My Turn: There's no dressing up the naked truth in Alaska story

Posted: Monday, May 01, 2006

I have to wonder if Hans Christian Andersen had lived in the 21st century in Alaska and had written his classic story, "The Emperor's New Clothes," would it have had a different ending? Sure, the king would still be naked and all his royal supporters would brag about how wonderful his new clothes look. Con men would still be taking the king for a ride, making huge sums of money for literally nothing.

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But I am worried that the little boy who dared to tell the truth would not have fared so well. In fact, I know that he would not have.

In the Alaska version, the little boy would have been reviled by the king's courtiers. He would have been called a scoundrel, a liar and harasser of the king's staff. He would have been ridiculed both in private and public.

Members of the royal party would have spared no expense in searching for possible dirt on the child so they could exploit it later. He would have been ostracized and belittled at every possible moment. He would have been fired from his future employment and threatened with arrest.

But in the end, because fairy tales have happy endings, the village would come to realize that he had been correct. The villagers would have indeed learned that con men were in the castle, and that the naked truth is not very pretty at all.

Truth has always been the best-kept secret here in Juneau. Some legislators have justified it by saying that no one wants to see what goes in the sausage. Others in power believe that the truth is too much for just plain old common folks to handle.

To protect us from harm they elect to meet behind closed doors to do the people's business. The Republican Party holds the moral low ground when it comes to secrecy. Let me make a distinction between Republican leadership and their representatives and the rank-and-file party members.

The closed-door policy adopted by the Republican leadership is a disservice to all Alaskans. From the secret contracts negotiated by the administration concerning the people's resources to the closed-door caucuses employed by the majority legislators, none is in the best interest of the citizens of this state. Truth plays second fiddle to the agenda of the party elite.

One big irony concerning the caucus process here in Juneau is that the majority meets behind closed doors and the minority caucuses are usually open to all. In fact, the majority party goes so far as to place a staff person who is skilled in shorthand within the open minority caucus, to take notes and report back to the majority party. This same opportunity is not provided to the minority, because they are not allowed in the closed Republican caucuses.

Anyone who has to hide the truth is suspect in many people's minds. I have often been told that not much really goes on behind those closed doors.

When I denied allowing anyone who meets in secret here in Juneau from being on my Juneau Report list, you would not have believed the consternation. The lengths that the majority party has employed to acquire my reports are almost comical.

It appears that they want to have all information at their disposal. On the other hand, they have no problem denying information to Alaskans.

This hypocritical approach by the Republican leadership and their representatives totally escapes their recognition. They will not reform themselves or even admit that there is a problem within their ranks.

As long as we the people keep giving them carte blanche by continually re-electing people of this mindset, we are setting ourselves up for failure. If your elected officials are afraid of the truth, afraid of doing the people's business in the open, afraid of the press, then you have a problem that only you can correct.

Because these representatives are not likely to change their stripes, it is up to us as voters to do it for them. We can elect honest, brave and ethical candidates to office.

There are candidates out there who meet those criteria. They might not always be from the largest or best-financed parties. In fact, seldom is that the case these days.

This election cycle, don't be afraid to ask the tough questions. Don't be afraid to listen to your heart and, most of all, follow the money. The best-financed candidates deserve the most scrutiny, because here in Juneau, money does have a profound connection to votes and bills, despite what legislators may tell you.

• Wasilla resident Myrl Thompson is a citizen lobbyist and former independent candidate for state House in District 15. His opinion columns appear regularly in the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman.

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