Monday, February 26, 2007

Libertarian Candidate Alex Crawford Fires First Shot In East Anchorage Assembly Race

Special Update: This just in - the Anchorage Daily News filed a storyat 4:01 P.M. AST reporting that a group hoping to repeal the city’s new smoking ban just filed a lawsuit today accusing the city of trying to campaign against them. It turns out that, in addition to publishing only an opposition statement to Proposition 1, the city also published a public notice in the February 17th edition of the Anchorage Daily News describing what might happen if the ban is allowed to kick in later this year, as planned. The description can also be found on an elections page of the city’s Web site. The city wrote that the ban would mean fewer people would contract expensive illnesses and miss work and that there’s no direct evidence that expanding the ban would hurt businesses. Alex Crawford, a member of the Alaska Libertarian Party and a candidate for the East Anchorage seat of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly, says the city is telling only one side of the story. He said the city is ignoring people who told the Assembly the ban would be bad for businesses. It is against municipal code for the city to campaign for or against a referendum. This story also reported on KTVA Channel 11.

Libertarian candidate Alexander "Alex" Crawford (pictured upper left, courtesy of KTVA) has fired the first public shot in the campaign for the East Anchorage Municipal Assembly seat. In a letter to the editor published in the February 26th edition of the Anchorage Daily News (scroll down to the 10th letter after clicking on the link), he takes incumbent Ken Stout to task over his lack of understanding about the proper generic role of government, highlighting Stout's support of the anti-smoking ordinance passed in August 2006. I summarize his LTE below:

Summary: Alex Crawford believes that Ken Stout is confused about the role of government. While Crawford acknowledges a governmental role in public health by keeping our drinking water and outside air free from pollution, he believes the smoking ban, supported by Stout, crosses the line from public health into personal health. He echoes the traditional libertarian viewpoint that the government does not own us.

And since we are not the government's "property", Crawford believes the personal health factor doesn't apply here. His point: If someone wishes to work in or patronize a business that allows smoking, that is his or her absolute individual right and not something for other people to decide.

Crawford also cites a "slippery-slope" effect. If government is allowed the precedent of dictating personal health, what's next? Telling us what to eat? What to wear? In short, he doesn't want people being "criminalized" simply because of their personal habits.

He closes by urging people to vote Libertarian across the board on April 3rd, not only for his own election as Eastside Assembly Member, but also urges Midtown residents to elect Jason Dowell, and to vote Yes on Proposition 1 to repeal the smoking ban.

Commentary: The referenced "Jason Dowell" is the libertarian candidate for the Midtown Assembly seat. Dowell is running against incumbent Dan Coffey (considered a "conservative") and challenger Elvi Gray-Jackson. Even though the Democratic and Republican parties will line up behind many Assembly candidates, primarily those who do NOT take the "municipal exemption" (meaning they are exempt from any campaign finance reporting requirements if they sign a statement agreeing not to spend or accept more than $5,000 in campaign contributions), Assembly races are considered officially "non-partisan".

Crawford's primary campaign issue is repeal of the anti-smoking ordinance passed in August 2006. The ordinance, (AO 2006-86(S)), which takes effect on July 1, 2007, expands the previous ordinance passed in 2000 by prohibiting smoking in enclosed areas in private residences when child care is provided for a fee, any place of employment with one or more employees, bars, retail tobacco shops, private clubs that are open to the public, private residences when providing child care services for a fee, within 50 feet of the entrance to any hospital or clinic; within 20 feet of Municipal and School District office buildings. The Alaska Libertarian Party, along with Stomp The Ban, waged a smart and successful campaign to get a repeal initiative, Proposition 1, on the municipal ballot for the April 3rd election.

However, Crawford has an issue with the presentation of Proposition 1. Unlike the State of Alaska, which customarily presents separate statements of support and opposition for every statewide proposition submitted to the voters, the Municipality of Anchorage only included a statement of economic effects accompanying Proposition 1. This statement strictly defends the anti-smoking ordinance and implicitly opposes Proposition 1. There is no competing statement of support for Proposition 1. As a result, according to a story published by the Anchorage Daily News, Alex Crawford delivered a cease-and-desist letter to the city clerk on Friday February 23rd requesting that the municipality stop publishing that description and to issue a retraction within one week. Along with their cease-and-desist letter, Crawford gave the city copies of studies they say show how businesses lost money after smoking bans. Crawford claims the city is ignoring testimony from local businesses that said the tougher anti-smoking rules would cost them money.

The city believes their published analysis makes no argument in favor of Proposition 1. It links secondhand smoke to lung cancer and says that while there's no direct proof that businesses would be hurt by tougher smoking rules, it cites a University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) study which -- according to the city -- showed that barring smoking in public places didn't hurt employment in 2001. Consequently, according to Mayor Mark Begich's spokeswoman Julie Hasquet, the city does not intend to retract or change its description of the ballot proposition. Furthermore, Hasquet pointed out that the city's description of the ban will not appear on the April ballot. It was written by the Office of Management and Budget, with the help of the treasury division. Hasquet did indicate that she will review the studies submitted by Crawford.

However, Hasquet's response is disingenuous in two ways. First, the cited UAA study was undertaken in 2001, in response to the first ban, which exempted bars and other social establishments. Proposition 1 is in response to the second, more comprehensive ban which includes bars and other social establishments and has yet to take effect. Second, the city's accompanying analysis implicitly defends the August 2006 ordinance, which also makes it an implicit statement of opposition to Proposition 1. So to preserve the appearance of fairness and to prevent the city from being accused of wrongfully lobbying for or against a proposition, the city should include a statement of support for Proposition 1 authored by its proponents, even if the statements would not actually appear on the ballot themselves.

While Alex Crawford's status as a libertarian implies, at the very least, that he won't advocate any more government than is absolutely necessary to accomplish its generic functions, he has yet to publicize any of his positions on other issues, particularly the other nine city-wide propositions to appear on the ballot (Props 2-10). Crawford is likely to support the public safety propositions, and may even support the transportation propositions. However, since libertarians tend to oppose the concept of public education as a matter of principle, don't be surprised if Crawford comes out in opposition to the two school bonds on the ballot. Crawford also has no personal campaign website or blogsite; he would really jump-start his campaign by opening up a campaign blog on Blogger, which is simple and free. Perhaps he will post campaign information on the Alaska Libertarian Party website.

However, Crawford did run unsuccessfully for the U.S. House of Representatives against Don Young in 2006. His responses to candidate surveys submitted at that time can provide us with some insight into his political thinking. And I discovered his response to a KTVA Channel 11 candidate survey, posted on August 21st, 2006. Here's the most pertinent part of his response:

Question: Where do you stand on safety issues - primarily what would you do to help solve the gang problem?

Abridged Answer: ...Though a certain amount of violence will always be present in every society, we can go a long way to reducing that level of violence by ending our failed programs of prohibition. In doing so, the positions of those who would use violence against the rest of us will be weakened rather than strengthened.

Question: How would you improve education?

Abridged Answer: The best way to improve eductation would be to get the government out of it. No believer in a higher power should be forced (through taxes) to pay for schools where God is absent. And neither should any agnostic be forced to pay for schools where prayer and Godly teachings are present. The only just solution is to let every parent provide, at their own cost, for whatever brand of education that THEY feel is best suited for their child...

Question: How would you improve streets/roads/highways?

Full Answer: I advocate a system of transportation construction and maintenance that provides for the actual needs of the public at the best cost. Government should not be employed when private enterprise is able to provide the same benefit at a better cost. Government's proper place is to provide strict scrutiny over the spending of public money in order to prevent corruption. But it is not proper for government to absorb money to benefit its own bureaucracy at the expense of the taxpayer.

Alex Crawford has two opponents in the East Anchorage Assembly race. Ken Stout is the incumbent, who generally favors smaller government than many of his colleagues. You can read his response to this survey as well as this Anchorage Daily News article to verify this. However, Stout did vote for both anti-smoking ordinances, as well as the bicycle helmet ordinance. Like Crawford, Ken Stout has no campaign website at this moment. His other opponent, Sheila Selkregg , packs a powerful academic punch; she holds a Master's Degree in urban planning, a PhD in urban studies, and is a Professor in Public Administration at the University of Alaska at Anchorage. However, public officials with a similar combination of credentials tend to be "gentrifiers" when it comes to urban planning; they tend to be at least milder proponents of the radical "New Urbanism" philosophy, which squeezes the working class out of cities and makes cities affordable only to the rich. Selkregg does not identify the shrinking supply of affordable housing in Anchorage as an issue worthy of mention, so those who live in her district should quiz her closely on this issue at any candidate forums.

Oh, and by the way, libertarians can win elections. Case in point: Sara Chambers.

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