Commission to study hardships in the Bush

Panel likely to urge forming of two new rural boroughs

Posted: Sunday, June 26, 2005

The Alaska Legislature is forming an interim advisory commission to study the causes of economic hardships in rural communities and develop proposals to help them form local governments.

The resolution approving the Advisory Commission on Local Government says that many small communities have faced serious debt or have stopped providing services.

Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak and chairman of the Senate Community and Regional Affairs Committee, which introduced the resolution, said his main goal is to identify areas that could form borough governments to help pay for education and other services.

The Alaska Constitution gives the Legislature the same powers over the unorganized borough that a local assembly has in operating an organized borough.

"Should the Legislature be sitting as the assembly of the unorganized borough?" Stevens asked. "I think we don't know."

Kevin Ritchie, executive director of the Alaska Municipal League, said the authors of the constitution had a vision for creating local government throughout the state, which has been sidetracked.

"We've basically stopped evolving local government," he said. "We have to have a plan for where we want to go."

Stevens said he would like to see the commission explore the possibility of establishing two new boroughs - the proposed Deltana Borough, south of the Fairbanks North Star Borough, and another borough in western Alaska.

The commission will consist of three senators appointed by Senate President Ben Stevens, R-Anchorage, three representatives appointed by House Speaker John Harris, R-Valdez, and three public members appointed jointly by Stevens and Harris.

The commission will study the hardships of communities in the unorganized borough and define the state's role in financing local services in communities and in providing recommendations on borough formation of unincorporated areas.

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