Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:
June 21, 2014
Ketchikan Daily News: SB99 opens wider the opportunity for southern, southeast Alaska
One of the most promising economic development opportunities in southern Southeast Alaska is mining.
Prince of Wales Island near Ketchikan has two mine sites being promoted locally and statewide.
The first is Ucore's Bokan-Dotson Ridge rare earth mineral mining project. The second is a metal mine at Niblack to be developed by Heatherdale Resources. Gold, silver, copper and zinc are available at Niblack.
The projects, which created economic excitement in recent years, received a boost reminiscent of Ketchikan Shipyard from the state this past legislative session. Like the shipyard in the past, the mining operations could be about to benefit from funds made possible through the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority.
Gov. Parnell started off the week in Ketchikan, where he signed Senate Bill 99. The bill gives AIDEA the opportunity to begin the process to issue bonds in the amount of $145 million for Bokan and $125 million for Niblack.
The bonds would provide loan funds to the mines' owners, allowing them to build infrastructure at the mine operations. Building infrastructure is key to proceeding with mining.
The rare earth minerals will be especially valuable. At this time, China mines about 90 percent of the rare earth minerals in the world. This gives the Chinese control of the elements, which are required for development of new technologies, such as electronics. With the world's growing dependency on electronic devices, a Chinese monopoly could be devastating to the United States in years to come.
As for gold, silver, copper and zinc, it is valuable, too. Whatever the United States can mine itself makes it less dependent on other nations.
This is true with metals, rare earth elements and other natural resources extracted within the United States. Alaska is rich in such resources, and it only needs an unobstructed path to the point of development to retrieve them for the nation.
The mining companies will be required to step through the red tape in order to acquire the permits to develop. It will take time, but at the end of the process not only Prince of Wales Island and Ketchikan will benefit. Alaska and the nation will reap the rewards as well.
The nation will be competitive particularly in regard to rare earth minerals. Alaska will see an increase in the number of jobs in Southeast, where Alaskans continue to rebuild an economy struck by declines in other industries.
The adoption of SB99 really opens wider the window of opportunity for southern Southeast Alaska. With AIDEA's assistance, that opportunity will be realized in a way similar to the development of the shipyard — a continually expanding enterprise contributing to the betterment of the economy.
June 19, 2014
Peninsula Clarion: Assembly action restores fairness to election process
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly this week restored a measure of fairness to the election process when it voted to return the threshold needed to approve changes to the cap on taxable sales to a simple majority of voters.
Since a 2005 ballot initiative, changes to the maximum amount the borough could collect in sales tax required a supermajority of voters - 60 percent - for approval. Assembly member Brent Johnson brought the measure forward. In a memo to the assembly, Johnson noted that the measure allowed a minority of voters to determine the outcome of any ballot items regarding the sales tax cap. The ballot initiative was supported by 54.2 percent of the voters in the 2005 election - short of the threshold the initiative set.
During Tuesday's assembly meeting, Johnson noted that because of the requirement for a supermajority, the vote of someone wanting to change the sales tax cap is, essentially, not equal to the vote of someone opposed.
"Everybody is equal and everybody should have an equal vote," Johnson said at the meeting.
With the very strong caveat that we don't want to see taxes increased, we do agree with Johnson's sentiments. While the initiative to require a supermajority to approve sales tax changes went through the public process, the public process should never be used to limit the rights of others.
Allowing 40 percent of those casting ballots to determine the outcome of an election would fall into that category.