OPINION

Convincing argument for borough status

The presentation by Skagway city officials and the wide range of witnesses at the recent Local Boundary Commission hearing was extraordinary. Our testimony to this fact is the amount of coverage we have given to these historic proceedings, which aren’t over yet. By the end of the three days, it appeared that the LBC members, even the ones who came into the meeting with serious doubts about Skagway’s ability to move up to borough status, were convinced otherwise. An extra day of cold and snow gave plenty of time for all questions to be asked and answered. The facts came through. Now it will be up to the commission to decide if they can lawfully take Skagway to the next level.

It’s a huge step, to be certain, but one the commission needs to take. If not now, then soon. If the LBC members feel limited in taking that step by current regulations, then they can change the regulations over the next few months – with adequate public testimony – and adopt standards for boroughs that allow smaller, sustainable communities like Skagway-Dyea to reach the desired maximum level of local self-governance: a borough.

While we respect the view of Vic Fischer that the constitutional convention delegates envisioned large boroughs, the lesson of the past 50 years is that this great vision will not work. Alaska is too diverse. As a result, borough formation has stalled statewide, waiting for state government to catch up to reality. Communities that can work together will unite in larger boroughs; those that are different from their neighbors will be better served – and of greater service to the state – by forming smaller boroughs. Skagway-Dyea has proven to be the model of a small borough government that can work. To borrow yet another line from popular culture, “Make it so.” – WJB