Just vote 'no'

Posted: Sunday, September 15, 2002

For 40 years, Alaskans involved in the capital-move debate have demonstrated how selfish and individualistic our nation can be. What is most striking about this debate is the misunderstanding of statistical data and of central role of the state and federal governments in Alaska.

The first argument for moving the capital is to increase the accessibility of the Legislature. Historically, some countries have moved their capital, but only when their national security was at stake. If geographical location were the only argument for accessibility, then Americans ought to move Washington, D.C., to Wyoming, the Russians ought to move Moscow to the middle of Siberia, and the Chinese ought to move Beijing to the Gobi Desert.

In most technologically advanced countries, communication between constituents and representatives is accomplished by telephone, e-mail and conventional correspondence. Devoted politicians wanting to stay in touch with their constituents will make an effort to do so regardless where they live.

The generally accepted assumption that Juneau will lose 50 percent of its work force is misleading. The population of Juneau is about 32,000 people, with a work force of about 21,000. There are 19,200 federal workers in Alaska, only 1,100 of whom work in Juneau. Even were the capital to move, many would continue to stay in Juneau because of their association with the Tongass National Forest and U.S. Coast Guard.

There are about 22,000 state workers in Alaska and only 4,000 reside in Juneau. Classified state employees are unionized and cannot simply lose their jobs unless an agency is closed. Imagine the elimination of the Department of Transportation or Department of Revenue.

If the capital move were a reality, then it would be cost-effective to move some state workers from Fairbanks, Anchorage and other Interior locations to Wasilla or Palmer, in addition to about half of the state workers employed in Juneau.

Economically, this cost of relocation of state employees and the cost of remedying Wasilla's or Palmer's incomplete infrastructure would be devastating for the state budget and essential services it provides. The reality of this move will make a small group of wealthy Wasilla or Palmer businessmen even wealthier.

Except for a few developers seeking economic growth in Wasilla and Palmer, this experiment would decrease the standard of living of Southeast Alaskans and of all Alaskans. This undertaking will further impair an already fiscally handicapped state and federal government, create political controversy among Alaskans, and establish an imbalance of political power in the state.

On Nov. 5, Alaskans should show their unity and vote "no" to the legislative move.

Alexander Dolitsky


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