15 AUG 1974
Hopson Resigns Gubernatorial Candidacy:
Comments on Egan’s Nine-Point Plan
for Rural Alaska
Speaking before the Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce last Tuesday, I announced that Governor Egan and I had ironed out our differences; that we had agreed on a nine-point program for self-rule in rural Alaska; and that I was therefore going to resign from the race for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination and throw my support behind the candidacy of Governor Bill Egan. This is my statement of resignation, and comment upon the agreements reached with Governor Egan.
At his request, I met with Governor Egan last Tuesday morning in Fairbanks for two hours, and we agreed on a nine-point program for the development of self-rule in rural Alaska for immediate promulgation and implementation by the Egan administration. A thoughtful and careful study of the politics of rural Alaska today, and particularly of those of the North Slope, would enable anyone to understand the political dangers to me, personally, by even entering the gubernatorial race against Egan, and then once in the race, of withdrawing in favor of Egan at this time. But these are political dangers I am willing to face. I feel that as Mayor of the North Slope Borough, I have a personal responsibility to all of rural Alaska to promote, with any tactic that I can use, the cause of self-rule and local government for rural Alaska.
I can understand it if Alaskans who do not live in rural Alaska cannot understand my strength of feeling about local government and its importance to my people. Urban Alaskans enjoy a strong tradition of local government that has been in effect in the Lower 48 states for nearly 300 years. Those who worked so hard for statehood can understand how I feel, I suspect. The move for statehood was fueled by the same feelings that motivate me in the cause for self-rule and local government in rural Alaska. I would not yield to Governor Egan unless I thought that the nine-point program that we agreed on was important, a program that can work, and one to be taken seriously by all of Alaska’s citizens. Therefore, I feel that the purpose of my candidacy has been met, without rancor and division within the Democratic party, and that we should unite behind Governor Egan’s reelection.
The Nine Points are as follows:
1. An Inter-departmental program and policy to develop regional boroughs in rural Alaska.
I personally advocate the organization of regional rural, first-class, home rule boroughs which provide the maximum opportunity for self-rule under the State constitution. but there are other alternatives for rural municipal organization. I believe that the Egan administration has worked hard for the organization of local government in rural Alaska, but that this effort needs a well-defined inter-departmental policy and plan spelling out in precise terms the obligations and responsibilities of each department of State government. There is presently too little coordination and cooperation between the Department of Community and Regional Affairs and the other operating departments. Governor Egan and I have agreed to work together to overcome this problem by developing a policy and plan that will enlist all State employees to work actively in the cause of self-rule for rural Alaska.
2. Increased money and manpower to the Department of Community and Regional Affairs for the purpose of organizing rural Regional boroughs.
The new Department of Community and Regional Affairs, an important Department created by Governor Egan out of his concern for local government in rural Alaska, has not performed as we had hoped. It is not because it hasn’t tried, but this Department is underfunded. Governor Egan and I agreed to work together to develop a budget request that would more justly represent this department’s value to all of the people of Alaska. Specifically, I want this Department to undertake strong, affirmative action to organize local government in rural Alaska, and this action will cost more money that is presently allocated to it. I intend to work hard after the election in November to convince the legislature to fund the full amount requested by the Governor.
3. Egan administration commitment to a 100 percent school foundation program support for organized local governments at the earliest possible time commensurate with the financial capabilities of the State to do so.
Governor Egan had no problem with this commitment, but he has understandable concern for the State’s limited financial capability. He and I agreed that a 100 percent school foundation support program has priority budget planning status, and he and I will be working together to determine the economics and a time-table for increasing school foundation support to 100 percent. I’m going to push for this to happen next year.
4. Development of a rural borough government foundation program to include:
a.) $75,000 organizational grants;
b.) 75 percent support of new rural borough administration, planning and zoning, and property tax appraisal and assessment.
Having experienced the organizational difficulties of the North Slope Borough with a good tax base at Prudhoe Bay, I am aware that the State must provide more financial support of new borough organizational and early administrative costs. Local government foundation support would increase as local municipal revenues increased. People who tax themselves rule themselves, and we don’t want rural boroughs perpetually dependent upon State subsidy. This dependence is not good politically for the people of rural Alaska, but initial foundation support would hasten the day of financial independence in rural Alaska.
5. State cooperation with Regional Corporations in the development of a modern communications system for rural Alaska.
There is probably no greater irritation in rural Alaska than our primitive communications systems that exist in spite of the high technological development of satellite relay communications. I would say that the single greatest management problem of the North Slope Borough, and of the regional corporations, is lack of adequate communications technology. I feel that this is a serious problem of denial of access to existing and available technology. There is no reason why all of rural Alaska could not enjoy the high level of communications as will be enjoyed by the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline corridor. The development of modern communications in rural Alaska presents an excellent business opportunity for our regional corporations, and affords countless opportunities for economic cooperation between the State and Federal governments, the communications industry, and our new regional and village corporations. And modern communications would be the most important stimulant to democratic development of local government in rural Alaska.
6. Continuation of a State policy to contract State capital improvements, public works, and health and social services in rural Alaska to regional corporations and municipalities.
The regional corporations have complete capability for successful assumption of contractual responsibility for State programs and services, including capital construction and public works. I regard this policy to be an important organizational tool of Governor Egan’s program promoting self-rule in rural Alaska. It provides a structure for economic cooperation that will strengthen local administrative skills, as well as whet natural appetites for ultimate self-rule through first-class, home rule borough government. I feel that this policy needs clearer and more precise definition, and Governor Egan and I will be working on a clarifying policy statement for release as soon as possible.
7. Making certain that there is one standard of justice for all people in Alaska.
Governor Egan and I agreed that the notion of “bush justice” in Alaska is one that can no longer be tolerated. The concept of “bush justice” implies to two-standard system of justice that does in fact still exist in Alaska, and which can no longer continue. Governor Egan and I will be working together to stipulate the steps to be taken to provide just one standard of justice for all people in Alaska, and will try to work up a release on this as soon as possible.
8. Development of a program to buy and guarantee rural borough municipal bonds sold for school and village water and sewer sanitation facility construction.
Recent Supreme Court decisions in America have confirmed the fact that good education need not depend solely upon municipal tax base. Neither should access to clean water. New rural regional boroughs will not have an adequate tax base to enable them to finance needed schools and sewer and water systems through municipal bonding based solely on their own credit. Governor Egan has agreed to work for a State investment policy that would enable the State to either buy or guarantee rural borough municipal bonds. This will be an important improvement in economic cooperation between the State government and the people of rural Alaska.
9. Elimination of the Alaska State Operated School System.
The Alaska State Operated School System was never intended as a permanent social institution in Alaska, but even its brief existence is an affront to those who yearn for self-rule in rural Alaska. Education is the primary responsibility of local government in America. We will survive the Watergate scandal because ours is a nation governed by the decisions of school boards, but not in rural Alaska. This great democratic strength is reposed with the Alaska State Operated School System’s board of directors when it should be in the hands of local governments. I agree with the governor that we will have to tolerate the existence of the Alaska State Operated School System until rural regional boroughs are organized to put it out of business, but I want to see the Department of Education more involved in affirmative regional borough organizational action to hasten the day of the demise of the Alaska State Operated School System.
I have chosen to support Governor Egan in his effort for reelection because I know him to be an honest man who will keep his word.
I am a life long Democrat, and Governor Egan is our standard bearer. But beyond that, I doubt that I would have made our nine-point agreement for self-rule in rural Alaska with any of the other candidates. None of them offered to talk to me about my well-publicized concerns about the lack of local government in rural Alaska. Bill Egan did. I knew he would. And Bill Egan is the only man I know who will implement our nine-point plan. From my point of view, my candidacy was a success, but this success will be safely secured only through the reelection of Governor Bill Egan.