Mike Szymanski, Democrat

Szymanski: Time for end to partisan bickering

Posted: Thursday, August 17, 2000

Anchorage Democrat Mike Szymanski said he would like to offer District E voters something better than the partisan bickering that has stymied the Legislature.

"What really bothers me is, we have federal management of our fish and game resources because we haven't been able to resolve the subsistence issue," he said. "It's time to deal with some of these issues.

"The other thing that bothers me is the meat-axe approach to the budget crisis. I think a lot of it was a shell game, shuffling funds where they supposedly cut when they really didn't. Overall, the budget is actually higher. And the things that bothered me were across-the-board cuts to programs I don't think should have been cut -- like education."

He said he cannot understand big cuts to road maintenance or cuts that cripple the state's ability to process permits for development.

"Contractors are upset because we can't get projects on the street," he said.

Szymanski, 54, served from 1983 to 1986 in the House and from 1987 to 1990 in the Senate. He said he made it a priority to pave the Kenai Spur Highway to Captain Cook State Park. He helped Tesoro acquire permits and state royalty oil needed to expand the Nikiski refinery. He introduced the bill that created Alaska's duck stamp program and the bill that created the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge. After the Exxon Valdez oil spill, he co-chaired the committee that wrote the current state rules governing oil spill response in the sound.

Experience makes him the most qualified candidate, he said.

Szymanski, who works for a commercial fishing company, criticized recent Board of Fisheries appointments. Ten years ago, he said, there was a balance on the board between commercial fishing and other interests. At the board's March meeting, though, he had trouble finding a member who even understood the fisheries being discussed.

"None of them had ever seen an Atka mackerel," he said. "... And it seems like there's almost an anti-commercial-fishing composition of the board."

He is concerned that legislators with fishing roots have retired.

"I've watched what I think is a progressively anti-commercial-fishing element growing," he said. "There's no voice for commercial fishing in the Legislature."

He said subsistence and writing a long-term state financial plan are among the biggest issues facing legislators. Financial planning must be a bipartisan effort, he said, and his can-do attitude and reputation for building consensus set him apart from the incumbent.

He said he has lived in District E for two years in a condominium owned by his "spousal equivalent soulmate" Sheela Shelton -- despite Republican allegations that he lives outside the district.

"It's a political ploy by the Republican Party and my opponent to cloud the real issue, which is the election, because they know that I'm going to win," he said.

Division of Elections Director Janet Kowalski upheld Szymanski's eligibility to run in District E. His opponents have taken their case to the courts.

Former state Rep. Mike Navarre said Szymanski knows the community.

"He's a hard worker," Navarre said. "He is well respected in legislative circles and will do a good job for the community."

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