Gov.-elect Bill Walker won’t be sworn in until Dec. 1, but he and Lt. Gov.-elect Byron Mallott are trying to hit the ground running, and for good reason. During the weekend, the incoming administration held a transition conference in Anchorage at which about 250 community leaders from around the state gathered to discuss important issues facing the state, such as consumer energy, education, economic development and subsistence hunting and fishing.
The transition conference was notable for a few reasons, but perhaps the most notable was that all of its sessions were open to the public, which hasn’t been the case in past events of a similar nature. A heartening number of conference members, too, hailed from the Interior. University of Alaska Fairbanks Chancellor Brian Rogers led discussions on fiscal policy, Jeff Cook, of the Fairbanks Community Hospital Foundation, did the same for health care and Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation CEO Jim Dodson contributed his expertise to the economic development panel.
The conference didn’t indulge in too much glossing-over of issues facing the state, as gatherings of suit-wearing policymakers are sometimes wont to do. The event began with a stark discussion of the unpleasant budget reality facing the state — with oil hovering at less than $80 per barrel, substantial deficit spending is virtually guaranteed. And while just talking about problems doesn’t solve them, it’s good the fiscal elephant in the room is under discussion and clearly a priority for the incoming administration.
— Fairbanks Daily News-Miner,