My Turn: Why have hearings if no one listens?

Posted: Friday, April 25, 2003

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My Turn: Alyeska Central School not unique

I read Jim Clarks My Turn about the governor's plan to close Alyeska Central School and thought, "How could he say all this? Didn't he go to the hearings? Doesn't he know the facts?" Then it hit me: "Of course he didn't go to the hearings. Of course he didn't listen to the testimony. That's not his job. His job is to give the governor's line. If he wanted to know why it's important to keep the program, he would know. Anyone could know. After many hearings, it's all public record."

So, why doesn't he know or why doesn't he care? I can only speculate.

I would guess that he thinks it's OK to close Alyeska because none of his kids (if he has kids) need its services. If he needed it, if he used it, he would know why it is important. When doing research for his letter, why didn't he find out about the things Alyeska offers that all the other programs don't? Didn't he talk to the administrators of those programs before writing?

My wife spent three days on the phone and talked to someone from every single one of the other programs offered in the state. She found that none of them would work for our sons. Not one. The people running the programs knew their shortcomings and were perfectly willing to admit them and to talk about their hopes of someday working them out. In the meantime there is Alyeska. Why didn't Jim Clark know these things before writing his letter?

My point here is not to try and sell Alyeska. It's all been said here before. I just wonder why no one is listening; not the Legislature, not Jim Clark and certainly not the governor. There were House and Senate hearings with people from all over the state testifying as to the reasons for continuing Alyeska. No one spoke against it. The legislators sat there, presumably listening, and then, with no discussion, voted to kill it. Excuse me? Did I miss something? Isn't the point of public hearings to give lawmakers the information they need to make the right decision? So what happened? What do Jim Clark and the legislators need to know that they don't in order to save this program? In fact, I don't think anything anyone could have said would have made any difference. If there had been open minds and a true seeking of the truth, the bill to kill Alyeska would have been pulled after the first hearing. Of course the legislators and Mr. Clark have the right to their own opinions, but if there is no chance of changing anyone's mind, why the sham of hearings at all? Why not just say: "you're wasting your time here, go home?"

Some of us who have children in this program and have been following its possible demise as it makes its way through the Legislature can't help wondering why the legislators and the governor want to see it gone so much. There must be something we don't know. The facts say keep it, at least until the other programs can pick up the slack, but it's on the fast track to history. Decisions about Alyeska should not be made in caucus and along party line votes, but on the basis of what is best for the education of our children.

• Cameron Byrnes of Juneau operates a photography business and drives tour buses in the summer. He has two sons who take courses with Alyeska Central School.

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