Local News

Low turnout at Sitka redistricting hearing

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SITKA, ALASKA
All of them cautioned the Alaska Redistricting Board against putting Sitka in a legislative district with communities in the Interior. The board is in the process of redrawing the lines that define which lawmakers represent which communities. The two draft plans the board has drawn up put Sitka in a separate House district from Wrangell and Petersburg.

But it’s the Senate boundaries that are getting attention in Sitka. Under both draft plans, Sitka’s Senate district would stretch into the Interior, following the Yukon River as far south as Aniak.

“I think it was Mark Twain that said common sense isn’t very common,” Sitka resident Ann Stephenson said.

“It strikes me that it’s common sense that Southeast have its own House representative and Senate representative, that the inner Alaska people have their own representatives, that the people of the state are not divided, because in that division there is greater weakness and less representation,” she said. “I would say that this redistricting program is absolutely the death of common sense.”

Denton Pearson was a candidate for House District 2 in 2002. He said such a large district for any candidate would make effective campaigning nearly impossible.

“I made a trip from Petersburg to Sitka, with a stop in Port Alexander. I was the first candidate that had been in Port Alexander for maybe 16 to 20 years. That float plane trip cost me more than $700. If you put together a district that requires candidates from here or candidates from the Yukon Delta to come down here to campaign, you will be creating a disincentive for quality candidates.”

The Maksoutoff Room was loaded with chairs in anticipation of a large crowd, but few of those chairs were filled on Friday afternoon. Mayor Cheryl Westover said she was disappointed in the turnout.

“I’m surprised there aren’t more people here, because it’s been a big issue at our Assembly level, and maybe they’re just expecting us to be their voice, which we are,” Westover said. “We’re all Alaskans. We have that in common, but how we live is really different, from way up north to way down at the end of the panhandle.”

If you didn’t get a chance to offer your views on the redistricting plan, it’s not too late. Written comments will be taken until 5 p.m. May 13th, and there’s a statewide teleconference scheduled for Friday, May 6, from 2 – 6 p.m. Sitkans may participate at the local Legislative Information Office. Click here for additional instructions on how to participate in the teleconference: (PDF). For more information, and to view the draft plans, visit www.akredistricting.org.
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