Petition: Daylight doesn't need saving

Posted: Sunday, April 30, 2006

Along with almost everyone else in the nation each April, Alaskans twist those little dials on the backs of their clocks and start observing daylight-saving time.

Each fall, they do the reverse, returning to standard time.

A group of Alaskans calling themselves Citizens to end the Use of Daylight Saving Time in Alaska wants to change that and has submitted an application to Lt. Gov. Loren Leman’s office seeking the OK to begin gathering the 35,000 signatures needed to put an initiative on the 2008 general election ballot that would exempt Alaska from the annual spring forward-fall back ritual.

One of its supporters is Ninilchik resident Joann Jackinsky, who noted that until an act of Congress in 1983, Alaska had four time zones. Since then, all but a small stretch of the Aleutian Islands has been in the same time zone as Juneau, even though places like Nome and Juneau once were separated by three time zones.

“That’s like putting New York City and Los Angeles on the same time,” she said.

A result of daylight saving is that in Nome, solar noon — when the sun is highest in the sky — occurs at 3 p.m.

Daylight saving can affect natural cycles of activity, especially in children, Jackinsky said.

“The biggest difference is with school children,” she said. “Teens naturally stay up later and get up later.

“In Alaska, once you go to daylight-saving time, you get your kid up at 6 a.m. to get to school by 7:30 a.m., but their body clocks say it’s 4 a.m.”

She also said a justification used to be that changing from four times zones made conducting business with the rest of the Lower 48 more convenient. That no longer applies, Jackinsky asserted.

“Now we have instant e-mail and faxing. We do business all over world,” she said.

In Alaska, where there is an abundance of daylight during the summer months, saving daylight makes no sense, she said.

According to a press release, the sponsoring group has no agenda “other than to improve the quality of life of Alaskans by ending what it sees as the unnecessary twice-yearly changing of the time of sunrise and sunset.”

Surveys taken in the past few years and available on the group’s Web site, www.end, seem to show support for dumping daylight-saving time.

In 2005, Hellenthal and Associates research found that 49.9 percent of those surveyed favored doing away with DST, while 36.6 percent opposed the idea. About 13.5 percent said they did not know.

In 2004, a Dittman Research survey found 58 percent would prefer keeping Alaska time the same all year, and 37 percent would retain daylight-saving time. Five percent said they were unsure.

There are two bills before state lawmakers that would end daylight saving. Neither has moved far in the legislative process.

Senate Bill 120 has been in the Senate Labor and Commerce Committee since April 2005. Among those sponsoring that bill is Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai.

House Bill 176 has been in House Finance since last year, too, but has been amended to add language for an advisory ballot measure. A sponsor statement said abandoning daylight saving would “rid Alaskans of a frustrating and pointless biannual obligation and will help to prevent the disruption of Alaskans’ circadian rhythms.” They referred to the twice-yearly chore of changing clocks as “tedious.”

Other U.S. states and territories have opted out of daylight-saving time, including Hawaii, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, most of the eastern time zone of Indiana, and the state of Arizona.

Lt. Gov. Loren Leman’s office received the application April 4 and turned it over to the Division of Elections and the Department of Law the next day. On April 13, the division determined there were sufficient signatures on the application (100 were needed, 112 were approved, according to Jackinsky).

The application still awaits an opinion from the Office of the Attorney General.

Jackinsky said the group is looking for people to help gather signatures. Anyone interested can go to the group’s Web site for further information.

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