Alaska editorial: Some in Anchorage tend to forget about the rest of the state

Posted: Thursday, June 14, 2007

Unlike sports megastars, we won't say, "It's not about the money." Because when public dollars are involved, it's always about the money.

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But there's certainly more to the location of the state capital than money. If Juneau isn't the ideal location - well, neither is anyplace else in this great land. In a state this large, every possible place has disadvantages.

Few have as many disadvantages as Anchorage, though.

The topic comes up because the Legislature is having a special session later this month in Anchorage - a meeting that it's reasonably argued could wait until the oil production tax special session already slated for the fall.

Southeast alarmists aren't being paranoid to think this the first step in the latest move-the-capital-in-all-but-name effort. As the saying goes, just because we're paranoid doesn't mean they aren't out to get us.

The main point that Anchorage - that great big city without even an itsy bitsy sales tax - uses to bolster capital-move arguments is the best reason for putting the capital anyplace but there.

Most of the people in the state live in the Anchorage area. That means that, no matter where the capital is, Anchorage already has proportionally more power than anyplace else. Pretty much whatever Anchorage wants, Anchorage gets.

That's an exaggeration, of course, and when all of the rest of us put our minds to it, we can gang up on Anchorage and occasionally get our own way. In addition, to be fair, Anchorage has legislators who take into the account the good of the state when they act. But politicians everywhere serve at the will of the people who elect them, and even the most principled of representatives has to consider the folks at home first.

We have nothing against the good folks of Anchorage. We are all Alaskans. The thing is, some politicians working for Anchorage have a tendency to forget that the rest of the state exists.

That's why there are regular attempts to downsize UA campuses everyplace but Anchorage and Fairbanks - attempts University President Mark Hamilton answers with threats to change the institution's name from the University of Alaska to the University of the Great Big Cities.

That's why the only time the state 4A wrestling tournament was held in Ketchikan, some Anchorage residents whose children's flights were delayed - and for whom the Southeasterners were waiting so they could begin the tournament - tried to move it back to Anchorage. After all, they argued, "everybody" was already there. Wait for Southeast? Southeast who?

Certainly there are difficulties getting into Juneau. But much like the relatives who expect us to regularly fly down, but don't come visit us because "Alaska is so far," some in Anchorage don't seem to get that it works both ways. If it's difficult to get in, it's difficult to get out. Which means the Legislature might not remember that even though it has a majority present, it wouldn't be right to go ahead without those from outlying areas.

Even the most provincial Anchorage legislators think about Southeast for at least 120 (about to become 90) days a year. That's because they are dragged, kicking and screaming, to work in the capital of this great state. Starting next year, they'll live in Southeast for scarcely three months. During those three months, at least, the majority of legislators knows there is a world outside of Anchorage.

They need that literal reminder, and no amount of talking about inclusiveness will convince us that some of them won't forget us if they're gone.

And then there's the money.

Of course it will cost more to move the capital than to keep it where it's already set up. It's the height of disingenuousness to say otherwise.

As for the special session, legislators are claiming that they can do it as cheaply in Anchorage as in Juneau - if they do without such negligible accouterments as staff, voting machines and computers.

They can make the point that way, with a half-baked session for which they've saved themselves the inconvenience of a couple of plane rides. But they can't run the state that way for long, and they shouldn't.

Don't we deserve our legislators' full attention on the real issues when they are in session?

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