Mike Staso's My Turn (Wednesday's Juneau Empire) is so full of innuendoes and flawed logic it is hard to know where to begin. First, he spends the first half of his article characterizing the legislators as a bunch of "wining and dining, bun sunning" playboys that require his watchful eye to ensure there are actually conducting the public's business. Then he spends the other half whining about having to either spend $100 on a passport, or having to buy a plane ticket ($310 for a 14-day advance, Anchorage-Juneau-Anchorage) to be our watchdog over the legislator during sessions in Juneau.
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Next, unless the legislation that he is referring to as change radically since its introduction in the last legislative session, only entities with populations larger than 30,000 can bid on the legislative sessions. But let's assume that any community can submit a bid, remember the operative word is "bid," as in how much is the community willing to spend to get the sessions. Recently, Juneau explored the option of building a new Capitol somewhere in the $100 million range. This does not including all the other infrastructure that would be required to support the legislators and staff for at least 90 days a year.
Juneau, with its population, was looking at about $3,000 for every man, woman and child. It would cost Staso and the rest of his Glenallen neighbors about $167,000 each! In Wasilla, the home of the sponsor of this legislation, the tax burden would be $16,700 per person. Where would this money come from? Staso can't afford $100 for a passport, but he can afford $167,000 to build a new Capitol in Glenallen?
Next, remember this would be a bidding process. There is no guarantee that Wasilla or Glenallen would get the award. Barrow is a very affluent community. What would happen to your access argument if they won the award? Then there is Anchorage, the $100 million divided by 250,000 people is only $400 per person! Call me what you will, but what do you think will happen if Anchorage won this bid and managed to end up with 11 senators and 21 House members? How much of state funding do you think will leave Anchorage once Anchorage has the majority in both houses? I'll give you a hint: It looks like an "O" but it is really a zero!
If you're like most of us with a spouse, kids a job or two, where are you going to find 1) the time to go sit in the galley and observe or wait around in the lobby for a chance to talk "face to face" with a legislator? 2) If you can't afford a $100 for a passport, how can you afford to take time off from work? I have found it a lot less expensive to sit at my computer for 15 minutes and "bang out" an e-mail than even to attempt to visit the Capitol. 3) Even if you manage to find the time and have a little extra money so you can afford to miss work, what make you think the "wine and dine, bun sunning" legislators (as you have characterize them) would pay attention to what you had to say in the first place?
Last but not least, when it comes to the bill to move the legislative sessions, who is the really going to benefit? As they say in the crime dramas, "follow the money." Who stands to benefit? It is a handful of contractors and property speculators that will reap the lion share of any benefit from this legislation, the poor sap "Joe Six-pack" will get to foot the bill by way of increased property taxes if they are a home owner or increased rent if they are not.
Michael Lavering is a state employee and homeowner in Juneau.
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