My turn: Mine a private, not a public, interest

Posted: Thursday, February 05, 2009

Let me say up front that I support the Kensington mine. I also support Alaska Brewing Co., Capital Copy, Dominos Pizza, Mendenhall Auto, Donna's, Alaska Electric Light & Power Co., Hearthside Books etc. (Excuse and forgive me if I don't list every business in Juneau.) Because I support all Juneau's business. We need them. We need more of them. They are the backbone of our city.

But they are still businesses. They are not charitable organizations. They are not in business to serve the public interest. They are in business to make money. I have absolutely no problem with that. They need to make a profit. If they don't, they are out of business and we all lose.

However, one of the main principles of good government is that representatives keep their personal interests separate from the public's interest. We are to represent all our constituents, not just the ones we like - or those who pay us. We have gotten into trouble in this state when business interests have trumped the public interest. Some might say promoting any business is in the interest of Juneau because it promotes jobs or economic development. That may be true for business in general, but when elected representatives are advocates of a particular business, we have an appearance of impropriety and favoritism, a conflict of interest that is disturbing to me.

Let me say again, I support the Kensington mine. But they are not a charitable organization. They are a private business that is owned by an Idaho-based, multinational corporation. I expect and support their right to make the best decisions for their stockholders. But they ARE a business and they make business decisions based on what will make the most profit for their owners.

What also disturbs me is the ongoing media campaign costing tens of thousands of dollars (more?) to claim that Kensington is in business for the good of Juneau, for social equity, or as a public service organization. What's good for Coeur is good for Juneau - and anyone who questions that is just not patriotic. Only those who support the Kensington mine are good citizens. If you do not support the mine, you must hate Juneau. This continuing media blitz should raise red flags for us. We have seen this kind of demagoguery before. It is divisive, and it acts to polarize our community.

What makes me uncomfortable is when elected representatives openly join these publicity campaigns to advocate for a particular private business. That is not their role. Government's role is to treat all citizens and all businesses equally, not to favor one over the other. You need to be confident that your representatives make decisions in the public interest for all of Juneau, not worried that we are not in the pocket of a particular private interest.

The issue of whether the Clean Water Act allows mine waste to be used as "fill" under the law is in the courts. It is a technical and legal decision, and when the Supreme Court rules, Coeur will make a decision on what is in the best interests of their private corporation. That is their right and I fully support it. I also support the law, and in our great nation that law is decided through a constitutional, legal process, not in media campaigns.

We live in a great state and Juneau is a great place to live. You, the citizens of this wonderfully diverse community deserve to be confident that your elected representatives are serving public and not private interests when they act in their legislative role. That's why you elected us.

• Jonathan Anderson is a Juneau Assembly member.

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