Coastal Zone Management: Watch Who’s Paying

There can be a lot of different reasons why a legislative issue can wind up in an initative. Sometimes it’s a special agenda. Sometimes it’s an idea that can’t get traction in our hidebound state legislature. But sometimes it’s the result of an complete failure by the Legislature to do its job. That’s the case with the Coastal Zone Management initiative, Ballot Proposition #2 in the upcoming primary election on August 28.

The Alaska Legislature knew that there was a sunset provision in the Alaska Coastal Zone Management Act that would cause it to go off the books on June 30, 2012. The Legislature wrote the sunset provision, after all. But despite regular sessions, special sessions and much posturing, the statute lapsed and the people of Alaska lost their only meaningful chance to have input on coastal development.

Sure, part of the blame lies in our very own Governor Parnell, Captain Zero, too. Despite his incessant claims of excessive federal power in Alaska, he, too, participated in the sacrifice of the ACMA on the altar of partisan politics. He even screwed up his own lawsuit on classification of polar bears as an endangered species when he allowed the ACMA to lapse. So a smart voter shouldn’t listen to anything Captain Zero has to say about the coastal zone management initiative.

Likewise, there’s no reason to listen to the Legislature, especially to the state house, where the special session bill died. Rep. Mike Hawker (R, Anch) had a recent opinion piece in the Anchorage Daily News, where he opined that the coast zone management issue is “too complex for the initiative process.” On the evidence, it was too complex for the  for the legislative process, and as a result local input on a critical issue is silenced. And now one of the guys who killed the ACMA tells you to vote against Prop 2 because, “It is not pro-development.”

WC won’t presume to speak for his fellow voters, but WC hopes the coastal zone management process will be neutral: not pro-development, not anti-development but, you know, objective and neutral. If the strongest argument Rep. Hawkins can make is that Proposition #2 isn’t biased for development, then he needs to sit down and shut up, too. Of course, Rep. Hawkins refers to the Alaska Legislature as an “open forum” which suggests he’s either delusional or lying. Especially if you are a Republican, everything important in the Alaska Legislature happens behind closed doors. Specifically, the closed-door, secret Republican caucuses. Yet another reason to ignore Rep. Hawker’s opinions.

Which leaves the coastal development industry, which is spending an unbelievable amount of money trying to defeat Prop 2. At least $1 million has been set up in a political fund to try to scare voters away from Proposition 2. Effectively all of the money comes from the industries that an Alaska Coastal Management Plan would regulate. The News reports, “Kodiak Island Borough Mayor Jerome Selby, an original sponsor of the initiative, accused the opposition of  ‘boogeyman fear-mongering, plain and simple.’ He said multinational companies view average Alaskans as a ‘nuisance’ they’d rather not have to deal with.” So for example, if the Feds decided to hold an oil lease sale in Bristol Bay, the oil industry would just as soon not have to trouble to give salmon fishermen a forum to give their views.

When it’s the regulated industries complaining about a law being unfair, you can safely assume that shareholder dividends, not the long term interests of the citizens of Alaska, are the real issue. Because multinational corporations don’t care about Alaskans, the environment or collateral damage, except to the extent it affects shareholder dividends.

When the dividends are earned and the corporations are long gone, Alaskans will still be here, dealing with the consequences. Anyone who thinks differently needs to visit Kennecott Mine, or an abandoned Alaska Gold mining dredge.

So maybe it would be a good idea to listen carefully to the expensive messages from the coastal development industry, and then take equal care to ignore them and their efforts to maximize profits at the expense of public input.

Maybe the best idea is to vote “Yes” on Proposition 2.