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Letters to the Editor

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2001

Voting on Tuesday sends strong message about America's strength

My friends and neighbors are reminded a vote on Tuesday in the local elections demonstrates to the world and the terrorist hate-mongers that American patriotism is very much in working order.

Wouldn't a huge increase in the numbers voting be one of the strongest signals to terrorists that our country is strong and eager to carry on our constitutional duty and privilege? If I only fly a flag, but do not fully participate as a voting citizen, doesn't such inaction raise a question that a display of patriotism is rather transitory?

Those of us who long to act or send a tangible signal of America's strength have a superb opportunity to do so by voting on Tuesday or by registering to be able to vote in the next election.

James F. Fisher

Soldotna

Help wanted ad doesn't indicate kind of wages Cornell promises

This advertisement first appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner March 25 under the "Help Wanted" section. It was paid for by Cornell's North Star Center Halfway House.

"Security-Cornell Pre-release is now hiring On-Call Security for North Star Center Halfway House. Starting pay $8.50 hr. Must be able to work all shifts, be 21 or older, Ak. Drivers license and pass extensive background check with the Department of Corrections."

Does this ad represent Cornell's latest campaign slogan?

Vote "No" on Proposition 1. They can promise us anything, but the facts and past hiring history speaks for themselves, as does this ad.

If this is the kind of union wages they are referring to in their advertisement in the Clarion, I can tell you this, I wouldn't want to belong to that union!

If the precedence is set in place for this private, for-profit prison, you had better look down the road to the closest hotel or apartment buildings and ask yourself how would it affect your neighborhood if it was a halfway house. Make no mistake about it, this will not be limited to the Kenai area only.

I will be voting "No" on Oct. 2.

Vicki Duggin

Nikiski

Private prisons only accountable to shareholders, not community

Lock your doors and hide your wallets, the snake oil salesmen are in town. The magic elixir they are trying to sell us is a private, for-profit prison. This, they tell us, will cure all our ills, bad schools, unemployment, diminished revenue streams, heartburn, dandruff, you name it.

The Cornell advocates will tell you that private prisons save money. They don't. In fact, the burden of the extra expense, such as increased sewer and water usage and outside security costs, falls on local government. The Government Accounting Office determined that private prisons offer no real savings to state and local governments.

Let's talk about jobs. According to the Criminal Justice Institute figures based on a questionnaire submitted to prisons, both private and public, the correction officer turnover rate in a public facility averaged a little over 15 percent while turnover rates in private prisons were over 40 percent! These low-paying, poor-quality jobs are not the kind of jobs I want in my neighborhood.

Two weeks ago when the Cornell advocates came to make a presentation to the Homer City Council, Mike Gilliland of Cornell referenced a Florida study in his testimony. This study is flawed, and Charles Thomas, the researcher, was fined $20,000 for violating state ethics laws. Is this the kind of misinformation we can expect out of this private, for-profit operation?

Don Gilman suggests that government agencies become more accountable when competing with private interests. This is precisely what's wrong with a private company operating a public facility, there will be no accountability to the local community. This is the underlying issue. Public prisons are accountable to the citizens, and private, for-profit prisons are accountable only to their shareholders. Our very safety is at risk, and we have no input.

Cornell and company stand to make a lot of money off the public with this for-profit prison scheme. This is why they are throwing so much money at promoting this ballot measure. Please don't be swayed by all the smoke and mirrors and promises of blue sky. A private, for-profit prison will cost the state, the borough, and us, the taxpayers, in the end.

Please vote "No" on Proposition 1, and let's send these snake oil salesmen packing!

Mako Haggerty

Homer

Private, public prisons operate on opposite philosophies

I have yet to see the real reasons we should all oppose private prisons, and that is the final outcome. Private prisons exist to make money, yet the goal of prisons in general is to turn out people who will not commit crimes again.

But with private prisons, this will not happen for several reasons.

Rehabilitation, education, and training -- while woefully inadequate in state and federal prisons -- are lacking in private prisons. Even medical care is minimal in private prisons because doctors are given large bonuses for cutting costs.

Private prisons are ensuring their own success by turning out inmates who will soon be back in jail.

Before people vote on this issue, they need to look at the bottom line -- that of private prisons and the goals of prisons in general. They are totally opposite in philosophy.

In the end, it is society who ends up being hurt and paying the never-ending costs -- to the private prisons.

Dianne Holmes

Anchorage

Borough residents should vote 'No' on propositions 1 and 3

To date our elected officials have spent over $75,000 of our tax dollars trying to convince us the private, for-profit prison in Kenai is a good

thing! That figure could easily exceed $160,000 before this campaign is finally over. Just to bring this into perspective, that's more money than will be spent maintaining every road in North Kenai this year!

The borough is not spending oil dollars here, instead it's property taxes that we entrusted them to spend legally and in a prudent manner. My taxes were intended for schools, and road maintenance, not for setting up an outside corporation in a multimillion dollar business!

Several years ago, voters of the Kenai Peninsula Borough told local politicians in no uncertain terms that we did not trust them to have animal control powers. Now they are asking us to trust them with 1,000 hardened criminals. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out the answer to this question!

We also told the politicians not to put halfway houses in our communities, but that was tried, too. Then, of course, there was the volcano observatory and term limits issues. Each time we said "No!"

My question is: What part of "No" don't these people understand? All residents on the Kenai Peninsula need to tell these wannabe power brokers once and for all to stay out of these boondoggles. Instead, try doing a better job of the tasks we've already given you, and leave economic development to business! In future elections, we need to unseat those having difficulty hearing the people's voice!

On Oct. 2, join me voting "No" on Proposition 1 (private prison) and Proposition 3 (expanding the Borough Building). We don't want to be in the prison business, and we definitely don't need room for a larger government. If extra money is available, let's repair some of our schools and eliminate the portable classrooms!

Mike McBride

Nikiski

Prison will lower quality of life on Kenai Peninsula

As we are preparing to vote on Tuesday, we should stop and review where we are going and review our priorities.

It's obvious "quality of life" issues are important to many of the residents of the Kenai Peninsula. For example just this past summer:

1. A gentleman in Kasilof had to gate his property to eliminate the large number of drift boat operators from using his road. The reason? Too many people; too much use. Guides, tourists and fishermen's quality of life were affected.

2. The village of Ninilchik closed access to the local beach -- too many people, too much use. Again, this negatively impacted the quality of life of many people who had used this beach for years.

3. The residents of Poppy Lane are upset because their quality of life will be greatly impacted due to a large housing tract being developed nearby -- a perfect example of how too much growth destroys people's quality of life.

Now we have this proposal to build a huge prison with the carrot of "more jobs." What this really means is more people, more traffic, higher taxes and an overall decrease in the quality of life for most peninsula residents.

We did not need this prison last year or the year before and we really don't need it next year or the year after, etc.

I've seen a great deal of debate and interest in this prison project. It makes me wonder --would we be far better off if we could get this amount of interest and money involved in teaching our children how to become responsible citizens when they grow up? Just think --maybe a 10-unit prison would then be adequate.

I intend to vote "No" on Proposition 1.

John Ossowski

Soldotna

There's something in private prison proposal for everyone to dislike

Boy, are those ads in support of Proposition 1 snazzy or what? Good lookin' construction guys, sweet little babies sleeping on Daddy's lap, smiling, healthy school kids, and just endless "blue sky" predictions for all of us borough citizens. I get a warm fuzzy feeling that lasts a whole week and then they hit me with another round again.

How can I vote "No" on something that is going to provide me with all these great benefits? Well, it is going to be easy. There is something for everyone to dislike in this harebrained idea.

The incarceration and rehabilitation of people who break the law is a primary function of government. I can maybe go along with letting the private sector pick up garbage or plow snow and sand the roads, but even those chores suffer when the contractors cut corners in order to make a profit and stay in business.

Running a prison is no easy task, and the people who do it need to be well-trained, well-paid and willing to stay with the job for the long haul. Privatizing our prisons is an idea that does not work and the proof of that is in the financial statements of these companies; their stock is in the tank, their contracts with public entities are being canceled or constantly renegotiated, and they create tremendous liability problems that end up costing the local communities big bucks when they don't live up to their promises.

The state Department of Corrections has a very workable plan to enlarge existing state facilities in Kotzebue, Bethel, Fairbanks and Kenai by 200 beds each that will make it possible to house all Alaska inmates currently imprisoned in Arizona. This plan is very cost efficient and keeps prisoners close to their home. The only problem with this plan is that the private prison lobby is totally cut out of the deal.

I can live with that, and I hope you can, too. Vote "No" on Proposition 1.

Kevin A. Wyatt

Homer

Attacks on President Bush in 'Doonesbury' disgusting

I was very saddened and disappointed to see the article you printed today (Sept. 17) of "Doonesbury" by Garry Trudeau about our President. He was attacked by Trudeau with hatred and disrespect that American people don't need in this terrible time of tragedy.

If Garry Trudeau can't think of anything to say but negative reporting and knows only how to can put down our President, I would suggest you cancel his column. Remember, you don't have to print his articles! I, for one, don't ever want to read them again! He's disgusting!

Joan Szepanski

Soldotna



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