Letters to the Editor

College student looks

at ethics of gene editing

Is it morally right to gene edit? There are people with various ideas on both ends of the spectrum; some believe by having the power to gene edit you are playing the role of God, while others believe it's OK in certain situations. I am here to tell you why in some cases I believe gene editing is the right thing to do.

My premises are: If gene editing can better the outlook of someone's life, then in some cases it is right. In some cases, gene editing can improve the quality of someone's life. Therefore, in some cases, gene editing is right.

Most people don't even think about it, however most things you eat - corn, barley, rice, meat - have been edited to grow better and faster, so what's the source of outrage in doing it with humans?

I believe gene editing can be obligatory in the case where you could take congestive heart failure out of a family's gene sequence. Where I believe gene editing is morally wrong is when you're trying to change your cosmetics, and this is where you can change your hair color, eye color, height, and various other traits.

With gene editing in humans coming easier and easier with technology, it raises lots of questions that don't fall under moral rights but rather non-moral rights and questions. Is this legal, likely to happen, or even approved in most cultures?

If you have an allergy to peanuts and you go to a bakery and they have an option of a peanut butter cookie or banana bread, you're going to pick the banana bread because you know if you eat a peanut butter cookie you're going to have a tougher time. Does it make it wrong that you chose the banana bread?

Growing up with congenital heart failure and having it run in my family, why would I have my kid go down the same extreme health path as me, when I simply could have chosen to go in and edit that specific gene out of my kid's DNA? I believe it is morally right to gene edit. If you can bring someone to better health by editing their genes, why would you choose to let them suffer?

Hank Voltz

Wrangell High 2020 graduate

(written for his ethics class at

Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado)

Federal pandemic funds could help ferry system

Over the past few years, state funding for the Alaska Marine Highway System budget has drastically decreased and there is an increased need to raise revenue from passenger receipts to fund ferry operations. Yet despite relying more on passenger revenue, the system is harming itself by creating situations that make it difficult to earn more revenue.

That uncertainty in funding and using the AMHS as a political football has affected the stability of the system, which directly hurts scheduling and the potential for revenue generation.

The AMHS Fund is comprised primarily of passenger receipts and, along with unrestricted state general fund dollars, is appropriated to pay for operations. It has been drawn down year after year without much chance to recover. In Fiscal Year 2019, the last year before AMHS was dealt a lethal state budget cut, ferry passenger receipts generated $50.8 million in revenue. In FY2020, the system generated $28.2 million. In FY2021, it is expected to generate $25 million.

The decrease in service and ridership due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the ships' mechanical issues puts incredible strain on the AMHS Fund to the point of over-expending the account. A supplemental appropriation of about $6 million will be needed this year to help fill this gap.

Even with that extra money, the current proposed budget would cause AMHS to start the next fiscal year back in another hole.

As chair of the House Finance Subcommittee for the Department of Transportation budget, I thoroughly scrutinized this situation and came up with an alternative to help stabilize funding for the ferry system. My proposal is to replace AMHS Fund dollars with federal pandemic relief money for Fiscal 2022. That would allow the AMHS Fund to grow back to a healthy, reliable balance.

Revenue earned during FY2022 would not be spent until FY2023, providing greater funding security. It would allow for better planning and dispatching of the fleet, opening scheduling and reservations earlier. There is a direct correlation between when a schedule is released and revenue generated.

Travel, medical care, the economy and daily life of Southeast Alaskans have been seriously affected by budget cuts to the AMHS. Almost all ports have seen decreased service, but some places, like Wrangell, have seen greatly reduced service.

My proposal passed the Transportation Finance Subcommittee, and the department's full budget, including my funding proposal, will be heard in House Finance in the coming weeks. The Senate is discussing a similar plan to utilize federal funds. I look forward to working with the House and Senate members to find creative solutions to protect our ferry system.

Rep. Dan Ortiz


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