U.S. Representative Don Young spoke about the Southeast Alaska economy, energy costs and the upcoming election during a recent stop in Ketchikan. Those were only a few of the topics the 20-term Congressman addressed.
Don Young has served as Alaska’s sole member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 1973. Young is currently seeking his 21st term. He was in Ketchikan late last week speaking to members of local organizations in addition to addressing the media.
Young says concern about the economy and energy costs is what he hears most about from Alaskans. He says the key to economic development in Southeast is to tap into available hydropower to reduce energy costs.
“I don’t buy into the idea of what I call ‘wood chips, etc.’ because there is no permanency of obtaining that amount of fuel and the cost of putting in a unit like that is pretty prohibitive. I still promote the idea that the state should be pushing real hard, and I have been pushing hard, on hydropower in Southeast. This is very important for the smaller communities, including Ketchikan, as far as Southeast’s future goes. This is a very rich area if we’re allowed to develop the riches.”
Young says state and federal regulations are preventing development of industries in Southeast. He says timber, mining, hydropower and tourism could all be key components of the economy.
“…all compatible. I was in Craig yesterday and I watched a population of 2500 in the year 2000, it’s down to 1300. That’s a dying community. If you can lower that price of fuel, and get some more timber back in, it’ll be very beneficial to the area…the mineralized areas too. It’s still here and always will be. Those who don’t want to do it? That’s a selfish point of view presently, and not thinking of the future.”
Young says passage of the Sealaska lands bill would open up more areas for timber harvest. He says he is also proposing legislation that would allow the State of Alaska to select lands it is entitled to under the statehood act. Young suggests the state should select 2.5 million acres in southeast for primarily timber resource development.
He says the greatest danger to Southeast is the loss of representation as a result of redistricting.
“All the interest is in the north. I represent this whole state and I see the possibility of Southeast being totally forgotten. That’s not good for the state, nor is it good for the communities in Southeast.”
For representation to be more equitable statewide, Young suggests two Senators in each district, similar to the way the U.S. Congress works.
Asked about the current mood in Washington D.C.
“It’s sort of like a hangover. Nobody knew who served what to whom and who got drunk and who passed out.”
Young says this is probably the most inoperative Congress he has served in, and he places much of the blame on the Senate.
“I do believe, and I’m defending the house. We get blamed for it. We’ve done some very good legislative acts. I’m arguing the Senate, even if they don’t agree with what we’ve done, they can take the topic and pass a bill and send it back to us and let’s see if we can work out a solution. But they don’t do that.”
Young also feels President Barack Obama’s energy policies are hindering economic development.
“The new energy boom…I love listening to Obama, who is the finest liar I’ve ever seen in my life, very good at it. But he talks about more oil being produced. Yes, off of private land through private investment, but not on federal land which still controls most of the oil base in this nation, offshore and onshore. If we don’t wake up to that as a nation you can’t get yourself out of this economic depression we’re in right now…recession…we could actually go deeper.”
He says Obama is a socialist, and Young will be voting for Mitt Romney.
Young is on a 30-day tour of Alaska, visiting Ketchikan, Sitka, and Juneau before heading to Anchorage and the Interior. The 79-year old says he will continue to run for Congress for as long as he can.
“I’ve always said I’m gonna try to live to be 100, just to make somebody mad. But realistically that may not happen. But as long as I’m physically capable of doing this job, I’m going to continue to do it because I like what I do.”
Young says the hardest part of the job is all of the airplane travel. The Congressional session reconvenes on November 13th.