My Turn: An aimless bubble among many being blown

Posted: Friday, September 07, 2001

Asking the governor and Department of Transportation officials to put politics aside, and honor agreements they have signed (in this case with the Inter-Island Ferry Authority) is an admirable though naive request for the relatively new publisher of the Juneau Empire, given what most of us who have had any authentic interactions with these clowns have come to expect during this administration. Indignant and inaccurate response to the challenge the equivalent of honking the horns on their little toy cars and tripping over their floppy shoes through a My Turn article rationalizing their misplaced priorities is the most we can ever expect, Mr. Smith.

Capt. Bob Doll's argument regarding the difference between an agreement and a contract is revealing. That's the top-down thinking of the entire department from Juneau. With tremendous amounts of federal funding being funneled into Alaska for highway and related construction projects, the general public seeking innovative transportation options might expect there to be a state management team having visionary thinking and reinforcing the employees who can make it happen at DOT.

Instead, Commissioner Joseph Perkins and his troop lack the basic character and leadership qualities necessary to inspire as they constantly change horses midstream. Additionally, as a frequent apologist for Tony Knowles, you can predict such behavior because whenever this administration is criticized it always circles the circus wagons to grandstand.

It is also refreshing to know from his comments in the Empire that Commissioner Perkins is proud of the success of the IFA partnership with DOT in recent years. My guess is that this partnership is as one-sided as every other partnership or agreement this administration enjoys, including agreements changed with union bosses AFTER they have been ratified by employee-members. Perhaps as publisher of the newspaper representing the capital of Alaska you may now ask Mr. Perkins to comment on the success of the Joint Labor-Management Committee Agreement he and Gov. Knowles both signed a few years back with all unions representing employees of DOT. I was personally one of the signatories to that agreement, but when the union attempted to form a WORKING LMC for General Government Unit workers after conducting a member survey documenting many amazing issues in both state headquarters and regional workplaces the "partnership" changed dramatically.

Steward and select management representatives participated in two days of "team-building" training with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, and one long-time DOT participant (who has since left state service) described it as being like "a turkey invited to Thanksgiving Dinner." None of the ASEA participants in that "partnering" effort still work for DOT.

This buffoonery has done more to convince the rest of Alaska that the capital needs to be closer to the population center of the state than anything all of those bad old southcentral Republicans who in the past led the charge to move the capital could even imagine accomplishing in the course of one administration. With mostly mediocre Anchorage-based commissioners and top management in state service, politically driven public relations efforts to re-write history as it is made, and inside deals serving narrow special interests at public expense, this IFA bait-and-switch is only one aimless bubble among many being blown.

Keep asking the questions, Mr. Smith, but note that their smiles are painted on.


Donn Liston of Juneau has worked in labor relations since 1984, most recently 4 1/2 years with ASEA.

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