Governor's jet plan no joke


Posted: Sunday, May 08, 2005

The understanding reached by the city and the Games is a definite step toward a successful and memorable event next March. Here's hoping everyone stays on the same page until then.

The easiest way to get a laugh in Juneau these days is to make fun of Gov. Frank Murkowski's desire to acquire a jet aircraft for use by his office and the Department of Public Safety. In a press release written by Democratic pen-for-hire Mike Doogan, Rep. Eric Croft, D-Anchorage, said "We shouldn't fly prisoners around on a luxury jet. They're not in a hurry and shouldn't have the martinis anyway. If Frank wants an executive jet, he should spend his own money, not the people's. As an excuse, this is just ridiculous. As a reason, it's worse."

Not a bad couple of lines, especially for someone rumored to have his eye on the governor's mansion himself. Both Democrats and Republicans (although more reluctant to offer as sharp of criticism) have blasted Murkowski's plan as nothing more than a way to cruise around in style.

But these arguments are not based on the merits of the governor's plan, and are only put forward because legislators believe the governor is an easy mark. Trash the governor, the thinking goes, and earn votes with the common folk back home.

This is not fair. The plan should be judged on its merits, not politics.

The state currently owns two aging turboprop planes. The governor's office wants to sell one and lease a jet, which would be used to transport prisoners, get public safety personnel in place during an emergency and, yes, transport the governor. 10 states currently own jets, and all of them are significantly smaller in size than Alaska. In addition, Alaska's significant distance from the rest of the United States makes air travel a necessity, and a jet makes more sense for long trips.

Public Safety Commissioner Bill Tandeske supports the idea. If both law enforcement and the governor's office believe the jet idea has merit, maybe there is something to the idea.

Just because state legislators and their press people are able to use the plan as a convenient source of comedy material doesn't necessarily make it a bad idea.

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