OPINION: Message received

By Ketchikan Daily News

Ketchikan Daily News, September 16

Southeast Conference’s annual meeting is the only event we know of that’s guaranteed to involve broad swaths of Southeast Alaska.

From the number of communities to the range of tribal, local, state and federal government entities, industry sectors and other aspects of the region, the attendance at Southeast Conference’s annual meetings are impressive

That’s not all. Southeast Conference itself has a long history of working on the Southeast Alaska’s behalf — starting with its formation in 1958 to promote the formation of what became the Alaska Marine Highway System.

It’s an entity that can make a claim of having participation from and working on behalf of the entirety of Southeast Alaska.

Southeast Conference is important, just as we believe Southeast Alaska is of importance to Alaska.

That’s why candidates for statewide and federal public office make sure to participate in the candidate forums organized by Southeast Conference at its annual meeting.

Witness the candidates who participated in this week’s Southeast Conference annual meeting events in Ketchikan, either in person or by videoconference.

On Tuesday, U.S. Senate candidates Kelly Tshibaka, Pat Chesbro and Lisa Murkowski participated in a Southeast Conference forum.

On Thursday, U.S. House candidates Nick Begich III and Sarah Palin participated in a Southeast Conference forum, and candidate Mary Peltola (who had been sworn in on Tuesday in Washington, D.C., to fill the remaining congressional term of the late Rep. Don Young) took the time to address the meeting by videoconference later in the day.

On Wednesday, Alaska gubernatorial candidates Les Gara and Bill Walker participated in a Southeast Conference forum.

Every one of these candidates recognized the opportunity to speak to Southeast Alaskans, and they either traveled to Ketchikan or ensured that they could participate electronically.

One candidate was absent — Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who is a candidate for reelection.

We won’t say he’s running for reelection, because his absence from the Southeast Conference gubernatorial forum and others appears to indicate that he doesn’t believe he needs to show up to advocate for his platform or defend his record.

So where was Dunleavy on Wednesday? Near the Mat-Su Valley community of Houston, where he posed with a gold-color-painted shovel at a groundbreaking event for Renewable IPP’s Houston Solar Farm project, which eventually will sell power to the Matanuska Energy Authority.

The groundbreaking ceremony started at 11 a.m. The Southeast Conference gubernatorial forum started at noon.

Now, one could talk here about how modern communications make it possible to call in from just about anywhere, or that Southeast Conference likely would have adjusted the time of the forum a bit if Dunleavy had sought an adjustment, or that the Southeast Conference annual meeting was scheduled months ago, or any of the other possible ways that Dunleavy could have participated in the Southeast Conference event(s), had he wanted to.

But he didn’t.

He preferred to shovel a spadeful of ceremonial dirt in the Mat-Su Valley than address Southeast Alaskans about issues of importance to this region.

Why? Maybe Dunleavy believes he has all the Southeast Alaska votes he needs. Maybe it doesn’t matter to him if he gets any Southeast Alaska votes. Who knows? He didn’t show up so Southeast Alaskans could ask him.

No, skipping Southeast Conference was more than a missed opportunity. It was a message.

And it isn’t one that bodes well for Southeast Alaska.