My turn: Californication of Alaska

Posted: Thursday, October 04, 2007

To the Alaskan-now-Californian who suggested that Alaska takes more than it gives and that Ted and Don are irrelevant so we should kick them out of office.

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Mr. California should let go of California Sen. Barbara Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Speaker Nancy Pelosi - immediately. He shouldn't need them, as he's got a great pipeline of natural resources coming from Alaska. Each year we send, direct to California, tens of millions of pounds of salmon, more than a hundred million pounds of other seafood products, massive amounts of minerals and enough oil to keep California pumping carbon for weeks. Besides, every summer we take the state's residents to share in enjoying fish, game and impressive natural wonders of our great state. We Alaskans will take care of Californians.

California is a taker state. It leeches off the rest of the country's resources and just bleeds us dry just like major cities tend to bleed off the rural areas that surround them. Alaska has more natural resources, tapped and untapped, caught and uncaught, touched and untouched, cut and uncut, to offer than any 10 of the other states combined. Yet we have no sovereignty over our lands and are treated more like a colony than we were after the war.

Here are a couple of simple examples of why Mr. California is so, so wrong. First, he is only illuminating such statistics relating from state to federal government spending. Certainly when he considers the federal social and welfare spending in California and when he compares such statistics as the pollution and greenhouse gases emitted by these two states, his cost equation would leave California somewhere in the smog of Los Angeles, with Alaska resting upon its glorious mountain peaks.

Second, the federal government gave more than 85 percent of California to the state. Alaska still sits on broken federal promises, is handcuffed from exercising sovereignty over much of the state, and is barred from harnessing even a fraction of its natural resources due to the opposition of California folk just like Pelosi, Boxer and Feinstein.

Third, the typical statistical myth perpetuated by his type is that Alaska has the highest federal "per capita" spending. Heck, of course we do. The "per capita" is the lie. Using most yardsticks we're somewhere in the middle overall, the lowest in some categories (think the $32 billion Farm Bill) and hopefully very high in the future in some categories like global warming impacts caused by states like California.

We're the most inaccessible state in the union besides Hawaii. Being cut off from the Lower 48 means that our shipping fees and costs of goods are among the highest in the United States.

We also have a huge, massive, diverse state, within which we have a state obligation of keeping folks warm, maintaining health and caring for some of the most remote communities on earth whose residents live in some of the harshest conditions.

Furthermore, in an average Alaska community such as Petersburg (not exactly the rough bush that exists in Western Alaska, or even in other parts of Southeast for that matter), it costs more than $600 just for my sister to take my nephew to Juneau or Ketchikan to get his braces tightened. If they lived in California, it's a gallon of gas to drive up the street to the orthodontist.

And the federal dollars that went into the construction and maintenance on Petersburg's airstrip match any California community of 50,000 or more. It's just a reality.

If you want to come back along with your California buddies to fish, hunt and buy trinkets in Alaska communities like Petersburg and Juneau, then you'd better hope that Ted and Don last a long, long time and that whoever replaces them is ready to give up the better part of their life to the citizens of this great state just as these great men have done.

• Bob Thorstenson Jr. has been a commercial fisherman for 31 years.

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