The recent diatribe from Rosalee Walker regarding Gov. Tony Knowles' effort to ensure the passage of hate-crime legislation was inaccurate and disappointing.
First, Gov. Knowles' record on issues of discrimination and racism is clear. One of his first acts was to give the state Office of Equal Employment Opportunity more profile by moving it into the Governor's Office and giving it beefed-up staff and responsibilities. He has championed increased funds for the State Human Rights Commission. He has launched an historic change in state-Native relations by pioneering the Millennium agreement with Alaska Native tribes. He has been a tireless advocate for a rural subsistence amendment, and has appointed minorities to top positions in state government, to the judiciary and to prominent state boards and commissions.
Contrary to Ms. Walker's assertion, the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights Advisory Committee did not ask Gov. Knowles to establish a committee or task force to address tolerance issues in hearings around Alaska. It asks the governor to hold a conference similar to those sponsored by then-President Clinton. The governor believed then, and believes now, that one-time events like conferences are long on talk and short on results.
Instead Gov. Knowles has appointed 14 prominent Alaska leaders to a Commission on Tolerance to hear from Alaskans and recommend changes to state laws and policies to help make Alaska a more tolerant society. He also has proposed new hate-crimes legislation to crack down on incidents like the deplorable paintball attack on Alaska Natives in Anchorage.
It's too easy to criticize the efforts of others as insufficient or ill-intentioned. If Ms. Walker supports the goal of ending racism, she should focus her energy on getting legislation like the hate-crimes bill passed rather than on criticizing those who are trying to pass it.
Cindy Smith, Director
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