This editorial appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner:
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T here was a time that Alaskans voted in favor of moving the capital of Alaska from Juneau to Willow. That was back in the mid-1970s.
Then we saw the price tag in 1978 and voted to leave it where it was.
For folks in the Mat-Su Valley, that has been a little like winning the lottery but being told the ticket was only good for as much money as was available - which was zero.
So, no wonder the subject hasn't been dropped.
And, with a new governor hailing from the Mat-Su, it's no wonder one of the pre-filed bills this session comes from a Mat-Su representative, Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla, looking for an opportunity - once again - to move the capital.
Back in December, when the governor chose to hold her inauguration in Fairbanks and some folks in Juneau took that as a bad sign, we assured our friends there that we are firm in our geographic and political knowledge as to where the capital of Alaska lies: in Juneau.
And there it should stay.
Neuman's bill does have some value, however, in that it continues to fortify the public record with documentation of just how poorly our existing Capitol serves the people of this state. The bill does this by calling for the building of a new "legislative hall" and spells out the shortcomings of the current Capitol.
Tough to argue that one. Anyone who has been to the Capitol in recent years knows the building, erected in 1931, falls short of current needs. Our Capitol is nothing to brag about - far from it.
Neuman's twist is that his bill also suggests communities (of more than 30,000 people) from throughout the state could bid to build that hall and host the Legislature. The good ideas stop with that thought.
State leaders should be taking note of this ongoing discussion, a discussion that surely will intensify as that Capitol gets older and older. It shouldn't be hard for them to keep it in mind - they're working in the midst of the issue. The state will indeed have to have a new Capitol if the current structure can't be remade to accommodate modern needs - much less modern building standards.
Back in 2005, the Capitol Planning Commission (headed by Juneau's mayor) pursued the idea of building a new home for the state's government, but the movement flopped when the public got a look at the elaborate - and somewhat obtuse - drawings that won the competitions for designing a grand new state building.
As legislative committees consider Neuman's bill, "An Act relating to the construction of a legislative hall; and repealing provisions relating to relocating the capital, the legislature, or any of the present functions of state government," they might consider amending the act to cut off the title right after that first semicolon.
Instead of grandiose ideas about relocating the seat of our government or creating some architectural wonder, it might be refreshing to see the body address a legitimate need by proposing to build some infrastructure that is practical, designed for a long future and that serves the public well from the capital that the public has recognized time and again at the polls: Juneau.
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