Monday, January 30, 2006

50th Anniversary of the Constitutional Convention and my father

This weekend I will be travelling back to Fairbanks to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the signing of Alaska's Constitution. My father was a part of this piece of history and we will be attending the festivities together with my two sons and their wives. My father has been very instrumental in shaping Alaska's history and I am honored to share this day with him.

My father, Jack, celebrated his 80th birthday on October 15th, in Nenana and will soon be recognized as one of several Junior Achievements of Alaska’s Business Hall of Fame. Below is the citation that Representative Woody Salmon wrote for my dad to recognize this latest achievement.

The Twenty-fourth Alaska State Legislature honors Jack B. Coghill for receiving the Junior Achievement of Alaska’s Business Hall of Fame Laureate. Jack Coghill can list many honors under his name: delegate of the Alaska Constitutional Convention, small business owner, entrepreneur, longest serving mayor in the state’s history, lieutenant governor.

Jack Coghill, the youngest of three sons, got an early education in business when his father, a Scottish immigrant, started a trading post in the new town site of Nenana in 1912. At 15 Coghill got his first job outside of the family business as a mess boy on the steamer Alice that ran the Tanana and Yukon rivers. Coghill served in the Army and was stationed in the Aleutians during World War II before returning to Nenana to take over the family store. He had many entrepreneurial endeavors in Nenana. In 1952 he was one of 10 winning ticket holders in the Nenana Ice Classic and used his $18,000 in winnings to buy a sawmill, cut lumber and build a hotel.

Ask Jack Coghill what he considers his greatest achievement and he answers easily, “The most important thing in my life is my marriage to Frances and the raising of our six kids.� Next to that, he says his greatest achievement was participating in the Alaska Constitutional Convention. “Fifty-five of us sat down and produced the finest document in the U.S. and it will probably be the finest ever conceived,� Coghill said.

Jack Coghill first entered politics in 1948 when he was elected to the Nenana School Board. He went on to serve as a territorial representative and a delegate to the constitutional convention before being elected mayor of Nenana for 22 years, the longest tenure of any mayor in the state’s history. He continued to rise in the ranks of state government by serving as a state representative, state senator, and as lieutenant governor.

Jack Coghill lived for many years in North Pole, but returned to Nenana in 2004 after his wife Frances passed away. He turned 80 in September and is still active and involved in the community. Coghill was elected to the Nenana City Council in 2004 and that same year received an honorary doctorate from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He stays active in his church, and in January he was installed as the Potentate of the Alaska Shrine. He is still a partner in the family store.

The members of the Twenty-fourth Alaska State Legislature honor Jack B. Coghill for receiving the Alaska Business Junior Achievement Hall of Fame Laureate.

I chose to honor his one of his many accomplishments by naming a bridge after him.
In 1961, while serving in the State House, my dad worked on getting state funding to build a bridge over the Nenana River just south of Nenana at Rex. There were no roads going to or from the area at the time, so it was a tough sell. He said if the bridge was built, roads would eventually connect the Interior to Southcentral Alaska. Some legislators found humor in the idea of building a bridge with no connecting roads and called the bridge "Jack Coghill's Bridge to Nowhere." Despite the criticism, he proceeded in getting the funding for not only the bridge but the road that now allows Alaskans to travel between Fairbanks and Anchorage in six hours on the Parks Highway versus the twelve hour trip on the Glenn and Richardson Highways.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Session is in full swing

My office staff and I are all back in Juneau ready to face the 2nd half of the 24th Alaska Legislature. It will be a busy yet exciting year. Alaska has a 1.2 Billion Dollar surplus and negotiations for the gas line should be completed in the near future.

My chief of staff, Rynnieva Moss, and my legislative aide's Karen Lidster and Willow Olson all made the move to Juneau to work with me again this session. I am pleased to retain the same three staffers that I have had for the last three years. They are a great help to me and my constituents.

Governor Frank Murkowski gave his annual State of the State Address before a joint session of the House and Senate last night. The governor discussed the disappointment felt that opening ANWR did not recently become a reality. He did commend the Alaska Congressional delegation on their efforts in opening ANWR.

The pending gasline negotiation were discussed and the Legislature was assured that the gasline would soon be realized. He assured us that he is pressing to finalize the contract and that he is hoping to maximize revenues and to provide good jobs for Alaskans. I will keep you updated as to the progress of the gas line talks.

On a very positive note, the governor put in a plug for my bill, House Bill 16. He is very much in favor and publicly stated that when that bill hits his desk he will sign it into law immediately. This legislation reimburses some boarding school costs incurred by the district operating the program. There are three boarding schools (Nenana, Galena,Bethel) that would qualify for reimbursement for a stipend and a roundtrip between the student’s community of residence and the school during the school year. HB 16 is in its last committee, Senate Finance, I am working diligently to get this bill out of that committee and passed into law. I am encouraged by the governor's comments.

A battle is brewing on the House Floor - Senate Bill 87, which would require that seatbelts be worn by drivers in Alaska, is up for a vote and the count will be very close. I have voted against this bill in the past and intend on doing so today. This bill encroaches on our liberties and I can not support this bill.