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Restoring Alaskans’ trust in government

  • Author: Michael J. Dunleavy
    | Opinion
  • Updated: November 29, 2018
  • Published November 29, 2018

Governor-elect Mike Dunleavy introduces John MacKinnon, right, as his commissioner for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Wednesday Nov. 21, 2018 in the Wasilla railroad depot. Dunleavy and MacKinnon were accompanied by members of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's delegation to the Alaska Legislature. From left to right are Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer, governor-elect Mike Dunleavy, and John MacKinnon, newly named commissioner of the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities. (James Brooks / ADN)

When I began my campaign for governor last year, I was already aware of the many issues troubling Alaskans: out-of-control crime, cuts to the Permanent Fund dividend, a struggling economy with the nation’s highest unemployment rate and a state government that spends too much.

But as I listened to voters, I picked up on another disturbing sentiment: loss of trust in government. Too many Alaskans have simply lost trust that their elected leaders will keep promises. This loss of trust transcends all the usual political divisions, as it’s prevalent among both Republicans and Democrats, older voters and younger voters, urban and rural, and so on.

I’ve concluded the only thing worse than a budget deficit in Juneau is a “trust deficit” — precisely because loss of trust makes it more difficult for elected leaders to unite Alaskans behind a common vision and plan for fixing our most urgent problems.

Restoring trust with Alaskans will be my most urgent priority after I become governor on Dec. 3. I have often said that I know only one way to accomplish this, and that is by honoring promises and commitments — by doing what we said we would do.

In recent weeks, I’ve been busy appointing members of my cabinet to lead the departments of state government. In each hiring decision, my top priority has been to appoint men and women who are 100 percent committed to fulfilling the vision for Alaska I outlined during my campaign.

To those Alaskans who entrusted me with their vote, I want to express my deepest gratitude. I promise to energetically lead this state in a manner that makes you proud of your decision.

To those Alaskans who voted for a different candidate, I also want to make a commitment. Whatever issues may divide us, I didn’t run for governor so that I could go down to Juneau and pick winners and losers. I ran for governor because I want to make this state a better place for all Alaskans.

You could say that Alaska’s current troubles are “equal opportunity problems,” because all our residents are negatively affected:

· Crime: When our streets aren’t safe, that isn’t just a problem for Republicans, or just a problem for Democrats. It’s threatening all of us

· Spending: The state’s fiscal structure is broken. We spend too much, don’t get the results we deserve, and think more spending is the answer to our problems.

· Economy: When our economy is weak and jobs are scarce, it doesn’t just hurt men, it doesn’t only hurt women. It hurts us all.

· Education: When schools utterly fail to prepare young people to succeed in life, that isn’t just a problem that affects one ethnic group, it steals opportunities from Alaskans of all backgrounds and races.

· Permanent Fund: When the PFD is cut, and we ignore the laws that are supposed to control the program, the resultant lack of trust in government harms us all – conservatives, liberals and moderates.

Because these problems affect every man, woman and child in Alaska, we can proceed with confidence knowing that when we solve these challenges, life will be improved for all Alaskans. A rising tide will lift all boats.

I’m committed to working with legislators from both parties to advance policies that will make the vision I’ve described here a reality. This will be an intense time of change, because I have no desire to be a “maintenance” governor. Just maintaining the status quo won’t solve our state’s problems.

On Nov. 6, Alaskans spoke loud and clear that high crime, a weak economy, record unemployment, slashed PFDs and poor educational results must never be considered the “new normal.” Voters will no longer tolerate a culture of low expectations in state government, and neither will I.

I’m eager to lead a broad-based movement of Alaskans who share a vision of what our state could be when she fully lives up to her potential. With your help, I truly believe that Alaska can once again be a land of opportunity.

Mike Dunleavy is the governor-elect of Alaska.

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