- Associated Press - Monday, September 28, 2015

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Sept. 25, 2015

Juneau Empire: Don’t butter up the bears

We’ve all heard that keeping food away from bears is quite possibly the most important thing humans can do to prevent conflicts, habituation and confrontations between bears and people.

This time of year, it’s more important than ever.

As bears begin to put on those highly valuable, last-minute pounds before hibernation, they start taking risks, and will often wander closer and closer to urban areas. Drawn in by their noses, far too often they find exactly what they hoped: garbage. Or, perhaps it’s chickens. Perhaps, it’s an out-too-early bird feeder.

Regardless of exactly what attracts the bear, if they are successful, they’ll be back. Again and again.

These days, Juneau’s bear problem isn’t as bad as it was in the early 2000s when authorities were getting more than 1,000 calls per season. Still, the recent uptick in negative bear activity, especially in the downtown area, underscores the importance of ever present vigilance. In the past week, trash bins have been repeatedly overturned. While a bear may not be getting much, if they get anything at all from their efforts, that source will be targeted until efforts become fruitless. And as we saw last week when a bear got a jar stuck on its head and had to be sedated for the jar to be removed, leaving trash where bears can get to it can also be dangerous.

And we all know what the worst-case scenario looks like: A fed bear is a dead bear. While real, that scenario is one that residents never like to hear about.

Hence, our role is simple: Keep garbage secured, chickens protected with an electric fence, and animal foods and bird feeders neatly tucked away until the end of October.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has published numerous articles on this topic, and we highly recommend readers take a look at what information those pieces have to share.

When we have a problem bear or bears, it goes far beyond just another mess to clean up; it becomes a safety issue, too.

___

Sept. 27, 2015

Juneau Empire: UA’s budget strategy is akin to climate change denial

There are two ways to address an unpleasant truth: You can confront it, or you can deny it.

The University of Alaska has chosen the latter course.

Last week, university administrators presented their fiscal year 2017 budget proposal to the UA Board of Regents. The budget proposal, expected to be approved in November, calls for $27 million more from the state.

With the state facing a multibillion-dollar gap between revenue and expenses, and the state’s Office of Management and Budget saying the university should expect a $15.8 million DECREASE, the university system is preparing its budget based on an expectation that the Alaska Legislature will provide an INCREASE.

This is ludicrous.

Making matters worse, those figures only apply to the university system’s operating budget. The university is preparing a separate capital budget request of $134.8 million.

In a July memo, Pat Pitney, director of the Office of Management and Budget, said state departments should expect a capital budget of no more than $150 million - not for the university system, but for the entire state.

Members of the Board of Regents said when they met in Juneau that it is important for the university system to make a statement and say exactly what it will cost to keep providing the services it offers today. It’s a negotiating tactic, they said.

That’s like trying to bluff in a poker hand where everyone is playing with their cards face-up on the table.

While meeting in Juneau, the regents repeatedly spoke about the need to maintain morale at university campuses and asked university chancellors how staff were feeling.

If the university’s regents are truly concerned about the morale of staff, they should stop imitating the ostrich and confront the problems they face.

Uncertainty, not budget cuts, inflicts the most harm to morale. Uncertainty unsettles your stomach and makes your heart hurt until you finally take the step to end it by searching for a new job, even if you don’t know whether you’ll lose your existing one.

A smarter approach by the regents would be to imitate the actions taken by the state’s municipal school districts, in particular the Juneau School District.

When Juneau schools faced budget cuts, district administrators did not attempt to deny the situation. They presented a budget proposal and explained in plain English what would be cut dependent on the level of state and municipal funding provided.

The University of Alaska should follow this approach.

Instead of proposing a budget based on wishful thinking, when regents meet in November they should approve a proposal that follows OMB’s recommendations and explain in plain English to lawmakers what further cuts will mean.

UA President Jim Johansen has suggested “vertical cuts” - the elimination of programs - rather than “horizontal cuts” - trimming the budgets of multiple departments.

Legislators may rethink their actions if they are presented with the reality that entire English or history departments will be budget casualties. Denying the truth will win the UA system no allies in the Legislature.

We declaim those who deny climate change. We should do the same for those who deny budget change.

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