Until now. On August 13th, 2012, KTVA Channel 11's Bill McAllister filed a story entitled "On Primary Ballot, Coastal Zone Management Proposition is a Battleground". McAllister has a reputation as one of Alaska's better reporters, but he slipped up and showed overt bias in favor of Ballot Measure Two in the story. Here's a screenshot of the questionable passage; note the highlighted phrase:
The term "severely weakened" is a highly-subjective term which would be acceptable in an editorial piece, but not necessarily in a hard-news report. It makes it appear as if McAllister's using his position to cheerlead for Ballot Measure Two. A more professional approach would have been for McAllister to state "Governor Murkowski streamlined the program in 2003, which some opponents contend severely weakened the program..."; this would have more accurately reflected Murkowski's intent in making the changes while informing the public that some people considered it to have been weakened. Since Bill McAllister had to contend with growing media bias himself during his stint as Governor Sarah Palin's press secretary, I would expect him to be even more sensitive to it than other reporters.
Fortunately, in an article entitled "Why coastal zone initiative, Prop 2, should be defeated", published by Alaska Dispatch back on July 24th, 2012, Frank Murkowski shows that his primary intent in changing coastal zone management in 2003 was to streamline the procedure rather than "severely weaken" it (after the jump):
When I came into office in December 2002, I pledged to streamline the Alaska Coastal Management Program because it was not working effectively. Some cases had resulted in mind-boggling delays that cost jobs. For example, it took Keith Koontz 7-1/2 years, which included a lot of litigation, just to get a consistency determination for a trapping cabin.
The specific reforms we made in 2003 were designed to speed up the consistency review process:
* We consolidated permitting in the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) for all state permits. Along with the changes we made to the Coastal Zone Program, we passed legislation in 2003 that made DNR the large-project coordinating agency. DNR had already the most permitting authority under Title 38 and had the in-house expertise to represent the state's best interest.
* Because we moved all permitting coordination to DNR, the Division of Governmental Coordination was no longer necessary, so we dissolved it and placed the Coastal Zone Program into DNR. We moved the Habitat Division to DNR to coordinate habitat issues with the other resource issues that DNR was attempting to balance.
* We required that enforceable policies meet a uniform set of science-based state standards as determined by DNR, for the specific purpose of achieving uniformity of the Coastal Zone rules throughout the state.
* Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) permits approved by the state were deemed approved under the Alaska Coastal Management Plan. In other words, if DEC approved a permit, an applicant would not have to take the time to go through the process to obtain the same permit, with potentially more restrictions, from the coastal districts; and
* No third-party appeals were allowed.
Murkowski contends that passage of Ballot Measure Two would repeal his 2003 reforms, meaning that DEC permits must be obtained twice -- once at the state level and then again at the coastal district level, probably with more restrictions. To provide balance, Alaska Dispatch published a commentary by Murkowski's predecessor, Gov. Tony Knowles, entitled "Why Alaskans should vote to restore coastal management program", on August 11th. Knowles, who favors Ballot Measure Two, says his version of coastal zone management succeeded because it also coordinated agencies and the permitting process between state and federal government. He contends it gave industry simplified access and accountability. He insists that during his administration, the overarching accomplishment of coastal management was to replace litigation and confrontation with communication and negotiation. At the end of the day, the ACMP created a sense of common purpose and empowered local people to be the guardians of promises made. In response to charges that Ballot Measure Two would go far beyond the previous coastal management program, Knowles told KTVA "I would like to respectfully suggest that's a diversionary tactic, that what is being recommended here is very similar to what worked for 25 years."
But if it was so simplified, why did Murkowski need to streamline it further?
And finally, here are the four basic references relevant to Ballot Measure Two:
-- The actual 16-page text of Ballot Measure Two
-- Yes On 2 (pro)
-- No On 2 (anti)
-- August 28th Primary Election information