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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Political Game

The politics here are unlike politics back home in Colorado. For starters, we're a much smaller state, demographically, with lots of industry. To put this into perspective, because of the revenue the state gets from fishing, oil, and lumber, the state is running a budget surplus, even factoring in the infamous Permanent Fund Dividend, which granted each Alaskan around $1,170 this year. (No, we get it next year. You have to be here a full year to qualify.)

Locally, the closest city is Ketchikan, seat of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough. Here in Alaska, we have boroughs and census-designated areas instead of counties like most of the lower 48. Alaska doesn't have a lot of boroughs. In fact, a very significant portion of the state is unorganized, meaning it falls directly under state jurisdiction. Some nearby cities, like Sitka, Juneau, and Yakutat (I use nearby in relative terms, they're hundreds of miles away from us here) are consolidated into City-Boroughs, much like Denver is a City-County.

Like cities elsewhere, Ketchikan has a city council and a mayor. The borough, however, has an assembly and a mayor as well, unlike counties down south, which have commissioners. Borough residents here often feel cheated, as so much of their commerce and taxation takes place in cities, regardless of whether or not they actually reside in them, and they can't vote for politicians that make the rules for those taxes. Hence the move nearby to consolidate into City-Boroughs.

It's very intriguing to me how the machine works up here. I hope to elaborate on the state and federal sides of things later. For now, I hope you learned a little bit, and I'll keep writing as often as I can.

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