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The governor, the jet and right or wrong  
By Sen. Kim Elton


July 08, 2006

In politics, we too often focus on right or left rather than right or wrong. This column is all about right or wrong.

You decide:

1. Is it right or wrong that the governor had his state jet drop him (and the first lady) off in Bellingham, Washington so they could meet up with their yacht?

2. Is it right or wrong that he had his state jet pick him up in Port Hardy, British Columbia when he got off his yacht?

3. Is it right or wrong that the governor used his state jet in a blitz to fly to Fairbanks where he announced he's running for governor, then Anchorage where he announced he's running for governor, then Kodiak where he announced he's running for governor?

4. Is it right or wrong for Alaska 's newspapers, radio stations, and television stations to not report on his use of his state jet?

Can't make up your mind on these questions? Here are some details:

On the yacht trip, the jet flew the governor and first lady from Anchorage to Bellingham May 12. The jet later picked up the governor from Port Hardy and flew him to Juneau . Total jet cost for these trips was $8,704.37. As a footnote: while the governor was jetting and yachting, the legislature was in the special session he called to deal with his energy tax bill and his gas pipeline contract.

On the "I'm running for governor" barn-storming trip May 26, the governor hopped his state jet in Fairbanks (after announcing in the Golden Heart City), then flew to Anchorage for another campaign announcement, then flew to Kodiak for another announcement event, and then flew back to Fairbanks. Total jet cost for the round-robin announcements: $4,490.46.

The costs are airtime only costs for crew, fuel and insurance for each hour the engines are fired up. All other costs for the jet are not part of the trip totals.

These, of course weren't the only trips for the jet during the last 30-day reporting period. The jet spent 61 hours in the air for a total airtime cost of $106,149.76. Prisoner transport accounted for just over half that time and occurred during a five-day stretch in the 30-day reporting period.

The only other jet trips of note occurred between May 22 and May 24 when the governor and first lady flew to Billings, then to Salt Lake City and back to Anchorage and a May 19 trip to Ketchikan then Petersburg where the governor got off to catch his yacht for a trip from Petersburg to Juneau. The Montana/Utah trip costs were $15,661.44 and the Juneau/Ketchikan/Petersburg trip costs were $2,784.56. The trip to Ketchikan and Petersburg coincided with a gas line hearing in Ketchikan and the Little Norway Festival in Petersburg.

Back to questions 1-4 posed at the beginning of this column: I'd answer the first two questions this way: it was wrong to use the jet to drop off/pick up at the yacht's ports of call. I think question three is still open. If the governor's campaign pays back the $4,490.46 in jet costs on his announcement blitz, it edges toward being right instead of wrong. 

The answer to question 4 is absolutely, the press ought to monitor jet use. A few months ago the Associated Press did do one story about how the jet is being used but other than that it's been pretty quiet. The press ought not be focused just on the politics of right or left (conservative or liberal) and which side prevails. They also ought to report on activities of elected officials in a way that helps Alaskans make up their minds about whether the actions of folks they've hired are, quite simply, right or wrong.



About: Sen. Kim Elton (D) is a member of the Alaska State Legislature representing Juneau.



Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.


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