An issues test for the legislative folks

For what it's worth

Posted: Friday, April 07, 2000

It could be each member of the Alaska Legislature received following questionnaire. I present it here as a public service, offering you the opportunity to examine and judge the kind of questions which might be posed to elected officials by a smart-mouth media guy.

Before we study the questionnaire, allow me to make a few observations about Alaska's Legislature. First, Alaska has been, generally speaking, incredibly well served by its elected officials. Obviously I am not familiar with elected city council and borough assembly members from across the state, but the general impression I have gained is that most of these folks have been on the up-and-up, truly interested in serving their communities. We seldom hear of a blatantly crooked elected official at the local level, something that pops up frequently in other parts of the country. You may choose to believe this is the result of a more open political process in Alaska, but I like to think it's because we have a better class of citizens. It is probably a combinations of the two.

I am not so naive as to believe there is no vote-trading, back-scratching and minor level collusion at the local level, but I cannot recall a case of a local elected official completely selling out his or her community. Perhaps my memory is too short.

The players in the Alaska Legislature are far more familiar to me. I have worked for them, amongst them and with them off and on, in various capacities, paid and unpaid, for quite a few years. I have watched some of them at their best and at their worst. Regardless of my opinions of some of them down through the years I have always said, and still maintain, that most ordinary citizens couldn't take the day-to-day grind of being a legislator, particularly during the session. I used to enjoy eavesdropping on cocktail party conversations, often involving folks who thought they were pretty hot stuff and who I knew would not last one week in the tough give-and-take that is a daily routine on the second floor of the Capitol building.

There have been rascals, truth stretchers, sleight of hand artists, fibbers and a few plain old-fashioned liars. There have been cowards and bullies, skirt chasers and boozers, gamblers and dope smokers. Alaskans have been served in their Legislature by people of high intellect and integrity and by others too dumb to come in out of the ice fog and unable to comprehend integrity.

The really rotten ones have been few and short-lived. Fortunately some of the very best have also been those serving the longest. I find too many of the current crop bitter, small-minded and vindictive, although I do not know why. I have the impression some members have to struggle to generate genuine empathy for their fellow Alaskans.

But I have no doubt most all of these people are honest and sincerely believe in what they pursue. I don't worry the Legislature is in the hands of ``big oil'' or ``big fish'' or ``big labor.'' In fact the current Legislature is ``too disorganized to be that organized,' according to a good source! In summary: I believe we have, as usual, a fairly representative cross-section of the state serving in the Legislature; that they are, generally speaking, decent citizens; and that they will do what they think is best for the state.

I hope they each receive their test. Just in case they don't, you might want to clip it and mail a copy to your favorite member of the House of Senate:

QUESTION #1: When you vote for the Mackie Plan will you be doing so because (a) you sincerely believe it is in the best interests of Alaska's financial future or (b) because you can't wait to get you grubby hands on that big fat $25,000 check.

QUESTION #2: When the Mackie Plan succeeds, which office do you think Mr. Mackie will run for next: (a) U.S. Senate, (b) Governor of Alaska, (c) President of the United States or (d) Pope.

QUESTION #3: Implementation of the Mackie Plan will produce an immediate and profound impact on the cash flow of Alaskans and on the state's financial institutions and business community. Which business or industry do you think will benefit most from this tidal wave of new money: (a) new car dealerships, (b) new boat dealerships, (c) snowmobile dealerships, (d) stock brokers, (e) savings banks or (f) pull tab parlors, bingo halls and bars.

QUESTION #4: Do you presently own or have an interest in any of the type businesses cited above? Don't you wish you did? Are you thinking about investing in such a business within the next six months?

QUESTION #5: While we're talking about money: Since statehood the University of Alaska has always come in at budget time with requests of bazillions of dollars more than any other entity and ten times more than it has been offered. Long time Finance Committee members estimate that if the U of A had been funded at it's requested level in years past the Permanent Fund balance would be zero. How soon do you foresee the University actually receiving its total budget request: (a) within the next fiscal year, (b) within the next millennium or (c) when the glaciers are crispy.

QUESTION #6: When you daydream during really boring committee hearings, imagining what you'd like to be some day, do you dream of (a) being chairperson of the Finance Committee, (b) President or Speaker or (c) a contestant on ``Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.''

QUESTION #7: Is that your final answer?

This test is graded on the honor system and there are no right or wrong answers. You may simply discard it when you are done or save it for your scrapbook.

However, if you truly believe in the ``publics rights to know'' you will ask tomorrow morning that your test be spread upon the Journal.

Warren W. Wiley, a former Juneau resident, political observer and radio personality, now lives in Montana. He can be reached by e-mail at

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