Friday, February 20, 2009

Update on Palin's trip to Western Alaska

From ADN:

Palin and Graham off to Russian Mission (Updated)
Posted by Alaska_Politics

Posted: February 20, 2009 - 1:32 pm

From Kyle Hopkins in Anchorage --

As we waited for the clouds to break at Wasilla Airport this morning, Gov. Sarah Palin talked about traveling to the Yukon River villages of Russian Mission and Marshall and evangelist Franklin Graham circled above in a King Air propeller plane.

Finally, one of the planes from Graham’s international Christian relief group landed and we all watched for Graham to emerge. He flew out with Palin. Parnell and Anchorage Baptist Temple Pastor Jerry Prevo took a second King Air.

The charity, Samaritan's Purse, is spending roughly $65,000 on food for Western Alaska villages. They plan to deliver boxes to 1,000 families.

I’m working on a video of the scene, and Palin’s comments on the trip. Look for it here later today. 

Here are a few excerpts from the Q&A before the flight:

What are your goals for the trip? How would you describe the purpose of the trip for you?

PALIN: Really, it's to show that it's the public-private partnerships are the key here. The solutions to meeting a lot of the challenges in Alaska, government's not going to be the solution. Can't be entire answer that is sought for those who are in need.

But it's working with the faith-based community, with other non-profits, with charitable individuals who know that Alaskans and others, you know we all pull together when people are in need and this is going to illustrate that."

Another purpose of the trip today, is not just delivering food for a short-term solution, but to remind those, especially young people, in rural Alaska of the job opportunities that are available, albeit it requires in some cases leaving the village for a short time. Perhaps for seasonal work or with shift work, either on the slope or in mining operations, or in the fishing industry, or state service. We're going to look for those who would perhaps want to become VPSOs or troopers or teachers in their own community, remind people of job opportunities, because it is a cash-based society right now.

We can help with providing food and providing fuel, but in a cash-based society, there needs to be income, also, in the community. There needs to be some economic vitality. The only way that that happens is for people to know that there are job opportunities to get to work, and make sure that that is part of the solution here.


Can you tell us just how this trip came about ...

PARNELL: I can do that. Dr. Graham contacted me on Saturday and said, 'I understand that we've got some villages in need. Understand that that there have been some hoops that have been hard to jump through for state transportation purposes,' even though we have been able to get to Kotlik and Emmonak and Dillingham.

He made a very generous offer, saying that Samaritan's Purse would be willing to offer their airplanes to transport food and then that turned into Samaritan's Purse also buying substantial quantities of food and groups like Carlisle here offering to truck the food and volunteers in the Valley who have boxed the food from the faith-based community ... So it's just become kind of an all-community, all hands on deck effort to move this food to Western Alaska.

Q: How would you respond to people who said that you should have made this trip, you know, a month ago or six weeks ago? Why wait until now?

PALIN: Well from the day that Sean Parnell and I got elected, our efforts have been to make sure that we have a revitalized economy in Alaska. And that job opportunities would be seized by all Alaskans. Especially those in rural Alaska to recognize that instead of importing our workforce as we do today, to such a large extent, we want the young people in rural Alaska to get these jobs. That has been our effort from the day we got elected.

Now, as for personally what Sean and I have done as individuals to help in rural Alaska, in faith-based communities, you know I think, well I think Matthew 6:3 says it best. It’s a scripture that says, 'let not your right hand know what your left hand is doing.' If you’re going to do a personal charitable effort ... what we do personally to support and tithe and offer assistance to some of these missions, I’m going to keep that to myself.

Q. But just as governor, why not go to the region, to the lower Yukon earlier, to see if things are as bad as they’re being described?

(Palin and Parnell looked at each other.)

PARNELL: Frankly, the first weekend that this particular regional hardship hit the web from Emmonak, both the governor and I tried to get our there and we were hampered due to weather. But a team did go out there, as you know, and in fact this whole week a team has been out there that includes state officials. (A) food bank official. The director of advocacy is out there, they have helped determine that Emmonak and Kotlik have the food they need. They are looking for jobs and economic opportunity now. We want to give the same hope to Russian Mission and Marshall now.”

(Later, we talked about whether the Palin administration is discussing plans for these villages a year or 10 years from now.)

Q: Is it possible for these communities that you’ll be visiting, the communities that we’ve been hearing about, to sustain their population that they have now 10 or 15 year from now?

PALIN: It is certainly a possibility.

Some of these areas … they may need to see some change in leadership within the community, also. For the leaders whom are looked to for guidance with the young people, that these leaders show them where opportunities are also. So they can, as I just mentioned, seize opportunities for jobs, at the same time being able to be such a strong part of their communities still. It is possible.

Q. What makes you say that? How do you see a lack of leadership?

PALIN: I’m not saying it’s a lack of leadership, I’m just saying with new ideas, with new energy in some of these communities, with people not being afraid at all to just call it like they see it and let people know perhaps what their own experience has been in terms of finding success and being a part of the community, at the same time, having income -- there’s nothing wrong with that. And in some of the communities I would say that perhaps new leadership would help provide solutions.

(Note: I asked for clarification later. Palin said she wasn’t necessarily calling for new elected officials in the region.)

"I'm not talking about anybody specifically. I'm just talking about young people who are desiring those who will help them see what the opportunities are in Alaska and not just seek government to provide solely for all the needs in rural Alaska."

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