Alaskans got a preview of next month’s Coastal Management road show when Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell was joined Monday by those for and against the ballot measure to kick off the first-ever series of initiative public hearings.
Election reforms adopted in 2009 requires new financial disclosures of those waging initiative campaigns, as well as providing new information to voters about what the initiatives will actually do.
But when Treadwell introduced leaders of the Alaskans for Yes on 2 and the Vote No on 2 campaign committees, it was clear that the hearings were going to leave final decisions up to voters.
“Alaskans must have a say in their own future in dealing with the federal government and dealing with our own resources, said Terzah Tippin Poe, co-chair of the Alaska Sea Party, which sponsored the initiative.
But Rick Rogers of the Vote No on 2 committee, called the measure “deceptive and defective” and blamed how the measure was developed.
“It was written behind closed doors with no hearings or independent analysis,” said Rogers, who is also executive director of the Resource Development Council, a group including mining and other industries.
Rogers said the measure, if approved by voters Aug. 28, could be used to block needed investment in Alaska.
Poe disputed that.
“Nothing in this initiative gives communities the ability to veto projects,” Poe said.
Under the new initiative disclosure rules, it will be up to the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, which oversees the Division of Elections, to provide voters with information to help them in their decision making.
In addition to the voter’s pamphlet, that will also include holding a series of public hearings around the state in which a detailed analysis of the initiative will be presented, costs will be revealed, questions can be asked and presentations by proponents will be made.
Those hearings will be spread through July, with the final one being July 26 in Juneau at the Assembly Chambers.
Treadwell his office would conduct the hearings, being as close to a “neutral broker” as it could be.
The schedule for the hearings was developed with the contending groups, which have made arrangements to have representatives at every hearing. If they are unable to attend, Treadwell said his office would present written material on their behalf from the voters’ pamphlet.
The hearing will be modeled after legislative hearings, he said, with a section-by-section explanation of the initiative, presentation of cost estimates from the Office of Management and Budget and questions being asked, just the way legislators conduct hearings.
“In this case, you, the voters, are the lawmakers,” Treadwell said.
The voters’ power to pass initiatives is beyond even what legislators themselves have, said Rep. Charisse Millett, R-Anchorage, one of the sponsors of the bill creating the hearings.
The governor cannot veto initiatives, and initiatives can’t even be repealed by the Legislature for two years, she said.
“They are incredibly powerful, so we think it is important to hear both sides,” Millett said.
On Monday, both sides of the debate warned of bad things that would happen if the other side prevailed.
Rogers said passing the initiative would create a “massive new bureaucracy,” tie up projects in court and impact private property rights of Alaskans.
Without the program, which ended last year when the Legislature failed to renew it, Alaska will be the only state in the nation without a Coastal Management program to give its residents a say in the federal lands that make up two-thirds of the state, and its many miles of coastline.
If the initiative doesn’t pass, “Alaska will be without a Coastal Management program for the foreseeable future,” she said.
• Contact reporter Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.