Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Palin's rural adviser quits, says office needs more Alaska Natives but Palin gets 'a bum rap' on rural

A journalist who was Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's rural adviser resigned yesterday, saying the policy-making governor's office needs more Alaska Natives, who account for 20 percent of the state's population. "Natives have said they felt neglected when Palin, now the Republican vice presidential nominee, made appointments to her administration, including the rural adviser post," The Associated Press reports from Juneau.

The adviser, Rhonda McBride, is a former Anchorage television journalist who specialized in coverage of rural health but is not a Native. "I definitely think it would help to have an Alaska Native in this position," McBride told AP, which learned of her resignation when it obtained an e-mail she sent to to some Native leaders. She told them, "In all honesty, have never felt authentic in my role." She told AP that "she would return to journalism to help bring attention to Native issues."

McBride told The Rural Blog that she was not resigning under protest. "I'm resigning to return to reporting, because that's how I feel I can best help rural Alaska," she said in an e-mail. "I've come to agree that having an Alaska Native in that position is more important than ever. Rural communities, which are largely Native, are fighting for survival. The high cost of fuel has created a class of Alaskans known as energy refugees, Rural Alaskans who are fleeing to the urban centers because they can't afford to live there anymore." That threatens the viability of local schools and communities, she said.

She added, "Palin, to some extent, gets a bum rap on Rural Alaska. The previous governor, Frank Murkowski, eliminated a community revenue sharing program that helped prop up villages. Palin pushed to reinstate it. She fully supported Power Cost Equalization, a subsidy that helps lower power bills for Rural Alaskans, who pay some of the highest rates in the nation." To read McBride's e-mail to The Rural Blog, in a Word 2007 document, click here. For theAP story, click here.

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