If Alaska had a contest to create something really, really bad for the state, Ballot Measure 2, on Tuesday's ballot, would blow the top off the nasty-o-meter. It is a lousy idea, wrapped in deception and dipped in leftist nuttiness -- much like the state's oil taxes.
Its supporters blithely assure us Ballot Measure 2 simply would replace the coastal zone management program that sunset last year. That's crazy talk. The two are vastly different.
We could talk about the measure's three broadly empowered, entirely new bureaucracies; or its appointees being outside the reach of voters or the Legislature and its confirmation process; or the lack of any requirement that appointees understand permitting or resources, or even know what a permit looks like.
We could wonder why the measure would move a new consistency determination requirement -- that's in addition to all the other state and federal laws -- from the Department of Natural Resources, where permitting expertise exists, to a new division in the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development, where such expertise does not exist, and never has.
We could discuss how the 15-page law that would be created by Ballot Measure 2 would require reams of new rules and regulations -- written by bureaucrats and lawyers long after the vote. We could talk about the proposed law's constitutionality, or its lack of review timelines, or its potential to cripple jobs, the economy and development. Or debate whether it is constitutionally too vague, or violates due process. We could wonder why Anchorage and the Mat-Su area, containing the majority of the state's population, have only a single vote between them on the policy board.
We could marvel at a Ballot Measure 2 provision allowing the new Coastal Policy Board, heaven forbid, to dabble in regional ocean planning. What would that look like? The measure would give the policy panel power to regulate "any land or water use or natural resource of the coastal zone ... including but not limited to public access, recreation, fishing, historic or cultural preservation, development, hazards management, marinas and floodplain management, scenic and aesthetic enjoyment, and resource creation or restoration projects." That simply is too much power for an unelected board.
While all of that is vitally important, we also should talk about the profound, fundamental change the passage of Ballot Measure 2 would mean for Alaska and the relationship between its people and government.
The Alaska Constitution is clear when it comes to who gets to say what when it comes to natural resources: "The legislature shall provide for the utilization, development, and conservation of all natural resources belonging to the State, including land and waters, for the maximum benefit of its people."
The Legislature, the constitution directs, not a board of yahoos put into office because they anted up campaign funds. Ballot Measure 2 is designed to deftly cut the Legislature out of the management process, replacing it with a non-elected, virtually untouchable Coastal Advisory Board. It would appear the measure's supporters, already admitting it needs revision, are trying to sidestep the Legislature.
Kurt Fredriksson, who worked for Alaska in coastal management and environmental protection for 30 years and knows as much about the subject as anybody, opposes Ballot Measure 2. In a Juneau Empire piece, he says, "The previous coastal management program was built on a legal foundation that described in statute the roles and responsibilities of local and state governments in the management, development, and protection of Alaska's coastal resources. Ballot Measure 2 leaves it up to an appointed Coastal Policy Board to define in regulatory law these important details."
In the end, Ballot Measure 2 is a travesty and a direct challenge to the Legislature's constitutional powers and duties, and, more important, it drives a wide and deep wedge between lawmakers and citizens. Ultimately, we would have government by the bureaucratic whim of nine untouchable appointees and four appointed commissioners.
There is a legitimate case to be made that Alaska needs coastal zone management, but not in the form of Ballot Measure 2. Rather than a program slapped together behind closed doors, with no debate, or amendment, or compromise, Alaska needs a program hammered out in an open, legislative process by people elected to do just that.
If the question is coastal zone management, Ballot Measure 2 is no answer.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications, which is providing professional services to the Vote No on 2 campaign.