Road testimony creates controversy

Posted: Sunday, March 05, 2000

Two weeks ago, I attended a hearing of the Legislature's House Transportation Committee to respectfully disagree with the governor's decision to purchase a $35 million, 31-vehicle ferry for Juneau and upper Lynn Canal. I spoke as a local resident, not as a paid lobbyist for any special interest nor as a representative of any business or political party.

It seems my five minutes of constitutionally protected free speech nicked a sore spot in the administration's hide. The following Friday, Sen. Kim Elton, in his weekly publication of platitudes and excuses, fired off some pretty strong words criticizing me and what I said. His gross mischaracterization of both the intent and substance of my comments might be due to the fact that he wasn't even in the room when I spoke. Our senator must have a lot of spare time on his hands if he can invest that much energy attacking his own constituent. No wonder he has so few friends in the Legislature. It's also no surprise people are so reluctant to get involved in the political process or take a position that runs counter to the governor's.

If this ferry is as critical as Elton insists, perhaps he can explain why none of Juneau's nine assembly members, nor anyone from our 18-member Alaska Committee ambled over to the Capitol to speak in support of it. It's not like they had to fly in from Fairbanks or ferry down from Haines to be there. And why isn't Elton publicly denouncing our elected leaders for failing to do that?

Kim, let's get a few things straight. The questions that former mayor Jamie Parsons and I raised were questions you should be asking. Why aren't you? If this ferry for Juneau and upper Lynn Canal is such a swell idea, why isn't DOT getting the information out to the public so it can sell itself?

To suggest that an ordinary citizen's expressed opinion on Juneau access somehow fans the flames of regional divisiveness is pure fabrication. Your job is to make life better for Juneau residents, not advance the political career of the governor.

Finally, if five minutes of free speech can cause this much heartburn for some politicians, just what on earth are the real power-brokers hiding from the public?

Paulette Simpson



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