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Gov. Sarah Palin and state Commissioner Emil Notti stopped by the Native Issues Forum Luncheon at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall on Wednesday, assuring their listeners that the proposed Alaska Gasline Inducement Act will bring natural gas pipeline jobs to Alaskans first.
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"One thing we can do in state government is play a proper role to make sure our villages have job opportunities," Palin said. "It's nonsensical for us, it's insanity for us, to keep doing the same things and expect a different result."
The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska and the Alaska Native Brotherhood Camp No. 2 sponsored Wednesday's luncheon. With seven days left in the legislative session, most of the talk was about the pipeline.
"Sarah Palin is the first governor since (William) Egan to really insist on local hire," said Notti, commissioner of commerce, community and economic development.
"She needs our support because she has some very powerful enemies in the state that are trying to block the pipeline and block some of the programs."
Palin also addressed restoring the longevity bonus.
"The state government cut it prematurely and I think unfairly," she said. "It was a broken promise to cut that program off. All that we can do to show respect for our elders, we'll do."
ANB Camp No. 2 President Andy Ebona brought up plans by the Canadian-owned mineral resources company Redfern to reopen the Tulsequah Chief mine on the Taku River.
"The Douglas Indian Association is originally from that area, and we want to be able to protect as much as possible the fisheries and the old village sites and a lot of the resources on that river system," Ebona said.
"It is very important to not only Native fisherman, but a lot of the commercial fishermen in that system."
Palin responded: "We'll make sure that (Fish and Game) Commissioner Denby (Lloyd) is on top of it, and DNR is on top of it.
"Don't let that slip," the governor said. "Don't let us mess that up."
Then the topic changed. Gambling has earned billions for tribal corporations over the past two decades. It remains illegal in Alaska, but the topic wasn't lost on the audience.
Tammy Grubert of Juneau asked Palin to "close all the strip clubs in the state of Alaska." She hoped instead that the state would consider opening casinos.
"Casinos brings jobs and revenue," Grubert said.
"They bring out talent in young people such as customer service, the culinary arts, hotel and motel service, catering. They bring out the entertainment talents such as music, dancing and acting, as well as comedy for the young people," she said.
"Personally I would like to see what I consider healthier venues for (young people) to be able to visualize those gifts that they are given," Palin said.
"When it comes to something as big and controversial as gambling, that's something that the administration and the Legislature will be taking public input on and crafting public policy around."