Efforts must be made toward bipartisanship in Juneau

Posted: Friday, January 21, 2005

This is an open letter to Rep. Ethan Berkowitz and Sen. Johnny Ellis. I enjoyed reading your Juneau Report in the Jan. 18 Peninsula Clarion, and you both made some good points. However, when Alaska is ruled by a Republican legislative super majority and a Republican governor ("with whom the stars are aligned") who are bent on spending the state's money on "neat projects" like the Knik Arm bridge, a road from Skagway to Juneau, developing the Pebble gold mine and other roads to nowhere, talk is cheap. The facts are: The Democrats have about as much influence on what happens in the Legislature in Juneau as they had in defeating Lisa Murkowski!

There really is no honest debate on any political issue in Alaska and all the minority parties are essentially ineffective in the governance of Alaska. The reasons for this sad state of affairs include 1) voters not being aware of what really goes on in Juneau; and 2) many voters fall in the ignorance and apathy category — they really don't care what goes on in Juneau as long as they continue to get their free ride from Uncle Ted and receive their PFD. If others are lining their pockets in the process (including but not necessarily limited to the oil and gas companies), my perception is most voters simply don't care.

So, how can the Democrats combat this dilemma? First and foremost, you insiders in Juneau must overtly expose many of the happenings in Juneau for the fraud they are. You must know that much of what goes on there is not in the best interests of the citizenry of Alaska! In the immortal overheard words (reported in Anchorage Daily News two to three years ago) of then-Representative Jeanette James of North Pole: "My gawd, you mean we'll have to tell the truth!?"

How many politicians in Juneau do you think you can find who will openly expose themselves to report accurately and candidly what really happens behind closed doors — among legislators, with lobbyists, with industry executives, and-or with other fat cat good ol' boys who have vested interests in legislative outcomes? For example, look at Pete Kott, who tried to form a bipartisan legislative coalition to be able to have an honest debate — he was overtly censured, lost his House Speaker's job, and is now willing to forego the trust of his constituency for some good-paying state job the governor might offer him. How do you evaluate that?Or Rep. Bob Lynn, who tried to vote his conscience last session on the longevity bonus?

Second, you must try to convince the people of Alaska the common good of the state is your highest priority and comes before any and all personal interests —every time! This means: expose every perceived "boondoggle" — unnecessary bridges, roads, DEC regulation changes, capitulations to industries and their lobbyists, etc. — the key word here is "unnecessary", with your rationale.Even if it is attempted, it will take time for you to build trust with the people of Alaska.With the published actions of Ogan, Ruderich, Renkes, et. al., building that trust will certainly be an uphill struggle. Is there enough integrity in Juneau to sustain such a trust-building process? Only you insiders know for sure. Then there is the question: Is there the will to make it happen? Frankly, I doubt it!

I am a Republican who votes common sense, but am usually overwhelmed by those voting a straight Republican ballot. This is not to say the Democrats are any better, but more bipartisan balance in the Legislature to assure honest debates on issues (not just power trips after closed meetings) would benefit Alaskans enormously. But as long as Alaskans don't know and-or don't care, status quo is inevitable! Your words in the Peninsula Clarion were very good, but I'll be watching to see the efficacy of your deeds.

P.S. Yes, I'm the same guy who took the time one year ago to develop and submit to each member of the Alaska Legislature, and to the governor a draft 20-year fiscal plan outline —a nd you all are still arguing about what is needed! Old Chinese Proverb: "He who deliberates fully before taking the first step will spend his entire life on one foot!" The Legislature is reminiscent of a flamingo!

Richard Hahn


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