My vote in support of Ken Koelsch's motion to support completion of the Juneau Access EIS was consistent with my well-known position supporting road access to Juneau and my fiscally conservative views about spending the public's money - whether it is Juneau money or state money.
In split decision, Juneau Assembly backs road north
Campaigns to fight capital- and now legislative-move efforts cost Juneau taxpayers over a million dollars each time we are confronted with a move initiative. That's because we are forced to hire staff and consultants and purchase expensive radio, television and print advertising throughout the state. In between capital-move battles, we spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on "better Capital projects" that never seem to resonate much with our neighbors up north. While we certainly can't afford to ignore threats to our economic security, we also can't afford to keep doing this every few years.
Being a fiscally responsible citizen of Alaska also means recognizing that in the long run, a road is more cost effective and reliable than continuing to rely exclusively on ferry service in the northern Lynn Canal. The up-front capital costs to construct a road will be largely paid for out of federal highway dollars and a Juneau Road project will in no way significantly detract from other highway projects around the state. Because it is so much less expensive for the state to maintain a road than maintain ferries, our Southeast neighbors who will always rely solely on ferries will be better served when Juneau is on the road system.
It is clear that in spite of what some Juneau folks think "access" can be, most Alaskans have an entirely different view. If you speak with our volunteers who spent long days talking to Alaskans at the various statewide fairs this summer, you'll learn that parents want to be able to put their children in the car and visit their capital, perhaps not during the legislative session but at least in the summer. You'll also learn that most Alaskans simply believe that their state's capital should be accessible by road and do not understand why we have not insisted one be built.
Those who are critical of us for supporting Mr. Koelsch's motion suggest that the "public process" was circumvented on Monday night. Nothing could be further from the truth. The motion to support completion of the EIS was basically a call for re-starting the very real "public process" that was halted when Knowles-Ulmer unilaterally stopped the Juneau Access EIS and vetoed its funding in 2000.
Leadership means getting out in front on issues. Interestingly, both gubernatorial candidates agree that the EIS should be re-started. Whether this happens in a meaningful, not superficial, manner depends largely on the collective will of Juneau citizens who have the most to lose if this issue is not finally resolved.
In the next few days, when we vote for candidates at the Assembly, legislative and gubernatorial level we will send very loud messages to the rest of the state about how we view our responsibility as Alaska's capital. The outcome of those statewide headlines is ours to determine.
Dale Anderson is a member of the Juneau Assembly.