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Berkowitz: Parnell should weed his own garden before digging into Walker

  • Author: Ethan Berkowitz
  • Updated: July 7, 2016
  • Published September 19, 2014

It's a sad truth that the way people campaign is a good indication of the way that they'll govern. Sean Parnell must be counting on collective amnesia because he wrote in an editorial that, "When Bill Walker takes a position he's demonstrated a willingness to change it." Given the Parnell record of flip-flops, his personalized attack is particularly brazen.

Facts are pesky things -- and a partial list of the pesky facts about Parnell are that:

He was for ACES before he was against it.

He was for AGIA before he was against it.

He was against paying down pension debt before he was for it.

He was against tribal recognition before he tepidly went along with it in limited instances.

He said was a fiscal conservative -- but signed off on the biggest budgets and deficits in state history.

He said we had a natural gas deal four years ago (last gubernatorial campaign he repeatedly claimed there are "willing buyers and willing sellers") but now is promoting another election-season deal (the Parnell PR machine is in full swing stretching the truth about the imminence of Alaska gas sales to Asia).

He opposed increases to the base student allocation before acquiescing to an increase less than the rate of inflation.

Those are just some major issues. Any scouring of his legislative and gubernatorial record reveals many gaps between votes, promises and performance.

Ultimately, the gubernatorial election is about us, as Alaskans -- who we want to be, where we want to go. Consequently, in many ways, this campaign is a referendum about the competence of Parnell's governorship. For me, it's simple. The years of the Parnell administration have been a wasteland of neglected responsibilities, lost opportunities and stagnation. When measured against standards of competence, Parnell has failed. He has failed to protect the state against deficit spending -- he claimed to be a fiscal conservative but has presided over the biggest budgets in state history. He failed to rein in energy costs across the state -- over the past six years, they've grown higher and higher. He failed to protect Alaska jobs. Just last week BP laid off 17 percent of its Alaska workforce. He failed to protect Alaska students and stood idly by as inflation came like a thief in the night to take money from classrooms. He has failed as a steward of our resources -- North Slope oil production is down from 715,000 barrels a day in 2008 to 515,000 today. He failed to protect Alaskan honor -- the sordid events that occurred in the National Guard during his watch are shameful and disrespectful. And he has failed to bring us together the way a leader should. With a record like that, it's no wonder that he attacks to distract.

If you think that the qualities that make Alaska exceptional have suffered under Parnell's tenure, then you have a choice.

I got to know Bill Walker through two election cycles -- first as a competitor in 2010, and more recently when working with Byron Mallott. We share Wally Hickel's philosophy about Alaska as the owner state, and have an abiding concern about the rot and corrosion that comes from just talking and not doing. He knows that standing still is not the way to move Alaska forward. Bill has guts, decency, a sense of direction and an appreciation of the Alaskan spirit. He is strong on his conservative values but listens with an open mind. He's not afraid of people who disagree with him, and I've never seen him stoop to disagreeable tactics.

That's why Parnell's comments are worse than distasteful. His swipes inject pettiness into a campaign -- which is a sure sign of desperation. And, when he proclaims, "Alaskans know who I am and what I stand for. I've been true to my word from Day 1. ..." his words ring hollow. Substance should count for something, and pretty rhetoric cannot camouflage failed results.

Alaska at its best is a place where we embrace vigorous political debate, so long as it is based on principle and the recognition that in a small state, where politics is personal, a modicum of respect is necessary. We have a great history and a promising future, and it is more clear than ever that our success comes when we put Alaska first.

Ethan Berkowitz currently is a senior vice president with Strategies 360, a radio talk show host at KFQD, and is involved with various renewable energy and telecommunication projects. He served in the Alaska House of Representatives and was the 2010 Democratic nominee for governor.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)