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Mayors sign petition to move session to Mat-Su

Measure needs approval by voters statewide to change legislative location

Posted: Friday, August 17, 2001

WASILLA - Three Matanuska-Susitna area mayors have signed a petition to move the legislative session from Juneau to their borough north of Anchorage.

The three kicked off the campaign Wednesday by signing the initiative petition that will need the approval of voters to succeed.

Wasilla Mayor Sarah Palin would love to see the move.

"Our arms are wide open for the Legislature to meet here," she said.

But Palmer Mayor Henry Guinotte seemed more uncertain. He said he is "neither opposed nor for" the measure.

"I did sign it, I did," he told The Anchorage Daily News on Thursday. "But I want to wait and see what the voters decide."

Mat-Su Borough Mayor Tim Anderson signed the initiative at the same ceremony, but said he hadn't read it. He felt he should sign because he was there on behalf of the Mat-Su Borough government, which has endorsed the move.

"It was a ceremony. I thought it was the thing to do," he said Thursday. "You get caught up in it."

Guinotte and Anderson said they went to the kickoff expecting to sign a resolution in support of giving residents a chance to vote on the move question, not the petition itself. They said they were surprised when they were handed the initiative instead.

But officials with Alaskans for Efficient Government, which is sponsoring the petition drive and held the kickoff, said the mayors were told they would be signing the initiative.

"The whole idea was that this was the official ceremony to kick off the initiative drive," said Uwe Kalenka, the group's president.

The group says moving the legislative session to the Mat-Su will make legislators more accessible to residents. The initiative specifies that if a valley location can't be found, the Legislature would meet in Anchorage until a suitable Mat-Su spot was located.

Juneau officials have called the session-move plan a closet capital move, because many government offices would follow the Legislature. The Alaska Committee is organizing a campaign to oppose the initiative.

Juneau Assembly member Dale Anderson said the move would decimate the capital city's economy, which relies heavily on state government work. He also questioned whether more people would take advantage of the Legislature if it were moved to Mat-Su. Even some people who live in Juneau never visit the Capitol, he said.

"To think this is going to answer all the problems of getting access to legislators is an argument that is not realistic," he said.a



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