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Bring state government closer to the people

Posted: Sunday, July 29, 2001

We know the arguments for keeping the Capitol in Juneau. There will be the cost of moving, the cost of purchasing or building the site, and there will undeniably be an affect on Juneau's economy. But, in the long run, we are confident the costs will be made up in saved airfare, housing and office space rental.

The following editorial appeared in Tuesday's edition of the Frontiersman:

We've said it before and we'll say it again: State government needs to get in touch with the people.

This isn't a theoretical, philosophical discussion on politics. It's about practicality and common sense. Why is our state capital located in an isolated community inaccessible to the vast majority of Alaskans? If voters can't even see their government at work or talk face-to-face with their elected representatives, how can they possibly feel included in the process?

This debate has more history and baggage than the infamous Hatcher Pass ski resort or Port MacKenzie projects. Alaskans have long grumbled about the expense of flying to Juneau just to see their own Legislature at work. During the 1970s and '80s, residents voted both for and against such a move, but we feel it is time to give the proposal another look.

Like Hatcher Pass and Port MacKenzie, moving the state Legislature to the Mat-Su Borough could bring huge economic benefits to our community, and so it is not surprising that the Mat-Su Borough Assembly jumped at the chance to support such a move. We jump at the chance, too.

But even if we aren't greedy about it, and try to keep in mind that the residents of Juneau would suffer economically if any part of the capital, including the Legislature, is taken away from their community, it is still an issue of common sense.

What if any one of us could drive or walk a few miles to see our elected representatives as they vote on the issues that affect us? Shouldn't we, as individual citizens and voters, be able to keep an eye on the process without spending hundreds of dollars on plane tickets and hotel rooms? Wouldn't it be wonderful if groups of school children could take field trips to see the Legislature at work?

We know the arguments for keeping the Capitol in Juneau. There will be the cost of moving, the cost of purchasing or building the site, and there will undeniably be an affect on Juneau's economy. But, in the long run, we are confident the costs will be made up in saved airfare, housing and office space rental. Office space, for instance, could be built entirely on state-owned property in the Mat-Su area, something that just isn't possible in Juneau.

Most importantly, hundreds of thousands of Alaskans will finally have the opportunity to get in touch with their government.



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