Letter to the Editor

Support local consolidation

To the editor: I was delighted to see the word “consolidation” in a headline in Sunday’s Daily News-Miner. In the early 1960s I was a charter member of the Fairbanks League of Women Voters. This was shortly after Alaska became a state and dividing the state into boroughs, as prescribed by the new state Constitution, was a new concept. The boroughs were to include first-class cities, and our borough has two first-class cities: Fairbanks and North Pole.

The other two population centers in Alaska, Anchorage and Juneau, swiftly moved to consolidate their cities and their boroughs by a process that was then called unification. For a variety of reasons, Fairbanks declined to do so. Thus, we still have three governing bodies: two city councils and a Borough Assembly, and three bureaucracies to support them. The League of Women Voters for years tried to end this unnecessary duplication by supporting areawide elections to unify. I can remember three votes on this, all of which were defeated.

In the state Constitution, three government functions were allotted to boroughs: planning and zoning, taxation, and education. We have added more by votes of the people: pollution control, parks and recreation, and animal control, to name a few. But we are still left with three governing bodies, which means three local elections.

This is not only expensive. It is also confusing, especially to new residents, and there are plenty of those. Unlike some of the older states, Alaska has a lot of comings and goings. New residents proliferate, and their viewpoints add a lot to our state, but I wonder how many of them understand why we have three local elections and why the services residents receive depend somewhat on where they live.

Maybe I’m grasping at straws, but just seeing the article in the paper mentioning consolidation gives me a little hope. Maybe after all these years we can consolidate our local governments, just maybe.

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