Dermot Cole

“Bearack Obama,” as one sign referred to him in Dillingham, has come and gone.

He may have pronounced “Kenai” with a short "e," but Obama communicated a clear and consistent message about melting glaciers and permafrost, increasing temperatures, and coastal erosion during his three days in Alaska...

Dermot Cole

With oil prices close to $50 per barrel, oil production taxes trickle into the state at close to a half-million dollars a day. Add in the rest of oil revenue and other taxes and the state is still withdrawing about $8.5 million a day from its savings.

While some legislators hope that this too will pass, the risk of postponing action is too great to ignore.

Siphoning billions from savings every year without developing a transition plan is reckless. It endangers the state’s bond rating , weakens investors' confidence and limits options for Alaska’s future on everything from the gas pipeline to schools and roads...

Dermot Cole

The pace of presidential visits to Alaska has certainly changed since President Warren G. Harding made the first one in 1923, but even then the White House did its share of advance work — going so far as to ship tablecloths and sheets to roadhouses, along with screens for the windows to keep bugs from biting the president. There was also a truck equipped with a generator that would provide electricity to wherever he stopped for the night.

"The Signal Corps likewise provided a telephone radio truck, which was to accompany the party with facilities for tying into the telephone-telegraph system at any point along the line, for the convenience of the many newspaper correspondents," James Steese, the chairman of the Alaska Road Commission, wrote in his summary of the groundwork...

Dermot Cole

Twelve presidents have visited Alaska while serving in office, going back to Warren G. Harding in 1923, who made the journey to drive the golden spike for the Alaska Railroad, the first major federal public works project in the territory.

While President Barack Obama's plans to visit Alaska next week are founded on the science, geography and politics of climate change, past presidential visits have been mere pit stops, with the exception of the 1971 meeting of President Richard M. Nixon and Emperor Hirohito of Japan in Anchorage and the 1984 meeting of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in Fairbanks...

Dermot Cole

Since the dawn of the jet age, Alaska has been a prime place for presidential stopovers, usually at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, and usually when the No. 1 passenger on Air Force One is headed to or from Asia. Nearly every president since statehood has landed in Alaska for carefully scripted visits, though there are often surprises, as President Ronald Reagan discovered in 1984.

About 10,000 people turned out on a blustery 35-degree morning in May that year when the travel plans of Reagan and Pope John Paul II intersected at Fairbanks International Airport. Reagan was returning from China and the pope was bound for South Korea. The pope was on the ground for about three hours, while Reagan stayed overnight...

Dermot Cole

An ominous statement from Standard & Poor's and the stubborn slide in oil prices should leave no doubt in anyone's mind that the state needs to be looking at new revenue sources now, instead of waiting until the easily accessible financial reserves are gone.

Legislators who are predicting that only spending cuts will happen in 2016 -- and that significant actions are unlikely because it is an election year -- should realize that continued inaction accelerates the arrival of a real crisis...

Dermot Cole

U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan should reverse his stand on the Law of the Sea treaty. For guidance, he need look no further than the reasonable positions taken during the second Bush administration by a guy named Dan Sullivan.

Sullivan has used his first half-year in the Senate to explain why the U.S. needs to show leadership in the Arctic, build icebreakers, respond to the Russians and take an active role in deciding the future of the region...

Dermot Cole

On an October night in 1997, a 15-year-old boy was knocked to the ground near downtown Fairbanks and repeatedly kicked in the head. He was left for dead on a quiet street, not far from the city center.

The four young men, ages 17 to 21, later arrested and convicted of the killing of John Hartman have now spent half of their lives in prison, but questions about whether justice was served in the case continue to haunt Fairbanks.

Marvin Roberts, George Frese, Kevin Pease and Eugene Vent are now in their mid- to late-30s, with varying amounts of time yet to serve. Earlier this summer Roberts gained a measure of freedom with his release to a Fairbanks halfway house. ...

Dermot Cole

Oil prices tumbled this week as China devalued its currency, continuing a trend on world markets that exacerbates the financial challenge facing Alaska.

With oil below $50 a barrel, Alaskans will worry a bit more about the $3 billion budget gap, but savings stashed away before the oil-price collapse will continue to insulate most people from the stark new reality of state finances.

This has yet to sink in, but the largest revenue source supporting education and state government operations in Alaska is no longer oil, but a rapidly dwindling bank account.

Something has to give and fast...

Dermot Cole

On the day after Veteran's Day in 2009, Gov. Sean Parnell declined the opportunity to travel to Elmendorf Air Force Base and attend a 15-minute speech by President Barack Obama.

Parnell was in Anchorage that day, but he said he skipped the ceremonies because he wasn’t granted a tete-a-tete with Obama during the president's two-hour refueling stop.

Parnell should have attended the speech and represented Alaskans. But he said that since he couldn't meet with Obama he would stick to his prearranged appearance at the annual conference of the Associated General Contractors...

Dermot Cole