As the gubernatorial race sets to kick off, candidates are beginning to ready their platforms and present them to the public. UAA has found a way for candidates to speak with their would-be voters.
The Economics Club at UAA has invited three governor candidates to speak with the public through Dec. 7.
Kathleen Ahern-Karnes, president of the Economics Club, set up the Candidate for Governor Speaker Series in an attempt to open the doors for students to communicate with the people who would be in charge of the state’s economy.
“I want the students to realize who might be in control of our state’s economy. I want them to know that it is possible to speak on a one-to-one basis with your candidates and to ask them questions to see that they’re not far removed, that they’re not elitist, that they’re human beings just like they are, and it’s possible to approach them and have a conversation with them and ask them pertinent questions,” Ahern-Karnes said.
The first candidate to speak was Rep. Ethan Berkowitz, house minority leader, who spoke to a crowd of 40 students and visitors.
Berkowitz, an attorney and local businessman, laid out his current thoughts and ideas on the challenges that await the next governor, as well as his visions on what Alaska needs in order to prosper, including education.
“Shortchanging education is a dangerous thing for us to do, because it’s shortchanging the future,” Berkowitz said. “I value education as being the surest way to take advantage of opportunity. When people take advantage of opportunities then they can lead more satisfied lives.”
Past trends show the amount of money earned in the state that gets spent outside of Alaska decreases each decade.
Alaska rated 13 in the nation for per capita income at $34,454 in 2004, according to a November release by Alaska Economic Trends.
“When I think of what the Alaskan economy should be all about is what all economy should be: good jobs for people who are willing to work and a good return on investment for people who are willing to take risks,” Berkowitz said. “You want to make it easy for people to start businesses, to begin projects.”
Berkowitz said he has a simple answer to the current state deficit and numerous fiscal problems.
“This state needs a sustainable budget. Fiscal discipline is absolutely critical. If I were elected, I’d sell the jet,” Berkowitz said regarding Gov. Frank Murkowski’s use of federal funds to purchase a $2 million dollar jet for the state.
Berkowitz is in support of drilling ANWR, which he thinks will benefit all of the United States.
“The reason I favor opening ANWR is that we have a security problem in this country. We are too energy dependent on other countries. We’ve got troops overseas right now, and I think in large part it is because of our energy insecurities. If that’s truly the reason we’re overseas, and I think it is, then you’ve got to have a more comprehensive and a bigger approach to solving the problem. You’ve got to make this country as energy self-sufficient as you possibly can,” Berkowitz said.
With numerous villages in Alaska spread out so far, Berkowitz thinks better connection is important. He said it would help to improve communication, growth sustainment and industry, thereby supplementing the state.
“We have an obligation in this state to make sure that each community can develop its own economy and can contribute to a larger economy, and we can do it,” Berkowitz said.
He addressed using alternate power sources, such as the use of wind power, which is used in other states.
“Alaskans can be right out on the edge of [wind power] technology,” Berkowitz said. “I believe in the power of technology. I believe in the power of people to come up with technological innovations, but I also know that we need energy.”
Berkowitz thinks the gas pipeline will be the signature achievement of generation, but said it’s not going to yield fruit for a long stretch of time.
Berkowitz summed up the forum with his thoughts on what was most important to his campaign.
“People need to think. If I do nothing else during the course of this campaign, I want people to think. Just get people to think and we can get close to what we can be,” Berkowitz said.
Anthony Rivas, president of the Union of Students at UAA, said it was important to be there.
“I wanted to know what his side and his opinions are. I had to be here as a representative of the student body and I needed for him to know what our concerns were,” said Rivas.
The gubernatorial candidate forums run through December. Candidate Sarah Palin speaks Nov. 16 and candidate Eric Croft will be speaking on Dec. 7. Each forum will take place in Rasmuson Hall, Room 101 at 4 p.m.