Editorial: Nothing ‘neutral’ about it

  • By Peninsula Clarion Editorial
  • Thursday, October 26, 2017 8:55pm
  • Opinion

When the Alaska Board of Fisheries says it wants to meet in a “neutral” location, just what does that mean?

Last week, the board voted to hold its 2020 Upper Cook Inlet meeting in Anchorage. The board considers Upper Cook Inlet issues on a three-year cycle, and despite the fact that the vast majority of proposals — and people impacted by them — have to do with the central Kenai Peninsula, the board has not met here since 1999.

This time, as it has in recent years, board members argued for a “neutral” location for the meeting. Quite frankly, we don’t think the board understands what “neutral” means.

Our understanding of “neutral” venue would be one to which all stakeholders have equal access — and therefore, equal access to the process.

For Kenai Peninsula residents, access to an Anchorage meeting is unequal; in fact, peninsula residents who wish to participate in the fish board process find themselves at a financial and logistical disadvantage.

Sure, many Kenai Peninsula residents make a long weekend of the opening days of the meeting to provide public testimony. But most can’t afford to stay in Anchorage for the entirety of the meeting, which runs for two weeks. And while public testimony at the beginning of the meeting is important, the board also solicits comment from those in attendance throughout the meeting — including the closing days of the meeting, when decisions are being made, by which point, most of the people left to participate represent organizations that are paying them to be there.

When it comes to what is supposed to be a shining example of an open public process, that hardly sounds “neutral” to us.

No, what members of the fish board seem to mean when they call for a “neutral” location is one in which their is no tension between stakeholders. Unfortunately, when it comes to Cook Inlet fisheries, such a place doesn’t exist. “Neutral” might as well be Never Never Land.

Needless to say, while it was a 4-3 vote, we’re disappointed that the fish board has again chosen not to meet in the Kenai-Soldotna area. The Kenai River is the epicenter of fishing in Cook Inlet, and the central peninsula is home to commercial set- and drift-netters, sport fishing guides, recreational anglers, personal-use and subsistence fisheries.

By choosing a meeting location at which not all of those stakeholders can fully participate, the board has made the process fundamentally unfair, which is as far away from “neutral” as a regulatory process can be.

More in Opinion

Kenai Peninsula Education Association President Nathan Erfurth works in his office on Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: Now is the time to invest in Kenai Peninsula students

Parents, educators and community members addressed the potential budget cuts with a clear message.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy holds a press conference at the Capitol on Tuesday, April 9, 2019. (Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: An accurate portrayal of parental rights isn’t controversial

Affirming and defining parental rights is a matter of respect for the relationship between parent and child

Opinion: When the state values bigotry over the lives of queer kids

It has been a long, difficult week for queer and trans Alaskans like me.

Dr. Sarah Spencer. (Photo by Maureen Todd and courtesy of Dr. Sarah Spencer)
Voices of the Peninsula: Let’s bring opioid addiction treatment to the Alaskans who need it most

This incredibly effective and safe medication has the potential to dramatically increase access to treatment

Unsplash / Louis Velazquez
Opinion: Fish, family and freedom… from Big Oil

“Ultimate investment in the status quo” is not what I voted for.

An orphaned moose calf reared by the author is seen in 1970. (Stephen F. Stringham/courtesy photo)
Voices of the Peninsula: Maximizing moose productivity on the Kenai Peninsula

Maximum isn’t necessarily optimum, as cattle ranchers learned long ago.

(Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: The time has come to stop Eastman’s willful and wanton damage

God in the Bible makes it clear that we are to care for the vulnerable among us.

Caribou graze on the greening tundra of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska in June, 2001. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Opinion: AIDEA’s $20 million-and-growing investment looks like a bad bet

Not producing in ANWR could probably generate a lot of money for Alaska.

A fisher holds a reel on the Kenai River near Soldotna on June 30, 2021. (Photo by Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Voices of the Peninsula: King salmon closures long overdue

Returns have progressively gone downhill since the early run was closed in June 2012

Most Read