Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, left, Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, center, and Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, are introduced at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday,Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, left, Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, center, and Rep. Andi Story, D-Juneau, are introduced at the Native Issues Forum at the Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau delegation reacts to gov’s call for ‘war on criminals’

Kiehl, Hannan and Story react to gov’s call for public safety changes

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s call for a “war on criminals” in Tuesday night’s State of the State address sparked conversation at Wednesday’s Native Issues Forum, which highlights issues in the Alaska Native community.

“If we want to address crime, let’s address crime,” Sen. Jesse Kiehl, D-Juneau, said to a person in the audience who said Alaska Natives are disproportionately incarcerated at higher rates than the general population, and questioned what this would mean to them. “But to declare war on people, I think takes Alaska in a very dangerous direction. The approaches that we think of when people talk about ‘war on criminals’ don’t save us any money.”

[Watch the full forum discussion here]

Rep. Sara Hannan, D-Juneau, also a featured speaker at the forum, alongside Kiehl and Rep. Andi Story of Juneau, told the Empire she did not find the term “war on criminals” appropriate. She also questioned how Dunleavy can afford such a measure while also balancing the budget.

“It is an interesting dichotomy for me to hear the governor talk about saving money without understanding that the most expensive thing in a society you can do is put people in prison,” said Hannan during the forum to an applause from the crowd. About 100 people attended the forum at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall.

Hannan said she doesn’t want to dismiss Dunleavy’s goal on public safety, but said prevention and education could be more beneficial than just adding more state troopers or village public safety officers.

“Public safety is a 24-hour day, and the law enforcement piece is a couple hours of that day,” she said, using metaphor to describe the issue. “Most of the day is before that, and the cost afterward of what are you doing with someone once they’re in the system, because if you don’t do anything different when they exit the system from incarceration, the crime pattern repeats.”

[Gov’s crime message resonates, but Juneau lawmakers hesitant about constitutional amendments]

Story said the delegation will be examining the crime bills the governor introduced Wednesday to ensure reentry programs are available, and that bail prices are more based on risk-factor than money.

Other issues

Juneau’s legislative delegation outlined their priorities, answered questions from the public, and talked education, fishing, the budget, keeping Juneau as the capital and the Alaska Marine Highway System.

Kiehl said he would like to work with the attorney general on making use of the tribal courts system and blending them when possible. He also spoke in opposition of a bill filed that proposes moving the capital to Anchorage.

[Sexual violence, capital move and the PFD: Here’s four of the most important pre-filed bills]

Hannan was firm on not cutting any money from the education budget, and making sure that the ferry system stays works, not just for tourists or profit, but to keep remote villages connected.

Story also said she wants to preserve the $30 million set aside for education in former Gov. Bill Walker’s budget, and work on revitalizing Alaska Native languages as part of the “linguistic emergency” declared in House Concurrent Resolution 19 last year.

Other concerns from the crowd were if Alaska should switch to rank voting, like the system used in Maine, and what the legislators plan to do to sustain long-term herring harvest in Southeast Alaska.

[Activist group fights to conserve Sitka’s herring harvest]

• Contact reporter Mollie Barnes at or 523-2228.

More in News

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File
The Aurora Borealis glows over the Mendenhall Glacier in 2014.
Aurora Forecast

Forecasts from the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute for the week of March. 19

Gov. Mike Dunleavy discusses his proposed budget for the 2024 fiscal year during a press conference at the Alaska State Capitol in December 2022. A lower-than-expected revenue forecast is raising questions about what the state's spending plan will ultimately look like. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire File)
Lower revenue forecast increases budget woes for state lawmakers

Coming up with a spending plan for next year and beyond will be a complex series of negotiations.

Office Max at the Nugget Mall in the Mendenhall Valley advertised Permanent Fund dividend sales in July 2020. Alaskans have until the end of the month to apply for the PFD. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)
PFD application deadline is next week

Amount in flux as state revenue forecasts lower than expected.

This is a photo of the current site plan of the proposed Capital Civic Center. On Monday night the Assembly authorized $5 million to go toward the project that is expected to cost $75 million. (City and Borough of Juneau)
City OKs $5M toward proposed Capital Civic Center

The money is intended to show the city’s commitment to the project as it seeks federal funding

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire File)
Police calls for Tuesday, March 21, 2023

This report contains information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

This September 2015, photo provided by NOAA Fisheries shows an aerial view of adult female Southern Resident killer whale (J16) swimming with her calf (J50). New research suggests that inbreeding may be a key reason that the Pacific Northwest’s endangered population of killer whales has failed to recover despite decades of conservation efforts. The so-called “southern resident” population of orcas stands at 73 whales. That’s just two more than in 1971, after scores of the whales were captured for display in marine theme parks around the world. (NOAA Fisheries / Vancouver Aquarium)
The big problem for endangered orcas? Inbreeding

Southern resident killer whales haven’t regularly interbred with other populations in 30 generations.

Juneau Brass Quintet co-founding member Bill Paulick along with Stephen Young performs “Shepherd’s Hey” to a packed house at the Alaska State Museum on Saturday as part of the quintet’s season-ending performance. Friends of the Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum sponsored the event with proceeds going to the musicians and FoSLAM. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire)
Top brass turns out for event at State Museum

Free performance puts a capt on a busy season.

Alaska’s state legislators are slated to get the equivalent of 6,720 additional $5 bills in their salary next year via a $33,600 raise to a total of $84,000 due to a veto Monday by Gov. Mike Dunleavy of bill rejecting raises for legislative and executive branch employees. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)
Veto negates rejection of pay hikes for governor, legislators

Dunleavy clears way for 67% hike in legislative pay, 20% in his to take effect in coming months

Most Read