Tolerance Commission Offers 100 Recommendations For Change
Knowles Praises Thorough Report, Pledges Support For Action
"I was reminded by a commission member that the task before this distinguished group of Alaskans was not to prove whether intolerance exists in Alaska because we know it does," Knowles said. "The challenge facing the commission and all Alaskans is to address intolerance head on and make it a part of the history we will someday study, instead of experiencing it first-hand. The commission's historic work is a giant step toward that goal."
In a 35-page report, the 14-member commission recommends nearly 100 actions in four general categories - education, institutional intolerance, economic intolerance, and justice - that should be taken by state and local governments, the Legislature, and community organizations. It also produced a separate 28-page guide for promoting tolerance and fighting hate that proposes 10 categories of steps Alaskans can take to create a more tolerant Alaska.
Lt. Gov. Fran Ulmer, an ex officio member of the commission, helped present the final report to the governor today, along with most commission members. Knowles appointed the commission in May following the so-called paintball attack in which three white youths prowled downtown Anchorage targeting Alaska Natives for violence with a paintball gun. In response to that act and other high-profile incidents of intolerance, Knowles directed a cabinet-level group last winter to confront racial intolerance and address hate crimes. One of their recommendations was creation of the Tolerance Commission.
"Alaska is rich in diversity. We should celebrate those differences, but first we have to open up to the problem of intolerance," said Ulmer. "The Tolerance Commission discovered that many Alaskans want to talk about the problems, and that testimony itself is part of the solution. I hope all Alaskans will read these findings."
Following are highlights of the commission's recommendations:
The governor said Alaska is making considerable progress in many areas to increase tolerance, citing progress in a long-term subsistence solution, construction of schools based on need rather than political clout, and the Millennium Agreement between the State and tribes. He said far more work is needed and said he would push especially hard this coming legislative session for hate crimes legislation, which did not receive a single legislative hearing last year.
"I challenge Alaskans, each of us, to look into our hearts and dedicate ourselves to what we can do each day to celebrate Alaska's diversity and fight the scourge of intolerance," Knowles said.