Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 5:02 PM on Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vote No: Measure really a wolf in sheep's clothing

By Kurt Fredriksson

All Alaskans support responsible, well-designed coastal zone management and, up until June 2011, Alaska had such a program in place. Unfortunately, Ballot Measure 2 on the August primary ballot is a far cry from that approach to coastal zone management.

Instead, it is a bad law that was written behind closed doors without hearings or independent analysis. We can't change or fix any of the defects in this measure — we may only vote on what was written.

The proponents like to say that Ballot Measure 2 is simply about restoring the coastal management program that expired in June 2011. That is untrue. Packaging this measure as something other than what it is may be good politics, but frankly it is deceptive.

This measure will not streamline government, cut red tape and make permitting projects easier. The reality is that this measure creates a new coastal management program that is unlike anything we've ever seen in Alaska.

In a November 2011 letter, Alaska Attorney General John Burns pointed out to Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell that Ballot Measure 2 has "numerous potential constitutional concerns," and "numerous irregularities involving draftsmanship, inconsistencies and ambiguities in the bill itself."

This vague, poorly drafted language, if passed by voters on Aug. 28, becomes enforceable law in the state of Alaska. Its flaws and defects will be the subject of lawsuits and court challenges for years to come.

And that means uncertainty and delay for both private and public development projects like building a home or cabin, building roads or bridges, and exploring for energy or mineral resources.

Ballot Measure 2 would even require new plans and regulations for "fishing" and "scenic and aesthetic enjoyment." Any project or activity that needs the approval of a local or state government agency in the coastal zone will be impacted.

Normally, the attorney general summarizes measures that appear on the ballot in 50 words or less. When it came to Ballot Measure 2, he couldn't do it. He asked Lt. Gov. Treadwell for permission to write a 703 word description — 14 times the space — to attempt to explain to voters the massive new bureaucracy and additional land and water use controls this initiative will create. The fact is Ballot Measure 2 is the longest, most complex ballot question to go before Alaska voters since statehood. (Editor's Note: See story for the ballot wording.)

In truth, this measure is a wolf in sheep's clothing. The argument that Alaska has more coastline and we are the only state without a coastal zone program is attractive on the surface.

But, like many things, the devil is in the details. Measure 2 is a lawyer's dream come true. It comes with new obstructionist tools, including a new unelected, appointed special interest board with broad new regulatory powers and no clear rules on what the regulations should address. Bureaucrats and judges get to decide what those rules are long after the election.

Ballot Measure 2 creates a major new bureaucracy at cost of $5.4 million, guarantees legal and political fights for years to come, and will establish one of the worst hurdles to new investment and jobs in our state. This measure alters our balanced approach to environmental protection in a dangerous way.

To learn more visit www.VoteNoon2.net and read the actual ballot language and the complex, new 15-page statute this measure would establish as Alaska law. If you do, I believe you will be convinced that Measure 2 is bad law and should be rejected.

Alaskans deserve responsible resource management and development based on responsible environmental protection laws. Alaska can't afford this poorly written and far-reaching new measure. We deserve better.

Kurt Fredriksson is a former commissioner of the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award for Coastal Zone Management.