Coastal zone initiative got exactly what it deserved

commentSeptember 1, 2012 

If the Left were wise -- and generally, it is my sad duty to report, that is not the case -- it would learn from the whuppin' it received in the primary election at the hands of Alaskans who, it turns out, are not stupid.

Voters proved that when they unabashedly crushed Ballot Measure 2, which would have spawned a complex, unconstitutional coastal management nightmare of obscene proportions, one that would have changed Alaska forever.

For many of us, though, the true beauty of Ballot Measure 2's defeat is that its supporters did it to themselves -- but that is not their take.

In their world, they will whine that stinking, carpetbagging Outside oil companies ponied up $1.5 million to thwart the measure; that evil is afoot in the land; that Alaska will be raped and ruined. Oh, my.

Their story would make a swell movie, but it is garbage. It is their fault -- the measure's proponents -- and nobody else's that Alaska is not part of the federal government's opt-in coastal management program.

Ballot Measure 2 was touted as a way to replace the federal program -- itself an absolute train wreck for those forced to deal with it over the years. The old program had been in place since 1977. It was revised, amended, poked and prodded, and sunset last summer after two particularly nasty legislative special sessions.

A measure to retain the program passed the House 40-0. It croaked in the Senate after the Democrat-fat, Republican-led, so-called bipartisan coalition gambled it could usurp the program, bend it further left and use it to control business. The House was not buying. The program died in the coalition's gross miscalculation.

The second mistake? Instead of waiting for an open, legislative process, the Left gambled again, putting its eggs in the initiative basket. That was perhaps the best -- and only -- hope its draconian vision of a coastal program could be codified.

Unfortunately, like so many special interest initiatives, the measure was written behind closed doors and aimed to sidestep the messiness of politics and the built-in safeguards of the legislative process.

Without input from ordinary Alaskans or anybody else, the take-it-or-leave-it effort would have set up a powerful new bureaucracy outside legislative control or confirmation. It would have cost millions and threatened every aspect of development in Alaska from offshore oil and gas to mining, timber and fisheries.

It was among the biggest of big-government power grabs -- and it never would have survived an instant in the Legislature. Its supporters knew that too.

Its only prayer was an initiative campaign and the distraction of busy Alaskans asked to sign petitions to save Alaska's coastline. Who could oppose that? Who could know the signature gatherer outside the bookstore would mislead them?

The measure's supporters banked in large part on Alaskans' wariness of the oil industry and the confusing, complicated, 703-word ballot measure itself. Predictably, the campaign to pass the measure became a fib-fest. Alaskans were told the new measure and the old program were the same. Supporters said there would be no new, powerful bureaucracy; that without the measure there would be no local input on coastal decisions. None of that was true. My absolute favorite? Supporters said, well, yes, there are problems but we can fix them later.

Faced with serious challenges by the industries it planned to hog tie, measure proponents set about demonizing their opposition, saving barrels of venom for the oil industry. It did not work. Four newspapers endorsed a "no" vote.

Now, with laughable rectitude, the measure's supporters claim their 62-38 thumping at the polls is really a mandate for legislative action. (That 38 percent, by the way, is about what the Left usually musters for its candidates and causes in Alaska.)

It may be tough sledding for coastal management when, and if, it gets to the Legislature. Voters already dumped two GOP members of the Senate coalition for fraternizing with Democrats, and lawmakers may be a trifle antsy on the heels of the "no" vote.

Not to worry. Despite malarkey from coastal management proponents, there are a host of state and federal laws to protect Alaska's coastal regions until the Legislature acts. Let's take our time and get it right this time.

Alaska cannot afford another gamble.


Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications, which provided professional services to the Vote No on 2 campaign.

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