A Note from Representative Les Gara, Anchorage House District 18
I’m coming to grips with the fact that it’s getting cold and fishing season might be over. So, this newsletter might be a little raw, as I get used to the reality that fall “might” be over. Apologies in advance.
Governor Should Drop Lawsuit Against Former First Lady Bella Hammond and Vic Fischer
You’ve probably heard the state is suing former First Lady Bella Hammond and constitutional framer Vic Fisher - Alaskan icons - for challenging Pebble Mine permits for what would be the largest surface mine in North America, and a potential toxic threat to the world's greatest wild salmon and trout streams. The Governor has the discretion to drop the lawsuit against Alaskans of limited income, and should.
I and others warned the law would be used to threaten, or punish, Alaskans who, in good faith, challenged government action they believed illegally endangered our fishing and hunting rights. Now it has been.
The law was passed by Governor Murkowski and his legislative allies in 2003 (excerpts from my Floor Speech opposing the bill below). Last week the state announced it would seek attorney’s fees against Ms. Hammond and Mr. Fischer for a good faith lawsuit they filed to seek public input before the state disposed of our land rights to the British and Canadian Pebble Mine developers. Now, between the state and those mine developers, roughly $1 million in attorney’s fees are being demanded from two of Alaska's most revered statespeople.
As a friend of former Governor Hammond, and someone who immensely respects the work of Mr. Fischer, and as a person who warned against how this law would stifle the public from challenging its own government, I'm not happy.
The state and Governor Parnell have the discretion not to pursue fees. They should drop the lawsuit.
Here's what I said in part on the House Floor when this law passed:
And that's what's now happened. First Lady Hammond and Mr. Fischer wanted to make sure the public had a say in the disposal of lands, and the protection of the world's greatest salmon and trout streams. Shame on the state for seeking punishment.
Outstanding Students and Staff and East High
Last Wednesday I spent the day at East High. I watched an amazing dance troupe. I saw students learning and studying. I and staff were served a great lunch by culinary students. Congratulations to all the students working so hard at that school, and all the staff who are working to help them achieve their dreams. As a state representative I have an obligation to make sure youth have opportunity, and can achieve their dreams. I'll keep pushing for a reversal of four years of damaging education staff cuts, and for affordable, accessible higher education and job training opportunities.
As always, call if you have any questions.