With Alaskan citizens experiencing campaign information overload, it is more important than ever to focus on the local races happening in your new district. Skip what the candidate’s television advertisements say. This is Alaska. Call or email them! Ask them tough questions and get to know them. We are lucky that this is a small enough state we can still do that and make a significant impact.
In addition to the many district races, there are two ballot measures on the August 28 primary ballot. I’ll provide some information on both, but I encourage you to look at both of these issues and make your own decisions.
Ballot Measure One touches on the eternally contentious issue of property taxes and how to best structure them for the benefit of residential property owners. This measure tries to provide residential owners some tax relief by raising the exemption from $20,000 to, at most, $50,000, with individual municipalities being given some leeway into how this exemption is calculated. It also allows the potential for this exemption to go up with inflation. The downside is that lowering tax revenue collected from residential properly will increase tax burdens on commercial and industrial property; possibly disproportionately so in some municipalities. As someone who supports local control of government, I support reforming tax schemes, but question measures that seek to do so at the expense of State revenue.
A hugely important issue is Ballot Measure 2, which would restore state control over coastal zone management – something we have benefited from as Alaskans for decades. We are now the only coastal state without any say in what happens to our coast. The case made against state-control is that it will add more “red tape” to future development projects. Supporters of the initiative argue that over the 34 years our previous program was in place, coastal zone management did not stifle development. The truth is, we are a pro-development state. Industry is here, and it’s not going anywhere. This is more a matter of how we conduct business in a way that is mutually beneficial. Proponents think we should have some involvement in the process; opponents believe that this initiative isn’t the way.
Recently, I was driving through a nice neighborhood in Eagle River and saw that one yard sported three yard signs for Republican candidates–all running for state house in the same district. I found it pretty indicative of our current political culture. The message, at least to me, was that any of the three candidates would be acceptable as long as they weren’t Democrats. I imagine that I might see something similar driving in districts with multiple Democratic primary challengers, though the only instance where there are more than two Democrats running in the primary is against incumbent Don Young for the U.S. House of Representatives. Good luck with that.
After the recent redistricting fiasco, nearly every House and Senate seat in the state is up for election. Only one lucky soul, Senator Dennis Egan of Juneau gets to sleep easy this cycle. It is an overload on the political system.With money in politics showing marked increase, thanks in no small part to Citizens United, an unorganized and underfunded Democratic party, and no real viable state-wide (or district-wide, it seems) third party, we are in for a big mess come our next legislative session. Our republic looks more and more like a public auction where rank and file Alaskans lose big time. Remember the self-identifying Corrupt Bastards Club? Remember VECO’s hand in all of that? Bill Allen anyone? This seems like a lesson learned, but might very well be repeated.
In my ideal world, we would have publicly-funded elections that promoted dialogue among the candidates, gave us more diversity of choices, and actually supported a citizen-led legislature. Unfortunately, I do not rule the state (fortunately for you) – much less the Supreme Court – and this is not the reality that we have.
With dozens and dozens of candidates running, mainstream media and social media forums are being clogged with propaganda and shoe-string budget staffs with journalists unable to hold the multitudes of candidates accountable. A lot of the campaigns are bizarre at best, which while wildly entertaining for pundits and armchair politicos, only promotes the craziness. The good news is that tomorrow you can make an impact on democracy – whatever we currently have left of it. With the internet you can learn so much about a candidate quickly, and in the giant small state of Alaska, you can even stop and meet them as they are waving signs trying to persuade the electorate to fill in the bubble by their name. It is NOT too late to do some research about the issues and candidates you will be asked about…candidates you will be asked to vote for, or against. And before you go to vote at your regular polling place, look at your new voter ID card and see if that location has changed. For many it has.
My name is Chris Bailey, a citizen of Alaska, defender of our Constitution, and I approve this message.