Election Candidate Forum: Governor Incumbent and Candidate Mike Dunleavy
Nome Nugget: What are the most pressing issues the state faces and how do you propose to solve them?
Mike Dunleavy: The priorities of my next term will build on the priorities I’ve focused on during my first: public safety, education reform, and lowering the cost of living for housing, energy and food. We’ve made great progress reducing our overall crime rate to a 41-year low through increased investments in public safety, but our rates of sexual assault and violent crime remain unacceptably high. To address rural safety in particular, we’ve grown our VPSOs from 45 when I took office to 63 at present; we’ve authorized six major crimes investigators to our State Trooper posts in Nome, Kotzebue, Dillingham and Bethel; we now have two dedicated MMIP investigators; and we will continue to press our People First Initiative legislation to increase protection for victims and penalties for offenders.
With the passage of the Alaska READS Act, we’ve made historic reform to education to achieve proficiency in reading for all students by third grade, and now must implement those reforms in the coming years. In this year’s budget, we authorized a record amount of funding, more than $21 million, to the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation to build affordable housing in rural Alaska, and AHFC will continue to play an important role in increasing our housing supply.
I’ve made lowering the cost of energy a priority both in rural and urban Alaska through the pursuit of alternative and emerging sources including renewables and micronuclear that will open up economic opportunities for all Alaskans. Affordable energy will also benefit our efforts to improve food security and lower costs by increasing in-state production and strengthening the necessary infrastructure to build a more resilient supply chain and reduce our reliance on imported food.
NN: What actions would you support to address the climate crisis and how can the Alaska Governor prepare the state to avoid subsequent natural disasters brought on by flooding, erosion and high winds?
MD: As someone who lived in Western Alaska for nearly 20 years, I well understand the risks brought on by storms to our rural communities. As we continue our recovery efforts from the Sept. 17 storm brought on by the remnants of Typhoon Merbok, we have the opportunity to strengthen our infrastructure such as seawalls and berms to protect communities from future storm events. As Arctic shipping increases, our investments in the Port of Nome will play a critical role in protecting our coasts. Alaska can and will serve as a proving ground for new energy technologies that can reduce our reliance on diesel-generated power that have potential for global applications, and the Alaska LNG Project will help reduce global carbon emissions by 77 million tons or more over the life of the project by displacing coal-fired power in Asian markets, along with setting us up for future production of hydrogen and ammonia that markets are seeking to achieve their net zero goals. Cook Inlet has the greatest carbon capture potential of any site on the West Coast and will create additional investment opportunities that will contribute to the reduction in global emissions.
NN: Failing salmon returns cause hardship for Alaskans, especially those who live in rural Alaska where subsistence harvests are crucial to the survival of residents. How do you propose to address the failing fish harvests? Do you believe the importance of subsistence in the rural economy is adequately recognized at the state level and if not, how do you propose to address this?
MD: The Bycatch Review Task Force I formed last year is wrapping up its work now, with a number of policy recommendations we will implement both in fisheries management and increased scientific research to determine the causes behind declining salmon runs to address both manmade and natural impacts. The life cycle and range of chinook and chum salmon span years and thousands of miles from our rivers to the ocean, which means there is no quick fix that will solve this complex issue, but my goal and my priority through both the state Board of Fisheries and the federal North Pacific Fishery Management Council is to ensure that traditional food resources remain available to Alaskan communities first.