Then-Gov. Sarah Palin announced a new Rural Action Subcabinet during the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last October, as a response to the concerns over the high rural fuel prices and potential loss of population to cities.
Its profile has been very low since, and questions have come up about just what the subcabinet has accomplished and what it plans to do. Alaska Attorney General Dan Sullivan, who automatically became chair of the subcabinet when Palin appointed him as the state's top lawyer in mid-June, said rural issues will be a priority for him and that he intends to raise the profile of the subcabinet and its work. Sullivan, who came to the job from Washington, D.C., concedes his time in rural Alaska consists of a trip to Rampart, where his mother-in-law is from, more than 10 years ago. But he said that's going to change.
Subcabinet members will have a public hearing in Unalakleet today, and Sullivan will go on to Kotzebue for a hearing on Wednesday. He said other subcabinet trips to the Bush are planned and people can e-mail ideas for the effort to firstname.lastname@example.org. He said the focus has been on a study of rural outmigration and a new study of what's driving the high price of fuel in the Bush. But what's needed is a "much more open process, to open this really to the public," he said.
He said Lt. Gov. Craig Campbell and Emil Notti, commissioner of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, are focused on coordinating with villages on contingency plans for fuel needs this winter, "trying to anticipate those needs and having stockpiles ready." There's also a desire for job training and looking at the possibility of taking into account such training as well as the effect on the local economy, rather than just the cost, when decisions are made on awarding state contracts, he said. Another idea is looking at neighboring villages sharing services like clinics, schools and airports in places where the local areas want to do so.
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