Murkowski's sights are set too high

Posted: Sunday, August 14, 2005

The following editorial first appeared in the Anchorage Daily News:

The feds said no. The Legislature said no. But Gov. Frank Murkowski insisted on yes, insisted that the state and its chief executive need jet transport.

All right, give the man credit for persistence. Or maybe an insensibility caused by too many years of easy elections after 1980. Either way, he's been flying into enough flak to ground an F-22 on this one.

You'd think he'd be politic enough to make at least one Alaskan happy with his jet purchase by giving preference to an Alaska broker.

You'd be wrong. The state wants to buy an Israeli-made jet from a Tarheel billionaire through a Las Vegas broker for $2.6 million, while an Alaskan, Rob Heckmann, has offered a French-made jet that Mr. Heckmann says does or easily can meet state specs for $1 million less.

Mr. Heckmann says "something fishy" is going on. Fishy or not, the very specification the state says Mr. Heckmann failed to meet - 55 cubic feet of baggage space - is one the state added just two days before proposals were due. Mr. Heckmann said he'd meet that requirement at his own cost. The state says he was too late with that offer. Mr. Heckmann says he wasn't, and he's protesting the state's decision.

It's understandable that Gov. Murkowski would prefer the Westwind II. It's a little bigger, a little newer, maybe a little more executive than the Falcon 10 in the class of light executive jets - and hey, we could say something about the burgundy carpet and cream-colored divan, but we won't.

But what happened to "buy Alaskan?" Or at least buy French through an Alaska seller? And how about that $1 million difference? That's the people's money there, gov.

Frequent-flying Alaskans will concede the need for a restroom aloft. And should the jet, whether Westwind or Falcon, speed through the sky to save a life, Alaskans will give the governor credit for vision.

But until then, the governor should fly lower. He's having a hard time seeing his constituents here on the ground.

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