- Associated Press - Friday, November 21, 2014

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Nov. 19, 2014

Ketchikan Daily News: Graceful exit

Much can be told from how one handles loss in an election.

The same is true in victory.

Gov. Sean Parnell has conceded to Bill Walker, who challenged him for the governor’s office in the Nov. 4 election.

Parnell graciously conceded as soon as it became apparent Friday that uncounted ballots wouldn’t result in him overcoming Walker’s narrow lead.

Walker himself called Parnell’s concession gracious, and the two Alaskan leaders met Saturday to discuss a smooth and cooperative transition.

For his part as the victor, Walker also refrained Friday from claiming victory. He awaited Parnell’s announcement.

Clearly, this is the way it should be done. While the two politicians disagree somewhat on the direction for Alaska over the next four years and beyond, they both remain Alaskans and likely will encounter each other again.

As a politician and Alaskan, Parnell has sought seats of public service. It doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that he will do so again. Once, he aspired to be a congressman.

Also, after the counting of absentee and questioned ballots on Friday, Republican Chere Klein called House District 36’s apparent winner, independent Dan Ortiz, not delaying the process any more than the already 10 days since election day.

Then by Monday, Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, promised the Republican winner Dan Sullivan a smooth transition into Alaska’s junior senator seat in Washington, D.C.

With Klein and Begich’s political abilities, it’s likely we’ll see one or both of them in politics again.

But, in the meantime, the transitions are under way, with all parties on the tickets accepting the voters’ choices and moving forward.

As voters, it’s satisfying to see when it’s being accomplished with grace.


Nov. 18, 2014

Juneau Empire: Empire Editorial: Our need for more icebreakers keeps getting cold shoulder

America’s only active heavy-duty icebreaker, the Polar Star, is mission-ready once more. The problem: The elderly vessel should have been decommissioned in 2006, and even with its current repairs, its life has only been extended 5 to 20 years.

Of the top five ice-breaking nations, Russia has more icebreakers - 18 in all - than Finland, Sweden, Canada and the U.S. combined. The U.S. has only two active icebreakers: the medium icebreaker Healy and the Polar Star. The Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, needs $100 million in repairs before it can leave dock, and building another heavy icebreaker would take about 10 years and cost more than $850 million. The problem is there aren’t any plans to finance or build another one, which according to the Department of Homeland Security is a big problem.

A report commissioned by the Coast Guard in 2010 found that the service needs six heavy and four medium icebreakers to operate effectively. The cost of adding those vessels to the existing fleet is about $3.2 billion, a Congressional Research Service report found.

The Coast Guard needs to add to its icebreaking fleet or else it will be “unable to accomplish its Arctic missions,” says a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general.

The U.S. is the least-prepared of all Arctic nations despite having so much to gain and lose in terms of resources, logistics and scientific discovery. Today’s problems will only be exacerbated in future years as our existing ships age.

Why do icebreakers matter? Look to the Healy’s actions in 2011 when it escorted an oil tanker to Nome as that town was running short on oil. Look to the annual scientific and mapping missions in the Arctic, where the Coast Guard is America’s leading service in scientific research afloat. Look to the south, where private and foreign icebreakers now escort supply ships to Antarctica, a role American icebreakers once played.

We’re not interested in an icebreaker race with Russia - they’ve clearly won. Russia has six nuclear-powered icebreakers and is building another nuclear heavy icebreaker (at a cost of $1.1 billion) that is expected to be the world’s biggest.

Our point is this: Every other Arctic nation sees the benefit of investing in the Arctic. We wonder if those serving in Washington D.C. - Alaska delegation not included - are even aware the U.S. is an Arctic nation. Their priorities don’t convince us they are. This is a mistake that needs rectifying.

The U.S. will take over chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015. Sitting at the big chair at the table means little if our country limps when it comes to securing the resources necessary to navigate its ice-encrusted borders.

The Polar Star is on borrowed time, and the icebreaker Healy, launched in 1997, won’t last forever. Now is the time for leaders in Washington to step up and provide funding so the U.S. can catch up in the Arctic. Our nation’s fleet of icebreakers have been given the cold shoulder for too long.


Nov. 18, 2014

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: Changes in leadership bring opportunities, challenges for state

With the concession of Sen. Mark Begich on Monday, the door has finally closed on Alaska’s 2014 general election. While results won’t be certified until Nov. 28, the U.S. Senate race and the governor’s race were the only offices close enough to be overturned after the counting on election night. As it turned out, the margins of the election night leaders held in both cases. Alaska will have a new senator and new governor.

In both cases, voters’ decision to choose a different path for the state’s leaders has benefits and challenges.

In the U.S. Senate, Senator-elect Dan Sullivan will join a new Republican majority in that chamber and will enjoy more clout than if Democrats still held control of the body. Additionally, he will have the state’s senior senator, Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, to show him the ropes. Now a dozen years into her tenure on the body, Sen. Murkowski will be a great asset in helping Sullivan make his way in Washington, D.C. We hope he will follow her example of openness to working with the opposing party to do what’s right for Alaska and the nation. Her leadership in that regard was crucial in unraveling the Gordian knot of the government shutdown in October 2013 and has given her clout even beyond what her seniority would indicate.

The addition of Senator-elect Sullivan does come at the expense of the seniority and committee assignments of Sen. Begich, however. That’s not an insignificant loss, given that Alaska was one of only three states with two senators on the powerful Appropriations Committee. The burden of defending Alaska’s budget priorities now will be borne chiefly by Sen. Murkowski, as Republican caucus rules don’t allow for two of its members from the same state to hold Appropriations seats simultaneously.

The transition to Gov.-elect Bill Walker’s administration will come even sooner, with Walker’s swearing-in scheduled to take place Dec. 1. His win likely will bring a host of changes as well. On the positive side of the ledger, he has pledged support for the expansion of Medicaid, which will provide health coverage for thousands of Alaskans who are least able to pay for their own care - at no cost to the state. Walker also has promised to make energy relief for the Interior a top priority. This is vital given that the Interior Energy Project, at a make-or-break point as the end of the year approaches, has brought expanded natural gas availability closer than ever, and the state and stakeholders must ensure it results in lower-cost energy for Interior residents.

Walker, too, will face challenges. He will walk into the governor’s office as the state is well down a path toward a natural gas pipeline, with a project framework he has expressed public doubts about. As oil prices slump below $80 per barrel, he will also have to deal with a state budget that had grown unwieldy even with per-barrel prices in the three-figure range.

This is a formative time for Alaska, and our new governor and senator will have to step up to the plate quickly to ensure our state remains on good footing. We wish them the best as they take up their respective positions, and we exhort them to make their decisions based not on their individual political philosophy or party identification, but rather what’s right for the state of Alaska and its people.

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