Measures need voters' attention

Posted: Friday, August 22, 2008

When Alaskans go to the polls for Tuesday's primary election, they'll be doing far more than advancing various candidates to the general election. Four Alaska-altering initiatives appear on the ballot and they deserve residents' close attention.

* Ballot Measure 1 would establish a gaming commission with the members appointed by the governor. Vote no.

The gaming commission would oversee existing gaming and have the authority to allow new types of gaming. While additional gambling could create more revenue for the state, it also could create more costs because of the problems associated with gambling. Those costs would be borne by every Alaskan. Gambling does not mesh with the Last Frontier's work ethic, and the lure of instant riches could be devastating to those already struggling under the weight of the state's high cost of living and seasonal economies. Alaska doesn't need to be known for gambling's kind of wild life. This is a chance on the future Alaskans shouldn't take.

* Ballot Measure 2 would prohibit the shooting of a free-ranging wolf, wolverine or grizzly bear the same day the person has been airborne. Vote yes.

Alaskans should be concerned about their image to the outside world; same-day airborne shooting tarnishes that image -- even if it is for predator control. The measure allows for an exception if there is a biological emergency.

* Ballot Measure 3 would provide for public funding in state election campaigns, the so-called Alaska Clean Elections Act. Vote no.

Corruption and scandals in government aren't about the details of campaign financing -- how much is raised, who contributes, how much they contribute and why they contribute. They're about the character of the people we elect to office. If we elect people of integrity, there won't be corruption in government. It really is that simple. While more campaign financing reform may be needed, this proposal isn't the answer. One of the best reasons to say "No" can be found in the statement in opposition in the Division of Elections voter guide: "(T)hink of the worst wacko you would never want in public office. Your tax dollars will help this wacko try to get elected."

* Much is made of protecting the "pristine" Arctic National Wildlife Refuge from oil drilling. But the area of Bristol Bay -- a sight worthy of a Van Gogh canvas -- is more pristine and more deserving of our protection.

And, it turns out, more in need of it.

Ballot Measure 4, the Clean Water Initiative, is the protection it needs.

The initiative is portrayed by supporters as a question of loyalty to Alaska's fishing families, and by opponents as the death knell for all mining. Neither view is accurate.

The measure's own words refute the mining shutdown arguments. Read for yourself: "Section 3. Scope. Section 2 of this Act does not apply to existing large scale metallic mineral mining operations that have received all required federal, state and local permits, authorizations, licenses and approvals on or before the effective date of this Act or to future operations of existing facilities at those sites."

No one denies that the measure targets the Pebble Mine project because of its size and sensitive location in the headwaters of Bristol Bay, home of the world's largest salmon fishery. Alaskans rightly need to protect the salmon of Bristol Bay. This measure provides that protection.

Why do Alaskans need this now? Don't we have adequate measures to protect our salmon fisheries? The answer is no!

Governor Murkowski, by "executive order," made several changes during his administration that leave Alaska salmon vulnerable to toxic mine discharges.

Measure 4 returns salmon protection to the permit system that had controlled mining permits since the early 1960s. All current mines in Alaska were permitted under this system.

The issue isn't that people would be turning their backs on Alaska fishing families, it's that failure to protect the salmon streams would be a threat to the future of our state. A "No" vote is opening the door for potential disaster.

Those supporting this ballot measure say it best: Pebble is simply the wrong mine in the wrong place. The risk to Bristol Bay is far too great.

We couldn't agree more. Vote yes to protect Alaska, its salmon streams and its future. Vote yes on Ballot Measure 4.

You don't have to agree with our positions. However, we do encourage you to take the time to know what they're about.

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