Alaska editorial: Alaskans should invest in Alaska

Posted: Friday, March 31, 2006

This editorial appeared in the Ketchikan Daily News:

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Sen. Ted Stevens was right when he told the Alaska Legislature last week it would take advocacy by Alaskans of vision for this state to take its rightful place in America's future and to realize its own promise.

Of course, as far as the Ketchikan Daily News is concerned, Stevens was preaching to the choir. We hope that after mulling his comments, the Legislature will join the choir, too.

Alaska's potential is unlimited - but will come to fruition only if we believe in our own state, invest in our own state, make sure others with the wherewithal want to invest here, and convince America that what benefits us will benefit them, too.

The political baggage Alaska carries is almost as great as its power to inspire dreams. And it's that "almost" that saves us.

To say "Alaska" to many who haven't even been here yet is to whisper, "Magic." That sometimes works against us, as when many who haven't been there talk about the pristine beauty of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as needing to be a protected wilderness area. The same people chafe at the notion that one might drill for petroleum in a petroleum reserve - if it's in Alaska.

If the people Down South were convinced that Alaskans - those hardy souls who populate the land of Lower 48 residents' dreams, or at least their dream vacations - were behind drilling in ANWR, they would be behind it, too. Because Americans still believe Alaskans to be trustworthy and up front.

So we need to get our message out, and speak as one. This country needs ANWR's and the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska's potential. Alaska has half the country's coal, and "enormous potential in gas hydrates," Stevens said.

We need to convince Congress to invest in these projects.

But a huge barrier to that, Stevens said, is that Alaskans seem unwilling to invest in their own future. We talk about being frontiersmen, but we want to be on the federal dole, without making our own contribution to our future.

In effect, our senior senator was telling us to get a job - to work for ourselves, and be amazed at the salutary effect that has on others' being willing to help us.

The state must financially support its own economic development. "Many see our projected $1.4 billion annual surplus, plus $34 billion in the Permanent Fund, and with the increasing price of electricity, gasoline and heating oil, ask, 'Why send federal money to Alaska when they're not willing to spend their own funds?"'

Good question.

In order for Congress to invest in the projects we Alaskans clearly see as vital to America's future, Alaska needs to invest in them, too.

Legislators, start your engines. Let's get onto the work ahead. Pass the budget, and show America what Alaska can do for this country.

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