|Ray Metcalfe and Vic Fischer checking their work|
- image by Zach Roberts
A founder of the Republican Moderate Party, and longtime critic of Democratic Party Alaska politicians whose support for development is eclipsed by their friendliness to flawed energy company regulation or taxation, Ray has become the most persistent Democrat in Alaska, when it comes to taking on heavyweight personalities (then-Sen. Ben Stevens), clubs (the GOP Corrupt Bastards), or campaigns (the 2006 Democratic primary for the U.S. House, and in 2008, for the U.S. Senate).
Long before the 28th Alaska Legislature convened, Ray warned that Gov. Parnell was about to dismantle ACES. Shortly after the 2012 election, while Ray and I were going through some paperwork together, he mentioned that the end of the so-called Senate Coalition meant a tax holiday for Alaska's big three big oil trio: ConocoPhillips, British Petroleum and Exxon-Mobil. He also said a citizen's initiative might be able to overturn any bill.
In February, at the Anchorage Bartlett Club, Ray told me he was thinking about getting people interested in an initiative, or referendum on the bill, SB21, that was being introduced in Juneau to committees on a fast track.
In March we discussed the probability of SB 21's passage several times. On the 22nd, I interviewed him on his ideas about an initiative or referendum.
Ray always stressed how time sensitive the referendum process has become. From the beginning, he felt a successful campaign might need over $500,000.
I wasn't able to attend more than a single meeting of various groups getting together this past ten days, as Ray's plans gained traction and became somewhat taken out of his hands. What I saw at that one meeting encouraged me:
I took away a couple of deep impressions from the meeting. The most indelible was seeing former Wally Hickel aide Malcolm Roberts, former legislator and gubernatorial candidate Chancy Croft, former Anchorage mayor Jack Roderick, and former legislator and constitutional convention participant, Vic Fischer, all sitting together at one end of the table. What a stunning group of four men, with a collective set of accomplishments, memories and stories about our short statehood experience, second to none.I was working during the remainder of the meetings, and when the rally and petition delivery happened. What I've read or seen about how this is going is encouraging. For one thing, the referendum petition has been filed by a respectable group, headed by inclusive Alaska icons Vic Fischer, Bella Hammond and Jed Whittaker.
Metcalfe handed over the petition paperwork himself, in the governor's Anchorage office. In this video, taken for The Mudflats by Zach Roberts, the receptionist seems overwhelmed at first. But her handling of this under pressure is laudable:
Ray Metcalfe and I think this referendum will be able to get its 30,000 valid signatures - and then some:
To apply for petitions, they needed 100 signatures, and collected 372 in just a couple of days, Metcalfe said. Now it's up to Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell to decide whether to approve the application for petitions. While he has just seven days to make that determination, the state then must print signature booklets, and that can delay the process. Organizers hope the state acts fast.
The referendum campaign already has a Facebook page called "Vote Yes -- Repeal the Giveway." Lavin said the effort will need many volunteers to succeed. The group plans to register with the Alaska Public Offices Commission and raise money "from Alaskans," Lavin said. They likely will have to pay signature gatherers to collect enough in time, though the group is just forming and figuring out how to proceed, he said.Anyway - we'll get the signatures, and this referendum will be placed on the 2014 ballot.
Then the ad campaigns by Big Oil will start swarming your media. Who will the referendum opponents hire to sway key swing voters? Tony Knowles? Bill Sheffield? Put Steve Cowper's name and picture on milk cartons?
Without Ray Metcalfe's background work on this citizens' response to SB 21, the referendum idea might not have gotten going in time to implement it.