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My Turn: Lobbyist has extensive experience hurting Juneau

Posted: September 26, 2013 - 12:07am

In response to the Juneau Empire’s story, “New city lobbyist brings extensive state experience,” I must agree. Kevin Jardell has a lot of experience as a lobbyist. I recall vividly his efforts to nix a new state office building for Juneau, a project that would have created many jobs for the Juneau building trades, safe working conditions for hundreds of state employees and would have further secured the capital in Juneau.

In 2009, Governor Sarah Palin supported construction of a new state office building at the subport on Mental Health Trust land. Deputy Commissioner of Administration Kevin Brooks even testified in favor of a bill funding construction.

A new office building was especially favored by state employees who worked in the “Plywood Palace,” the building that houses the State Department of Labor on West 8th Street. The stick-built structure, leased by the State for more than 30 years at a cost of over $50 million dollars, was in poor condition. Water damage was caused by leaks in the roof and plumbing problems. Rugs and sheetrock were continually soaked by flooding. Black mold was found in interior studs and rotted windows in part of the building. Employees complained of illnesses ranging from dry eyes, asthma and other breathing problems, and severe allergy attacks. Some employees claimed there were “cancer clusters” throughout the building.

When Governor Palin left office and Governor Parnell took over, things changed. Governor Parnell adopted a neutral stance on the issue, and Juneau1 LLC hired Kevin Jardell to lobby against the project. According to a Juneau Empire story dated May 20, 2010, “Active opposition to the subport bill came from the owners of the Plywood Palace, Juneau1 LLC, which hired lobbyist Kevin Jardell to fight it. He used the administration’s withdrawal of support to lobby against the project.”

Mr. Jardell still works for Juneau1 LLC. He also lobbies for Exxon Mobil, one of the big oil companies responsible for passage last year of Senate Bill 21, the bill that changed Alaska’s oil tax structure to give back what will amount to billions of dollars to Exxon Mobil, BP and ConocoPhillips.

There is no doubt in my mind that passage of SB 21 is going to further hurt public employees in Juneau. Where will Governor Parnell look to cut the budget to make up for the reported $720 million dollar loss predicted in fiscal year 2014 by the Department of Revenue? Municipalities? State employees?

I would like to thank Assembly members Loren Jones, Jesse Kiehl and Karen Crane for having the good sense to vote against Mr. Jardell. As for Mayor Sanford and Assembly members Mary Becker, Johann Dybdahl, Randy Wanamaker, Carlton Smith and Jerry Nankervis — what were they thinking? Hire the hired gun who stopped construction of Juneau’s only large capital project in decades? Hire the hired gun who worked to cut the state budget by billions of dollars? I don’t get it.

There may be an outside chance to get the Assembly to reconsider. Mr. Jardell’s contract has not yet been signed. Contact your Assembly members immediately at http://www.juneau.org/assembly/members.php and ask them to think again about who they hire to represent Juneau’s interests. Clark Gruening is a tough act to follow, but several of the other finalists are up to the task. Rewarding someone who has worked consistently against Juneau and Alaska’s interests is unconscionable.

• Kimberly Metcalfe is a union representative who has worked with state employees for many years. The opinions expressed in the “My Turn” column are her own.

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