Empire editorial: A legislative move has costs

Posted: Sunday, July 07, 2002

History and common sense tell us nothing unites people who share common interests and geography more than does an external threat.

Are we willing to pay attention to the lessons of history applied to our lives today?

The classic examples of unity by threat occur when a foreign power seeks to conquer a sovereign region militarily or to dominate it politically, culturally and economically. People of common interests and geography may squabble among themselves about how best to achieve their varied and sometimes conflicting goals. But when an outside force threatens their traditions and their means of economic livelihood, they must put their differences aside or suffer the consequences of internecine feuds.

The need to unite is more urgent when the outside force enjoys a substantial advantage in numbers and resources. The chances of a successful defense are diminished when the threatened region reacts complacently as a result of having thwarted previous assaults from the same foe.

History is alive in Alaska today in the latest attempt by the state's population center to acquire more of the functions of state government. Throughout statehood, the selfish forces of capital relocation have been relentless. They want what Juneau has - tradition, yes, but economic stimulus even more so.

If legislative sessions don't move to the Mat-Su or to Anchorage, what harm do those regions suffer in terms of tradition and economic stimulus? Nothing tangible. You can't lose what you don't have. These areas have grown and thrive today thanks to their diversified economies.

If legislative sessions do move to the Mat-Su or to Anchorage, what harm will Juneau suffer in terms of its tradition and economic stimulus? Without annual legislative sessions, Juneau will be home to fewer people, fewer jobs and less economic opportunity.

Do the people of Juneau seek to inflict economic harm on other regions of Alaska? No.

Do other regions of Alaska seek to inflict economic harm on Juneau? The answer is not a straightforward yes or no. Many northern residents are not aware of the issues and the stakes.

It is human nature for people to want what they want. But seeking what you want without concern for others is pure selfishness. On its face, hosting legislative sessions is attractive to the Mat-Su and Anchorage. They have the numbers to make it happen.

But if getting what they want harms fellow Alaskans, is it fair or neighborly?

Will the people living in the population center of Alaska take the legislative sessions just because they can?

Not if they know the truth.

Part of the truth is knowing how unnecessary a legislative move would be. Part is knowing the real costs - and the right to know those costs.

This fall's Ballot Measure No. 2, if approved, would move legislative sessions. It also would repeal the 25-year-old FRANK Initiative, which requires that Alaskans know the cost of a capital or a legislative move and that Alaskans approve such costs before such moves can take place.

Those seeking repeal of the FRANK Initiative want voters in the state's population center to believe they can have legislative sessions without inflicting any pain on themselves or anyone else in Alaska.

Alaska voters have demonstrated they prefer reality.

A poll by the FRANK Committee revealed there is statewide sentiment to move legislative sessions but that two-thirds of Alaskans oppose the move once they realize their right to know and to vote on costs will be taken away.

Last week, former political rivals Sally Smith and Jamie Parsons united in a common appeal. They asked residents of Juneau to support the FRANK Committee financially in its attempt to retain the legal requirement that the costs of a legislative or capital move be disclosed.

We join them in asking readers to contribute to the FRANK Committee's statewide educational campaign. Without delay, please send your contributions to:

FRANK Committee

P.O. Box 33097

Juneau, AK 99803-3097

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