Alaska editorial: Capital should be readily accessible

Posted: Friday, January 19, 2007

This editorial appeared in The Voice of the Times:

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It was inevitable, of course, that one of the first bills prepared for introduction in the new Legislature would be one to move Alaska's capital to a more central location. Make that the Mat-Su Borough.

In years gone by, the Move-the-Capital effort has been stymied by spirited opposition from the Juneau establishment, which naturally will do all in its power to keep the state's seat of government in its sheltered surroundings.

Even when the voters a few years back approved by a wide margin moving the capital, Juneau was able to stall the matter by a campaign that painted an outrageously high price on what it would cost to set up shop anywhere else.

But as the population of the state continues to grow, and as Juneau's isolated location continues to make it difficult and expensive for ordinary citizens to have face-to-face contact with state officers, the effort to move the capital has continued.

The latest incarnation of this effort comes in the form of a bill by Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla. "People want access to their government," he said, "and I feel we have to keep that discussion moving forward and keep it on the table."

What's to argue about that?

At this stage, we'll make no prediction on how Neuman's bill with fare.

But we do know it has great merit, because the idea behind it has great merit.

The state's capital should be readily accessible to people. Juneau is not readily accessible, and no longer can justify its claim to being the capital city.

Despite claims to the contrary, moving the capital would not be expensive. How much can a few thousand packing crates be?

The fact is that even without moving the seat of government to Wasilla or some other location in the Mat-Su, it is obvious that the Legislature should be meeting in Southcentral Alaska, rather than in rainy and often fog-shrouded Juneau.

If the lawmakers were to convene in Wasilla, for example, there are ample places already built that could accommodate the needs of the Legislature. And those needing to do business with legislators could drive there on one-day trips, or fly from other parts of Alaska to Anchorage and then make an easy connection - at far less the cost involved in getting to Juneau and back.

This is not about building a new city, or even a stately new office building, complete with a dome on top.

It's about making government readily available, at less expense, to more and more of the people who the government is supposed to be serving.

As we said, it was inevitable that a new capital move bill would be introduced. And it is inevitable that the capital will be moved, one day before too many legislative sessions go by.

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