My friend has been around long enough to know better, but remains a staunch Republican. He still believes in ``political loyalty'' even though we both admit the phrase is an oxymoron in most applications. He is colorful and outspoken.
Varied occupations and direct participation in civic and political activities have left him with a keen sensitivity to people and public issues. I call him from time to time to gain his insights on current Juneau subjects, knowing I will gather an uninhibited opinion and a better understanding of the topic. It's my guess he enjoys our conversations because his roster of willing listeners is diminishing as the years pass.
``So what's the latest with the Pleas and Riot Coalition.'' I inquired.
``Who can think of something as silly as that when my boy George W. just blew the election out the window. Cheney! Can you imagine?'' he roared. ``Alibi Al and his mincing band of sissies will hang old Dick Cheney around George's neck like an albatross.''
``Wait a minute,'' I countered ``I thought you guys all concluded this was the Republican Dream Ticket.''
``No way. Our boy was a sure winner until last week. Even you admit that. But now we've slammed the door on millions of voters.'' He moaned. ``Look. I'm not saying I believe any of it, but if you care about land use and water quality issues, government assistance fr prescription drugs, fair housing and equal rights issues, you now have no place to go. When the big boys chose Cheney they sent a clear message to voters, particularly the more conservative voters in our party. But the worst of it is they just blew independent voters right into the Gore camp. You may find Gore, as you like to say `dumb as a stump', but when they added Cheney to our ticket they assured that younger voters, even those who really like our boy George, are forced to go with Al.''
``Well, you might be right,'' I responded. ``But what about the Pleas and Riot Coalition?''
``In a minute,'' he began. ``Of all the people George and his folks could have picked they come up with another Westerner and another oil man. Good grief! they just wrote off any hope of a few yuppie votes in California and the East Coast. The Democrats only have to run against Cheney now. George will soon be second banana.''
``Well,'' I responded, ``I have to admit the addition of Cheney to the ticket loses my vote. But on the other hand people of both political persuasions seem to agree Dick Cheney is a stand-up guy and eminently capable.''
``Get real pal,'' he snorted. ``You and I both know of dozens of straight-arrow solid citizens, genuinely good people, who have been trampled by politics.''
``Yes. That's true,'' I agreed. ``Now tell me your assessment of the ballot proposition being pushed by the Peace and Quiet Coalition.''
``Same old bunch with a new cause,'' he began. ``Look. The noise and constant activity during the summer months sometimes gets to all of us. But Juneau has always been busy in the summer. Remember when the fishing fleets were going all summer; canneries were open from here to Elfin Cove; loggers were in the woods and Alaska Coastal was busy from dawn till dark flying PBY's and Gooses out of downtown and the airport? Sure it's busier now then it was then, but summer is when things happen in Alaska.''
I told my friend that my conversations with knowledgeable Juneauites indicate that most residents won't support the initiative at the ballot box. My initial reaction to the proposal was that petitioners were leading their neighbors into a futile effort, attempting to write rules for a game played more properly by federal agencies and controlled in part by the Commerce Clause.
Those same conversations have convinced me many residents truly are weary of the hustle and bustle of the summer season but dislike seeking a remedy that might financially injure friends and neighbors, or which will surely act detrimentally to municipal coffers. I have heard of several old friends who, tired of the combination of unceasing bickering within the community and the din of summer tourism, are thinking of moving to more peaceful pastures.
``And what is this nonsense about a vote on the necessity of a road out of Juneau?'' I asked, suspecting his reaction. ``Seems to me no rational person would question the necessity for a road even though they might worry about environmental impacts, funding sources or political difficulties. But a vote makes no sense.''
``Jeeeze Louise,'' he exploded. ``I sometimes wonder why we all don't just bunch up in the middle of the Mendenhall flats and rip into one another with barbed wire flails. Of course it makes no sense - totally dumbass proposal. As you said it won't prove a thing and will only inflame the community again. What is it with some of the people here? Just when we begin healing a wound somebody wants to rip the scab off. Your old pals Tony and Fran have pretty much assured Juneau won't have to worry about a road for the next 25 years. Subjecting the community to a vote on the question is sheer cruelty.''
``Well, you confirm what I've heard,'' I said. ``I was surprised when the Peace or Riot Complication objected to release of the noise study conclusions prior to the election.''
``Oh yea,'' he sighed, ``they mean well, but it's just not the way to solve the problem. Frankly I'm more worried about the presidential election. Can you imagine what it's like for people in my party? We had it made and then they did the Cheney thing. All we can hope now is that Gore picks the Reverend Al Sharpton as his running mate. I get weak in the knees thinking about eight more years.''
``I feel your pain,'' I concluded.
Warren W. Wiley, a former Juneau resident, political observer and radio personality, now lives in Montana. He can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.