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OPINION: From the Publisher: Sometimes caution is warranted when considering development

January 11th, 2013 | Jason Evans Print this article   Email this article  

There was a time, not so long ago that I was in favor of most development projects. Development, as I saw it, was progress and led to jobs. Jobs led to more people working. More people working led to a stronger Alaska.

Ultimately, as I have come to understand, not every development project proposed is a step toward a better Alaska, society, environment or world.

Sometimes, development isn't something you want to leap into head-first.

My views weren't always so cautionary. They have developed in that direction through years of working with developers, and - even more recently - while learning the ins and outs of the newspaper industry. Quick moves can, and do, lead to larger issues if you don't know all the particulars and their ramifications.

I always hear that this project could do so much for the rural parts of the state. A road could do this, or a hydro plant of some kind would do that. Not that I'm opposed to a road to anywhere, or a power plant to heat and light our homes, but I think we, as a people, would be wise to talk about everything that could result of a project before deciding if it's a good idea or not.

Only by doing that, and hearing the pros and cons of such projects, can we decide whether the benefits of any development are worth the negatives.

Let's look at the road issue, only because I have heard plans of that since I was a young boy growing up in Nome.

A road to Bethel or Nome may sound great in theory. It sure would make travel easier. It would allow people a less expensive avenue to get to and ship things from Anchorage. It would allow developers a more less expensive avenue to transport goods and raw materials.

Tourism would boom. The logging and mining industries would soar. Gas stations, convenience stores and other things would pop up.

I don't know if a road is a good thing or a bad thing. All I know is before jumping into something — anything — we should all try to look beyond the apparent benefits to what problems the project could bring. Will crime increase? What will the increased costs be to the local government? What infrastructure needs will arise? Do we really want chain convenience stores or does some sort of local government action need to precede this move to protect the business-owners who are already here? These are just some examples of the types of questions that might be good to ask before moving forward.

If, in the end, we can live with the ramifications of a development, then I say do it.

If owning the newspaper has done anything for me during the last year, it has made me realize there are always opposite views and opinions on everything.

I have also come to realize there isn't a problem with taking our time on any development projects to make sure we know what we are dealing with.

Sometimes taking it slow is the best route for everyone.


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