Our view: Senate choice

Palin makes a controversial pick for Juneau vacancy

March 30, 2009 

Gov. Sarah Palin has the right to nominate a Juneau Democrat to fill the state Senate seat vacated when Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau, left in mid-term to take an Obama administration job. That's state law. But the law also says the appointment has to be ratified by a majority of the Senate Democrats.

The two sides have to work together to find someone agreeable to both. There's certainly a big question about whether Palin's choice meets that criterion.

Gov. Palin chose legislative aide Tim Grussendorf, who was registered as a Republican until weeks ago. His registration as a Republican was curious, since he previously ran for state House as a Democrat and is the son of former Democratic House speaker Ben Grussendorf.

Given Tim Grussendorf's strange history with his party registration, Gov. Palin has given Senate Democrats ample reason to reject the nominee. Juneau Democratic Party officials are urging them to reject the choice.

Grussendorf is chief of staff for Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Democrat. Grussendorf changed his registration to Republican in 2006. He said he didn't intend to register Republican; he meant to switch from Democrat to undeclared so he could vote in the Republican primary. He said he believed he had registered as undeclared and only learned differently recently when he learned he couldn't be considered for the Elton opening because he was Republican. Then he switched back to Democrat.

Does a person with such a tentative attachment to his party deserve to be appointed to a Democratic Senate seat? That's questionable.

To be fair, Juneau Democrats started the political fight by only forwarding one name to Palin as their choice for Elton's replacement: Rep. Beth Kerttula, a long-time representative and House minority leader. She's a worthy candidate, but tradition calls for the departing legislator's party to submit three names to the governor. When they didn't do that, Palin opened up applications to all Juneau Democrats, saying she wanted more choices.

That part was fine. But by choosing someone whose Democratic credentials are suspect, Palin is prolonging a partisan fight that is denying Juneau residents the representation they deserve in the state Senate.

BOTTOM LINE: Senate Democrats have good reason to reject Gov. Palin's selection for the Juneau senate vacancy.


Library

Time to renovate the hazardous staircase and entry at Loussac

In tough times, projects like library renovations often get shoved aside.

But with the library bond proposition on the April 7 city election ballot, Anchorage would get a big improvement for a small amount of bond money.

With Proposition 5, the city is asking voters to approve just $1.5 million to both re-do the hazardous, second-story entrance of Loussac Library, and create an "express" library branch downtown.

How can so little buy so much?

The city already has $5.3 million in hand from public and private sources to renovate Loussac, and $1.5 million in hand for a downtown branch. Besides the bond proposition, the city is asking the state for a total of $3 million to complete both projects.

If voters go for the library proposition, the bonds will add $5.70 in property taxes annually for a $300,000 house. That's the cost of two lattes spread over 12 months.

The Anchorage Chamber of Commerce board, in a resolution supporting the library bonds, notes library supporters and the city have made a significant (and successful) effort to raise money from other sources to match the taxpayer dollars.

Most of the money from this bond proposition would go to the Loussac project.

Loussac, on 36th Avenue next to Cuddy Midtown Family Park, was built as part of Project 80s when the state came into a lot of oil money. Opened in 1986, it features an exterior staircase up to a second-story plaza, which leads to the main entrance. The city covered part of the stairway, but part is still exposed to the elements and slippery in snow and ice. The plaza is deterioriating.

The city's plan is to tear down the deck and stairs, and make a new ground-level, glassed-in entrance with an indoor atrium. There will be escalators inside to take people to the second floor.

In addition, the city will provide a circular drop-off area. And it will re-do the parking lot to make a walkway crossing the lot -- a long overdue benefit for people walking from their cars. The walkway will extend from the library's outdoor fountain to Cuddy Park next door, tying the park and the library together.

The Loussac renovations will provide a clear public benefit, and the construction project will contribute to jobs in the community.

BOTTOM LINE: Give a little, get a lot with the library bond Proposition 5.

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