It's natural for a father to look out for his son, but when both father and son are powerful politicians, there has to be a limit to what a father will do on his son's behalf.
U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens ran well past that limit earlier this summer. He used his senatorial clout to aid his son's efforts to weaken Anchorage officials' control over local transportation policy. In the voluminous federal transportation funding bill, the elder Sen. Stevens included an obscure provision saying legislators in Hawaii and Alaska are allowed to serve on metropolitan transportation panels that allocate federal funds.
That provision shores up his son, Ben, in a fight with Anchorage officials. From his position as state Senate president, Ben Stevens is trying to place state legislators on the panel that sets road and trail priorities for Anchorage. That panel, known as AMATS, is a cooperative effort between the city and the state. It is required as a condition for spending Anchorage's abundant share of federal transportation money. It currently has five members: three local officials and two state cabinet members. Sen. Ben Stevens has complained that AMATS puts too much money into trails and not enough into roads.
The city says any changes in AMATS membership must be approved by both sides. Nonetheless, state Sen. Stevens forced through a state law unilaterally putting state legislators on the panel. The city sued and has, so far, blocked the change in court.
That's where Sen. Stevens the elder came in. His little-noticed provision in the transportation bill may or may not be enough to help son Ben get his way with AMATS. The city contends that state legislators still may not join AMATS unless the city agrees to the revised membership rules. The court case will grind on.
If the elder Sen. Stevens' bald political power play hasn't resolved the AMATS dispute, it certainly has tarnished his standing with Alaskans. A leader of Sen. Ted Stevens' stature should know better than to jump into his son's battles over local political turf. His son's finagling with the AMATS process is an arrogant attempt to exert more control over a funding pipeline that carries hundreds of millions of dollars. It does nothing to improve the quality of transportation decisions in Anchorage.
Sen. Stevens has used his powerful status in the U.S. Senate to help his son's dubious political battle. It is conduct unbecoming the political leader who has won well-deserved acclaim as the Alaskan of the Century.
Anchorage Daily News,
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