Mr. Stevens Goes to Washington
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of millions of dollars are to install sanitation and safe drinking-water
systems in rural, mostly native, villages, where "honey buckets"
are standard. Last year Stevens created a five-year, $30-million
program - the most aggressive in the nation - to attack fetal alcohol
syndrome in his state, which has the highest alcoholism rates in
the country. There is disaster aid to fishermen who have struggled
because chaotic weather patterns have reduced harvests.
is going to the state railroad, harbors, roads, ferries and airports.
And it is going into hundreds of social-service and health programs,
reflecting the senator's deeply held belief that the state's worst
enemy is the cycle of despair and dependency many rural residents
mission is to try to make Congress understand that the promise of
statehood is that we should have the ability to establish a workable
private-enterprise economy in areas of Alaska that want it. And
that's basically 90 percent of the state," he says.
also are sprouting up throughout the University of Alaska system
because of Stevens. A decade ago, Stevens sent $25 million to the
university's Fairbanks campus in a controversial move to establish
it as a supercomputing center. This year, virtually without any
attention on Capitol Hill, he is sending even more to upgrade those
computers because the center's international ranking had slipped.
of his more lasting creations, however, may be the Denali Commission.
Patterned after the Appalachia Regional Commission, the state-federal
panel was created and funded during Stevens' first year as committee
chairman in an effort to find a more efficient way to bring about
coordinated infrastructure improvements in rural Alaska.
commission's budget next year will be nearly $50 million - virtually
double this year's. There has never been a hearing in Congress about
the need for the commission. This year, for the first time in its
own budget submission to Congress, the White House included a line
item for the panel, quietly making it a permanent fixture of the
government's annual spending blueprint.
Stevens brings home money for transportation and things like that,
but he also uses money to put Alaska ahead on things like fetal
alcohol syndrome, telecommunications and the Denali Commission -
all wonderful programs. The money is a good reflection of Stevens'
values and character," says Alaska's Democratic Gov. Tony Knowles.
his ceaseless efforts on behalf of the state, Stevens in March was
named Alaskan of the Century.