My Turn: Work on issues, not capital move

Posted: Sunday, February 10, 2008

History looks favorably on those people with vision, like former Gov. Jay Hammond, the "Father of the Alaska Permanent Fund." The permanent fund is by far the most unifying legislation in the history of our state and benefits all Alaskans. With this act, Hammond raised the bar on good ideas.

We owe it to our children to follow the lessons of this historic vision. One of the more important lessons being, does the idea benefit part of the state at the demise of another? If yes, it doesn't make it over the bar. When, on occasions (and way too soon for most) people dust off the very divisive "move the capital idea," it makes me wonder if their constituents are truly being well served.

Voter turnout in general seems to indicate that if Alaskans wanted more access to their government, they would vote. The idea that location will make government operate more efficiently is defied worldwide.

How about coming up with some ideas that might unite Alaskans? Our reputation has been tarnished nationally in recent years. I for one am tired of hearing about the so-called "bridge to nowhere." Maybe we should consider some creative ideas that promote Alaska and its products nationally.

Exxon is responsible for keeping the worst oil spill in our history in the national news for way too long. Their appeal of the punitive damages awarded by the court has kept the spill alive long after the cleanup was finished. This causes people to believe we cannot harvest oil in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge without destroying it.

For me, seeing the pipeline was very convincing of our ability to harvest oil with little to minute changes (not all bad) to the environment. Maybe Exxon can be convinced to work together with Alaskans to get the truth out.

Possibly we could build a "supermega" ferry that carries autos, nonstop, at high speeds, from Bellingham to Southcentral Alaska - all powered by Alaska gas. This would allow the Interior access to independent travelers that are discouraged by the national security hassles, time, and costs problems of driving through Canada.

With help from Exxon, we could do a national promotion. We can invite people to come see for themselves how well Alaskans protect our environment while we do our part to supply needed energy to our fellow Americans.

Some other ideas might be in alternative fuels - either in crop production, hydrogen fuel product or coal to oil technology. Perhaps it is time to dust off the ideas that were perceived as ahead of their time. One of them I remember is the water pipeline to California. There is always the proven idea of promoting heart-healthy Alaska seafood, supporting natural resources industries and protecting our share of tourism.

With all of the issues faced by Alaskans all over our great state, it seems a shame to lose one minute, spending one penny, or waste one bit of brain energy during our short, costly, and intense legislative session.

As an Alaska voter, I say let's work together on the issues and leave the divisive, nonproductive ideas on the shelf.

• Steve Bowhay is a Juneau resident.

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