Empire editorial: Parnell off to a good start

Posted: Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Juneau Empire's relationship with Gov. Sarah Palin's office during the past year was tenuous at best, nonexistent at worst. So was the case for other Alaska newspapers, many of which put their discord in editorial form. It's with great relief we see that Gov. Sean Parnell is trying a different approach to dealing with the media: He's talking to us.

Parnell met with the Empire's editorial board Monday, but unlike most high-level politicians he attended solo, meaning no spokespeople, special assistants or handlers. The governor even drove himself to the meeting. Parnell said he prefers dealing with the media personally, something we're happy to hear.

The governor has made himself publicly available several times since taking office, most recently during the Governor's Picnic, held Friday at Sandy Beach. He may have been difficult to reach, with many well-wishers lining up to shake hands and greet him, but he was accessible nonetheless. The same can be said when he attended a Chamber of Commerce luncheon earlier this month. He doesn't have a celebrity mystique, or an entourage of aides, but his down-to-earth everyman image is what Alaskans want in their leaders. Straightforwardness is another.

During the Empire's meeting with Parnell, he made clear his administration is focused on Alaska, and only Alaska. Though he was momentarily caught in Sarah Palin's spotlight, since stepping into his new role, Parnell has avoided getting wrapped up in tabloid shenanigans. He could have milked Palin's resignation for all it's worth. But he didn't, and we commend him for that.

"I told my staff we'd take calls from national media ... for two days," he said, and then it was time to focus on state business

Parnell's administration hasn't touted its transparency, but he has shown it in policy and in practice. His support of a statewide policy adopted this week requiring use of government e-mail systems is a positive step to ensuring openness of government, while also helping to avoid potential lawsuits and claims of ethics violations. He said enacting the policy makes sense. We agree.

We also see his hands-on approach to the budget as a boon to state government. Parnell's experience serving in the state House and Senate finance committees will prove useful when working with lawmakers and commissioners next session. He understands how Alaska operates, and how much it costs to dos so.

First impression can sometimes be deceiving, as can the first month in office, but we believe that Alaska has a competent and capable governor in Sean Parnell, and Juneau once again has a governor willing to commit to living and working here. We're encouraged by what we've seen and heard so far, and to once again have a relationship with the governor's office that doesn't require being a Facebook member.

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