My turn: Time change in the state's best interests

Posted: Sunday, March 08, 2009

I would like to register my objection to House Bill 19, which would keep Alaska on Alaska Standard Time year-round. I understand the inconvenience of having to change time twice a year and the impact this has on school-age children, but if H.B. 19 is passed, it would make doing business between Alaska and the lower 48 states more difficult eight months out of the year. It also would reduce after-hour recreational activities, and would affect travel to and from Alaska. Here are some examples of the potential problems that would occur:

1. After-work recreational opportunities such as fishing, softball, baseball, football, hiking and soccer would lose an additional hour of evening daylight. This would affect Southeast Alaska in particular, and the rest of Alaska during spring, late summer and fall. Communities have put millions of dollars into the construction of outdoor recreational facilities that would see less use if H.B. 19 was adopted.

2. H.B. 19 would put the West Coast two hours ahead and Washington D.C., five hours ahead of Alaska for half of the year, making doing businesses more difficult for everyone.

3. Stockbrokers, financial institutions and people in general that deal with the New York Stock Exchange would have to wake up an hour earlier to deal with the opening of the stock market.

4. Travelers crossing the border into Alaska from Canada (including cruise ships) would have a two-hour time change instead of the current one hour.

5. People flying south in the morning with connecting flights out of Seattle would have to wake up even earlier to make those connections. Also, people traveling to the Lower 48 would face increased jetlag even when traveling to the West Coast.

6. Evening telephone contact with relatives in the Lower 48 would be reduced by an additional hour.

In the early 1980s, Alaska was spread out over four separate time zones. Southeast Alaska was on Pacific Time, Yakutat was on Yukon Time, the Railbelt was on Alaska/Hawaii Time and western Alaska was on Aleutian Time.

When former Gov. Bill Sheffield took office in 1982, he consolidated the state into just two time zones, with 95 percent of the state's population on Alaska time. This did a lot to make Alaskans feel closer together, and made it easier to conduct business within the state. So why would we want to separate Alaska from the rest of the United States by an additional hour? This makes no sense to me.

If it is decided that Alaska should stay on a standard time year round, than make it Pacific Standard Time. This is the same as Alaska Daylight Savings Time. This would require public hearings within the state by the U.S. Department of Transportation before a change could actually be made, but you would eventually accomplish the main objective of H.B. 19, which is to eliminate daylight savings time altogether within the state.

You also would get the additional benefit of keeping the extra hour of daylight in the evening that is so important to recreational users, and would unify Alaska and the rest of the West Coast to the same time zone eight months of the year, which would be great for conducting business.

This would truly be a win-win solution.

• Rich Poor is a lifelong resident of Alaska. He served seven years on Juneau Assembly.

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