The official word

Posted: Thursday, August 30, 2001

The "Venting" My Turn from Mark Regan in last Monday's Empire deserves some follow up. Regan asks for proof of "official" community opposition to development in the southeast region. There are only two forms of official policy making for a community. These are the actions of the elected leadership, and the actions of the electorate - the voters. With regard to the first, Regan is correct, there have been very few official actions of the Assembly on regional development matters.

This is far from new. It was about 15 years ago that our Assembly was confronted with a resolution to support a timber harvest project near Tenakee Springs. The hall filled up with citizens testifying pro and con. It took several hours and the primary result was that the Assembly did not want to engage in issues outside Juneau's borders.

Since that evening, the Assembly has only rarely engaged in making official pronouncements on regional matters. I can think of none that were particularly controversial. This practice of issue-avoidance spread to other matters. In late 1999, the Juneau Access Draft EIS was published with a call for comments. The Assembly had no plan to make any comment on the most significant public investment in history. It was only at the urging of the business community, very late in the comment period, that the Assembly finally did in fact pass a comment resolution.

The absence of official comment creates a void into which the comments of other organizations take on more significance. The lesson here is that saying nothing is nearly the same as saying the wrong thing.

Regan is wrong on another point. He dismisses last year's vote on Juneau access options as inconsequential by saying it was "only" advisory! Would the people and organizations who worked so hard to get out the anti-road vote agree that the vote was meaningless?

I think anti-road voters want their votes to be taken seriously. We pro-road folks warned that an anti-road result could have statewide ramifications and that concern over capital retention should count for a lot when you decided how to vote. A slight majority voted against the road anyway and we'd better learn to live with it now. Mr. Regan's use of Richard Nixon's warning is a bit opaque to me, but Nixon's chief of staff gave us a more useful phrase: "The toothpaste is out of the tube."

Murray Walsh


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