Chamber looks at state's future

Posted: Monday, April 15, 2002

What kind of Alaska do we want to leave for our children and grandchildren?

That is the question Alaska Humanities Forum President Ira Perman brought before the Kenai Chamber of Commerce Wednesday as he introduced the Alaska 20/20 planning process.

"Alaska 20/20 is about charting our future," Perman said. "It invites us to grab hold and take responsibility for what the future will be."

The statewide planning process began in 1999 with a group of 20 individuals concerned about the future of Alaska. Since that time, the steering committee has grown to include more than 75 individuals and partner organizations, and the Alaska Humanities Forum manages the project.

"It represents a great diversity of interests -- the full spectrum of Alaska," Perman said.

But the steering committee isn't working alone, he said.

Three statewide planning process have been tried in the past, he explained, but each of them gathered groups of public policymakers to develop reports.

This process is different, Perman said.

"The product will not be a single report, but a series of benchmark standards on economics, education and public safety systems. We're asking as many people as possible to participate. The goal is to give public policymakers the information they need to make good decisions."

The first statewide convention on Alaska 20/20 was held in November 1999 in Anchorage, with more than 500 people turning out to talk about future issues and trends. The group identified five central questions and developed five vision statements for the 20-year planning process.

Now, Alaska 20/20 leaders are meeting with organizations and communities to draft goals, establish benchmarks, plan the second statewide conference for April 2003 and produce the first Alaska 20/20 report card.

Alaska 20/20 leaders are trying to establish regional discussions, including here on the Kenai Peninsula, added Rob Shoaf, vice president of Alyeska Pipeline Services and a contributor to the process.

"We need local leaders interested in the process to help organize an Alaska 20/20 workshop," he said.

The workshops usually last somewhere between two hours and two days and provide area people the opportunity to immerse themselves in the planning process and offer feedback.

"We can't do this as individuals, but hopefully through this process this year and for the next 18 years, we can come up with some answers," Shoaf said.

In other chamber news:

The Kenai Chamber of Commerce board of directors will meet at noon Friday at Busters.

The chamber will hold a special breakfast meeting Wednesday from 7:30 to 9 a.m. at the Kenai Merit Inn. Annalee McConnell, director of the governor's office of management and budget, Pat Pourchot, commissioner of natural resources, Glenn Godfrey, commissioner of public safety, and Kurt Parkan, deputy commissioner, will lead a discussion titled, "How will House and Senate budget cut proposals affect your Kenai business?"

"I didn't believe I would live so long to see Alaska go from poor to rich to catastrophic, but we're on our way," said Kenai Mayor John Williams.

He encouraged chamber members to attend the special morning meeting and to work through a citizens information kit distributed at Wednesday's meeting in order to get familiar with the challenges facing the state budget.

Space at the meeting will be limited, so call 283-7989 for reservations. Attendance and breakfast will cost $20. There will be no lunch meeting that day.

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