The Alaska State Capitol on April 22, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney)
The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.
Löki Tobin, Democratic candidate from Anchorage
The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?
Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?
Should new public employees have access to a pension?
Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?
Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?
How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?
It the legal responsibility of our state to provide every eligible Alaskan their fair and equitable annual portion of oil production earnings from the publicly held and invested Permanent Fund. However, without new and stable revenue sources, this is impossible. It is premature and futile to establish a set formula or amount of the PFD distribution without first discussing how the state will fully fund its constitutional obligations.
What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?
The most immediate issue of North Anchorage and its arterial neighborhoods is out migration. We must make our state more attractive to in and out-of-state folks. I will champion increased investment in our state university system, re-establishing defined benefits for our public servants, establishing a statewide housing trust, funding innovative and bold renewable energy projects, directing resources to shovel-ready projects at our ports, and creative private-public partnerships when it comes to growing our local food industry. I will also advocate for a statewide Complete Streets approach to funding shovel-worthy infrastructure projects that use local knowledge and insight in designing our communities to be inclusive and walkable.
What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?
Abortion must remain safe and legal. Every Alaskan has a constitutionally protected right to privacy and I do not support any policy or law that infringes on that right.
How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?
Alaska leads the nation in death by suicide using a gun and self-inflict injury from using a gun. Increased access to mental health services is critical. Universal screeners, like SBIRT have shown great promise in an integrated public health approach. Additionally, access to a gun increases the likelihood of domestic homicide five fold. Keeping guns out of these situations means keeping women and vulnerable peoples safe. There are many data informed ways to reduce gun fatalities in Alaska and our elected officials and stakeholders must continue having robust and transparent dialogues about pathways forward.
How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?
None. Diversity in faith and religions should be recognized and not legislated upon. It is not for government officials to impose their personal beliefs on anyone.
What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?
It is clear that the state must invest in robust public employee retention systems including re-establishing of a defined benefit retirement system, expansion of teacher education loan forgiveness, and subsidized essential worker housing. Additionally, reports of the results from the Teacher Retention and Recruitment Survey highlight that to improve retention of public employees, the state must invest in creating positive workplace conditions through ensuring family-friendly workplaces, leadership pipelines, and flexibility work schedules when possible.
What does an ideal state ferry system look like?
A frequent, consistent, and reliable marine highway schedule must be guaranteed. Additionally, we must have a regular maintenance schedule that uses dedicated funds to invest in new technology and upgrades ferries to maintain maximum efficiency.
What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?
In the words of the late Congressman John Lewis, “[Voting] is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democratic society…”
It is critical our state update our election system by removing the witness signature requirement, paying for postage for mail-in voting, provide absentee ballot curing, permit permanent absentee voting, allow for same-day voter registration, and strengthen voter fraud mitigation by conducting risk limiting audits.
What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?
The disaster in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages is heartbreaking, especially as state legislators are limited in their ability to directly intercede. I recognize the efforts of the Federal Subsistence Board and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game in management of these fisheries; however, we must consider the impacts of other at-sea fisheries to local harvests. As someone born and raised in rural Alaska and who is currently pursuing a PhD in Indigenous Studies, I know it is imperative that indigenous ways of knowing and rural voices are at the table when decisions are made. My own education has been funded by community development quota programs that are responsive to local needs. Groups that provide stakeholder input such as the Regional Subsistence Advisory Councils, the Yukon River Drainage Fisheries Association, the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fish Commission and the Kuskokwim River Salmon Management Working Group are an essential part of management. We must ensure the restoration and sustainability of these local resources for future generations by continuing to monitor fish populations, reduce salmon bycatch in the Bering Sea Aleutian Islands fisheries and manage collectively with federal, state, and stakeholder inclusion.
What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?
I do not support tinkering with the constitution and I oppose a constitutional convention. In 1955, Alaska’s constitutional delegates did a superb job in establishing a fair and balanced document that protects the rights’ of all Alaskans. However, in 1998, our constitution was amended to restrict the rights of our citizens and in light of recent events, I am in favor of fixing this egregious error and affirming marriage equality. Outside of that immediate change, I would need to analyze any other constitutional questions on the basis of fairness and equality for all Alaskans.
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