My Turn: Local politics don't need to be so divisive

It’s been awhile since I wrote a column. I decided to stop once I got to the pondering stage about whether or not to run again for the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. It seemed the right thing to do, knowing that my columns would give me more exposure during the campaign season. The decision was also consistent with my practice of keeping my writing path separate from public service (for example, I do not write about matters that could come before me as an Assembly member).

 

The Juneau Empire went along, but asked me to keep the door open. “If there is something you’re burning to write about, send it in,” the editor told me.

The divisive tone of Win Gruening’s column in last Friday’s paper lit that fire by trying to re-ignite the senior sales tax exemption as a wedge issue to sway voters in October. Through my columns, I’m a known social progressive and to some people in this community that is enough to put the bullseye on my back. Gruening’s unambiguous message was to use the ploy that was so successfully brought against Karen Crane: Don’t disclose the fact that the modification to the senior sales tax exemption was a 7-2 vote, a super majority, and then make a disjointed link to the modest $35,000 cost for a special election to make it seem like the senior sales tax vote was really a result of five progressives on the Assembly. This is how they hide the hypocrisy of not making the senior sales tax question an issue for when a more conservative Assembly member supporting the changes ran right after that decisive vote.

It’s clear from Mr. Gruening’s column that he wants to have one more go at this strategy now that I am running for re-election. While I am happy to defend my vote, particularly in these fiscally uncertain times, this divisive strategy is unnecessary at the local level. We have more than enough of it at the national level.

I’m proud that on our Assembly it’s generally the merits of the issue that drive each vote, issue by issue. And any observer of Assembly votes will note that the votes go every which way. It is the rare exception that divides the Assembly ideologically. This is healthy. This is functional government. We need to keep it this way. We don’t need columns that make premature endorsements based on national political playbooks.

Mr. Gruening and I share at least one view in common: his headline, which reads “Juneau Assembly races deserve attention.” Check out the candidate’s websites, read the Empire’s Voter Guide or attend one of three candidate forums.

• Kate Troll is a Juneau resident and currently Assembly member running for re-election this fall.

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