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Group generates new ideas to keep capital in Juneau

Alaska Committee holds annual session

Posted: Sunday, January 28, 2007

The Alaska Committee held its annual meeting Saturday, drawing a mixed crowd of about 40 Juneau residents. Some represented the 20-member board of directors. Others were just curious citizens.

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The session at the Travelodge near the Juneau International Airport began with chairman Win Gruening presenting an overview of the board's purpose and future plans, followed by a vote for new directors. The committee is largely funded with public dollars and was officially incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in 1995. Its mission is to do whatever it takes to keep Juneau as Alaska's capital city.

Critics of the committee have questioned the group's transparency and its promotion of the Lynn Canal Highway, while still supporting its mission.

Alaska Committee

• The Alaska Committee was officially incorporated as a nonprofit corporation in 1995. Its mission is to enhance and retain Juneau as the state capital.

• Since the 1960s, Juneau residents have fought eight different attempts to move the capital.

• Approximately one out of four Alaska voters would sign a petition today to put the capital move back on the ballot.

• For more information about the committee or how to serve, contact chairman Win Gruening at 463-7201.

source: The Alaska Committee

Mayor Bruce Botelho, who retains an automatic position on the board, said in an interview earlier this week that he questioned the board's efforts in alerting the public to the meetings.

The committee also received scrutiny about its public support of the construction of Lynn Canal Highway, a proposed 18-foot wide road extending from Cascade Point to the Jualin Mine Access. The decision to support the road was based on a poll completed in 2002 by the firm, The Cromer Group, Gruening said. The poll indicated that 70 percent of Juneau residents supported a road north, he said.

Criticism of the committee's stance on Lynn Canal Highway came from people such as Sue Schrader, a Southeast Alaska Conservation Council staff member who attended Saturday's meeting.

"I would encourage the committee to continue their good work with the other ways of promoting access," Schrader said.

The committee shared information Saturday about the upcoming year, including:

• There is continued funding for Gavel to Gavel, the KTOO-TV public access station that airs government meetings.

• The city finalizes the sale of the downtown Masonic Temple to the state on Tuesday for use by the Legislature, Gruening said. The Alaska Committee contributed $25,000 to the purchase of that building by the city in December. The city paid $700,000 and is selling it for $1, a price that put the purchase in jeopardy, Gruening said.

• The group is working on a campaign called "Your Capital Every Day," which will include the launch of a Web site touting Juneau as the state capital.

• Plans are underway to continue advertising of constituent discount airfares for certain flights to Juneau. In 2006, roughly 1,400 people used the fare - a huge increase over previous years.

• The committee also changed one of its bylaws, allowing it to permanently move its annual meeting from September to January to better fit directors' schedules.

• Six directors were named, including five who were previous directors. These included John Williams, Gary Droubay, Dennis Egan, Max Mertz, and Bob Bartholomew. The new director, Chris Wyatt, was a former executive director of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce. She takes Sharon Kelly's post.

Any Juneau resident can apply to be considered for the post, Gruening said.

"We very rarely receive interest. We go out into the community and ask people to become members," he said.

If interested, applicants must submit a resume and cover letter. Committee members must attend monthly meetings at 7 a.m. on Wednesdays.

• Brittany Retherford can be reached at brittany.retherford@juneauempire.com.



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