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The October municipal election is going to be a major factor in the future of Juneau as we again face the threat of a capital move. Moving the Legislature will surely be followed by moving the commissioners and as we have seen, this is happening and then the support staffs will need to move. Our next Assembly must be united in building bridges to other communities for support in fighting against the erosion of the capital of Alaska away form Juneau.
I was prompted to write this letter by Duff Mitchell's My Turn column. He has it right, Juneau needs all the regional support we can get. The entire Borough Assembly not just a token should attend the annual meeting of the Southeast Conference from Sept. 18-20. As part of the conference's regional outreach they will meet this year in Prince Rupert, B.C. This organization brings together all the municipalities and many private businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the Southeast region. In conjunction, the Southeast Conference of Mayors is also meeting then. The members of this organization can help pull together regional support of Juneau. And Juneau can assure them that we will be sensitive to their needs and work cooperatively whenever possible. The Southeast Conference has a long history of regional support and was a prime mover in the establishment of the Alaska Marine Highway System in the early days of statehood. It has been working for the benefit of Southeast Alaska ever since.
A few statistics will show the importance of each vote when the capital move comes before the voters. Southeast Alaska's population outside of Juneau is falling or static. The population of the Mat-Su region is the fastest growing in the state. As a percentage of Alaska's population, Southeastern fell from 12.5 percent in 1990 to 11.7 percent in 2000. Mat-Su rose from 7.2 percent to 9.5 percent during the same period. As a percentage of the total state population, Juneau remained the same. It was 4.8 percent a decade ago and 4.9 percent today. We are not in a growth area.
The bottom line is that our economic future is tied to retaining the capital in Juneau. We need all the help we can get. The next Assembly will be instrumental in taking on the fight. The Juneau voters have the challenge to select candidates who can work together, provide a unified position and reach out to our friends and neighbors in the region. Immediately, the Southeast Conference offers a positive opportunity for Juneau to work with the other communities in the region.