The recent boondoggle with the Anchorage legislative office remodel is appalling enough by itself. However it also represents a much greater issue with this legislature. Members of that body are elected and sworn to act in the best interests of Alaska. Currently, they don’t.
In negotiating a disastrous lease, they have Alaskans paying for an extensive remodel to a building we don’t own, and then a fivefold increase in rent, and finally locking us into a decade-long lease. This is a bad deal all the way around for the state, and a dreadful misappropriation of funds. Meanwhile, the lessor, a heavy campaign donor to these very legislators, is making out very well.
It’s clear that either 1. They’re unable to negotiate; or 2. They’re willing to throw Alaskans under the bus in favor of a heavy donor.
These are supposed to be smart, sophisticated people who are looking out for our interests. They’ve demonstrated conclusively that they can’t be trusted to negotiate a simple lease for their own occasional-use office space. In light of this, how on earth are they to negotiate on our behalf with the largest energy companies in the world? Companies that are their largest donors and supporters and, in some cases, their very employers.
Although $50 million for an office boondoggle can hardly be called chump change, it’s exactly that, relative to our mineral wealth, which these people are charged with managing. By some estimates, the value of our oil and gas could equate to trillions of dollars. And these are the people who are minding the store for us? They’ve made it plain by their actions that the interests they represent are not ours.
Even now, they’re pretending to advocate our interests on a multibillion-dollar, large-diameter gas line. So far, we know that the state is being asked to front construction costs while receiving little if any of the benefit. Don’t look for things to improve from there. The people described here, are the very same, who sold out Alaska with SB 21. The courts have determined that due to shady gerrymandering, this is an illegitimate legislature. And these so-called representatives haven’t done much to dispel that finding.
This is not simply a complaint; it’s a call to action. Alaskans of all stripes are appalled at what’s been going on. There are a lot of honest, intelligent, articulate people who are more than capable of doing the jobs these legislators are shirking. I’m calling on these people of conscience to step forward and run against these charlatans. Every one of them who voted for SB 21 should have to face such Alaskans in the election. If you’re not sure who voted for SB21, here’s a hint: nearly every Republican in the House and Senate (except Sens. Gary Stevens and Bert Stedman), and Democratic Rep. Ben Nageak.
It’s clear that the Alaska Republican Party can’t be trusted to do right by Alaskans.
I therefore encourage all of you who are so inclined to run to file as Democrats. Don’t worry if your views don’t quite square with the Alaska Democratic party. (Mine don’t either. Mostly on environmental-type issues vs. resource development.) By bringing YOUR views to the party, you’ll pull them toward the center, where they belong, and where the great majority of the Alaska electorate resides.
The backbone of the Alaska Democrats now is made up of the centrists — Wielechowski, Gara, Tuck, etc. I’m calling on intelligent, educated, informed centrists to join with this bunch. Particularly those with a legal background who already have an understanding of civics and law. The people in Juneau now are all about ego and control. Wouldn’t it be something if they were replaced by honest, intelligent Alaskans? People of genuine conscience, whose concern is for Alaska, not their own big-money donors.
The filing deadline is June 2.
Peter Blanas is a lifelong Alaskan who, with his wife Kim, lives and works in Anchorage. He’s a longtime observer of Alaska politics and its relationship to oil and gas and is a registered nonpartisan.