Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, September 06, 2001

Do Tesoro's profits have anything to do with high price of gasoline?

I read in the Aug. 30 business briefs section of the Peninsula Clarion that Tesoro Petroleum Corp. states their second quarter earnings are double of what they were the second quarter of last year and for the first six months of this year more than double of what they were for the first six months of last year.

They credit the improved margins to higher refinery throughput and increased sales volumes. I wonder if the outrageous price they charge for gasoline has anything to do with their huge profits.

When gasoline in the Lower 48 has a much lower price per gallon, I wish someone from Tesoro could tell me how they justify charging the consumers in Alaska, especially on the Kenai Peninsula, the rate we have to pay.

I wonder what ever happened to the lawsuit against Tesoro for price fixing. In case someone wants to know, the case number is 3AN-99-8544CI. I have tried to get an answer but I cannot get one.

Bill Starnes

Kenai

Social cost of housing inmates out of state cannot be measured

In 1995, all of Alaska's prisons and jails were at or over emergency capacity. The state was found in contempt of court and the Department of Corrections was ordered to reduce inmate populations to court-approved levels.

As a stopgap measure, the department entered into a contract to house Alaska prisoners in a privately owned and operated prison in Arizona. Today more than 800 Alaska prisoners are housed in Arizona, resulting in an annual loss to the Alaska economy of $18 million in operating funds and roughly 211 jobs.

The social cost to Alaska is even more significant. More than 300 of the prisoners housed in Arizona are Alaska Natives. Many of these offenders are from remote regions of Alaska, far removed from the cultural support systems necessary for rehabilitation.

The hardship affects all Alaska prisoners housed "Outside," but the disparate impact upon Native Alaskans calls into question a problem of grave social consequences: Alaska Native males make up only 7 percent of Alaska's general population, yet Alaska Native men comprise a tragic 37 percent of Alaska's prison population.

These offenders do not fit conventional patterns of criminality and they do not respond to standard correctional programs. Except for the ravages of alcohol and drugs, most Alaska Native offenders could lead productive lives.

Under the current proposal to bring these prisoners back to Alaska, the prison will be located on Kenai Natives Association land adjacent to the existing state-operated Wildwood Correctional Center.

Cornell Companies of Alaska will operate the prison during the first five-year term with indigenous, culturally relevant programs augmented by the Kenai Natives Association in cooperation with other Native corporate and tribal stakeholders.

Kenai Natives Association was recently criticized in a letter to the editor for not doing more in the past to help Alaska Native offenders to overcome the addiction of alcohol and drugs. This may be true. However, the private prison is a future major step for Alaska Natives to face these problems and find solutions by working in a proactive manner with Cornell Companies, which is committed to work with the Native community to develop programs that will reduce recidivism rates among Alaska Natives.

Proposition 1 concerning the private prison will be on the Oct. 2 general ballot. A "Yes" vote is a step forward for a brighter future. Vote "Yes" on Proposition No. 1.

Michael Slezak

Chief operating officer

Kenai Natives Association

Private prison will not provide kinds of jobs peninsula needs

It's often been said that figures can lie and that liars figure. This has clearly become the case with Cornell Corrections, some members of the Kenai Natives Association and their representatives with their bid to establish a private prison on the Kenai Peninsula.

Grandiose cost figures for each new hire totaling $35,000 each is deliberately misleading and has nothing to do with the actual take-home wages their employees will get. This misleading figure includes the costs associated with hiring and training candidates and, most likely, the costs associated with advertising throughout the Lower 48 for the staff that they will pay to have imported to our area.

Without a doubt, the actual starting wages earned will match the wages Cornell advertises to start work in its Alaska halfway houses, $8.50 per hour. These are not the kind of jobs that are needed on the peninsula.

Cornell officials have been very evasive in their answers to questions such as what the actual starting salary for their staff will be. They have to be, the straight truth will kill their project. Private prisons average a 40 percent and greater rate of staff turnover every year making it even less likely that anyone but the few upper managers will ever see the "$13.50 per hour average for the experienced staff."

Another unanswered question is just how much of their project will be constructed and/or completed by non-union prisoner labor?

Also, to be eligible to work as an officer in a prison environment, Alaska's correctional officers must pass the requirements set forth by the Alaska Police Standards Council. These requirements, including polygraph testing and an extensive background investigation, are among the highest of standards in the United States. Cornell would not (could not) hire their employees under this quality standard.

In fact, they have been against this requirement every chance they get. These standards work to ensure that the officers working in our state prisons are of the highest caliber possible. Without these standards, do we want to end up with the possibility of criminals watching the criminals?

Don't be misled by the ever-changing reasons for getting into the private prison business (and being committed to a $120 million debt through our borough government).

Vote "No" to the private prison. Vote "No" on Proposition No. 1.

Richard Van Hatten

Kenai

Knowles' actions divide Alaskans; favoritism fuels fires of racism

All previous Alaska governors and administrations adopted the policy that Alaska is "one land, one people."

The Knowles-Ulmer administration has divided Alaskans into 233 different groups, and secretly negotiated with some to provide special privileges. The secretly negotiated "millennium agreement" violates Alaska's equal protection guarantees in Alaska's Constitution, and by granting this favoritism the governor alone has fueled the fires of racism.

Now, by dropping the Katie John issue, Knowles ignores Alaska law and has placed the entire fishing industry at risk of federal control.

Incredibly, his reason for dropping the lawsuit was to show favoritism to one segment of Alaskans at the expense of all others. Knowles should be impeached.

Robert Bettisworth

Former State House legislator

Fairbanks



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