In the News

Criminal justice reform is working. What are candidates trying to ‘repeal’?

Amid an opioid crisis, rising unemployment and excessive cuts to prosecutors, police and troopers, some candidates suggest we should “repeal” SB 91 and start over with our four-year effort to make better use of public safety resources. These suggestions forget the positive measures enacted in SB 91 and ignore the more than 25 fixes and improvements the Legislature approved during the last two years. Alaska’s criminal justice reform is a response to rising crime, not the cause of it. Alaskans are right to be concerned about crime: We need to move forward and be smart with our resources and tough on crime.

The best reason to move forward with justice reform is that the process is working. Every year, the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission reports on the status of our reform efforts. The newest report, published on Nov. 1, shows Alaska is achieving its goals. Arrest rates and prison admissions are up thanks to increases in prosecutors and police. People convicted of violent crimes now make up a greater share of the prison population. There are more people in prison for drug dealing and fewer addicts in prison for simple drug possession. Department of Corrections is focusing more attention on dangerous individuals, and we have already reinvested $40 million in re-entry services, violence prevention, pretrial enforcement and substance abuse treatment.

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Here’s an example of Alaska legislators actually working together to solve a problem:

It’s easy to be disgruntled over the Legislature’s paralysis in solving some serious problems, case number one being a plan to chart a way out of the morass of our state finances. It seems like the institutions of democracy are breaking down all over, including nationwide. But then something happens that restores your faith.

State Rep. Matt Claman, D-Anchorage, introduced [House Bill 312]… and not only does it have a list of 10 bipartisan House co-sponsors, split about evenly among parties, but it is speeding through the Legislature at lightning speed compared with the pace of most bills.

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OP-ED: Let’s Put Alaska’s Lawmakers on a Real 90-Day Clock

More than 10 years ago, Alaskans voted to limit the legislative session to 90 days with the hope that the Legislature would finish its work on time and under budget. Since oil prices dropped in 2014, however, the Legislature has been unable to finish the state’s business in 90 days or even 120 days. We have endured extended session after extended session followed by special sessions. Is it time for Alaskans to amend our Constitution to establish an effective 90-day limit on legislative sessions?

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OP-ED: No need for Anchorage to rush into Woronzof land swap

The Tony Knowles Coastal Trail is the crown jewel of the Anchorage park system, an 11-mile trail from downtown to Kincaid Park. The health of the Coastal Trail is a good measure of our success in reaching our goal of being the No. 1 city in America to live, work, and play. Developing Anchorage as a world-class winter city also means we need sensible, efficient ways to manage winter snowfall. To prevent contamination of our waterways, we need to improve the Kloep Snow Dump Facility, a large snow dump on airport land used by both the municipality and the state. Read more

Letter: Negotiation over litigation

“Discourage litigation,” advised Abraham Lincoln. “Persuade your neighbors to compromise whenever you can. As a peacemaker the lawyer has superior opportunity of being a good man.” In his dealings with municipal labor unions, Dan Sullivan failed to follow President Lincoln’s advice. Rather than negotiate with all of eight unions, Sullivan forced through a change to municipal labor law. One judge has already rejected Sullivan’s arguments, and now he wants the Alaska Supreme Court to weigh in. It’s too much litigation. Read more

OP-ED: Acting mayor solved problems, moved the city forward

Matt Claman, ending a six-month term as acting mayor, faced some extraordinary challenges in the role — a $17 million budget shortfall on the one hand, and the prospect of quickly applying for some $50 million in federal stimulus money on the other. Moving up from Assembly chairman to acting mayor, he did a good job meeting those challenges, despite the added distraction of campaigning for a full three-year term. He hands over the job to newly elected mayor Dan Sullivan on Wednesday and will rejoin the Anchorage Assembly. Read more