Before Juneau's GOP strategists fire up their fog machine for the upcoming election, let's set the record straight about Gov. Tony Knowles. The Republicans have said - and will again - that Knowles is bad for Juneau. It's a ridiculous claim to make, especially in light of what's happened under Murkowski.
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Let's compare facts. When Knowles was leaving office, Juneau had 1,500 more jobs than when he started, including 125 more good state government jobs. He had forced the GOP Legislature into special session to fund public employee pay raises they tried to kill. Juneau's unemployment rate had dropped. Big local projects such as the high school remodel, the Auke Village Recreation Area bypass and the expansion of the Johnson Youth Center had been funded. Nearly 500 more children in Juneau had health insurance through the popular and praised Denali KidCare program.
Since then, under the GOP's guy, families and jobs were yanked out of Juneau when the ferry system's headquarters were inexplicably moved. Knee-jerk pension "reform" will make it harder for the state and school districts to hire top-notch workers and less attractive for young Alaskans to stay here for public service jobs. The ferry system is a mess. Seniors lost the Longevity Bonus, but his Cabinet members got raises. Eligibility for Denali KidCare was reduced so fewer needy families could qualify. Perhaps worst of all, their guy has brought closed-door secrecy and ethics trouble to the Capitol. With the Capitol move always a threat, the last thing Juneau needs is a reputation as the seat of government for cloistered and untrustworthy politicians.
Yes, their guy has managed to spend mountains more money than anyone else. Who couldn't "accomplish" that with $70 per barrel oil and a subservient House and Senate leadership? Knowles had $20 oil (at one point for him, it was $9), and a GOP Legislature determined to thwart his initiatives. Yet through it all, Knowles built consensus, ran government effectively and efficiently, and accomplished plenty.
The letter writers and editorialists who asserted in 2002 that Knowles was bad for Juneau ought to be ashamed. They obscured the facts and ignored the truth. I know, because I worked for Knowles when he was governor.
When the campaigns gear up again and the GOP fog starts to roll, please see through it. Gov. Tony Knowles was very good for Juneau - and he will be again.
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