Recent news from Donald Trump Jr. regarding Pebble Mine and the dividend Pebble is heavily promoting has me thinking about a few things that warrant discussion with Mr. Trump.
To begin, while I have no love one way or another for the mine, I do love children and worry about their future in the Bristol Bay Region. I shudder when another youth is lost to suicide or a heroin overdose, or learn of a child being a victim of sexual abuse. Maybe if we had more to offer families in the region the horrific statistics for this would not make me cringe.
Consider this, recently Donald Trump Jr. decided to have an opinion about Pebble. He made this statement after vacationing in some luxury resort after sport fishing near the pristine waters of Bristol Bay.
My conversation with Mr. Trump would be something like this:
Mr. Trump, I am sorry to say, you do not have a clue what it is like living in rural Alaska nor do I think for one minute you really care. Do you realize if you got off your chartered jet and went to downtown Dillingham, there is nothing for kids to do there?
For decades Dillingham families have been promised a dedicated community center and even a swimming pool. There’s never money in Bristol Bay budgets to tackle this critical need, yet many Bristol Bay leaders seem to have found millions to fight Pebble.
Over ten years ago, I challenged the leaders of Bristol Bay to give their board stipends for community centers and swimming pools — it did not happen. I can only imagine there would be millions of dollars in the hopper today if “leaders” chose to do that rather than to fund trips to London and Washington, D.C. during the past decade to fight economic development.
Another thought I have is if a mine was to be developed in Bristol Bay, the kids in the communities may eventually get community centers and swimming pools, and most likely enhanced educational opportunities they do not have today. With an economic base, communities thrive.
Today, from what I see, there is no robust economic base from salmon fishing in the Bristol Bay region of Alaska that benefits Bristol Bay itself. Bristol Bay is visited by thousands of people for about six weeks in the summer to commercial fish. For many it’s their vacation from the lower 48. Salmon money is earned and leaves about as fast as it’s made with not much at all trickling into the communities for development so the kids would have healthy places to gather when it’s minus 10 below in the middle of winter.
Today the Pebble Partnership has a program to give a dividend to the residents of Bristol Bay. Whether for the mine, against the mine or indifferent about it, I suggest that everyone sign up for the opportunity. My focus is the children of Bristol Bay, not the politics involved.
My point today is there is zero harm in registering for the Pebble dividend. I read the material and it is strictly confidential so bullies cannot brow beat those who take the opportunity afforded to them.
Why not use the money to fund community enhancement projects for the youth? For years we have talked on how to promote healthy communities. Sadly, the conversations do not surface much anymore until we bury a child unnecessarily because of suicide or a heroin overdose.
In my closing conversation with Mr. Trump, I would invite him back to Bristol Bay in the dark, cold of winter with his family to entertain and recreate in a community or village, not a luxury lodge. I would ask him to imagine raising his children in the region. I did.
I really think Donald Trump Jr. and many others in positions like his need a little more education on protecting life in Bristol Bay.
Cindy Myers is a former Bristol Bay resident of more than 20 years who has worked in public service. She now lives on the Kenai Peninsula.