Thursday, January 18, 2007

The State of the State: The Day After

Alright, I'll admit it, I didn't watch Governor Sarah Palin speak last night. I was up to my elbows in quiche filling and dough and such, and cooking good food with some fine tunes jamming usually outranks a political event.

But I read the transcript this morning and must confess that I was not appalled. Oh, I read some comments about it online at the Snooze's political blog that carped about the language and all, but I'm not particularly bothered by that. Perhaps that is just due to having witnessed Dubyah butcher the language for years now; I'm permanently inured to the pain.

However, a couple thoughts about the speech itself: Palin, like many, think the gasline is the magic bullet for all our woes. True, when the thing gets built and starts producing it'll probably be like those heady days when the state first got rich on oil money.

But what I'd like to see at some point is a realization from Alaskans is that we cannot remain dependent on resource extraction forever. You sell off one thing, then the other, and you end up looking for the next thing in the house that'll bring you some temporary bucks. The extraction of nonrenewables ought to be tied to meaningful steps to diversify our economy in the long run. Why?

Because if you keep on developing your nonrenewables and never get out of that boom-bust cycle, you end up with a situation like that of the coal country: Western Virginia, West Virginia, etc. First they clearcut the timber, then they got the coal, and now West Virginia is having a fine old time burying its valleys under tons of other state's garbage to make some money. Visit the western counties of Virginia and there is little work - moreover, most of the money from coal went out of those communities and made some corporations very rich. That region is one of the most economically depressed in the country despite having fueled the extraordinary industrial complex of this country for decades.

As for our renewable resources, we need to take extra care that not to screw them up like everywhere else. Canada's vast cod fishery was overfished, the Mediterranean has been overfished, the East Coast is overfished... perhaps there is a trend? I bring this up for two reasons: 1) I've been reading more fishery stuff at Alaska Cafe after sort of not paying attention after my move away from the ocean (to Squarebanks) and 2) I read a NY Times article this morning that seems a warning to us:
He and his group plan to ask federal regulators to allow them to manage the local fisheries and to limit technology. Without a change in the rules, he said, the small, owner-operated day boats will continue their steady demise and the large fishing crews will be the only ones left.

“We are in the final stage of a natural, national resource being converted into a private, corporately-owned resource."
More Palin speech dissection later, as I need to actually work here at work, but one last thing.

The reinstatement of municipal revenue sharing must be a priority for the Palin Administration if Rural Alaska is to believe that it is sincere in caring about the state beyond Wasilla and the Mat-Su Valley Sprawl.

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