Reconvened commission calls for a new beginning for rural governance in Alaska

The Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment affirms the right of all rural Alaskans to maximum local autonomy and the delivery of essential services, and affirms the vitality of their diverse cultures, ways of life and communities.” (Preamble to the 1999 RGC Final Report to the Governor)

Following months of work, the reconvened Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment is embarking on an ambitious action plan to address rural governance issues throughout Alaska.  This action plan is a call for our communities and leaders to finally address the needs of rural Alaska that continue to go unmet.  The original commission met in 1998-99 and made many constructive recommendations to the Governor for ways to improve relations and the delivery of service in rural Alaska.  Since that time, there has been little, if any, meaningful progress.

Finding that “rural governance is unfinished business” in Alaska, a group of concerned and committed Alaskans came together in December of 2013 to revisit the work of the original Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment (RGC).  The group—11 of the original commissioners and 40 individuals from all parts of the state— agreed that the original RGC Report to the Governor could have been drafted either fifty years ago, five years ago, or five weeks ago.

The participants of the reconvened 2013 RGC identified a series of issues and action items key to rural governance and empowerment that will be described in the Final Report to be issued in conjunction with the Alaska Municipal League annual meeting in November. As a first and critical step, the Rural Governance reconvene participants called on the State of Alaska to clearly and officially recognize tribes as governments.

The 2013 gathering was co-hosted by First Alaskans Institute and the North Star Group.  Unlike the first commission, which was state sponsored, this event was privately funded and self-initiated, reflecting the urgency felt by the participants that Alaskans must act to ensure rural communities have the recognition, support and tools they need to survive and thrive.

This week marks the beginning of an important conversation critical to the sustainability of rural Alaska and the vibrancy of the whole of Alaska. The statewide conversation will be kicked off during the Alaska Federation of Natives convention, with announcements and presentations about the findings of the reconvened RGC. The final report of the reconvened Rural Governance Commission will be released in November, then presented at the annual meeting of the Alaska Municipal League (AML) in Anchorage, Nov. 21-23, 2014.

The reconvening report will include personal commitments and clear strategic focus areas to spur discourse and policy action. In addition to the report, First Alaskans Institute is compiling the high-level recommendations of various commissions and reports into one comprehensive resource that outlines and further affirms the need to support local governance, tribal sovereignty and empowerment. This report will also be made available in the next month.

“Rural Alaska is not a problem to be solved, but rather a solution and way of life to be activated and embraced to ensure Alaska does not lose itself.” (Report on the Reconvening of the Alaska Commission on Rural Governance and Empowerment, Dec. 6-7, 2013, Anchorage).

CONTACT: Veronica Slajer (907) 360-2288