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Tolerance Commission Offers 100 Recommendations For Change
Knowles Praises Thorough Report, Pledges Support For Action


News Release
December 6, 2001
Web Posted: 12:40 pm

Praising the thoroughness of its work and the commitment of its members, Gov. Tony Knowles today accepted the report of the Commission on Tolerance and pledged his administration's efforts to implement its recommendations.

"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:

Educational intolerance

  • Increase and equalize state education funding and reverse a legislative-passed formula that discriminates against rural schools for new education dollars.
  • Adequately fund school construction and maintenance across the state.
  • Recruit and retain Native and minority teachers and improve teacher and administrator cross-cultural training.
  • Require the teaching of Alaska history in public schools and encourage educational exchanges so urban and rural students learn more about each other.

Institutional intolerance

  • Protect subsistence rights with a rural priority constitutional amendment and continue the government to government relations with Alaska tribes.
  • Fight intolerance in state agencies with more aggressive minority recruitment, diversity training, and adequate funding for the State Human Rights Commission and the Equal Employment Office.
  • Integrate people with disabilities into all aspects of Alaska communities with training programs, better transportation services, early intervention programs for high-risk and special needs children, and encourage private businesses to hire people with disabilities.

Economic intolerance

  • Amend Alaska's laws, regulations, and policies to prohibit discrimination based on economic status, sexual orientation, or other factors.
  • Expand economic opportunities for all Alaskans by increasing the minimum wage, investing in rural partnerships and training programs, fully funding rural energy programs, and attacking homelessness.

Judicial intolerance

  • Pass hate crimes legislation, encourage sentencing in hate crimes cases to include cultural diversity and sensitivity training for offenders, and ensure adequate investigation of crimes against minorities.
  • Provide access to legal assistance for indigent Alaskans and require interpreters in legal proceedings for those who need them.
  • Require diversity training for justice system employees and encourage alternate programs such as community work service and restitution for some offenders.

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.



pdf Commission's Final Report
pdf Ten Ways to a More Tolerant Alaska


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