ALASKA BRASS – High school brass musicians from around the state enrolled in the Sitka Fine Arts Camp's Alaska Brass Workshop play at Odess Theater this afternoon during a free concert that also featured students in the camp's new String Chamber Music Intensive. Pictured are, from left, Tava Guillory, Sitka;Mark Davis, Haines; Hudson Adams, Sitka; Jacob Batchelder, Fairbanks; and Hanna Morrow, Kenai. The musicians will perform another free concert at Odess Theater Friday at 3 p.m. (Sentinel Photo by James Poulson)

Governor, Senator Here for Convention Of State Chamber

By SARAH C. GIBSON
Sentinel Staff Writer
    The Alaska Chamber of Commerce kicked off its Annual Fall Forum in Sitka Tuesday with a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Sitka’s new hotel, the Aspen Hotel Suites.

Alaska Sen. Bert Stedman, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Gov. Bill Walker join Sitka and Alaska Chamber of Commerce leaders and Aspen Hotel Suites management and others at a ribbon cutting ceremony outside the new Aspen Hotel Suites Tuesday. The ribbon cutting and a reception with Sen. Sullivan at the hotel were part of the Alaska Chamber of Commerce Annual Fall Forum. About 150 Chamber members and guests from throughout the state are attending the event, which runs through Thursday. (Photo by Frank Flavin)


    U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan, Gov. Bill Walker and State Sen. Bert Stedman joined Chamber officials and hotel owner George Swift on the hotel’s front steps to speak with the gathering of business representatives and politicians from across the state.
    “You’ll hear a different message out of Sitka than you will in Anchorage,” Stedman told the crowd. “We don’t have recessionary issues going on in Southeast.”
    He called Swift “one of the classic examples of capitalism, sticking his neck out when a lot of people are putting their neck in the sand.”
    Stedman predicted an increase of visitors to Sitka over the next few years and joked that the “hotel will have occupancy challenges, as far as you getting a room in it.”
    The joking continued as Sullivan took the microphone.
     “I was told that this was going to be the Bert Stedman hotel,” he laughed, crediting the Sitka legislator for much of Southeast’s construction and development projects.
    Sullivan was in Sitka as part of a three-day trip to Southeast. Prior to the ceremony he visited SEARHC and classes at Sitka High School, and also met with members of the Sitka Citizens’ Climate Lobby.
    Sullivan, the junior member of Alaska’s delegation in the U.S. Senate, said he came to Southeast to get input on federal policies but also to share positive updates from Washington, D.C.
    “From our perspective, there’s optimism for a couple reasons,” he said at the ceremony. “Finally the focus back in Washington is what I think it should be on, and that’s growing our national economy, which has really been in a 10-year slump.”
    Sullivan named tax reform, energy, permitting and infrastructure as areas that could boost the economy with the right changes.
    “We need to reform our broken permitting system,” he said. “We all know the stories. They happen everywhere in America but they happen in Alaska probably more than in any other place.”
    The Republican senator cited “projects that took forever to permit,” such as the 20-year wait for the Kensington Mine and a seven-year wait to build a Shell exploration well. He called it “madness.”
    He said other good news from Washington is the likely continuation of hundreds of millions of dollars in military spending in Alaska, as well as the upcoming pending reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act.
    Sullivan also celebrated the naming of Alaskans to prominent positions in the administration of President Trump, including Chris Oliver, who will be head of the National Marine Fisheries Service, and Joe Balash, recently Sullivan’s chief of staff, whose confirmation as assistant Secretary of the Interior is now in committee.
    He also pointed to the appointment of former Alaska legislator Drue Pearce as deputy administrator of Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration in the Department of Transportation.
    “Personnel is policy,” Sullivan said, “And one of the exciting things that’s starting to happen in Washington is we have a federal government that actually wants to help us develop our economy, not block us.”
    After Sullivan’s speech, Anna Salick from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce presented Sullivan with a “Spirit of Enterprise Award” for a pro-business voting record of 86 percent.
    Then Swift, Walker and Sullivan grabbed an oversize pair of blue scissors and cut the ribbon across the front of Aspen Hotel Suites.
    In an interview with the Sentinel afterward about environmental issues, Sullivan said that he was unsure whether he would submit a public comment on the EPA’s proposal to withdraw the July 2014 Clean Water Act Proposed Determination, which would restrict the use of the Bristol Bay watershed for disposal of materials associated with the potential Pebble Mine.   
    The public comment period on the Pebble Mine issue is currently under way and is subject of hearings this week in Dillingham and Iliamna.
    Sullivan said that Alaska had “super high” environmental standards for projects to begin with, and that the 2014 proposed determination was an example of the EPA acting beyond its constitutional authority.
    “If an entity, be it a fish processing plant or an oil and gas development, wants to go through the permitting process, they should be allowed to go through the federal and state permitting process,” he said, adding that these are already set up to meet “the highest standards,” he said.
    Sullivan stressed that he was neither for the Pebble Mine nor against it.
    “I’m for any project that wants to go through the permitting process,” he said, and added. “We should not trade one resource for another,” referring to the sockeye salmon in Bristol Bay.
    Sullivan held a roundtable with state Chamber officials early today, and before leaving for Ketchikan at 11:30 he met with Sentinel and Raven Radio reporters to talk about Alaska and national issues, that will be published in a later edition of the Sentinel.

You have no rights to post comments

Login Form

Facebook

calendar