Bill Walker's latest political spin in a recent Compass piece reflects either a lack of knowledge of the issues raised, an attempt to distort the truth, or both. Alaskans deserve better.
Walker claims the Parnell administration gave short shrift on gas line issues with Resources Energy, Inc. Really Bill? On top of the more than 40 meetings Alaska officials have had with REI representatives, Governor Parnell met with REI's president and director last September in Tokyo. Furthermore, Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan has met with REI executives no less than 9 times and is heading to Tokyo this week and will meet with REI officials yet again, along with a host of other companies interested in Alaska's gas.
Walker goes on to claim that Governor Parnell "voluntarily" eliminated an Alaska hiring preference. Are you really suggesting the governor should act contrary to law? The law says that when Alaska unemployment exceeds the federal unemployment rate by 10% in a specific area, the Alaska hire provisions are applied to certain public works projects. But when the unemployment rate falls in these zones, the law dictates the local hire provisions be suspended during periods when unemployment is low. Not only was this decision required by law, it's living proof that our state economy and Alaska job prospects are growing stronger under the Parnell administration.
Certainly, there are still some rural areas whose local economies are struggling, and those areas can still utilize the Alaska hire preference because they will still be classified as "zones of underemployment."
Walker's next distortion is that the governor is somehow "corralling public employees" with new universal space standards. Alaskans deserve to know that new office configurations are about cutting state spending, while improving employees' work spaces. In just the first ten years, Alaskans will save more than $50 million, and $125 million within 20 years. Initial feedback from those employees who have completed the move has been mostly positive as they appreciate their brighter, more open workspaces.
Increasing state government efficiency and improving employee workspaces, all while saving our state millions of dollars each year, should be commended, not spun for political purposes.
The final and most chilling claim in Walker's piece is that the state is protecting the parental rights of a domestic abuser. He failed to inform readers that the domestic abuser was tried and convicted in a state court. He also conveniently omitted that the state has not intervened in the state Superior Court action where the placement of the child is being decided. Indeed, the state intervened on its own behalf because the precedent the case sets will affect all Alaskans, good ones as well as this bad guy. If we are to protect the rights of victims and survivors of domestic violence we have to ensure everyone's constitutional rights are upheld, not just the elite that Mr. Walker might represent in his law practice.
While Bill Walker continues to rely on distortions and half-truths, I know Governor Parnell well enough to understand that he will continue doing what he's done from day one: Working to create more economic opportunity for Alaskans, and strengthening our families.
That's what real leadership looks like.
Mike Nizich is chief of staff for Gov. Sean Parnell.