If it seems like Alaska has gotten a little less populated, well, you’d be right. According to a recent report In Economic Trends by economist Neil Fried, 7,500 more people left Alaska than moved here in 2014. That’s not as big as in 1983, when 25,000 people left the state. Don’t panic: the figure is for 2014, before oil prices dropped and politicians began talking about revenue enhancements. OK, next year you can panic.
The Betster has been in Alaska for more than a few years and seen lots of people come and go. When the Betster first moved here, a second-generation homesteader bluntly declared, “People leave so fast, I don’t bother learning their names until they’ve been here at least five years.” Ouch. We do tend to treat Cheechakos like red shirts on Star Trek away teams. It’s not that a newcomer won’t put down roots and stay, but you just want to be sure.
It also goes the other way. Just because someone leaves doesn’t mean they won’t come back. The Betster believes in the bungee cord theory of Alaskans. More than once the Betster has gone to garage sales where a family swore up and down they would never, ever return, not to this damn ice box with 9 months of darkness, only to see them in line at Safeway two years later stocking up on Pilot bread. Sometimes you have to leave to realize you want to come back.
Huh, that sounds like a Country-Western song. Or the Blues. People leave only to get pulled back, sometimes with a two-week snap, other times after decades. This seems to happen a lot with our young people. They graduate from high school, go off into the military or college, swearing they are going to see the real world and the big city, and then they realize that for all its charms, Portland is just another hipster town where nobody knows your name and you get stuck in traffic.
So if you just moved here, welcome. We’ll try to get to know your name. If you’ve come home, welcome back. You know this is an awesome place to live, even if it is getting darker and colder, but that means there’s more fun stuff to do, like these Best Bets:
BEST READ ON BET: It’s Alaska Book Week, a time to celebrate reading, writing and all that literature stuff, as done by Alaskans about Alaska. Check out one of our state writers when Rosemary McGuire appears at 6 p.m. today at the Homer Public Library.
BEST GRAY PANTHER BET: In Juneau the assembly wanted to cut a sales-tax exemption for seniors because, you know, budget. What they got was a lot of gray grrrr. Learn more about seniors, their concerns and issues at the annual Senior Summit from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday at the Homer Senior Center. Gov. Bill Walker and First Lady Donna Walker speak at 2 p.m.
BEST GUANTANEMERA BET: The theme of the 30th annual Pratt Museum Ritz fundraiser is “Havana Nights,” which is a good excuse to learn the words to the classic Cuban folk song. Preview some of the art and other items to be auctioned off at a reception from 5-7 p.m. Friday at the Pratt.
BEST OWLING GOOD TIME BET: You’re more likely to hear than see owls, but if you want to maybe get a sneak peek, tag along with the Kachemak Bay Birders for its Owling Trip at 8:30 p.m. Saturday at the Wynn Nature Center, Mile 1.5 East Skyline Drive. Bring a flashlight.