Perception of us can make a difference

My turn

Posted: Tuesday, August 28, 2001

I remember 30 years ago a Juneau that was smaller, less global and warmer in spirit. Those with opposing political views were nice to each other and folks used to wave at each other. However, one thing that never seems to change is the capital move issue. Anchorage has, in all my life, harbored capital move feelings among a good chunk of their constituency since statehood.

Why is it that our other Southeast neighbors apparently are only lukewarm supporters of Juneau this time? The answer is that some in Juneau are needlessly shortsighted or have not lived here long enough to realize the history of this event or understand our relationship with our Southeast political environment. Media in Anchorage constantly bashes us as anti-development, anti-road, anti-capitalist and anti-Alaskan. Every bad thing that the state does or does not do is blamed on the "folks down in Juneau." It's bad enough that our high school and youth sports teams beat Anchorage teams on a religious basis. Alas, have we uncovered the ulterior motive for the capital move initiative?

Jokes aside, we certainly should not believe everything we read in an Anchorage paper, but we should look in the mirror and evaluate how we are perceived. For example, the new laboratory and research complex for the National Marine Service is being held hostage by a handful that want a "special" bridge to the facility? We are at times so full of ourselves that we do not realize how foolish we appear to other communities. Do we have too much government that we do not need another governmental agency expanding here?

Do we as a community poll our neighbors in Angoon, Hoonah, Kake, Pelican and other satellite communities to see how they feel? Do we care about the needs of smaller communities? Or are these "beyond Juneau" problems? Should we not work with other communities in a more quiet approach that respectfully takes into account their views? We do not have to agree, but should we not listen?

All Southeast communities except Juneau depend on some form of natural resources to sustain "their" economy, much like Juneau depends on the capital to sustain our economy. It's a tough business out there. What have we done to lobby for assistance, industry changes or other avenues to work with our neighbors' communities to help them? As a community, do we even care? When has Juneau sponsored a Southeast Community Appreciation weekend with travel and hotel packages organized for our neighbors and community dignitaries in outlying communities to visit and shop in Juneau in a welcome-mat-out atmosphere? Our actions, not our words, indicate that we are not fulfilling our regional responsibilities and opportunities.

Politics as marriages are based upon relationships. We do not have to agree with all of our neighbors all of the time, but we should be neighborly and always respect their viewpoints. Al Adams stated it better than anyone else, "Be careful of the toes that you step on today, you never know when it will be connected to the ass that you must kiss later." As the capital city, we live in a glass house where our every move is watched, scrutinized and examined. If you live in a glass house, it is downright foolish to throw rocks at your neighbors and even more foolish to throw rocks at yourself. Maybe if we started waving at each other when we drive down the road, like they do in Ketchikan, Kake and Wrangell. And possibly if we could be a little less extreme in our personal community views and a little more forgiving to those who disagree with us, then we might be able to unify this community enough to overcome the threat from beyond and spend less time on the divisiveness and the harshness that polarizes our community on what sometimes are trivial matters in comparison to the bigger picture.

We shall likely persevere through this round of "move the capital," but I hope our collective community ignorance is lessened and our collective community warmth increased such that we emerge stronger, more unified and we become more neighborly. Let's attempt to view issues regionally and statewide instead of selfishly thinking that the region or the state should step in line and support our parochial views. Let us not again forget, that it is only through the strength of friendships (and votes) that the capital will stay here.

Duff W. Mitchell is a well-traveled Southeasterner and Juneau youth sports fan.

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