Anchroage, AK - Fairbanks City Mayor John Eberhart addressed close to 3000 people Thursday during the opening remarks at this year’s Alaska Federation of Natives Convention.
This year’s theme is ‘Rise as One.’ Eberhart offered his opinion on what that might mean.
“‘Rise as One,’ the theme of your convention can mean many things," he said. "Including now’s the time for your voices to be better listened to and your issues and concerns acknowledged. Now’s the time for you to flex your voting and economic muscle, now’s the time for you to be better represented in government, running for office, getting involved in boards and commissions, making your voices heard," he said.
Eberhart gave AFN attendees an update on the Fairbanks Four Case. The Mayor recently issued a letter of support for an independent federal review of the case. He says he’s also working with Tanana Chiefs Conference to take another look at how the case was handled by local law enforcement.
"I will discuss that with a new police chief.”
Mayor Eberhart recently selected a new police chief for Fairbanks. Randall Aragon will take over on December First. Eberhart said Aragon is familiar with some native issues, because his step father was Navajo.
“He experienced discrimination and prejudice growing up," said the Mayor. "He’s attuned to that, it’s unacceptable and we’re going to be working very closely to try to improve diversity and work on these sort of issues in Fairbanks.”
The Mayor is meeting regularly with the Tanana Chiefs Conference, Doyon, Limited, Denakkanaaga and other tribal organizations. He said he’s disappointed that the Fairbanks City police force does not have a single Alaska Native Officer.
"So, we’ve met with Doyon and TCC to try to see what we can do to try to get Alaska Natives to apply to the Fairbanks Police department," he said.
Eberhart said diversity was at the forefront when he campaigned for mayor last year. Now, he says, it’s the focus of his administration. He touted the creation of the new 15 member Fairbanks Diversity Council. The panel includes representatives from both the city and the Borough.
“The purpose of the Fairbanks Diversity Council is to make sure the voices and concerns of the diverse groups in our community are heard, to advise the city and borough and to come up with a diversity action plan for the city of Fairbanks," the Mayor explained.
The Mayor’s comments were brief in part because, he told the audience, he had to return to Fairbanks for a Thursday night meeting of the new Diversity Council.