Gov. Sean Parnell did well for Ketchikan and Alaska in ways that count.
Parnell became Alaska’s chief executive in July 2009 after Gov. Sarah Palin resigned. He served honorably for five years and ends his term Monday with the swearing in of Governor-elect Bill Walker.
Parnell brought a sense of calm and thoughtfulness to the governor’s office, which Alaskans longed for after all of the drama that circulated in and around the previous administration.
From his own swearing in, Parnell went to work as governor for Alaskans. Of great relief to Ketchikan and every other community that reaps the benefits of cruise ship tourism, Gov. Parnell met with cruise line officials. As a result, Alaska began to realize an increase in cruise line activity, which had declined when a ballot initiative imposed a statewide passenger head tax.
Not only tourism, but the timber industry gained Parnell’s attention. At his direction, Alaska sued the federal government in 2011, challenging a ban on new logging roads in millions of acres in national forests, including the Tongass National Forest.
Parnell had the wisdom to avoid the Affordable Health Care Act, aka Obamacare, for Alaska in two aspects. For the first, he declined to establish a state-run exchange, and, secondly, he opted out of the Medicaid expansion. Given that other states which proceeded with participation are beginning to reverse course, Parnell’s actions might prove the better route.
Additionally, Parnell walked the high wire when it came to balancing community capital project requests with the state’s declining oil revenue.
In Ketchikan, he signed off on capital dollars for Ketchikan Shipyard, building two Alaska Marine Highway System ferries, City of Ketchikan port renovations, a new city fire hall, a new city library, a hospital upgrade, and Swan Lake Hydroelectric expansion.
Ketchikan took advantage of the opportunity to build its infrastructure during the Parnell administration.
Parnell dedicated himself to passage of Senate Bill 21, which provided a new tax structure for oil companies operating in the state. The bill passed the Legislature. An initiative opposing the bill appeared on the state’s primary election ballot; voters joined with Parnell to keep SB21 intact.
Parnell stated the new tax structure would increase oil production activity in the state. With more production, he concluded in his argument, Alaska would realize more oil dollars than it would without it — whatever the oil prices might be at the time.
Parnell adopted early in his term a campaign of Choose Respect, an attempt to draw attention to the state’s epidemic of domestic violence and sexual assault. Ironically, sexual abuse scandals within the Alaska National Guard, which reports ultimately to the governor’s office, tarnished the governor during the gubernatorial election. But, Choose Respect still successfully increased awareness of the problem, which precedes a solution.
The Choose Respect campaign will outlive Parnell’s administration.
As with all governors, Gov. Parnell had challenges and highlights during his term. Now that it’s ending, it is appropriate to recall the achievements and show appreciation for his effort in their regard.
Gov. Parnell clearly did much for Ketchikan and Alaska. Thank you, governor and good luck.
— Ketchikan Daily News,