28 MAY 1974: Anchorage Daily News


NOME — Two Alaska Natives who plan to test Gov. William A. Egan in the Democratic primary election told their party’s state convention here Sunday that Egan’s administration has not been responsive to rural Alaska needs.

Eben Hopson, mayor of the North Slope Borough, and Don Wright, former president of the Alaska Federation of Natives, charged the administration had robbed rural Alaskans of rights to their resources and sold out to the oil companies on its own rights.

Hopson, who announced his candidacy here Friday, said Egan had not provided leadership in improving communications and education services in the bush and had taken $150 million from the North Slope Borough through the ad valorem oil and gas property tax.

WRIGHT, WHO has been in the race since last September, also criticized the special session last fall, which Egan called to eliminate legal objections that oil companies had to legislation passed in 1972 and tighten up oil and gas taxing policies.

“To permit our governor to go behind closed doors and negotiate an oil package with major oil companies without the knowledge of our respective legislators and no involvement of our people is tyranny,” Wright said.

“For our governor to call a special session of the legislature to repeal laws in the best interest of Alaska through coercion and bribery by major oil companies borders on treason,” he said.

HOPSON, a former State House member who was an aide to Egan before leaving to help form the North Slope Borough, said none of the administrations since statehood had given adequate attention to rural Alaska.

Calling rural Alaska “the backbone of the Democratic Party,” Hopson said “the future of our state depends upon the future of rural Alaska.”

Hopson said communications was the key to creation of local governments in rural Alaska. “The fact is that the state has never provided leadership in the development of communications in rural Alaska,” he said, adding that state support for rural communications was prompted by rural legislators.

Hopson said local government was the only means to provide adequate education in the bush. Calling education “the most important business in Alaska,” he said it was presently “the shabbiest business in the bush.”

“WE KNOW that we have Bill Egan’s sympathy with this problem, but we don’t want sympathy, we want leadership,” he said.

Hopson said limiting the power of local governments to tax pipeline and related property “steals our birthright as American people.”

“How would he (Egan) like it if the federal government passed legislation that would take millions of dollars in state oil-related revenue away from the state for federal distribution and use on the grounds that only 500,000 people live in the state?” he asked.

IN THE ABSENCE of state action, Hopson said he had asked several Native regional corporations to join with his borough in building a communications system for northern Alaska.

Wright said state policies had been “mismanaged” and that a significant reason was the location of the state capital away from the main population centers.

“I am positively in favor of an immediate capital move. I am firmly convinced that the cost would be negligible to the state of Alaska,” he said.