- Associated Press - Monday, January 16, 2017

Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Jan. 13, 2017

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner: New figures illustrate changing makeup of state’s population

The city of Fairbanks grew in 2016, but not enough to reverse the technicality that has Juneau labeled as the state’s second-largest city. Despite deep concerns about the state budget and oil production, Alaska’s population grew as well. It was a year in which the number of state residents largely held steady in the face of deep anxiety by many in the public and private sectors. And a look at the underlying data shows that Alaska and its leaders have reason for hope but also issues to address.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough saw a bump of about 300 residents in 2016, rising to 98,957, according to figures released this week by the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development. That’s a slight step down from the borough’s all-time population peak of 100,671 in 2012. The city of Fairbanks lost about 160 residents in the past year, clocking in at 31,957. That means the city and borough of Juneau will retain the semantic distinction of being the second-biggest city in Alaska, with a population of 32,739. The notion of Juneau being ahead of Fairbanks in population might be amusing to those who have visited both communities - the reason for it is that Fairbanks’ city limits are closely drawn and don’t encompass any of the area’s outlying neighborhoods, while the city limits of Juneau are also its borough boundaries, including not only the city proper but also all of the populated area of Douglas Island and the Mendenhall Valley, making it one of the biggest “cities” by area in the U.S.

Looking forward, state and local population trends can tell us something about what changes are likely to be ahead. Most immediately for the Interior, the arrival of two squadrons of F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets at Eielson Air Force Base at the end of the decade will bring about 2,000 people to the area, the biggest increase of its kind in more than a decade for the region. On the whole, the state’s population is likely to remain stagnant in the near future, as weak private sector growth and pullbacks in government services keep the state’s economy from meaningfully expanding. That’s not a major concern in and of itself, as the state’s leaders have experience with Alaska’s population at its present size, but there is a trend of which they should be mindful: the aging of the state population.

Alaska’s median age has been trending slowly upward, as more residents retire in-state rather than moving to the Lower 48. Though the state is still comparatively young on the whole, the increase in the share of Alaskans ages 65 and older means that services such as health care, disability services, Pioneers’ Homes and other programs targeting seniors will only become more important as time goes on.

Though Alaska’s population is stable, trends under the surface - growing population in Southcentral, a slow outmigration from villages to cities and other developments - will require the state to be adaptive in providing solutions to serve all its residents, wherever they live and whatever their places in life.

___

Jan. 14, 2017

Ketchikan Daily News: Deficit solutions

It’s a crossroads of sorts for both Ketchikan and the state.

The crux is budget deficits.

It begins with the state, which sought a solution to a $3.5 billion deficit in the past legislative session and continues to seek ways to whittle that figure down. As the state has started, the Ketchikan Gateway Borough picked up a state responsibility or two, and that has contributed to the borough’s own almost $1 million budget deficit for fiscal 2018. The deficit is expected to be thoroughly discussed in the next few months before the next budget is approved by the Assembly.

New revenue and spending cuts - the same as for the state - will be the specific discussion.

New people joined the Assembly this past election season, and the elections resulted in a shift of influence in the state, as well. Last legislative session’s Republican-led House has become controlled by Democrats, with participation of a handful of Republicans and an Independent.

With new philosophies in decision-making positions, new solutions should follow.

This is true nationally, too. Putting aside the criticisms - deserved and undeserved - and the controversial tweets from President-elect Trump, the man is largely about domestic, private-sector jobs - the kind that energize U.S. economies.

Trump is likely to listen to Alaska’s congressional delegation when presented with topics of natural resource development - oil, natural gas, mining, timber.

For at least the next two years, Trump and Alaska’s delegation also enjoy the benefits of their political party controlling both houses of Congress.

There’s no better time to discuss Alaska’s resource development potential in Washington, D.C.

Ketchikan and Southeast have teed up two timber topics for the new era beginning with Trump’s swearing-in on Jan. 20. They include:

-The Deer Mountain land swap. Two bills - one in the Senate and one in the House - detail a land trade designed to allow timber harvest but avoid it on Ketchikan’s scenic backdrop of Deer Mountain.

The trade involves 20,000 acres of federal land on Prince of Wales Island and 17,000 acres of land owned by the Alaska Mental Health Trust. The trust has a fiduciary responsibility to generate revenue from its land. It currently controls the future of a portion of Deer Mountain.

-Rescinding the Tongass National Forest Transition Plan. The plan’s record of decision took effect a week ago. It effectively diminishes timber harvest in the Tongass, meaning fewer jobs in an industry struggling for life. The transition document, which spells out the U.S. Forest Service’s plans for switching from old-growth to young-growth timber harvest, is viewed as a death knell by the industry that has contributed to the community’s and the region’s economy for 50 years.

Ketchikan, the region and the state need resource development. It’s the basis for Alaskan jobs, rebuilding community and state economies and, as a result, eliminating government budget deficits.

With most of Alaska in federal ownership, the Legislature and local governments should be looking at opportunities to persuade the feds to renew natural resource development here.

Alaska was built on its natural resources. Those resources are its future, too.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide