Alaska Editorials

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Here is a sampling of editorial opinions from Alaska newspapers:

Oct. 25, 2012:

Peninsula Clarion: Suicide rates

The numbers are alarming — the suicide rate for Alaskans ages 15-24 was 46 per 100,000 people in 2010, well above the national average. And even with those numbers in mind, we're startled by the response to this week's Clarion poll question, which asks readers if they or somebody they know have ever contemplated suicide. More than 80 percent of respondents answered yes.

While our poll is not scientific, what it tells us is that suicide is an issue that, at some time or another, will affect nearly every member of our community.

Indeed, comments from high school counselors bear that out. During a recent training session, staff at Soldotna High School shared personal stories on the subject.

"We let the teachers discuss experiences in their lives; people who had either committed or talked about committing (suicide)," Erin Neisinger, Soldotna High School counselor, told the Clarion. "And walking around the room listening to the conversations, there were a lot stories about students or friends . who had affected their lives."

The school district's expanded training is the result of legislation passed last session requiring at least two hours of training for school personnel who work with middle- and high-school students. It includes an appropriation of $450,000 toward school-based suicide prevention efforts.

Sen. Bettye Davis, of Anchorage, who sponsored the legislation, said the bill would help reduce the "silent epidemic" of youth suicide through educational and awareness programs. According to Neisinger, people aren't always comfortable addressing suicide with students. The goal of the training is to give school staff more skills and confidence to talk about the issue with students, to say something, adding to protocols the district already has in place.

If just one educator is able to make a connection with just one student, to steer a student in a different direction, then the two hours of training and funding to support it will have been money well spent.

But we hope that in raising suicide awareness, and in giving school staff more tools to help, the impact will be far greater. As we said, suicide will, at some time or another, touch nearly every one of us.

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Oct. 27, 2012:

Ketchikan Daily News: Got projects?

Thirty-six of 'em— $453.5 million in road, port and rail projects — are up for funding in the Bonding Proposition A package that will be decided by Alaska voters on Nov. 6.

Voter approval of Bonding Proposition A would allow the State of Alaska to issue general obligation bonds for projects that range from a $50 million expansion of the Port of Anchorage to $1 million toward expanding the boat harbor at Hooper Bay.

We're in no position to judge the individual merits of the 36 projects in the list. Legislators craft these ballot bond packages with care to please as many voters as possible to ensure passage. At nearly half a billion dollars, this package has a lot of sugar. Here's hoping that at least a majority of the projects merit the proposed indebtedness.

The one Ketchikan-area item that would be funded by Bonding Proposition A is the proposed link between the Ketchikan road system and the U.S. Forest Service roads at Shelter Cove near Carroll Inlet.

The project already has $10 million in bond funding that was approved by Alaska voters in 2008. The upcoming Bonding Proposition A would provide another $19 million for the "Shelter Cove Road Construction and Improvements" project.

Alaska's Department of Transportation recently completed a reconnaissance report that analyzed several potential routes to connect the two road systems.

DOT's preferred alternative envisions a 23.6-mile route that would follow the existing Forest Service road along Revilla Road to the White River Road that winds through Cape Fox Corp. land.

After transiting along existing logging roads through Alaska Mental Health Trust land around the top of Leask Cove, the preferred alternative would build about six miles of new road through mostly state lands around the north end of George Inlet and Salt Lagoon and continue east to connect to the existing Shelter Cove timber road system.

As initially proposed, the roads would be 14-foot-wide, single-lane routes of rock and gravel.

DOT estimates that this alternative would cost about $15 million to construct. The route crosses easier terrain that the other alternatives, and has the potential for lower maintenence costs.

"While Alternative II doesn't open up the greatest amount of public land along its route compared to the other alternatives, once the connection is made to the existing USFS Shelter Cove Road system, it would open up a considerable amount of access to public lands between George and Carroll Inlets that already have road access," states the DOT?reconnaissance report.

Providing access is what the project is all about, according to DOT.

"The project's immediate proposed purpose would provide public access to the existing logging road system, thereby expanding access for Ketchikan's recreational and subsistence activities," states to the report.

The link also could be part of the 2004 Southeast Alaska Transportation Plan goal of a road connection from northern Revillagigedo Island to the North America Highway system via the Bradfield Canal and Cassiar Highway in Canada, according to the report.

Voters interested in learning more about the proposed Shelter Cove Road project can find much more information about it on the DOT website at: http://dot.alaska.gov/sereg/projects/ktn_shelter_cove_rd/index.shtml.

Although the project is a small part of a large ballot proposition, it's worth understanding before heading to the polls.

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