Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 4:47 PM on Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Voters say 'no' to coastal plan

Staff Writer

With 10 precincts and potentially 15,900 absentee ballots statewide still to be counted, the result for Ballot Measure 1 remains too close to call. Unofficial results on Wednesday showed "yes" votes losing by 1,148 votes. Also still to be counted are early-voting numbers. If passed, the measure would allow local governments to raise the residential property tax exemption from $20,000 a home to $50,000.

Ballot Measure 2, the Coastal Zone Management Plan, however, failed handily, losing by 64,210 "no" votes to 39,624 "yes" votes. Kachemak Bay precincts strongly supported the measure to reauthorize the Coastal Management Plan that expired after the Legislature failed to continue the law and it ended under a sunset provision in June 30, 2011. Despite the Homer support, the measure failed district-wide and elsewhere on the Kenai Peninsula.

Mako Haggerty of Homer, one of the original Sea Party supporters of Ballot Measure 2, said Tuesday's upset was because "the opposition had a lot of funding to get their message out and they had a very simple message: vote no. That's all anybody ever head from them."

According to Alaska Public Office Commission reports, Vote No on 2 had about 10 times the financial support of supporters of the measure, with some oil and mining companies making $150,000 donations.

Haggerty held firm to his belief that Alaska needs a coastal management plan.

"We're the only state that that doesn't have a coastal management plan," said Haggerty. "The problem is that outside corporations don't want Alaskans to have a voice in the process. Unfortunately, their message was much simpler than ours."

Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai, who lost his re-election attempt to Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche, said Ballot Measure 2 was "way too complex and complicated."

A Kasilof voter's rejection of Ballot Measure 2 exemplified that attitude. Harold Hoyt said he could not vote yes because it was too convoluted and there were too many unanswered questions.

"It just seemed like there was one thing after another of what they thought they were going to do, but they weren't sure what things were going to cost," Hoyt said. "It's awfully complicated for the 'yes' vote."

While some argued the ballot measure was too complex, Haggerty said Alaska's former coastal management program took years to put together.

"Maybe we could have simplified the whole thing by saying, 'vote yes for a coastal management plan,' but that doesn't tell you what the plan is," said Haggerty.

Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, was an outspoken supporter of Ballot Measure 2. His Republican Party opponent, Jon Faulkner, opposed it, and conceded Seaton's support for Coastal Zone Management helped Seaton win Homer precincts.

Critics of the ballot measure also took exception to that being used as a route for establishing law. Haggerty agreed, but said it was taken because of lack of support from legislators.

"It's not the way to make a law. The way to make a law is for legislators to do the job they were hired for," said Haggerty. "The Legislature needs to start working for Alaskans instead of outside corporate interests. The whole thing is a corporate takeover. It's a spiral downward into corporate government. It's not the first step, but we're on a long step downward toward corporate control of government."

Wagoner encouraged another attempt at developing a coastal management program for the state.

"Do one you can put your arms around and understand and live with because we don't want the federal government dictating policy to the state," said Wagoner.

Micciche saw the no-on-2 vote as a reflection of voters being "uncomfortable of governing by initiative." When he goes to Juneau in January, Micciche said his goal is to get legislators talking about protections the state needs for its coastal areas.

"One clear area where I'm concerned is protection against finfish farming off the Alaska state waters," said Micciche. "Those are just simply conversations that need to be had in Juneau."

Seaton didn't see much chance of another try at a Coastal Zone Management Plan working in the Legislature.

"I have my doubts the Legislature will take it up," he said. "It's not like the Legislature is going to have any consensus. They didn't reach that before."

Seaton said one problem with legislative attempts at a new Coastal Management Zone Plan is that some want to go back to the 2003, Gov. Frank Murkowski-era version, the one that expired. That plan wasn't working, Seaton said.

"You're asking constituents and residents to do a lot of work. Not having enforceable policies means your work is ignored," he said.

Haggerty praised the efforts of Bruce Bothelo, the Alaska Sea Party and other supporters of coastal zone management initiative.

"They did it for Alaska, with Alaskans in mind, with our voice in mind. They didn't do it because they were being paid a lot of money or any money. They did it for the betterment of the state," said Haggerty. "The opposition was all about greed. The engine behind the yes vote was people that care about Alaska."

Ballot Measure 1 would allow a city or borough to raise its property tax exemption from $20,000 to a maximum $50,000. It also would allow a city or borough to pass allow to adjust the exemption to reflect an increase in the cost of living.

Micciche described Ballot Measure 1 as "a little bit of a tax gimmick."

"Anytime there's something that gives a little bit more local control, people will support it," said Micciche.

Wagoner said opposition to the measure was because "in some ways the ballot measure would put an unfair emphasis on small business people. (The exemption) has to be made up some place. It just redistributes who's paying the taxes."

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com. McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at mckibben.jacknsky@homernews.com.