Governor candidate Q/A: Ethan Berkowitz (D)

October 15, 2010 

Candidate's name: Ethan Berkowitz

Party: Democrat

Date of birth: Feb. 4, 1962

Occupation: Small business owner

Current employer (with starting date): Self-employed, 2006

Employment history (please include starting and ending months and years):

Assistant district attorney, Alaska Department of Law

Law clerk, Alaska State Court of Appeals

Enforcement officer, U.S. Antarctic Program

Owner, Alaskan Alternative Energy

Owner, Nunatak, LLC

Part Owner, Snow City Cafe

Previous public offices held (include dates):

State representative, 1997-2006

Previous unsuccessful runs for office (include dates):

Lieutenant governor, 2006; Congress, 2008

Post-secondary education (please includes dates and degrees):

Harvard College, bachelor's in government and economics, 1979-1983

Cambridge University, master's in polar studies, 1985-86

University of California, Hastings College of Law, J.D., 1987-1990

Military service (starting and ending dates, last rank, specialty):

None

Spouse's name: Mara Kimmel

Children: Hannah Ziva and Noah

In what states have you lived for at least six months? In what countries?

Alaska, California, Massachusetts, Antarctica, England

Web site: www.EthanBerkowitz.com

E-mail: info@EthanBerkowitz.com

ISSUE QUESTIONS

1. Why are you running for office? (Up to 100 words)

I'm running for Governor because we are standing still in a time of great change -- something we cannot afford to do. We have no gasline and watch while others develop their natural gas resources. We rank 50th in the U.S. for business and do nothing. We remain first in rates of sexual assault and domestic violence, and take no meaningful action. It is past time to take the bold steps necessary to ensure a brighter future for our families, our communities, and our businesses. It is time to be independent, self-reliant, and put Alaska first again.

2. If elected, what are the three most important things you want to accomplish?

First, build an All-Alaska gasline.

Second, diversify our economy by making sure we are "open for business."

Third, bring low cost energy to all Alaskans all across the state.

3. If you could have one -- and only one -- big success your first/next year in office, what would it be?

Seal the deal on an All Alaska natural gas pipeline.

4. What will you do as governor to ensure a natural gas pipeline that gets gas to Alaskans?

The pipeline we build must deliver Alaskan gas to Alaskans. As Governor I would actively participate in the negotiation process along with key experts. I would also follow up on the idea first proposed in the federal Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline Act to give individual Alaskans, Alaska businesses, and Alaska Native Corporations the option of investing in the building of a gas pipeline.

5. Describe three ways in which your administration would try to grow and diversify Alaska's economy. (Up to 100 words)

First, I would get an All-Alaska gasline built, creating jobs, delivering much needed gas, and providing Alaska with an additional stream of revenue opportunity. Second, I would seek to build infrastructure for communications and transportation to promote jobs and quality education throughout our state. Third, I would energize Alaska by developing our energy resources, bringing jobs to our state and lowering the high costs of energy for Alaskans across our state.

6. Alaska's prison population has almost doubled in 20 years and may keep growing exponentially because of a get-tough-on-crime mentality in the Legislature. What do you offer Alaskans to change that trajectory on crime and punishment -- or do you think this is the right course?

Based on my experience as a prosecutor and my service on the Criminal Justice Assessment Commission, Alaska needs a comprehensive strategy linking prevention, policing, prosecution and prisons. We can reduce recidivism through increased support for substance abuse programs across the state. These investments will save us in the long run.

7. What would be your first/next five steps, in order, to create and implement a solid, long-range fiscal plan for Alaska?

Stop spending annual oil revenue on annual budgets -- we cannot continue to spend all of our money in flush times and cut deeply in lean times. Create fiscal certainty for the economy in the face of declining North Slope production. Diversify the economy and add value to our resources. Develop strong communication and transportation infrastructures to link our communities. Build a solid education system including pre-K through 12, university and vocational education.

8. What are Alaska's three biggest education challenges? What is your plan to address each of them?

1. Improve the quality of K-12 education and reverse the high drop-out rates.

2. Make sure that pre-K education is universally available.

3. Expand vocational and technical opportunities.

4. Strengthen our University system.

9. Do you support state vouchers for private schools?

No, but I do support expanded educational choices like charter schools and homeschooling opportunities for our children.

10. Taxation on oil and gas production in Alaska is:

• Generally higher than it should be

• About right

• Generally lower than it should be

• Other

Explain

Generally higher than it should be.

Our current oil tax system, ACES, fails to provide fiscal certainty for industry and fiscal stability to the state. We have had declining investment, declining production, and job loss.

11. Taxation on other industries in Alaska is:

• Generally higher than it should be

• About right

• Generally lower than it should be

• Other

Explain

Generally higher than it should be.

Alaska currently has the fifth highest tax rate in the nation. I would seek to reduce our current corporate income tax rate from 9.4% down to 4.9%, putting us at the 8th most competitive tax structure in the United States. In addition, I would eliminate taxes on small businesses (non-oil, non-gas, non-mining) making less than $90,000 per year and create incentives and tax credits for investment and job creation for small, locally grown businesses.

12. Taxation on individual citizens in Alaska is:

• Generally higher than it should be

• About right

• Generally lower than it should be

• Other

Explain

Currently there is no individual taxation on individual citizens and there is no need for it at this time.

13. What are the five most important steps for the governor to take to reduce domestic violence and sexual assault in Alaska?

Improve law enforcement through VPSOs, Troopers, and local law enforcement.

Improve access to civil legal assistance and eliminate barriers to such services.

Increase availability of emergency statewide shelter services and eliminate barriers to services.

Provide transitional services like job placement, substance abuse counseling, and affordable housing so victims don't have to choose between going back to their abusers and homelessness.

Create an integrated Domestic Violence program in the Alaska Court System.

14. What are your plans for improving the quality of education offered through the University of Alaska system?

The University of Alaska system should house the premier institution for Arctic research and policy. As Governor, I will work with the State to expand the UA scholars program and need-based scholarships. I will amend the Governor's Performance Scholarship so it no longer discriminates against rural students or school districts. Finally, I will work to provide vocational training opportunities to train today's students for tomorrow's jobs.

15. Are you confident that the current level of state environmental regulation and oversight of offshore oil and gas drilling and shipping is adequate to prevent a major spill in Alaska? If not, where are we deficient and what will you propose to achieve adequate protection?

No, I am not confident about the adequacies of our ability to oversee off-shore oil and gas development. We need a better infrastructure in place including improved communications and forward positioning of spill response capability to enhance our ability to respond. If we don't take this responsibility, we are dependent on federal government action.

16. Is the number of Alaska State Troopers and Village Public Safety Officers:

• More than necessary

• About right

• Less than necessary

If you answered more or less, what specific steps would you take to achieve the right level?

Less than necessary.

We must make sure that we fill existing vacancies and that we achieve recommended police standards for staffing, otherwise we compromise both officer safety and public safety.

17. Highway safety, especially on the Seward Highway, is a public concern in Southcentral Alaska. What will you do as governor to improve safety on the Seward Highway?

As a resident of Southcentral Alaska I know first hand how dangerous the Seward Highway can be. As Governor I would work with the State Troopers to ensure adequate attention is being paid to high traffic areas of the highway. Additionally, my administration would work to make sure that our roads, across the state, are being maintained to the highest safety standards.

18. Rural Alaska communities continue to experience very high rates of unemployment, suicide, abuse and neglect. What would you specifically do to address these issues?

By working with and empowering local communities to take steps necessary to combat these ills, we can lower these statistics. There are a number of efforts to improve the quality of life in rural Alaska including protecting subsistence, developing rural renewable energy opportunities to create jobs and drive down the high costs of energy, and connecting rural Alaska to the world through enhanced communications infrastructure which will help build better education, health care and economic development opportunities.

19. What is your position on the proposed Pebble mine in southwest Alaska?

There are a lot of good mining prospects in Alaska. Pebble Mine poses too great a risk to the fisheries and I do not support it.

20. Are you satisfied with the way fish and wildlife is being managed by the state? Explain.

No.

We need to do a better job with the science, making sure that we have adequate investment in our research to manage the resources according to the constitution. In addition, the Boards of Fish and Game should not be politicized, and should be allowed to make their decisions based on science and not on political pressure. We must also recruit and retain fish and game employees dedicated to managing our resources based on constitutional principles.

21. Is the current level of predator control authorized by the Department of Fish and Game:

• Less than it should be

• About right

• More than it should be

Explain

About right.

The predator control program is just about right in that it manages populations to the extent allowed under the constitution. By doing so, we benefit all user groups: hunters, subsistence users, and wildlife viewers.

22. What additional steps can the state take to promote construction of a natural gas pipeline from the North Slope?

In August, I introduced the idea of giving individual Alaskans, Alaskan businesses, and Alaska Native corporations the opportunity to invest in building a gas pipeline. This step improves the likelihood a pipeline will be built by making us less reliant on Outside interests. It signals the financial markets that we, as Alaskans, are committed to the project, ensures that willing participants reap the benefits of their investment, and gives us a seat at the table when decisions are being made about the pipeline.

23. Should Alaska provide state-financed preschool for all young children? If so, should children be required to attend preschool, whether state-funded or private?

The state should provide voluntary universal preschool. Children should go to school ready to learn and ready to succeed and pre-school can be the critical difference for many children. Between budget cuts, federal funds and grants, I am confident that voluntary pre-K can be offered without raising the state's budget.

24. What is your view on teaching creationism in public schools? Do you believe it should be part of the required state curriculum? How does it fit in with teaching evolution?

It is important to recognize and uphold the separation of church and state while also recognizing the right of people to worship as they choose.

25. What is your position on inclusion of sex education in Alaska schools? Would you want to limit the teaching to abstinence-only approach or do you support a broader curriculum? Should sex education be encouraged? Required? Banned?

As the parent of two young children, I believe that sex education should remain part of our health education curriculum. I support a broad curriculum that informs young people about critical health issues they face.

26. State your position on abortion. When should it be allowed, and when should government pay for it? Do you anticipate pushing any legislation, policies or budget proposals that would change the status quo in Alaska?

I believe that abortion should remain safe, rare and legal.

27. Do you support the decriminalization of marijuana?

I support the state's current laws on marijuana.

28. Describe the role you believe tribal governments should have in Alaska, and what the state's position in recognizing them/working with them should be.

We need to move forward on the state's Millennium Agreement and ensure that we are in compliance with Alaska Supreme Court decisions on these issues.

29. What is your position on capital punishment?

I support the current state laws on criminal punishment.

30. The biggest challenge facing Alaska's economic future is _______. How specifically would you address this?

The biggest challenge facing Alaska's economy is the failure to promote a business climate that encourages investment in our state. This includes investment in the oil patch and also in non-oil, non-gas, and non-mining industries to diversify our economic base. I would address these issues by restructuring our corporate income tax system and providing incentives for non-gas, non-oil, and non-mineral industries to invest in Alaska and to let them know that we are "open for business."

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