Letters to the Editor

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2001

Private prison: A thoughtful, thankful look back on issue

I have been gone for a while for a much-needed rest on the East Coast visiting my daughter and her husband and also my three outstanding grandsons. For those of you who have traveled after the Sept. 11 attack by hate-filled cowardly people with no real objective other than killing innocent people of all races and creeds, you have seen as I have that the world has changed forever.

I have noticed numerous conflicting emotions as I traveled across the country -- everything from suspicion (maybe because I'm a little darker in color) to a heightened awareness, i.e., people checking you out for their own peace of mind. By far the greatest emotion I've run across is fear, especially of the unknown.

I'm not sure what I have written so far has to do with the recent private prison proposal, but I'll endeavor to put it all into perspective. When I learned that the proposition for the prison proposal failed, needless to say I was deeply disappointed, but it's not the end of the world. In fact, I'm thankful to be a second-generation American citizen whose father immigrated to this great country and taught me the value of hard work along with the great privilege of voting one's conscience. This is a freedom we Americans cherish deeply -- one that most all are willing to die for. In this country, the ballot box determines outcomes of certain issues and that is how it should be done.

In closing, I would like to share an experience I had before I left and before the vote was taken on the prison proposal and also offer a comment or two of encouragement to our community. The experience I encountered was that of being verbally railed on in a grocery store for being involved in promoting the prison project. The sad thing about this incident is not so much being cursed at, but the fact that I was called a stinking Indian and that all the jailed Indians ought to stay put in Arizona.

Also, sadly to say, my staff has experienced similar disturbances in their own lives as well (of which I feel responsible). I do not apologize for being so candid. Also, I don't think that a few misguided people represent the Kenai Peninsula as a whole with such a bigoted attitude.

The Kenai Natives Association Inc. wishes to thank all who supported our efforts to enhance the community economically as well as humanitarianly. Though we may have lost an election, we gained much insight about the state correctional facilities and the need to help our incarcerated prisoners where we can. One last thank you goes to those who voted against the prison project. You voted your belief and your conscience, and I highly respect that.

My hope is that as a community we can always rise above any form of bigotry whether racial or religious or political and find common ground on which to work together for the benefit of all people.

May God bless America and our community.

Richard Segura

President/C.E.O.

Kenai Natives Association Inc.

If borough wants to expand powers, it needs to ask residents -- first

I believe most of the conclusions you reached in your editorial of Oct. 5 (the "after the election" one) rang true -- particularly about residents not wanting to enlarge government and spend money.

Of course, hindsight is always clearest, and I remind your paper that you endorsed the private prison proposition.

Question: Who did you talk with or listen to that led you to believe the people of the Kenai Peninsula ever wanted to enlarge government and spend money?

Because it seems that most of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly members and mayor, one senator and all the representatives were talking with and listening to the same people you were.

Why didn't anyone listen to the many John and Jane Q. Publics who spoke against the prison? Worse was that the regular resident, the non-influential "little" person was not only ignored, but also was shamefully scoffed at by various public officials at several different forums.

Those officials deserve a spanking -- perhaps at their next election?

I understand that the supporters of the prison are saying that the vote was "too early," that they had not had the opportunity to get a feasibility study done. (How interesting that the public voted it down because of lack of information, but the elected officials forged ahead without any information!)

Personally, I think that the vote was "too late" -- that the borough should have asked us if we wanted to embark on that route before they spent any money or time on it. Why did the borough charge off after this without asking us?

I believe the answer is because they didn't have to.

House Bill 53, passed in 1998, revised state statutes to allow municipalities the authority to construct and operate prisons. It applied to all municipalities -- including second-class cities and boroughs.

We didn't get to vote on whether we wanted our government to expand its powers to include prisons -- the Legislature just made it happen. (Again, Sen. John Torgerson cast the lone no vote of our then district legislators.)

Here's an irony for you to consider. The same year the Legislature voted "yes" to give prison powers to this borough, the people of the borough voted "no" on animal control powers for this borough.

So, why did the majority of our elected officials, borough and legislators, think we would want them to "kennel" humans -- felonious humans at that, when we didn't want them to kennel innocent puppies and kittens?

Some of the problem is central to the people in the office, legislators, some assembly members and the mayor who talk the conservative talk about cutting budgets and then walk a big government walk by entering us into yet another government function.

Like the big "talk" about budget cutting, when they all knew the prison proposal was 65 percent more than what we are paying now --about $10 million at a minimum. Then they follow that up with discussion about balancing the budget and establishing a spending cap -- what hypocrisy!

Some of the problem is the way the borough does business. Here are some suggestions:

No more last minute lay-down resolutions or ordinances.

No more "waiving" the municipal code. Flags and hands get waved -- not laws.

No more "RFQs" for sole source design/build -- get competitive bids. Period.

Stop conducting behind-closed-doors interviews for multi-million dollar contracts. Do your deliberations in public when the public can listen. It reeks of collusion.

Develop a policy on how you will conduct yourselves during ballot proposition elections; discuss, in public, the propriety of assembly members and the mayor having a direct involvement on either side of the issue.

Develop a policy on how your partners will conduct themselves in an election. Your laws prohibit you from funding a campaign on a ballot proposition, but your partner, Cornell, was under no prohibition and clearly spent an obscene amount of money on advertising.

If you want this borough to take on more responsibility -- ask us, the people who have to foot the bill. Maybe we will agree, like we did with road construction powers.

Maybe we won't -- like animal control powers.

But you better ask, because we are the engine that fuels this train with our taxes.

You are just sitting in the front car.

You put this prison project on a fast track and then there was a train wreck.

And when there is a train wreck -- well, like I said, you are sitting in the front.

Mary Jackson

Soldotna

Pipeline shooting, lack of patrols show Alaska risks terrorist attack

The Alaska pipeline is paramount to the United States and Alaska and should be the prime interest to the state. This past week the pipeline had a hole shot in it, not just one shot was fired but many shots were fired. Where was the patrol?

Shooting on or around the pipe is against the law. He should not have gotten a mile before a security patrol officer was on the site. This was inexcusable considering the World Trade Center bombing last month. The total wealth of the state could suffer.

Our oil reserve can totally be destroyed by a small army of terrorists using plastic explosives in just a few locations. It could put the pipeline out of business for years. Fires from the oil racing across the tundra would make the repairs impossible for a long time.

All the electric power plants should have roving patrols outside the perimeters. All central water supplies should be protected as well with roving patrols. Main bridges should be patrolled.

The state of Alaska depends on the oil production and needs the roads kept open for supplies. Soldotna and Kenai would be out of food, oil, gas and a stable lifestyle in less than a week.

Is the government really paying attention? Have you driven to Anchorage lately? I have. What kind of policing is being done along the electric power lines from Anchorage? Boy, are we at risk.

Raymond P. VinZant

Soldotna

18 is old enough to join military, but too young to buy cigarettes

My name is Jesse Beck and I am an 18-year-old student at Soldotna High School. I want to bring attention to the state's unfair law regarding cigarettes.

A person can legally smoke cigarettes at age 18 but must be 19 to purchase them. This makes no sense to me. I can enlist in the military at age 18 and die for my country, but I am not allowed to buy cigarettes.

This law needs to change. Cigarettes used to be displayed in open areas where they could be easily stolen. I believe lots of kids became addicted with stolen cigarettes. Businesses must bear some responsibility for tobacco addiction.

I would like to start a petition to lower the age back to 18 to purchase cigarettes. I will be at the Safeway mall on Fridays between 5 and 7 p.m. collecting signatures. Come and see me if you agree.

Jesse Beck

Soldotna



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