Letters to the Editor

Letter: A constitution worth protecting

Alaska has a great deal on the line in this year’s general election. For the past 60 years, Alaska’s constitution has been widely regarded as a model constitution, thanks to its unique provisions, brevity and focus on principle. It was drafted during a time of political unity, two years prior to statehood, as proof to the federal government that we Alaskans could successfully manage our own affairs. The convention itself took place in Fairbanks, removed from undue influence of special interests and the media. It is difficult to imagine that sort of collaborative environment and outcome in today’s hyper-polarized political climate.

We do not suggest that Alaska’s constitution is perfect. In fact, we share the opinion of many Alaskans that an immediate amendment is needed to protect the Permanent Fund from overspending, and provide clarity and stability around the dividend. This issue has crippled state politics for nearly a decade, and should remain a priority for lawmakers. Nevertheless, pursuing this idea — or any other singular change — through a constitutional convention is an immense gamble, when we have a sound process for constitutional amendment that works just fine.

Any constitutional convention today will be subject to intense pressure from special interests on all sides, with many delegates likely to be the same individuals legislating issues in Juneau today. It is naive to suggest that we can resolve during a convention, issues we have so far been unable to address through the regular political process. A convention could easily go sideways, be co-opted by hyper-partisanship and outside interests, cost Alaskans a great deal of time and money, and risk loss of personal freedoms.

Convention proponents have already stated intentions to target, among other things, our rights to privacy and freedom from governmental interference, our rights to equal protection, and our rights to an independent justice system free from politics. The risk of losing these and other freedoms we now enjoy far outweighs the hope of a positive outcome.  

Changing Alaska’s constitution warrants a truly conservative approach. Our current process allows for specific, single-subject amendments to be debated and passed by two-thirds of both the House and Senate, before being put to a vote of the public. This process has been used successfully 28 times in the past, is transparent to Alaskans, and will continue to work in coming years to help us refine one of the finest state constitutions in this country.

As Alaskans cast their ballots in this historic election, we encourage you to vote no on a constitutional convention.

— Ian Laing, Jon Isaacs, Jack Hickel, Gail Schubert, Ira Perman, Tom Barrett, Scott Kendall and Yngvil Vatn Guttu

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Executive director and board, Institute of the North

Anchorage

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