I applaud Representative Alan Austerman’s efforts to draft legislation re-establishing coastal zone management in Alaska (Juneau Empire, 2/1/13). According to the Empire’s report, Rep. Austerman notes that coastal communities continue to support the need for a program. And he’s right.
Gov. Sean Parnell and Speaker Mike Chenault have discouraged the effort, declaring that “the people have spoken” through their rejection of last summer’s coastal program initiative. The people have indeed spoken, but what did they say? When a decisive majority of voters rejected the initiative last August, they were encouraged to so by leaders of the opposition who consistently stated in public forums and in their media advertising that they were not opposed to coastal management. Instead, they claimed that they only opposed the form of the initiative and considered it too complex for a vote by the people. Development of a new program should be left to the Legislature. Your Aug. 25, 2012 editorial opposing the initiative delivered exactly that message: “Coastal Management is important... too important to decide in this fashion... We’re confident the Legislature can turn out a program that is thoughtful and will have appropriately considered all sides.”
Rep. Cathy Muñoz’s admonition on the eve of the vote last year rings especially true today: “If Ballot Measure 2 fails on election day, there will be those who will argue that voters rejected the entire concept of coastal zone management. This would be unfortunate. That is why the debate needs to focus on... how to create a program that is fair and reasonable.” (Empire 8/23/12).
The initiative is behind us now. It’s time for the Legislature to pick up the reins once again and develop a coastal management program that works for Alaska.