Empire Editorial: Collins gets the edge for Area Wide Assembly seat

Posted: Monday, October 01, 2001

Jim Powell is making a run for his third term on the Assembly against political newcomer Charles M. "Chuck" Collins. A review of the two candidates is a study in contrasts. Powell is a seasoned politician hailing from a family with a deep political background. Jim's wife, Beth Kerttula, is our state representative, and CBJ Assembly member Frankie Pillifant is a first cousin to Beth.

Jim's father-in-law, Jay Kerttula, was a senator from Palmer who served as Senate president and House speaker. However, Powell doesn't shy away from taking positions that differ from those of his family members.

Powell is seeking re-election because he feels he has more to contribute to the community, he wants to work to save the capital, and he wants to see his pet project, the ice rink, completed.

Chuck Collins is a small-business owner. Collins is quick to point out his lack of political experience. What Collins lacks in polish and political know-how he makes up for in down-to-earth sincerity and clear vision. He decided to run for office because he believes many people have problems resolving issues with the city. He has stated, "The Assembly is out of touch with common, hard-working, every-day people."

Powell diligently has applied himself for the past six years and his service to Juneau should not pass without appreciation. Nonetheless, he frequently has frustrated his colleagues because of his tendency to waffle on issues before the Assembly. His practice has been to go with flow when the final vote is called.

An examination of Powell's record cannot pass without acknowledgment of the controversy following his last campaign. If Powell had been a first-time candidate in the 1998 election, his campaign disclosure mistakes might not have been so serious.

The Alaska Public Offices Commission doubled the recommended fine to $1,500 for the infractions. As reported in the Empire, Kathleen Harrington, a Democrat on the five-member commission, said the past campaign experience of Powell and his wife was a factor in Harrington's desire to raise the fine.

Also, she said "cascading violations" gave a false impression to Powell's opponent and the public of how much money was spent before election day. As a former assistant attorney general, Kerttula's explanation that she did not understand that her husband's accrued expenses had to be reported rings a little hollow.

The fact that Powell spent a record $45,517 in his bid to win the 1998 Area Wide Assembly seat, elevates the severity of the infraction and raises questions about the motivation to spend so much money in pursuit of a mere city Assembly seat. Nonetheless, Powell fully cooperated with APOC and has expressed remorse for his mistakes. He also expects to spend far less in his current campaign.

Voters should carefully consider the facts before passing judgment. Powell has enjoyed wide popularity during his six years in office. He clearly represents the interests of those who want limited access to Juneau and a cautious, deliberative approach to growth and economic expansion.

The Juneau Empire recommends Chuck Collins as the better choice for the Area Wide Assembly seat. He will help move Juneau forward economically in a measured, reasonable way. He knows that we must improve access in order to retain the capital. Collins will add balance to the Assembly by providing effective representation for "hard-working, every-day people."

Don Smith



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