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Report urges that Alaskans bridge urban-rural divide

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2000

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A new Urban-Rural Unity Study says voters must elect legislators who think as statesmen and not just as representatives of their particular districts.

The report was produced by the public policy forum Commonwealth North and was released in draft form this week.

The study makes few specific recommendations, although it advocates more cross-cultural understanding, local decision making and a requirement that Alaska students study state history.

Study Group Co-chair Janie Leask said Wednesday that Alaska's urban-rural divide has grown as state resources have become more scarce. Leask is a former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives who now works for Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.

Much of the tension is centered on subsistence rights and the Legislature's refusal to change the Alaska Constitution to guarantee a rural priority.

Opponents of the rural priority contend that it would discriminate against urban residents. Rural residents, meanwhile, say they don't understand why urban voters continue to elect the same handful of legislators who they feel want to end their traditional way of life.

The report will be used to draw up questionnaires to show where legislative candidates stand on such issues as subsistence, funding for rural schools and the distribution of services around the state.

''I think it's important that we look at the big picture,'' Leask said.

The group is continuing to seek comments and recommendations for the final report.

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