(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

(Peter Segall / Juneau Empire File)

Opinion: Opposite sides agree that a constitutional convention is a bad idea

Approving a constitutional convention would be very bad for Alaska.

Everyone who knows us also knows that we generally don’t agree on political matters. In fact, we are commonly on opposite sides of the table when it comes to natural resource matters.

But there is one thing on which we do agree — approving the constitutional convention, on which Alaskans will vote this November, would be very bad for Alaska no matter where you stand. For conservation-minded folk it risks tampering with the sustained yield principle contained in Article VIII of Alaska’s constitution. For the development community it risks business turmoil as now settled principles of law could be thrown open again and new taxes on industry sought to pay for “pie in the sky” ideas.

Moreover, were there to be a constitutional convention it would be very different from that held in Fairbanks in 1955. Fifty-five Alaskans gathered with the common purpose of preparing a model constitution. The delegates recognized that the document they were preparing had to convince Congress that Alaska was ready for statehood. So, they worked together to make it the best. And they succeeded!

Indeed, those who want a constitutional convention do not argue that it is not an excellent constitution, or that one is needed because the mechanisms of government aren’t working, or that the rights built into it are insufficient. Rather, like their counterparts in the Lower 48, they want to resolve social and cultural issues like abortion, and economic issues like the PFD issues their way. So, the likelihood of Alaskans finding common purpose and compromise in a convention today is almost nil.

Alaskans are already polarized in their views — just like citizens in the rest of the United States. So, instead of Alaskans gathering as one to resolve Alaskan issues as in 1955, we would likely see Lower 48, Outside interests spending large amounts of money to put their point of view into Alaska’s new constitution. Instead of the control Alaskans now have over their Constitution through the demonstrably workable amendment process, a constitutional convention would open Pandora’s box. Expenditures of outside money by outside groups would likely reign and Alaskans would lose control.

Joni Mitchell is famous for singing “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got Til It’s Gone.” That’s the situation Jim and Kate agree would occur if a constitutional convention is approved in November.

Vote no. It’s dangerous, not needed, and expensive. Worst of all it will drive Alaskans further apart in ways over which we will have no control.

• Jim Clark is former chief of staff for Gov. Frank Murkowski. Kate Troll is a former Juneau Assembly member. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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