Letters to the Editor

Posted: Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Exxon Valdez decision reveals judicial system as part of problem

The 9th Circuit Court decision that stated the Exxon Valdez jury award was excessive plainly demonstrates how our judicial system can no longer be viewed as part of the solution, but instead as part of the problem.

For the court to simply use the jury award in 1994 as the basis for its decision clearly shows its ignorance. The oil spill is not over, it is not "cleaned up," beaches still have Exxon oil on them and fishermen are still being monetarily and emotionally damaged and apparently, after more than a decade, there is no end in sight.

That the appeals process could take this long is another demonstration of how the court system is part of the problem. When thousands of people's livelihoods are destroyed, when the economies of dozens of coastal towns and villages are irreparably damaged, the court has chosen to compound this damage by letting years go by before making a determination that is not only flawed but mandates untold years of further appeals.

The court's decision has an impact on the fishing communities of Alaska that can be compared to the Sept. 11 attacks on New York City. It has committed an act of judicial terrorism. The decision has helped to further damage the lives of those affected by the spill; it has destroyed the dream that the little guy could win; it has ruined the hope that finally we could recover what we had lost and move on. The court, ironically, has clearly stated that there is no justice.

So, where do we go from here -- to the Supreme Court, which in the aftermath of last year's presidential election delayed the legal wrangling until the clock ran out, then selected (along party lines) a president who might not have really been the winner; thereby proving themselves to be part of the problem?

When the court system bows to political and economic might, where do we go? Perhaps the state of Alaska should finally show some responsibility to its citizens, take a page from the "war on terrorism" and seize Exxon's in-state assets. Why should we leave the door open to the company to commit more acts of social and environmental terrorism when it refuses to take responsibility for its past behavior?

Exxon couldn't care less about being a good corporate citizen, so let's reciprocate and cancel its state of Alaska business license.

Erik Huebsch


Politicians hold public hearings to fulfill letter, not intent, of law

The public has long known that politicians and elected officials thumb their noses at the constituents who elected them. Grace Merkes has finally admitted it when she stated that decisions are made at borough assembly committee meetings and, as a result, public hearings are useless. (Assembly discusses its processes, Peninsula Clarion, Nov 9.)

I worked in municipal government for 13 years and could have told her that fact years ago. Politicians think only of what a particular piece of legislation will do for them politically and otherwise. They do not care about what the public thinks. As a result, they make up their minds early in the process and hold public hearings just to appease the public and fulfill the letter, but not the intent, of the law.

It is not just the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly who acts in this manner. School boards, the Anchorage Assembly, state legislators, the national politicians -- they all are the same.

We are seeing this in the public hearings on the highway bypass through Cooper Landing. A year of time and effort plus many thousands of dollars will be spent on public hearings. At the public hearing Oct. 30 in Cooper Landing, it was publicly acknowledged that the Department of Transportation commissioner and Kenai Peninsula Borough administration have already selected the Juneau Creek bypass alternative. Again, public hearings for the sake of appeasing the public, but not for the benefit of the public.

Grace Merkes and her cronies can make all the changes they want, thump their chests until the cows come home and orate about how concerned they are. Changes will not take away the love of political power for its own sake and the self-serving actions that politicians take for their own benefit.

It is a sad statement on what is supposed to be a democratic process. Unfortunately, as long as politicians are involved, it will not improve.

Phil Weber

Cooper Landing

Legislation needed to help deal with animal cruelty cases

I, like many other Kenai Peninsula residents, was appalled when I learned of the abhorrent conditions of the dogs in the ASPCA Sterling rescue. I was further dismayed when I learned that there most likely would be no charges filed in this case.

I somewhat disagree with a recent letter to the editor in which the writer likened the woman to a "collector" of animals -- this incident was greed, pure and simple. She wanted to make money on the sale of the dogs without investing anything in their care and well-being. There is little doubt that there should be punishment in this matter. However, there appears to be very little the court system can do in animal cruelty cases without future legislative input.

We need to enact legislation that would allow for citizens, Alaska State Troopers and others to take immediate action rather than let a situation go to the extremes of this case. I urge all of you to please contact your legislative representatives and ask for their consideration and action.

Alaska is still No. 1 in the nation for for spousal abuse, child abuse and animal abuse. These statistics need to be eradicated -- our quality of life in Alaska should always equal the magnificence of our beautiful state!

Thank you.

Sue Carter


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