down. When FYA was drawing up plans for The Door, a Street Outreach and Advocacy Programs official estimated that about 800 youths in the area have no permanent residence.

Without basic needs like food and shelter addressed, more problems follow. Homeless youths are vastly less likely to graduate or even attend high school, and without a stable source of income many turn to petty crimes like shoplifting to provide the things they need or want. Those crimes in turn make it more difficult to find stable employment or housing, deepening both their cycle of homelessness and the costs society incurs in dealing with them.

The Door’s goal isn’t just to provide shelter. The facility and its volunteers work to help connect the youth they serve with resources to stabilize their housing situation, find jobs, or continue their education. They provide food, hygiene items, opportunities for recreation and positive activities.

While their new facility was under construction, FYA sponsored a temporary overnight shelter for 16 months in the basement of First Presbyterian Church downtown, serving close to 160 young people in need of a place to stay during that time. That shelter operated only during overnight hours, as church members used the building during the day. The Door, by comparison, operates 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Like the youths who take shelter there, The Door’s basic needs have been met. Construction finished late last year, and state permits to operate came this spring. But the facility is needs items to provide further help, like clothing, food for the pantry, and various durable goods. You can check the FYA web page at www.fairbanksyouthadvocates.org to see the list of current needs.

Sometimes, when shelters like The Door are under discussion, budget-minded community members will express concern over their costs - even when, as in the case of FYA’s plan, the facility is financed not by local tax dollars but state block grants. Those concerns are legitimate, and an eye must always be kept on budgets to guard against waste. But it’s worthwhile, too, to include in that calculation the costs to the community of the facility’s absence. In the case of The Door, there is great value in changing the trajectories of young people who might otherwise become a burden both to the health of the community and a drain on its financial resources.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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