On August 28th Alaskans will have the opportunity to reinstate the Coastal Management Program that was eliminated by Governor Sean Parnell. Oil and mining companies have plunked down over $700,000 to tell us that Ballot Measure 2 will be more “government,” as if government is evil, rather than the means by which free citizens govern themselves.
Ballot Measure 2 does many good things, such as clarifying the permitting process and helping resolve issues without lawsuits, as the program did for 34 years of Alaska’s greatest economic expansion. Most importantly it gives local communities a say in the development that happens in their back yard. With a functional Coastal Management Plan, communities can help tailor development to suit their needs, rather than the wishes of the executives of Conoco Phillips and Exxon Mobil. Of course, these companies fear this voice and would rather silence it.
The oil industry has been very successful in warping democracy in Alaska, whether by flooding Alaska elections with cash or by buying legislators outright, as they did in the VECO bribery case that sent five or six Alaska politicians to jail several years ago. Who can forget the spectacle of “our” governor Frank Murkowski flying to Houston on his state-purchased private jet and then returning to negotiate for the oil companies on the question of taxes? Or Conoco-Phillips front-man-turned-Governor Sean Parnell lobbying to give those same oil companies a 2 billion/year tax cut at our expense? This is the corporate ideal of how Alaska government should be. Local coastal management doesn’t fit in to that ideal.
Ballot Measure 2 is not simply about coastal management, it’s about democracy. If you feel local people should have a voice in projects that affect their water, their fish and their lives, then you should make the effort to go out and vote for Ballot Measure 2 on August 28th. If you feel it’s better to lay down and let trans-national oil and mining companies call the shots because they’re bigger and smarter and richer than us, then you’re probably against Ballot Measure 2. The reinstatement plan is not perfect, nor does it solve all problems, but it’s a start, and the only start we’re likely to get. Vote yes for Ballot Measure 2 and give your fellow citizens a voice again.
• Cohen lives in Juneau.