Redistricting board to visit Fairbanks

Christopher Eshleman
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
March 25, 2011

JUNEAU — Native leaders told the state Redistricting Board on Friday to protect rural representation in the Legislature.

Census figures delivered earlier this month suggest many more village and rural residents have migrated to cities than have gone the other direction. That bodes poorly for anyone hoping vast rural legislative districts, already big enough to leave many villages hundreds of miles from their representatives’ respective hometowns, will do anything but grow larger.

Sen. Al Kookesh, D-Angoon, oversees a huge district covering almost half the state and including more than 200 communities.

Federal and state voting laws protect minority representation but Kookesh challenged the board Friday in Juneau to “think outside the box” as it looks to protect Native groups’ interests in the Legislature.

“You can’t have, in the state of Alaska, all of the voices coming from one ethnic group,” he said.

Kathy Dietrich, a Fairbanks resident visiting Juneau, followed Kookesh by telling the panel the state’s “democracy works when we have balance and we have diversity” in public policy debate.

The panel is holding hearings around the state. It will be in Fairbanks on Monday for a seven-hour hearing at Fairbanks City Hall. It starts at noon.

The committee is leading the once-per-decade process of drawing new boundaries for legislative districts. Tentative maps are due out within weeks. The work is led by former state Sen. John Torgerson and the five-member Redistricting Board also includes former state Rep. Jim Holm of Fairbanks.

Kawasaki hosts Fairbanks meeting

Rep. Scott Kawasaki, D-Fairbanks, has scheduled a midday town hall meeting in Fairbanks on Saturday at the Noel Wein Public Library. He said the two-hour meeting, starting at noon, will include time to focus on a range of issues including the budget, oil taxes, education and the cost of energy.

“The Legislature has less than 30 days to finish the work we started in January,” Kawasaki said in a statement. “It is important people tell the Legislature what really is important to them and their communities.”

Thompson breaks from Juneau

Rep. Steve Thompson headed home from Juneau on Friday today after his wife, Kathleen Thompson, was taken to the delivery room.

Thompson could not immediately be reached but a Juneau-based aide said he was expected in town on a mid-afternoon flight.

The Thompsons have been married two years. Thompson’s former wife, Janel, died of cancer in 2006. He already has four children.