Editorial: Against Props 1 and 2, for Vazquez in District J

Alaskans go to the polls Aug. 28 to decide primary races and two ballot initiatives. Here are some final thoughts:

Against Prop 1: This measure would allow municipalities to raise the property tax exemption from the first $20,000 in value to as much as $50,000. It’s been advanced by some folks in Fairbanks including former Borough Mayor Jim Whitaker, who told the Anchorage Daily News that he understands this will raise property taxes on businesses.

It’s not surprising that Whitaker would want to relieve the cost of living for his former constituents in one of the most expensive places to reside in Alaska, but it is somewhat surprising that he doesn’t understand that increased costs for business are either deducted from wages or passed on to consumers.

Lowering taxes for some won’t lessen the overall need for revenue, and as Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan noted, raising the taxes on rental property owners is going to increase rents in a city that already has steep costs and a 2 percent vacancy rate.

The best way to lower the cost of living for Alaskans is to reduce energy costs, not through shifting tax burdens on to others.

Against Prop 2: This measure would reestablish a coastal zone management program, and it has drawn fierce opposition from the oil and gas industry, miners, labor unions and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, among others.

Backers of the initiative have tried to cast this measure as a battle between Outside interests and Alaskans, but that’s hard to square with the opposition coming from local labor unions who depend on both the resource development sector and the capital budget funded by royalties for high-paying jobs.

The Sea Party, which got the measure on the ballot, has also tried to portray the initiative as simply restoring coastal zone management that allowed for all the oil, gas and mining projects developments throughout the state over the past 30 years.

However, the 15-page initiative is far from equivalent to the previous program that lapsed on June 30, 2011, when the state Senate couldn’t come up with a coastal management reauthorization and wouldn’t even take a vote or offer amendments on a measure that passed the House by a 40-0 vote.

If the Sea Party had simply wanted to restore the previous program, the ballot measure would have been one sentence long instead of 15 pages. A measure to restore the program that expired would have been something we could support, but Prop 2 is a disaster in the making.

The legislature needs to come up with a coastal zone management program, that much is clear. While we appreciate the sentiment of citizens attempting to do the work the Senate failed to do, Prop 2 is not the solution.

For Liz Vazquez in District J: We’ll save the rest of our candidate endorsements for the November election, but we didn’t want to let the primary pass without showing some support for the candidacy of Liz Vazquez in Senate District J for West Anchorage.

Vazquez is facing Bob Bell in the Republican primary, with the winner to face incumbent Sen. Hollis French.

It’s nothing against Bell — although we have no doubt the abrasive French would make an issue of Bell’s connection to disgraced and convicted former Habitat Division head Cory Rossi over what the Alaska Dispatch reported was an attempt at an illegal musk ox hunt in Nome while Bell was a member of the state Board of Game.

No, we are for Vazquez because she is exactly the kind of person we always wish would get into politics but all too seldom do.

The daughter of Puerto Rican immigrants, not only was she the first in her family to graduate high school, she went on to earn a law degree and two master’s degrees. (She’s also likely the first Alaskan candidate to conduct a door-to-door campaign on a Segway.)

Vazquez is a former prosecutor, assistant state Attorney General, administrative law judge, and attorney for the U.S. Department of the Treasury. She’ll hardly be a shrinking violet in a Senate currently distinguished by the go-along, get-along gang.

Unlike French, who seems to believe oil producers are the enemy, Vazquez sees them — correctly — as partners. If the citizens of West Anchorage want someone who can be both a productive legislator while not rolling over for the oil industry, we think they’d be wise to send Vazquez on from the Aug. 28 primary and defeat French in November.

08/23/2012 - 7:47am