“I would strongly say I support having a very close relationship just across the bay as a Senate district rather than Ketchikan,” Brian Himelbloom testified.
Himelbloom also expressed his concern that it would be difficult for a senator to represent their constituency well, considering the difficulty just getting to and from the two districts separated by the Gulf of Alaska. He said he had experience flying from Kodiak to Ketchikan, a trip needing several intermediate stops along the way.
“It’s kind of an all-day affair,” he said.
Jerrol Friend, speaking on behalf of the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly, said the assembly favors the current Alaska Redistricting Board draft plan placing Kodiak Island and Seward together in a House district.
The assembly also supports a draft option placing Kodiak with Kenai Peninsula communities like Homer for a Senate seat.
“I’ve grown up in Kodiak my whole life and I’ve got friends in Kenai and Seward,” he said. “I think there’s a little bit more of a community connection there than what we’ve got with Ketchiken.
“Getting to Ketchikan and back is a huge expense,” Friend said.
Ketchikan is no more enthusiastic about being paired with Kodiak Island.
“I was just wondering if there was a party beforehand and there was too much alcohol,” Ketchikan City Council member Jason Harris said at a recent council meeting. “I can’t understand why the redistricting was done the way it was and we have to do our part to perhaps educate people who are on that board.”
“We could lose a senator real fast,” Ketchikan City Council member Dick Coose said. “He could come from Kodiak — he could come from anywhere but we could lose a senator.”
The Ketchikan Daily News reported last week the Board of Directors of the Southeast Conference created a draft resolution opposing any plan pairing House districts in Southeast with House districts in other parts of the state.
The public hearing for Ketchikan on the redistricting plans was held Saturday
The city of Cordova, on the other hand, prefers to share a House district with Kodiak over the district they’ve been placed in with Valdez.
“We heard quite clearly,” redistricting board member Bob Brodie said. “Cordova was unanimous. They didn’t want to be with Valdez. Their second choice would be Kodiak.”
Koniag Inc. president and CEO Will Anderson also testified at the redistricting hearing, speaking against a plan submitted by the Bush Caucus, which would split Kodiak Island in half, placing Larsen Bay, Old Harbor Akhiok and Karluk in a district with the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands.
“I think it would be a huge disservice to the Native community in those areas.” he said.
“As it currently stands in the Native community, they often come into Kodiak to do shopping and when they’re here they can get direct access to their representative in the House,” Anderson said. “If they are to be placed in a district in the Bristol Bay area, it would practically eliminate their ability to have that face-to-face contact with their representative.
“The thought that a member of the House would come to Kodiak who resides in Bristol Bay and would spend any time at all in the villages is really remote.”
Mirror writer Wes Hanna can be reached via email at email@example.com.