17 JUN 1974 Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
North Slope Borough Mayor Eben Hopson pushed his gubernatorial campaign theme of local government development at the Minto Bush Justice Conference and in interviews in Fairbanks last week.
Hopson is challenging incumbent Gov. William Egan in the Democratic primary race.
"If I were governor, organization of regional borough government would become one of my primary goals, and I would ask the legislature to fashion special revenue sharing legislation to finance their operation until sufficient tax base was developed for local financing," Hopson told delegates at Minto.
"I would ask the state legislature to enact legislation to establish and fund a system of rural municipal courts," he said. "I would work to develop a strong native judiciary in rural Alaska."
In an interview with the Daily News-Miner, Hopson reviewed his borough's progress, including a $10 million school bond issue and $2.9 million public works improvement bond issue passed by a five-to-one margin by North Slope Borough voters last week.
"If I can do that with the North Slope, I don't see why we can't do the same with the rest of the state," he said. "There has not been much progress in the last years. I don't think the attitude has been any concern at all in the Hickel, Miller or Egan administrations."
"Generally speaking, the Department of Community and Regional Affairs can be a very strong force, but it is not getting adequate support and money," Hopson said. "The state has other departments like the Department of Conservation, Max Brewer's office, or the Department of Public Works that have more support, but the Department of Community and Regional Affairs could really be the backbone of the state government."
He stressed that his advocacy of rural government development would not mean change at the expense of the larger cities in the state, but will strengthen all municipalities.
Hopson cited education as an example of how local governments can work better to serve the people, saying the statewide administration of the State Operated Schools (SOS) was inferior to giving local school districts the financial control over schools, especially if the state foundation program is liberalized so the state paid the full costs of education.
In the North Slope Borough, he said, the two SOS schools at Point Hope and Anaktuvuk Pass were taken over immediately and agreements are being finished now for the borough to take over operation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs school at Barrow July 1.
The borough has a six year capital improvement program for schools at Nuiqsut, Anaktuvuk Pass and Point Hope to be financed by the $10 million bond issue passed last week.
"Under my office we just put a full time staff to work on the post secondary education program," Hopson said.
In his Minto speech, Hopson stressed the past state administration's record on both justice and rural municipal affairs.
"We've come a long way in rural Alaska," he said. "We remember when Walter Hickel sent armed troopers to Bethel to prevent Eskimo fishermen from selling their fish to buyers who offered to pay more than Seattle buyers."
"We can remember when Keith Miller and his attorney general Kent Edwards, and his commissioner of Natural Resources, Tom Kelly, led the organized opposition of the State of Alaska to block a just settlement of the native land claims," Hopson continued.
"We can remember when Attorney General Edwards was almost disbarred when he unethically interfered between Alaska Legal Services and their client -- Stevens Village -- when the people of Stevens Village wanted to go to court to force the oil industry to live up to their agreements," he said.
"The way I see it, local government is the guarantor of justice in America, and Hickel, Miller and Egan have consistently opposed strong local self-determination in rural Alaska," Hope said.
"There is justice in the bush," he said. "The people of rural Alaska have been a just people for thousands of years."
It is just that we have an unjust government that is insensitive to the problems and opportunities of the village people."
"Local government won't bring justice to rural Alaska," Hopson concluded. "Local government will restore it."
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