U.S. should legalize marijuana
Although medical marijuana is legal in many states, it is still illegal federally. Its use is not allowed in federally funded facilities, although its benefits in treating several illnesses have been proven. Marijuana has been shown to be effective in the treatment of stress and anxiety, depression, seizures, and to help alleviate pain and increase appetite in people suffering from cancer.
Regulated, legal access to marijuana can be used to help people who are more susceptible to seizures, by lowering the rate of seizures drastically by 26-50 percent. Being able to use marijuana for this reason would help scientists to experiment with the uses of marijuana and find better ways to treat seizure disorders. Fox News recently reported on one student who wished to go out of the country for school, but his frequent seizures did not allow him to travel outside the country on a plane. After receiving treatment with medicinal marijuana, the student was able to travel outside the country and expand his education.
Although some argue that legalization of marijuana can give rise to drug abuse, this has not been shown to happen in states that have legalized the drug already. Instead, the growth of a marijuana industry has improved the economy of several areas that were previously considered lower income.
I call on the forward-thinking Alaskans who have already seen the wisdom of marijuana legalization for both medicinal and personal use to demand that the federal government take advantage of the potential benefits of cannabis as a cure and therapy for many illnesses.
— Caleb Noble
Knik Arm Bridge is unfunny joke
For the past nine years, I have been a volunteer financial analyst tracking the bizarre numbers behind the Knik Arm Bridge financial plans.
The project's finances have always depended on absurdly high population projections for the Mat-Su Valley. Those wildly optimistic high numbers have been rejected by Scott Goldsmith, a legislative audit, and the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has turned the Knik Arm Bridge and Toll Authority down for a $300 million loan seven times.
In the almost countless traffic studies, I have seen a shopping center 2.3 times larger than the Dimond Center magically plunked down just across the bridge to generate the $5 one-way tolls that would allegedly pay off the bonds. There were KABATA financial statements trying to show how the revenue from four clogged lanes of traffic could repay the bonds financing a two-lane bridge.
Despite all the misrepresentations, the state and only the state has always held the complete downside risk for the inevitable toll shortfall.
It would all be darkly humorous if the state had not already paid over $100 million for paper nonsense and high salaries when that money could have funded construction jobs building real transportation projects. And now the Senate's capital budget has added $4.5 more million from the general fund to try to keep this zombie alive.
— Jamie Kenworth
At the last minute, under the cover of political darkness, the state Senate added two morsels of boondoggle budget-busting bacon to their version of the capital budget bill: $4.5 million for the Knik Arm Crossing and $21.3 million for the Juneau Road.
The Alaska Senate majority not only abrogated their responsibility in dealing with the state's budget crisis, they've compounded it by engaging in absurd magical budget thinking. Financial analysis has shown time and time again that the Knik Arm Crossing and the Juneau Road are both financial mega-catastrophes.
The House and the Senate could use those scarce unrestricted monies for realistic and fiscally responsible transportation projects that truly benefit Alaskans.
I strongly encourage Gov. Walker to continue to be the adult in the room and line-item veto these two items.
— Stephanie A. Kesler
Cash-for-therapy article paints incomplete picture
I appreciate the perspective presented by Charles Wohlforth in his opinion piece on physical therapy, but unfortunately, the picture he painted is incomplete and misleading.
Cash practice is a great option and I'm glad some providers go that route. From my perspective, it is exclusionary to many patients who do not have the income to front the services. The author made generalizations regarding "traditional" practices that are inaccurate.
I work at a private physical therapy clinic, where we are proud that we can do all — and more — that is touted as special about these particular cash practices. The patients we serve include Medicare, Medicaid, VA, pro bono work we do with Project Access and more. Mr. Wohlforth makes generalizations about "traditional" practices that we have never participated in. We have 100 percent one-on-one care from doctoral level physical therapists, no massage therapists billing for PT, no technicians or aides employed and our prices remain lower than the average in this market.
We do not "work the insurance game to maximize reimbursements," and to assume all "traditional" practices do that misses the point by a long shot. We are not alone in this community; many other private practices can boast the same high quality and ethical treatment.
I am very aware of the cost and frustration of getting authorization and collections. It has significantly cut into our earnings. It is not surprising some physical therapists choose a simpler path. It's easier. That is the main draw, because it does not make things easier for the patient. We do what we do to help the greatest numbers and those who need us the most are frequently not the ones who can come up with cash for services.
I'm glad Mr. Wohlforth has an interest in the medical industry and the excessive percentage of the economy that it represents in Alaska, but in this case, generalizations were made that were either poorly researched, poorly communicated, or just poorly understood by the author.
Thankfully, he presented the view of Chris Wilson. It was the most accurate part of the piece.
— Alec Kay
People don't come to Alaska for the buildings
I love Alaska but loathe some of the ideas that keep popping up like weeds in the spring. Number one is the megaprojects that are a waste of money and destructive to the environment.
Then there are the efforts to lift cultural icons from the Lower 48, draping them over Anchorage like a curtain, hoping to hide shoddy construction and a stunning lack of imagination.
With regard to the latest, an attempt to turn the Fourth Avenue "blue" mall into the Pike Street Market, I wonder if anyone at the Downtown Anchorage Partnership has ever been to the Seattle market, as the mockup drawings are utterly devoid of any of the energy of the place they want to copy. They show one more flat, boring brick wall, where the real market has large open spaces so you can see the street it is named after. The Pike Street Market has abundant natural light, large hallways and many small shops. You can get lost in there — delightfully so.
The mockups don't even take advantage of what is already there — south-facing widows and a covered walkway. Don't obliterate it, kick those windows open. Build stalls that serve to the street. Use folding doors that act as windscreens, then close in on themselves at the end of the day. Open the entryway all the way back, so people at least get a hint there's a view of something other than another building back there.
People don't come up here to see buildings. They want to see mountains and animals. Open those windows and start with a coffee stand and a sled dog puppy petting/selfie station. Visitors are all jet-lagged and a puppy might be the only animal they see.
— Angela Ramirez
Legislature's de facto income tax is unfair
The Legislature finally passed an income tax. It is not an explicit income tax, but an income tax nonetheless. And it is the worst example ever of an income tax, in terms of equity and fairness. It is an $1,100 head tax. A person whose total income is $100,000 pays 1 percent of their income. A person with an income of $5,000 pays 20 of their income in taxes, and a person with an income of $2,000 pays 50 percent of their income in this tax.
The House put a proposal forward to base the dividend on the legal formula (linked to Permanent Fund earnings) that lawmakers relied on to set dividends virtually since the inception of the dividend. This would have yielded a dividend of $2,700. However, this was at odds with the "no income tax" Senate, so in the interest of getting a budget passed, both branches agreed on a $1,600 dividend. Ergo, an $1,100 reduction of income (this is a tax) for every woman, man and child in Alaska. Somehow, PFD income is more vulnerable than other earnings.
From an equity and fairness perspective, this implicit income tax is incredibly unfair. If one goes to the rural villages, there are many people for whom the PFD makes a huge difference. In the poorer areas of urban centers, the PFD is the difference between basic existence and life with a few more frills. It is an important source of income for people in lower income ranges. They use the PFD to buy basic necessities, unlike middle-income people in the larger urban areas or the typical legislator. Because of the dividend cut, many lower-income Alaskans are taking an income hit in the double-digit range, whereas the typical urbanite's tax rate is 2 percent or even less.
The Legislature is filled with ideologues who abhor income taxes, but they didn't shy away from hammering low-income Alaskans. Great job, guys. I hope they are proud of themselves.
— P.J. Hill
Limiting individual rights is a slippery slope
The recent article by Charles Wohlforth on gun control is honorable and seems to give the young people, Mr. Wohlforth and the politicians warm fuzzies that they at doing a good thing. However, it seems that the lack of real-life experience on such matters is apparent.
Limiting individual rights is a slippery slope. Let's take away video games because they cause people to become violent, or raise the age young people can drive to 21 because statistically, they cause more accidents than a 21 year old. Even better, let's issue the individuals who think this is a good idea the same SWAT team gear issued to police officers so they can accompany the officers as they retrieve the guns from the individuals deemed emotionally disturbed. All this would accomplish is to cause a lot of unnecessary confrontations and dangerous situations for the officers whose duty is to enforce the law. It's a slippery slope.
— John Davis
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