- Associated Press - Monday, October 24, 2016

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Oct. 22, 2016

Ketchikan Daily News: Ballot Measures

The statewide election will feature two ballot measures.

One seeks voter approval for allowing qualified Alaskans to register to vote when applying for an Alaska Permanent Fund dividend.

The other amends the Alaska Constitution, expanding the state’s authority to incur debt through general obligation bonds for postsecondary student loans.

Ballot Measure No. 1 would allow information acquired through individuals signing up for a permanent fund to be passed along to the Division of Elections, which would determine whether the applicant was eligible to vote. If so, the person would be notified and have 30 days to respond with a political affiliation or opt out.

The cost of measure No. 1 would be about $942,000, the vast majority of which would be for the Division of Elections to implement the initiative over the 90 days immediately following the election. Recurring annual costs are estimated at approximately $300,000.

Proponents argue that No. 1 would result in increased efficiencies and financial savings by reducing paperwork in favor of electronic data capture. Linking with the permanent fund’s electronic verification system, according to proponents, would increase the probability of only eligible Alaska citizens being registered to vote.

The state Division of Elections received no statement of opposition to the measure for its 2016 Election Pamphlet.

Neither did it receive an opposing statement for Measure No. 2.

The argument for the measure is that it would allow for affordable financing for college and career training of more Alaskans for the high-skill, high-wage jobs in Alaska, that it increases access to education and training, and that it results in no cost to the state and no state budget increase.

The student loan debt would be issued through the existing Alaska Student Loan Corp., which provides loans to students at the lowest interest rates it can, based on the bond market. The loan corporation has issued and repaid more than $1.1 billion in bond debt over the past nearly 30 years.

Alaskans benefit with both measures. To pass them requires yes votes.


Oct. 20, 2016

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner editorial: Redeeming community values: Children’s museum director showed compassion after shooting

After the shots rang out near her house, Brenda Riley did what most of us would: She took a look out the window. The just-after-midnight darkness on Sunday was broken up by streetlights, and she saw quickly that something was wrong. A police car was driving off, leaving a person on the ground in distress across the street. Ms. Riley threw on clothes and went to see what was the matter, becoming the first person to come upon seriously wounded Fairbanks Police Sgt. Allen Brandt. For the next several minutes, she stayed with Sgt. Brandt, offering human compassion that, under the circumstances, was a brave act. It deserves recognition.

When she came upon Sgt. Brandt, Ms. Riley saw he had been shot multiple times at point-blank range. Most of the shots had hit his leg, but one had hit him in the chest, flattening against his bulletproof vest and ejecting a piece of shrapnel into his left eye. He was on his radio with police dispatch, telling them what had happened.

For her part, Ms. Riley called 911 and kept dispatchers apprised of Sgt. Brandt’s condition. Though the conditions of Sgt. Brandt’s leg and eye were severe, she remained calm and talked to him, trying to keep him from losing consciousness or slipping into shock. In relatively short order, emergency responders showed up and took over care of Sgt. Brandt, but there’s no disputing Ms. Riley’s actions just after the shooting were crucial to helping keep Sgt. Brandt focused and as alert as was possible.

What’s more, her actions were brave. She came onto the scene of a firefight just after it ended, not knowing whether Sgt. Brandt’s assailant might return. Many people, even if they called 911, would have remained in their homes instead of venturing out to provide aid. Perhaps that course of action would have been more prudent with regard to ensuring Ms. Riley’s own safety, but she chose to display compassion in a moment when it was needed most, and that compassion helped Sgt. Brandt in his time of greatest need.

From a first aid perspective, Ms. Riley’s response to Sgt. Brandt’s plight was dead on. She assessed the scene of the incident, called emergency services and stayed with the victim, correctly judging that the best aid she could provide was to try and keep him conscious and out of shock until first responders arrived.

The shooting of Sgt. Brandt was a horrible, criminal act that shocked the Fairbanks community. But Ms. Riley’s actions provided some measure of solace for those who were heartsick about how such a scenario could play out here. Her aid and compassion showcased the best of our instincts, restoring some faith in our neighbors’ abilities and willingness to do the right thing. May we all have that strength when faced with similar circumstances.


Oct. 20, 2016

Juneau Empire: In Alaska, firearm fatalities are a growing problem

Alaska, and Juneau in particular, have a big problem - and it’s killing us.

Accidental gun deaths are on the rise, and our state leads the nation in the number of children accidentally killed by firearms.

This problem is worsened because no one wants to talk about it.

According to a recent Associated Press and USA Today investigation, there have been 14 shooting incidents involving youths in the past two and a half years, a rate of 19 shootings per million people. That is nearly twice the rate of North Dakota and Louisiana, numbers two and three on the list, respectively.

Just a month ago, a Thunder Mountain High School senior accidentally shot and killed himself preparing for a hunting trip. In 2009, a Juneau teen negligently shot two friends, killing one of them and permanently wounding the other. On Friday, a 19-year-old Juneau woman was shot in the head when a weapon belonging to someone in the apartment above hers was fired through the floor. The woman is still in critical condition at an Anchorage hospital.

There have been many other accidental shootings that that didn’t harm someone but could have. Two months ago, an errant bullet hit a Juneau school bus carrying two children. A few years ago, a local man shot his brother while the two were driving from a shooting range.

Our point: Alaskans aren’t nearly as careful with firearms as they should be, and innocent, unaware people - including children - are paying the price.

We don’t want to see everyone’s weapons taken away. We support Second Amendment rights just as you do. We do want everyone to take the responsibility of gun ownership more seriously. Raising responsible gun owners should be a priority.

Each time we cover a shooting in this paper, there are those who tell us our reporting is offensive to surviving family members who need to grieve, that it’s cold-hearted to talk about what could (or should) have been done differently. We believe there’s a line between placing blame and learning a life-saving lesson. If we do not talk about problems, they will be repeated.

All sixth grade students in Juneau receive hunter education and firearm training. Obviously that isn’t enough. Parents, particularly those who own weapons, must teach and reinforce in their children the gold rule of guns: Always act as if they are loaded.

If you have children in the house, make sure your weapons are secured and out of reach. If your children are going to a friend’s house, it’s OK to ask the parents if they own firearms and how they are stored.

Every right comes with a responsibility. The abuse or negligence of these rights comes with consequences, and for the Second Amendment, that abuse could mean death.

Lock up your weapons, Juneau, and be responsible when carrying them. The lives of your children, your children’s friends and your neighbors are depending on it.

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