Wrangell Republican Sen. Robin Taylor showed this week that his trademark oratorical edge wasn't dulled by a bitter re-election campaign last year.
Taylor, sitting in on a House committee hearing, savaged two environmentalists who spoke in favor of former President Clinton's policy protecting roadless areas of national forests. The committee was taking testimony on a joint resolution calling for overturning that policy.
Taylor declared the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council guilty of "duplicity and hypocrisy" for remaining quiet about clear cuts on Native-owned land while consistently challenging proposed Forest Service sales to the timber industry. He questioned Sue Schrader of the Alaska Conservation Alliance about her length of residency in Alaska and about who issues her paycheck. And he accused SEACC Executive Director Katya Kirsch of trying to mislead the House committee into thinking that there was strong support for the roadless policy among Ketchikan residents.
More generally, Taylor suggested that environmentalists don't really care about the environment because they force industry out of the United States and into Third World countries with lax environmental laws, where greater damage is done. Somewhat in contradiction, though, he said environmentalists complain about deforestation in the Amazon without taking into the account the 50 percent child mortality rate that he said results from a lack of roads to bring in medicine and a lack of clear space to put in crops.
Taylor said that the intent of environmentalists is turn Alaska into "an isolated roadless park" accessible only to "millionaire young Olympic backpackers."
"I'd like to put them on the back of a couple of islands and suggest they walk out," he said.
Schrader and Kirsch remained stoic through the harangue.
A couple of days later, Schrader said it was "disconcerting" that Taylor, who isn't even a member of the committee, went out of his way to question her residency, while she has lived in Alaska longer than Wrangell Republican Rep. Peggy Wilson, the sponsor of the resolution opposing the roadless policy.
"I always consider the source," Schrader said. "He is far more of an extremist than those of us he accuses of being an extremist."
Wilson, a freshman in the Alaska House, was in the middle of her third term in the North Carolina House several years ago when she rose on the floor for "a point of personal privilege." She informed her colleagues she would be moving to Tok, Alaska.
"They laughed and said, 'Tell us what you're really going to do,' " Wilson recalled recently.
Wilson achieved some notoriety in North Carolina by offering a bill allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons. A hunter herself, she says: "I'm a very good marksman."
Political adversaries, take note.
In going over the Department of Law's "missions and measures" report, House Finance Co-Chair Eldon Mulder was surprised to see "executions" listed as a function of the Civil Division. There were 41 executions in Fiscal Year 2000, according to the report.
"What's included under executions?" Mulder asked, adding that he was surprised that the state had implemented capital punishment without his noticing it.
"We didn't want to make this public," joked Attorney General Bruce Botelho.
Botelho explained that the line item refers to "executions on property, not people."
"The camera may zoom in on you as you make a gesture that doesn't have to have any words with it." - House State Affairs Committee Chairman John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, cautioning members of the committee about protocol during televised hearings
"The people of Juneau get excluded from their own downtown." - Rep. Fred Dyson, an Eagle River Republican, referring to cruise ship passengers jamming South Franklin Street in the summer
"It's a political crime, almost, that should not be forgiven by the Alaskan public." - Senate Minority Leader Johnny Ellis, an Anchorage Democrat, on Republican senators who failed to provide key votes in 1999 for a statewide vote on a rural preference for subsistence, thereby triggering federal intervention.
Bill McAllister can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.