Juneau reaction to proposal is mixed

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Conducting hearings on a proposed gas pipeline contract in Anchorage bothers some in Juneau, while others are not too worried.

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Hosting the Legislature outside of the capital has been a sore point with Juneau residents fearing it would hurt the economy and give Anchorage too much power.

At this point, lawmakers are only discussing holding a few committee meetings in Anchorage, where many of the members live.

"It depends on how it is characterized," Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said.

If the Legislature was proposing to host the entire body in Anchorage, then that would be a more serious matter for Juneau, he said.

Alaska Committee member Win Gruening said the Legislature has previously held committee meetings in other places across the state during the interim, so this proposal did not seem abnormal to him.

"I think it should concern people, not just in Juneau," said Sen. Kim Elton, D-Juneau.

The senator said he doesn't have a problem with the Legislature conducting hearings in several communities across the state, but only holding ones in Anchorage could send a message that the mega city is dominant.

While several of the state's key pipeline negotiators are in Juneau, as well as other resources, moving the debate to Anchorage could muddle up the process, Elton said.

"You don't want people scattered in different locations, you want them in a more central location," he said.

He said he suspects many of his colleagues are suffering from fatigue at this point, after spending about four and a half months in Juneau.

The Legislature is currently taking an extended Memorial Day break and will not convene again until the middle of next week. Elton said he doesn't expect there to be any pressure to hold meetings outside of Juneau after the break.

"This is a little bit like the tea kettle and the stove where people start getting steamed up and the break is a time to let everybody whistle a little bit and relieve the pressure," he said.

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