Letter: Leadership issues

Posted: Monday, March 26, 2001

In July of 1989 I wrote the first version of a position paper predicting social problems, racial conflict, and similar ills for the future in the state of Alaska. The situation and the conclusions of this letter were based on events in the public record, on my personal observations, and on articles published in the U.S. and Canada. The letter has been delivered to three governors, a number of legislators, the University of Alaska's Board of Regents, and at least two incarnations of the Board of Education. Mine is the least of the many voices who have attempted to deliver this message to the political leadership of Alaska over the intervening years.

Every year the center of gravity of political power in the state moves irrevocably toward Anchorage. The old rural caucus has been disassembled, redistricting the voting precincts during the Hickel administration favored the urban Republicans at the expense of rural Democrats. Exactly the same forces are at work today using census numbers that do not reflect rural reality. Then there was the subsistence fiasco. The Legislature allowed a non-binding advisory vote on the question of permanent fund usage, the results of which they hold sacred in order to escape the necessity to actually engage in leadership; while simultaneously rejecting the possibility of any vote on subsistence management at least in part to avoid energizing the rural vote. Dimly in the background we have had the death by shotgun of a principal and a student on school grounds in Bethel; the highest suicide rate in the nation in Alaskan villages; and a steady patter of alcohol and drug-related deaths and killings.

Now we have the frozen paint ball attack on Native individuals in Anchorage. Is this a reflection in a dark mirror? Is this a reflection of a Legislature which prefers to fight, maneuver, and manipulate in order to diminish the rural influence in leadership, rather than to work with people across the state to solve the state's problems? There has been a call for a federal investigation of civil rights abuses. My question is, exactly who should the feds be advised to investigate?

Eric Forrer


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