This guest editorial is by Ryan Schryver, the director of the newly formed Alaska Legacy Project. The Alaska Legacy Project is a nonprofit interested good governance in Alaska. Schryver lives in Anchorage with his wife.
What went wrong, and how the heck are we going to dig Alaska out of this mess?
There have been times in the past few years I felt like I was trapped in some sort of weird loop, where every conversation I found myself in eventually circled back to those two questions. These questions stem from a place of love and genuine concern. Alaska is our home, and we want to ensure we have a solid future here, a place where we can find steady work, raise our families and enjoy the amazing opportunities our natural landscape provides. Unfortunately, many people I speak with aren’t confident that future will exist unless we start approaching things a bit differently.
The Alaska Legacy Project was born from these conversations.
The state is essentially broke, and there doesn’t seem to be a solid long-term plan to get us back on track. Juneau has begun to look increasingly like Washington, D.C. wracked by corruption, extremism and an unwillingness to compromise. Powerful special interest groups representing niche constituencies are contributing to the polarization and paralysis in government.
Most Alaskans aren’t single issue voters. Most Alaskans don’t affiliate too strongly with either one of our major political parties. We support nonprofits and advocacy groups working on topics near and dear to our hearts, but we also understand the solutions to Alaska’s challenges are complex. We aren’t fully defined by our employment or the trade groups that represent our businesses. While most of us want what is best for our employers, we know that economic diversity will be crucial to creating the stable future we all want.
There is growing consensus among those of us who are of the age where we’ll (hopefully) still be living, working and raising our families here in 25, 30 or even 40 years: We need a more effective voice in the debates about our future. While some would rather lament the status quo and complain about the decisions that brought us to this point, most of us would rather roll up our sleeves and get to work.
The Alaska Legacy Project is a new, forward thinking, unabashedly pro-Alaskan voice in the advocacy landscape. We are a nonpartisan group that believes it is up to Alaskans to realize the opportunities we have in front of us, just as those before us have done and as we hope those after us will continue to do. We want to provide the space for change, to inspire our leaders to evaluate Alaska’s existing political processes, and to explore approaches that apply unorthodox means and challenge system norms. We are a proactive group, not a reactive group, which means we strive for sustainable solutions to problems and consider long-term effects.
But that doesn’t mean we aren’t going to highlight the problems with the current system when they don’t meet our expectations.
We expect our leaders and our government to be ethical, competent and responsive.
We expect our future economy to be diverse, sustainable and innovative.
We expect our communities to be healthy, safe and self determining.
When our leaders act outside the best long-term interest of Alaska, we intend to call it out.
The Alaska Legacy Project will not run from engaging in controversial and thorny issue areas. If we’re going to have a fighting chance of righting this ship, we need to dig into topics related to how we manage our natural resources, including ensuring we are adequately compensated for development that does occur, and discuss what it really means to be an Owner State. We’ll need to get real about what it takes to enhance and diversify our economy. Education, healthcare, climate change, resource management, good governance, clean water, public safety and responsible budgeting are all on the table.
The Alaska Legacy Project is about securing and protecting a place greater than ourselves. It’s about taking ownership and responsibility for the future of our Last Frontier — the Alaska we know and love. I hope that you’ll join us.