After years of arguments about fairness, access and influence, it may finally be that what it takes to get a Board of Fisheries meeting on the central Kenai Peninsula is a cup of coffee.
The Alaska Journal of Commerce this week reported that Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre, Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and Soldotna Mayor Pete Sprague offered the use of facilities here on the central Kenai Peninsula for the fish board’s 2017 Upper Cook Inlet meeting. As part of the offer, the mayors included coffee service, which provides coffee, tea and water to meeting attendees. The offer is estimated to save the board $61,288, and the services volunteered by the mayors happen to be things the board is faced with cutting as the state faces a continued budget crunch.
For years, Cook Inlet fishery stakeholders and local and state officials have begged the board to meet on the Kenai Peninsula — the last time it did so was 1999 — but those requests have fallen on deaf ears. Opponents to moving the Upper Cook Inlet meeting, which is held every three years, to the peninsula call Anchorage, the site of the past five meetings, a neutral site. Those here on the peninsula are aware that it is anything but, and limits the ability of people here to participate in a process that sets fishing regulations for commercial and sport fishing in Cook Inlet and the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.
With the expenses incurred over the years by peninsula residents attending meetings in Anchorage, it would be no small irony if it turned out that the final nudge needed to hold a meeting on the peninsula is, in fact, the expense of putting on a meeting.
That said, the last thing we want is for fish board meetings to go to the highest bidder. What we want is fair access to the process for Kenai Peninsula residents, and we don’t see any problem with offering the use of a public venue to achieve that goal. But we can also see a need to set limits on the type of services the state is allowed to accept in support of board operations.
We’re looking forward further deliberations by the board on the location of the 2017 Upper Cook Inlet meeting, and we hope to see a Kenai Peninsula location as their top choice. We’re grateful to the peninsula’s elected officials, who continue to support efforts to bring a board meeting to the peninsula.
With that, we have one last question for Board of Fisheries members and potential meeting attendees: How do you take your coffee?