by Rep. Mark Neuman
August 20, 2007
Her argument was we must regain the trust of the people of Alaska and remove what she called a "taint" over the proceedings. In order to start the healing and trust-building process, the session should be held where the majority of the people will have access.
I agreed with her then, and still do. We owe the people the opportunity to see the entire scope of the legislative process. What better way than with the very topic that is not only the lifeblood of the state's economy, but also the subject of a federal investigation into public corruption?
Since the end of the regular legislative session in May, political insiders have successfully managed to steer the discussion back towards having a special session on oil taxes located in Juneau.
As Alaskans, we look to our governor for the leadership and the power given her to call all Alaskans to the table. This is one of those occasions when the governor has the power to name the time, place and subject for representatives of the people of Alaska to meet and address any issue she feels strongly enough about to make that call.
I support her call to address the concerns many have expressed about the process by which the PPT came to be - but polling legislators on their preference of location I do not support. In this approach we are likely to lose sight of the higher goal, that being to do the work of the people out in the open and regaining some level of their confidence.
Let us not forget that we, as elected officials, work at the will of the people and for their benefit.
Gov. Palin has helped keep the PPT debate in front of the public through her advocacy for a bill that would stop oil company deductions for faulty or lacking maintenance (SB 80), and by constantly scolding the Legislature in the media for creating a "cloud of suspicion."
What better way to draw back that veil or vent out that smoke than by placing the session in a location where the vast majority of Alaskans have the opportunity to personally observe the Legislature in session? Anchorage? Fairbanks? Kenai?
In these locations, the majority of residents live within a day's drive, school classes from all levels could attend, everyday Alaskans who can't afford air fare and lodging could bear witness firsthand, and more Alaskans could see how their elected officials act in person, not through cable television channels or the media.
We need to show our constituents that we work for them, not special interests; that we are protecting our natural resources, not selling them to some conglomerate; that we are doing everything we can to regain their trust in this changing political landscape, not fleeing for some perceived safety in Juneau.
I understand the argument that the necessary infrastructure is already in place, and that the cost for the previous one-day special session was higher than anticipated. But how do you quantify building trust, good will, civic duty and education? This is especially prudent at a time when the public is constantly bombarded with media reports that question the integrity of elected officials and the process that taxes the lifeblood of our economy and the vast majority of state revenues.
There are many in the House majority, like myself, who believe the decision is ultimately the governor's. I support the governor's proclamation that calls us into a special session and as part of that call it is beholden on her to set the date and location of that meeting.
As residents of this state we all have a stake in this, so I encourage you to let your voice be heard.
A special session in Juneau doesn't go far enough to rebuild the confidence Alaskans need in their legislators and governor. We face major issues that will affect the future of this state in the next session.
It is important Alaskans know
they have elected people capable of making wise decisions about
the future. That can happen with a session all can attend.
Received August 17, 2007 - Published August 20, 2007
About: is a member of the Alaska State House representing House District 15 - Matanuska-Susitna, Alexander Creek, Big Lake, Houston, Meadow Lakes, Petersville, Point Mackenzie, Skwentna, Talkeetna, Trapper Creek, Wasilla, Willow
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