Some may have suspected ulterior motives Is Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich running for governor? but the mayor's recent visit to the Kenai Peninsula had little to do with politicking and lots to do with sharing common sense.
The mayor was before the Kenai and Anchor Point chambers of commerce late last month with a message Alaskans don't hear enough: We need each other. We need to work together. We should play off each other's strengths.
The communities of Southcentral Alaska, including those of the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Anchorage, should be cooperating on regional issues to move the economy forward. Among those issues that Begich ticked off that are a natural for regional cooperation: gas, tourism, transportation and fishing.
While some may think of Anchorage as a 900-pound gorilla, wielding its size to get its way, Begich offered another notion: He wants Anchorage to be an asset to the communities of the Kenai Peninsula and the rest of the state.
It only makes sense. What's good for Anchorage should benefit the peninsula and the rest of the state, and what's good for the peninsula and the rest of the state should benefit Anchorage. That synergy can happen, however, only with a planned effort and, in some cases, a change of attitude.
Too often, the current way of doing things puts communities in a competitive mode. If one gets something, it means another won't. There are winners and losers. Politicians are rewarded and judged by the dollar value of the capital projects they bring home, not by their long-term vision and what's good for the state as a whole.
Begich's speeches were a reminder that Alaskans should be in this journey to the future together. Communities can accomplish more by working together than by taking a parochial view and looking out for only themselves. The more communities cooperate, the more winners there are.
Begich's speech also was a reminder that communities don't have to re-invent the wheel every time a controversy pops up. Somewhere, there's a community that has addressed that issue before Anchorage perhaps. Learning from the successes and failures of the state's largest city could mean other communities could avoid some pitfalls and painful lessons and celebrate some successes more quickly.
In other words, communities should be asking each other for help. Begich offered his city's assistance; peninsula communities should not be timid about taking him up on his offer.
In growing the economy of the region, the entire state, for that matter, Begich told his audiences there is no more important issue than fuel. As the state works toward a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope, one immediate area of regional cooperation should be ensuring that the state's first priority is a supply of gas to Alaskans.
While some would argue that the priority should be making the pipeline a revenue stream, Begich rightly takes the position that without affordable sources of energy, the state will not be able to grow its economy.
Begich's message of cooperation was refreshing.
And, by the way, his immediate political ambitions are another term as mayor of Anchorage, not governor of Alaska.
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