Empire Editorial: For Assembly, mayoral race a great divider

  • Friday, February 26, 2016 1:04am
  • Opinion

The late Greg Fisk was viewed by many as a great unifier when he won the mayor’s seat, but filling his position has become a reason for division among the city’s Assembly members and mayoral hopefuls.

At a time when Juneau is facing an economic recession, a heroin crisis, and nagging issues like affordable housing, homelessness and what to do with the city’s solid waste, some elected officials are focusing on petty arguments.

On Monday, Assembly members Debbie White and Jerry Nankervis, Mayor Mary Becker and former Mayor Merrill Sanford signed their names to a letter calling out former Assembly member and mayoral candidate Karen Crane for her use of a photo in a flyer promoting her candidacy. The photo shows the full Assembly in their seats in the Assembly Chambers. Printed below the photo were endorsements from members of the community and information about Crane.

In the letter, White said using the photo ─ taken with public funds ─ was “most definitely a violation” of campaign laws and a complaint would be filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

That complaint was filed, then dismissed about a day later by APOC. That it took APOC so little time to toss out the complaint speaks volumes.

The photo belongs to the public and is beyond any copyright; it’s the property of anyone and everyone. That’s how public domain works.

Here’s the heart of the matter: White, Nankervis, Becker and Sanford are backing Crane’s opponent, Ken Koelsch, and don’t like that a photo that includes them is being used to promote a candidate they aren’t endorsing. In trying to sling mud at Crane, they also got dirt on their hands.

We understand their frustration, but not their handling of the situation.

The campaign mailer doesn’t say she has support from anyone in the photo, nor does it insinuate Assembly members are backing her candidacy. It’s simply a photo of the Assembly, of which Crane was a part. If individuals read something more into the campaign mailer.

Perhaps Crane should have notified those in the photo before she used it, but she wasn’t legally or ethically obligated to do so. It would have been a matter of courtesy, just like letting Crane know there was a problem before filing a complaint. If the offended party wants to make this issue a matter of courtesy, there is room for blame on both sides.

What troubles us the most is the apparent rift between current and past Assembly members, people who must be able to work together for all Juneau residents. We hope they’ll be able to get past this squabble and focus on the big picture once ballots are cast on March 15.

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