- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Feb. 25, 2017

Ketchikan Daily News: Paving the way for ANWR development

The stage is set to begin clearing the way to drill for oil in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.

The first step must come first out of Washington, D.C., the nation’s political center. As it is, the political party in power is friendly to fossil-fuel development. Both houses of Congress are controlled by Republicans and President Donald Trump is by profession a business developer. He believes in building, and Arctic drilling would be building on several levels, including industry, the state, Alaska businesses and quality of Alaskans’ lives.

President Trump, since taking office five weeks ago, has signed executive orders to advance the Dakota Access and Keystone XL oil pipelines. Plus, he strongly encouraged that developers utilize U.S. steel, which effectively would enhance the domestic economy.

Trump has demonstrated his interest in fossil-fuel development projects, and Alaska is primed to participate.

Alaska’s Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week announced she is sponsoring legislation to open a portion of the 30,136-square-mile ANWR. About 2,300 square miles of the Beaufort Sea coastal plain could be opened to oil drilling, if a majority in the House and Senate agreed and President Trump signed off.

Most Alaskans agree that small section of ANWR should be made available for drilling. Previous drilling in Alaska has proven friendly to the landscape and wildlife. Not only do animals adapt in such circumstances, but reports show herd sizes increased despite the addition of the trans-Alaska Pipeline to the landscape.

Alaska is infused with natural resources, particularly oil and gas, and the state and Alaskans depend upon developing those resources for jobs and Alaska’s economic well-being.

The state has a nearly $3 billion budget deficit created by the decline in oil prices in recent years. New development would not only improve Alaska’s revenue picture, but it would inject excitement in the private sector, resulting in new and growing business and jobs as far away from ANWR as Ketchikan.

While Alaska is a place of wonderful opportunity, to realize it takes action. The wheels are in motion with Murkowski’s legislation.

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Feb. 23, 2017

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Winter tire debate heats up

If you want to start an argument among Alaskans, a good topic is winter driving. As with many road-based frustrations, most people have strong opinions about best practices for driving during an Alaska winter, and just about everyone is convinced their answer is the right one. Close to the heart of this unceasing debate is the battle between those who prefer studs and those who prefer nonstudded winter tires.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, waded into the debate recently when she unveiled a bill that would substantially increase the state fee for purchase of studded tires. Even without the added baggage of thousands of Alaskans’ fervent beliefs about winter driving, it’s a complex issue.

The benefits of studs for winter driving in Alaska are obvious. Dozens of tiny metal spikes poking out of the rubber of the tire tread help vehicles retain traction on icy roads, a particular help during slippery conditions at near-freezing temperatures. But they also have a cost in terms of their impacts on the state’s roads. Studs wear down pavement much faster than nonstudded tires, creating ruts and potholes.

In response to the increased wear studs create, Sen. Giessel introduced Senate Bill 50, which would raise the fee per tire on the purchase of studs by a factor of 10. Right now, there’s a $5 fee per tire associated with the purchase of studs; under the bill, that would rise to $50, or $200 for a set of four.

When it was introduced, Sen. Giessel’s bill would have increased the fee even further, to $75 per tire, but the senator changed the amount to $50 after a raft of negative outcry from pro-stud Alaskans.

An increased fee for the use of studs does make intuitive sense, given the increased wear they cause for roads. And there are high-performing nonstudded tires, such as Blizzaks and other high-traction winter models, that are held up by their devotees as doing as well as or better than studs under a variety of winter conditions. Advances in tire technology haven’t made studs obsolete, but they have at least provided serviceable alternatives.

But the proposed law could very well have unintended negative consequences. Although solid nonstudded alternatives to studs exist, there’s no way to mandate that Alaskans use those instead of less suitable summer tires, which some people - especially those ill able to afford Blizzaks or studs with a $200 surcharge attached - would surely do. The poor traction of those tires would result in poorer ability to stop, causing more accidents. It might help recoup road wear costs associated with studs, but at a cost of driver safety.

Sen. Giessel’s notion that the users responsible for a greater proportion of a state-funded expense (in this case, road resurfacing) should be on the hook for a greater fraction of that expense has merit. But fee increases of the magnitude contemplated will have a serious impact on Alaska drivers and their habits, and those secondary effects shouldn’t be discounted as legislators debate the bill.

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Feb. 23, 2017

Peninsula Clarion: Job Shadow Day a success

This past Wednesday, about 100 Kenai Central High School juniors had the opportunity to get some hands-on experience in the local work force as part of the school’s annual Job Shadow Day program.

Now in its 23rd year, the program continues to be a successful collaboration between the school, the Kenai Chamber of Commerce, the Peninsula Job Center and dozens of area businesses willing to give students a taste of just what a day at the office is like.

Prior to Job Shadow Day, students spend time researching careers that interest them. They learn important job search skills, such as how to write a resume and cover letter. When it comes time to apply for that first job, that might be the most important experience to take away from the day.

From there, organizers match students up with members of the local business community, where students have the chance to see just how close their expectations come to the actual job experience. While it’s just half a day on the job, students have the chance to learn about the education and training needed to land a job in their chosen field. And with a taste of an actual work day, they might also find that they might want to consider a different career.

Either way, the opportunity can be a valuable experience.

Following their time in the field, students regrouped and heard from Kenai Mayor Brian Gabriel and Kenai Police Chief Dave Ross - both Kenai Central graduates who shared some wisdom gleaned from their own career paths.

Organizing the event is an impressive undertaking, especially considering the number of businesses willing to participate. While there are some careers that have yet to find their way to the Kenai Peninsula, there is still a diverse business community here and Job Shadow Day wouldn’t work if only a few of them were willing to participate.

Beyond some good career advice, Job Shadow Day has another significant impact in enhancing the relationship between the community and the school. As much as we hope for a positive experience for students, we hope their job shadow hosts were left with a positive impression, too. After all, in just a few short years, those students will be entering the work force, and looking for employment with some of the same businesses that were involved in Wednesday’s event.

A big thank you is in order for making Job Shadow Day such a long running success. When dedicated organizers, enthusiastic students and willing participants from the business community all come together, it’s a winning situation for everyone involved.

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