My Turn: Declare your civic liberty!

Posted: Sunday, October 13, 2002

Does public demonstration of political senility or lack of sense by some elected officials and state employees bother you? Puzzled why the Legislature gets deadlocked despite the best efforts of people? Then consider this. The Nov. 5 elections shall ask Alaskans: Shall there be a Constitutional Convention?

A YES vote will put in practice a technology of self-government by the people. We don't have to wait for politicians to act, if we are willing to risk being confident in ourselves and believing self-government works.

A YES vote will cause a statewide non-partisan election of a citizen from every district to be a convention delegate.

A YES vote causes the people to be consulted - who then use experience and history to adjust how and why government rules over citizens. This is wholly different from legislative and government activity, which focuses on where and on what citizens are ruled. The people thus solve government faults by giving or revising instructions on how and why government acts. The state solves the details of government under this guidance.

A YES vote enables Alaskans to examine governing ideas that the original framers of the U.S. and Alaska Constitutions determined as unneeded. Experience may show that the time has come for some of these solutions.

A YES vote gives the people final power to approve anything that their convention delegates come up with.

A YES vote can deal with evidence of effective betrayal of public trust. Examples:

• Fiscal senility by government:

The state is now spending 33 percent more than it collects in income. It would be bankrupt already if it hadn't been living off the Constitutional Budget Reserve, which is legally supposed to be paid back! This shows improper use of the power of democracy in coordinating a sensible balance of public revenues and public expenses.

• Financial accountability of public officials and bureaucracy:

The evidence of state government conduct shows that, given a budget, the state does not practice any practical management technology to keep the ratio, between managers-executives and people who directly do the work, sensible and workable. Nor, evidently, is a system used to fairly reward efficient production and exceptional work, or fairly penalize waste, lack of industry, and screw-ups. This lowers state worker morale and underlies the state's poor financial repute.

• Failed regulation of lobbying and special interest interference:

Though legislators are constitutionally required to regulate lobbying, the average Alaskan does not believe they do. Nor do legislators seem to recognize lobbying by state bureaucracies as such, which allows this lobbying to be apparently unregulated. Worse, there is no constitutional provision to regulate lobbying of the governor and the executive branch at all! Yet it's the governor's office that proposes the annual budget for legislative approval!

Some citizens reject having a constitutional convention based on its potential for radical changes or making things worse. They should remember that the threat of selfish irrationality by people, and public officials, has been with us since before our country began. Did this discourage the Founding Fathers from creating our democratic republic? They were faced with a significantly illiterate population - with word of mouth and town meetings the only means to spread the tempering effects of education. So these men would have been overjoyed by the democratic riches modern Alaskans represent! How can we have less faith in the potential of people than the Founding Fathers had - the most radical foundation for workable government in recorded history?

Furthermore, our convention delegates, when elected, will carry the heaviest political burden possible - the mantle of responsibility for the decades and centuries to come. But they won't bear that burden alone. They will have the ideological ghosts of the great leaders of American and Alaskan history reaching forth out of the mists of time to steady them. Do you really think these people will want to waste their time framing stupid constitutional provisions to serve selfish whim and greed?

Finally, the form of our constitution is nationally recognized for being the best in quality. Yet, the framers of the Alaska Constitution, in their wisdom, directed Alaskans be asked every 10 years whether a constitutional convention should be held. Do you see why?

Please vote your conscience.

Stuart Thompson is a resident of Auke Bay.

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