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Empire editorial: Ballot Measure 2 an Alaskan-sized blunder

Vote No on 2

Posted: August 26, 2012 - 12:08am

The Alaska Coastal Management Program is a necessary if not vital compliment to state and federal regulation management along Alaska’s vast coastline. We have been hard-pressed to find anyone who disagrees with this sentiment be it politician, resource developer, business owner or citizen.

Why then our criticism of this citizen’s initiative?

Our concerns lie on many fronts but central to our alarm is that voters could be establishing an Alaskan law based upon innuendo, half-truths and incomplete information, from both camps.

On April 15, 2011 the House passed HB106 with 40 votes in favor and zero opposed. The members of the House had been able to successfully navigate through committee substitutes and multiple readings to unanimously vote in agreement and to send an Alaska Coastal Management Program to the Senate. From there the bill was punted around until ultimately the clock ran out with the two bodies unable to agree. Governor Parnell, to his credit, placed the issue back in front of lawmakers in the subsequent special session where the political wrangling again failed to turn out an agreement.

The Legislature failed to turn out a coastal management program because the proposed changes to the existing program were significant enough to end in a stalemate. The majority of our lawmakers would have passed legislation to renew a modestly altered program however a minority but powerful group was able to insert substitute language into the bill that was unpalatable by most and it ultimately caused a decades old program to end.

The point here is that while the end result did not provide for the renewal of a coastal management program, the public testimony, hearings, committee discussions and on-the-record voting is an important part of the process. It’s all on the record and all of the participants can be held accountable for the parts they played in that process… unlike Ballot Measure 2.

A political action group whose philosophies align more with the minority of lawmakers who wanted significant alterations to the program are the ones behind Ballot Measure 2. By writing language that is strikingly different to the old program and by putting it in front of voters, they have circumvented a process that provides for testimony, debate and compromise. An equivalent of Ballot Measure 2 could not get passed through conventional lawmaking processes yet here it is in front of you to decide. That alone should raise alarm.

Make no mistake… Ballot Measure 2 is not restoring the old program under which Gov. Knowles and others claim coastal development flourished. The old program and Measure 2 have some significant foundational chasms. To lead voters to believe otherwise is disingenuous.

One thing is certain, our legislators had far better an opportunity to learn, understand and address the intricacies of coastal management than what the public is being force-fed through questionable political rhetoric.

Voters are being asked to establish a state law without conducting any of the appropriate forms of due-diligence. This law will pass or fail largely based upon what voters have seen, read or heard in campaign messages that are wildly distorted and largely misleading. This is wrong and is why we don’t support passage.

Proponents are quite fond of saying let’s pass the measure and let the lawmakers work out the details after the fact. It is true that state law allows for citizen’s initiatives to undergo some alteration just as long it doesn’t undermine the people’s intent. That means the meat of the measure can’t or won’t be considered and what’s at the heart of this issue goes well beyond window-dressing. No lawmaker who wants to be reelected will want to be on record voting to alter the will of the people as there’s little doubt an opponent in the next election wouldn’t relish the opportunity to use that nugget in their campaign message. This has a chilling effect on any meaningful edits and pretty well solidifies that if he measure passes, it will largely stand as written.

Ballot Measure 2 robs everyone of the opportunity for input. For those who buy into the premise that if the Legislature couldn’t get it done, its up to the citizens: That may be true, but doing something… anything, even if it’s wrong has always been a lame argument. This “shoot now and ask questions later” kind of wild-west attempt at legislation is no way to establish laws in our state.

For citizens to create law, we should be listening to the best competing forms of an argument and draw our own conclusions. Sadly that’s not happening.

Coastal Management is important… too important to decide in this fashion. Vote no on Measure 2 and send it back to the Legislature to restore. We’re confident the Legislature can turn out a program that is thoughtful and will have appropriately considered all sides.

We urge a NO vote on Ballot Measure 2.

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