State Senate president decides it's time to move on from politics
A social conservative and capital spender, state Sen. Lyda Green seemed to have a pretty good fix on what her Valley constituents wanted since her first election in 1994.
Recently, that's changed.
So the Senate leader, who presided over an unlikely coalition of five fellow Republicans and nine Democrats, has decided not to seek re-election.
Polls showed her trailing GOP opponent Linda Menard. Sen. Green has been an opponent of Gov. Sarah Palin's program for an Alaska gas pipeline, a program she finds most of her constituents backing. She also found herself on the losing side of last fall's fight over raising state oil taxes.
Last week, Sen. Green gave a brief assessment of her legislative career. She looked back on legislation for welfare reform (60-month limit for benefits) and Medicaid fraud, both favorite causes, and also described herself without hesitation as pro-development and a champion of building, especially in the rapidly growing Mat-Su Borough.
"I love capital projects," she said.
Chilly relations with the governor have worked against Sen. Green. The Wasilla Republicans share social conservatism and an ability to work with lawmakers on the other side of the aisle, but they diverge in both style and substance.
Sen. Green was a party insider; Gov. Palin was a party outsider who won office as a reformer and has ridden a wave of popularity that helped produce ethics legislation, billions more in oil revenues, two potential gas line proposals and a sharp break with her party's establishment. Sen. Green didn't share the governor's enthusiasm for political reform, though she did break party ranks and organize a bipartisan Senate coalition she headed in the last two years of the Legislature.
Sen. Johnny Ellis, a Democrat and majority leader of that coalition, said he and Sen. Green fought for years over issues like welfare reform. Yet they came together in the Senate's "Bipartisan Working Group" to restore municipal revenue sharing, provide education funding and cover some of Alaska's retirement obligations. The idea, he said, was to find common ground and put public interests over partisan interests.
"Sen. Green, to her credit, rose to that occasion," Sen. Ellis said.
We have often disagreed with Sen. Green, but she's been consistent and honest. Throughout her 14-year career, she offered her Mat-Su constituency responsible and effective representation. While a number of her colleagues in the Legislature left office because of ethical lapses and criminal investigations, Sen. Green is leaving on her own terms, with a measure of grace.
Names for sale
With the tax cap, it's a struggle to get Anchorage parks enough money for decent upkeep. The city used the threat of huge fee increases to pressure local youth sports leagues into taking over mowing and watering of the fields they use. A quasi-independent parks foundation raises money by letting contributors "buy" specific improvements like benches and trash cans. Give enough money, as Conoco Phillips did to the soccer stadium under way in Kincaid Park and, you get your name on it.
When you're short of money, you'll take innovative, even desperate, measures such as those.
It makes me wonder, though, why the same money-raising mind-set doesn't apply to Anchorage schools.
School grounds look pretty shabby in the summer. Maybe we could force the kids who attend each school to do the mowing and watering.
Then there's the whole possibility of selling naming rights. East High, West, South, Chugiak, Eagle River -- we assigned routine geographic names to those schools when we could have sold the name to the highest bidder.
Maybe we can guilt-trip Exxon into buying a school name, since they're going to escape paying billions of dollars in punitive damages to Alaskans for the 1989 oil spill. The local Volvo dealership might pay to name one of the yuppie optional schools.
Inside each school is a plethora of revenue-generating possibilities. Maybe a company like Taser would buy rights to name the disciplinarian's room. The Title Wave Library, the Providence Hospital Nurse's Office, the McDonald's Cafeteria ... the possibilities are endless.
Teachers could be encouraged to seek sponsors -- and then they could keep the extra money they bring in. They might report to work all decked out, NASCAR-style, in outfits plastered with corporate logos.
Some high schools, like Dimond and Service, are named after prominent Alaska figures who are long dead. A crass person might suggest selling names to those schools too ---- but I draw the line there.
Hey, there has to be some limit to the commercialization of our community facilities ... doesn't there?
-- Matt Zencey