Empire editorial: Let's make Juneau a better place to live for state legislators

Posted: Sunday, August 12, 2007

Juneau can breathe a sigh of relief that the fall special session on the oil profits tax will likely be held in Juneau.

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In a poll Thursday, the Alaska House of Representatives voted 23-9 to hold the special session in the capital. Juneau's delegation of Sen. Kim Elton and Reps. Beth Kerttula and Andrea Doll should be congratulated for convincing their fellow lawmakers that only the capital has the staff and equipment in place needed to hold a session long enough to deal with an issue as complex as the oil tax.

While the Senate has yet to make a decision, the House poll bodes well for Juneau.

Recent capital-creep talk and economic reports have made Juneau residents jittery. But we need to remember that no one's advocating an outright capital move. We also have a gold mine bringing in hundreds of new jobs, and a number of large retailers have either opened or are planning to open shop soon. Big-box stores, such as Home Depot, don't move into towns that are ailing.

Although Juneau's housing market has slowed considerably and is no longer a seller's market, this is actually a good thing. The market was overheated and is in the process of correcting itself. The high price of housing and shortage of available homes had its own set of problems and helped fuel legislators' desire to move the capital.

Juneau shouldn't grow complacent. We should view this recent development as a wake up call.

This includes addressing such basic problems as affordable housing and the cost of living.

And just as Juneau made a concerted effort to make itself attractive to the tourist industry, Juneau should do all it can to make the city a better place to live for lawmakers.

Making housing easily available and convenient to legislators and staff is key. Juneau landlords need to be more flexible with lawmakers, especially if special sessions are called. And this will be especially important with the new 90-day sessions that will start next year.

We need to remember it's not easy for legislators and their staff to manage two homes while the Legislature is in session.

Juneau's delegation needs to help lead the way by pursuing better legislative pay and possibly housing vouchers.

City leaders need to look at some of the basics, such as child care, parking and laundry services, and make sure they're acceptable and convenient for those who work at the Capitol.

We need to invest in our community to make it a comfortable home away from home for our lawmakers.

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