Juneau in neutral

Posted: Wednesday, July 05, 2000

The following editorial appeared in Monday's edition of The Anchorage Times:

Stop-the-World is becoming an identifying label for Alaska's capital city.

One of the long and serious raps against Juneau has been its isolated location, far from the bulk of the state's population - a truly poor place for the seat of government and the legislative chambers, difficult and costly to reach for ordinary citizens who need to do business with state officials.

For a while, Juneau leaders did their best to offset the town's serious drawbacks. They agreed to shifting the state's time zones, to put Juneau's clock in sync with Anchorage and Fairbanks. They worked hard to beautify the city, and did marvelously well in a number of cases. They upgraded and cleaned up, reduced retail prices to meet competition as Big Box store operators came to town, and built new hotels and facilities to welcome visitors and tourists.

Oops. Not for long. All the progress didn't sit well with Juneau's growing population of greenies and the idealistic liberals who began to overrun the government bureaucracy.

With a close-the-door-now-that-we're-here attitude, the environmental activists - aided by funding from the lock-up-Alaska lobbies Outside - began to flex their muscle. Save the Tongass. Stop logging. Fight mining. Beat up on the cruise ship industry that brought millions of dollars into the Juneau economy and offered tens of thousands of other Americans the opportunity to enjoy the scenic splendor of Juneau.

They accused the cruise ship operators of high crimes and misdemeanors, labeling them as the worst polluters since - well, maybe the Exxon Valdez. They voted to tax every tourist setting foot on the dock - and maybe even those who stay aboard.

Now they're after one of the attractions offered to cruise ship travelers - helicopter sight-seeing flights over the Mendenhall Glacier and the Juneau Ice Cap. Too noisy. Too many of them. Filling the skies with visual pollution. Terrible. Not like the Juneau they used to know. Etc., etc., etc.

Not like the Juneau of old? Well, they're right about that - even if they weren't there in the old days to really know what Juneau was like.

Back then the noise came from rattling Grumman Gooses and PBY flying boats, revving up to get on step for a takeoff from the Juneau waterfront. A lot of clatter and roar. More noise came from the old four-engine Connies flown by Pacific Northern Airlines and the fat-bellied Boeing Stratocruisers, trying to ease down through the overcast. And once a week there was a ship arrival - Alaska Steam, coming in from Seattle. Big excitement.

Maybe that's what the Stop-the-World crowd wants again.

Maybe they will like Juneau better when the Legislature is meeting in Anchorage and the governor's mansion is in Wasilla.

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