As I predicted would happen, the Anchorage Daily News is reporting that Dennis Mandell withdrew his name to sit on the State Assessment Review Board, the board that values the trans-Alaska pipeline for tax purposes.
Gov. Sean Parnell has drawn fire for appointing Mandell, a Californian and a former oil industry executive. Parnell has offered no explanation as to why he had to go to California to find a qualified board member. Likewise, he’s offered no explanation as to why he fired the former board member, who fought to raise the assessed value of the pipeline, resulting in millions of tax dollars for Alaskan communities.
A state law says board and commission nominees must be registered Alaska voters. The Alaska Constitution says that such boards must be filled by U.S. citizens, which Parnell used to defend the appointment. He continued to do so even as members of his own party began questioning the legality of the appointment. His intransigence, from someone who isn’t known to be so, is puzzling.
This has not turned out to be the smoothest session of Parnell’s tenure. It looks like school choice, which Parnell supported, is dead for now. Women’s groups and socially liberal independents are beginning to organize over abortion. And Parnell’s bill to streamline DNR’s ability to permit is under intense attack. More than 100 people from all across the state gathered at legislative offices to testify against HB77 on Wednesday. For 90 minutes, fisherman and tribal leaders, environmentalists and sportsman, spoke against the bill. Many of them with an intensity and anger rarely seen.
The comments of Eric Jordon, a 64 year old fisherman from Sitka, were reflective of the testimony. “Please kill this bill now and send a Senate resolution to Gov. Parnell asking him to apologize to Alaskans for introducing this ‘Muzzling Alaskans Act,’” he said. The crowd gathered at the Sitka Legislative Office building erupted in cheers.
Parnell, a former ConocoPhillips lobbyist, who is running for reelection against Democrat Byron Mallott and independent Bill Walker, should be worried about upsetting so many Alaskans. And he should be worried about looking like he’s too close to industry right now. His major accomplishment so far—lowering taxes on the oil industry—is on primary ballot for repeal. I’ve been told that polls indicate that the vote, if held tomorrow, would be close.
On Thursday, Mallott took advantage of the situation. He sent out the following mock state board appointments form:
Board on which you would like to serve: Employer (circle one) ConocoPhillips Exxon Shell BP Occupation (circle one): Lobbyist Oil Industry Consultant Oil Executive State of Residence (Alaska not required):
Contact Amanda Coyne at firstname.lastname@example.org