Fairbanks, AK- 14 of the 16 candidates running for legislative seats in the Fairbanks area gathered at the Chief David Salmon Tribal Hall Thursday night for a forum. The major issues on voters’ minds included energy, education and subsistence.
Close to 80 people gathered in the tribal hall to hear from candidates. As a retired teacher, Cora Maguire says education needs more funding. “Teachers need to be paid higher wages and the classroom should have a lower number of students,” says Maguire.
But she also attended the forum to hear candidates’ views on how to bring down the cost of energy.
“I think we pay too much for oil. There should be other alternatives that people can still make a living and not pay everything into oil,” she says.
Renee Singh agrees that something needs to be done about the high cost of energy in villages. “Like back to having viable resources and keeping the village communities alive.” Singh grew up in Tanana. She’s 53 and she now lives in North Pole. She agrees education needs more funding, and the cost of energy is too high, but she also came to the forum to hear what candidates had to say about rural subsistence. “Oh definitely. Subsistence issues are at the forefront,” she says.
Thomas Maillelle also attended the forum to find out whether candidates had ideas about subsistence rights, specifically related to Yukon River King salmon in the future. “We’re always depending on fish on the Yukon and we’d like it to where you can start fishing again,” he says.
Maillelle is from Grayling. He says he believes subsistence rights are changing. “It seems like the village people are just getting left out because they get swarmed by too many hunters," he says. "I don’t know if you can do anything about that, but we’re getting more hunters than there are animals.”
Candidates also answered question about increasing student success in rural communities, tribal sovereignty and the availability of medical care in remote communities. The forum was sponsored by Tanana Chief Conference, Doyon Limited and the Fairbanks Native Association.