Empire editorial: Capital move bill ignores the will of Alaska voters

Posted: Sunday, February 17, 2008

Native civil rights leader Elizabeth Peratrovich once scolded the political leaders of her day for ignoring the rights of Alaskans.

"I would not have expected," she famously said, "that I, who am barely out of savagery, would have to remind gentlemen with 5,000 years of recorded civilization behind them of our Bill of Rights."

And so it's ironic that the day after the state honored Peratrovich's memory, we must again take the state's leaders to task for ignoring Alaskans' rights - in this case, their right to make decisions by voter initiative and to have these decisions respected by those in power.

The House State Affairs Committee's vote Thursday to approve relocating the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage was shortsighted and unfair not only to Juneau residents but to Alaskans throughout the state. House Bill 293 would nullify the FRANK (Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge) Initiative, which requires voters to approve the cost of relocating the Legislature or capital.

We would not have expected we would have to remind the governor and the Alaska Legislature that 77 percent of Alaskans voted in favor of the FRANK Initiative back in 1994. To overturn it in House Bill 293 would override the will of the people to satisfy the elected few from Anchorage and the Matanuska-Susitna region.

The FRANK Initiative was passed to ensure that Alaskans would have the "opportunity to make an informed and objective decision on relocation" of the capital or Legislature.

The FRANK Initiative ensures government transparency, something Alaskans have thirsted for in recent years. One reason Gov. Sarah Palin was swept into office was her commitment to making Alaska's government responsible to - and transparent for - the people.

The FRANK Initiative wasn't passed by the people of Juneau; it passed with broad-based support by voters statewide. In 2002, it wasn't Juneau that stopped an effort to move legislative sessions; 67 percent of all Alaskans voted no to the measure, which would have moved the Legislature to the Mat-Su area or Anchorage, as well as repeal provisions of the FRANK Initiative.

Alaskans have repeatedly and clearly demonstrated that they want to weigh in on the costs of moving the Legislature or capital.

Lawmakers must keep the FRANK Initiative and the will of Alaska voters in mind as House Bill 293 moves to the Finance Committee. This bill would take away the people's power to decide where they want the state's business to be conducted and would instead put it into the hands of a selfish few.

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