My Turn: Show some character and rehire Capitol guard

Posted: Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Reinstate Dan the security guard at the State Capitol in Juneau. It's about character.

Personally, I don't know Dan, but come on, Alaska. What if this employee had followed the "proper channels" and told his supervisors about the alcohol consumption in the Capitol building first before penning his personal thoughts and observations? What do you really think would have happened given our "good old boy" political history?

On the sauce, caught, challenged and chagrined, the "off with his head" whine is heard. Once again, the "little guy" gets punished for others' self-serving behavior. Dan has been fired. The "scapegoat" concept seems alive and well in Alaska. But hark, didn't another terminated employee just win $500,000 under the Whistle Blower Act? Check it out, Alaska Statute 39-90 makes enlightened reading.

It's a fact that some honest, hard-working employees at the Legislative Affairs Agency and elected officials are conflicted regarding their moral and ethical principles concerning the matter. Case in point, the verbal stumbling, re-worked reason for dismissing this employee, lack of eye-to-eye contact. If this truly was the motivation behind his firing, proper training, not termination, could have turned this around. What is the politically correct way to spell p-r-o-t-e-c-t-i-o-n-i-s-m?

Are elected officials "entitled" (how I've grown to resent that word) to imbibe at their workplace, unlike "We, the People?" Consuming alcohol on the clock during legislative session, from 12 a.m. to 11:59 p.m., if memory correctly serves, is simply irresponsible, ill-advised and unprofessional.

What more do elected officials deserve? What privileges are they still lacking? Do they deserve privileges over and above "We, the People?" And at what price to the state's coffers? Hand-held computers all around, private dining room, free shuttle service, office remodels, and what's this about an airplane? Could all of these costly privileges be going to some pampered heads? Do we have a few cost-cutting, budget-minded, "no frills" citizen legislator wannabes during their campaigning moments evolving into spoiled children bloated on stuff and more stuff once their name is painted on an office sign at the Capitol?

To those who believe this issue is of no great import, isn't Alaska ranked at the top of the 50 states for alcohol abuse? Are not laws written to eradicate the devastating impact alcohol has on families and communities? Does not alcohol destroy the brain cells of state governors, senators and representatives of are they granted immunity from that too? Here's to brainwashing and the feigned "consistency" between elected officials' words and public policy actions, the "do as I say, not as I do" theory of government.

Is it too much to ask for honorable leadership and sound character while in public office? Is it too much to expect sober judgment, not under the influence, during legislative session when enacting statewide policies that should reward good and punish evil? Adding alcohol to the mix for the privileged few on state property serves only to cheapen the system even more and makes citizen confidence plummet. Seventy percent of us don't care how much officials think they deserve a little nip or a bigger gulp on the premises. Check out the latest poll results concerning this drinking at the Capitol (Juneau Empire poll, Feb. 14).

Pass a simple resolution or bill banning alcohol consumption at our State Capitol building. Then follow through and enforce it. If our elected officials choose to drink, let them do this away from the office on their own personal time, at their private residences, apartments, public hotels, receptions, parties, bars and restaurants, not on our time during legislative session. Drinking on the job is nothing new, but is it right? With all due respect given to honorable leadership at the top, a few need to quit whining and to stop "making heads roll" because they can. Finish your work before you go outside and play. But go outside to play. We, the people, expect you to come to floor sessions and committee hearings prepared, studied, sober and dedicated. Please do the work we expect of you at the level of excellence we deserve. Do the right thing.

Remember, allowed behaviors are encouraged behaviors. And rehire Dan the security guard. He's not the problem. It's about character.

• Rory A. Schneeberger is an educator and counselor. She is formerly a legislative employee and volunteer consultant with the Alaska, Wyoming, and Colorado state legislatures. She resides in both Hoonah and Sitka.



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