Palin addresses Juneau jitters on capital move

Candidate says she will leave it up to legislature

Posted: Sunday, August 27, 2006

Republican gubernatorial candidate Sarah Palin says if elected, she will leave any proposals of moving the Alaska Legislature to lawmakers.

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Her landslide victory in Tuesday's primary election had locals in Juneau concerned that the former Wasilla mayor - who once advocated for relocating the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna area - would push for a capitol move again.

"That's up to the Legislature," said Palin on Friday. "The governor does not dictate where the Legislature meets."

The gubernatorial hopeful does support hosting legislative committee meetings during the interim in other parts of the state, a process that has been in practice for years.

For decades, there has been discussion in Alaska to move the capital near Anchorage, where the majority of the state's population lives. Capital movers argue that the move would make legislators more accessible to residents. Any region hosting a new legislative hall also would stand to benefit economically.

Opponents maintain that moving the capital would hurt the economy in Juneau and Southeast Alaska and would give more political power to Anchorage.

Given Palin's background, some in Juneau are still cautious of her intentions.

"She raises the threat level," said Andrea Doll, a Democrat running for state representative this fall.

In 2001, three Matanuska-Susitna area mayors signed a petition to move the legislative session from Juneau to their borough north of Anchorage. Palin, then mayor of Wasilla, was one of the signers and said she would love to see the move.

"Our arms are wide open for the Legislature to meet here," said Palin, in an Associated Press article.

Palin said her stance on the issue then was not as strong as it appeared in the media, as she also has been against using city funds to build a new capitol. Her opponent, Democrat and former Gov. Tony Knowles, does not support moving the capitol, said Patty Ginsburg, campaign spokeswoman.

"Tony has always, since the early '80s when he was mayor of Anchorage, been against the capital or capitol move," she said.

The idea is anything but dead. Last session, Rep. Norm Rokeberg, R-Anchorage, and Rep. Mark Neuman, R-Wasilla, co-sponsored a bill that would make bidding on a new capitol fair game for any borough with a population of more than 30,000, including Juneau. Juneau residents and officials have called the session-move plan over the years a closet capital move.

The bill died in committee this year, but Neuman said he will try to propose it again next session. He would act on his own, and not on Palin's behalf, Neuman said. Locating a legislative hall at Point McKenzie in the Mat-Su Valley or in downtown Anchorage at the Atwood Building would be his preference, Neuman added.

Randy Wanamaker, Juneau Republican candidate for state representative, said he would vote against the measure, if elected. In his discussions with legislators in the majority, Wanamaker said he was told committees would be too busy to take up the bill. Lawmakers plan to debate unresolved oil and gas issues next session.

Palin will be invited this fall to speak at a Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon, said chamber CEO Cathie Roemmich. No date has been set.

"I think we need to get to know her," Roemmich said.

Unless he hears evidence to the contrary, Win Gruening said there's no reason to be alarmed regarding Palin's intentions. Gruening is chairman of the city's Alaska Committee, which works to prevent a capital move. He's not putting much stock in her comments made years ago, but instead relying on Palin's statements made during the primary campaign.

"I'm going to take her for her own word," he said.



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