My Turn: Maybe Southeast Alaska should become its own state

Posted: Thursday, October 10, 2002

There appears to be a great deal of anxiety about the upcoming vote regarding the move of the Legislature. How many times this has come up for a vote and how much money has been spent by both sides of the issue attempting to have their position heard? Who knows how many more times this issue will come up and how much more money will be spent.

Aren't we tired of having to defend our homes and jobs, our city and lifestyles and our businesses that have become the economic hub of Southeast from what Don Smith described in his Oct. 4 editorial as a "woeful picture" if this Initiative should pass? What kind of person(s) would premeditatively and deliberately destroy a city in the ways that Mr. Smith and the McDowell Group have described? How can we put an end to this foolishness once and for all?

I have not heard from those running for election nor anyone on the street any new or creative ideas about resolving this issue. So we must now think outside of the box. Concede the capital-move issue to the winner of a vote between Fairbanks and Anchorage, while we, Southeast Alaska or the new state of Tongass, form the 51st state in the United States of America. Why not? They don't care about us; look at how many times the Anchorage area has attempted to demolish Juneau by removing the economic base of the major city in Southeast. We are not a destination for anyone from the north except when they have to come here. Traveling to Southeast is a conscious decision at greater expense than going other places outside.

Projects and services that are important to Southeast are blocked, cut, put low on the list or killed in committee. Southeast is uniquely different from the majority of the state and what we have in common seems to be getting less and less as the years go by.

Why not? Some would say because we would lose the Alaska Permanent Fund. Wait, all relationships that end in dissolution have material and economic settlements. Others might say that Southeast has no economic base in order to survive. Sure, the lumber and timber industries, the fishing business and mining endeavors have all taken a big hit lately, but we have to again think outside of the box! Thinking creatively and toward the needs of the future will be of Juneau and Southeast.

In recent years water and energy have had huge headlines about shortages. The needs are only going to get greater. Southeast has resources in both areas. Forget the gas pipeline, water is what is desperately needed in the West and Midwest. Is it not just as creative to think about building a pipeline to move water to the areas of need as it is to build a pipeline to move gas and oil to where it is needed (it might have an environmental benefit too). It's just pipe. Forget power generated by expendable fuels, we have great possibilities all around Southeast to generate power by wind and tides (and get a second crossing as a bonus). The beginning of a regional electric intertie is off the drawing board, so why not connect into the Northwest and Canadian power grids and supply their needs.

Others ways of economic development will emerge if we think to the future and not be stuck in the past understanding of the way things should be. Stop fighting and do something creative. Stop spending money on a dead-end issue and put it to a positive use.

Don't laugh! Where did the United States come from? The automobile? The airplane? The heart transplant? Let Fairbanks and Anchorage duke it out for the capital of Alaska and keep the capital in Juneau by declaring independence.

This comes from a transplanted resident of the Interior who voted for the capital move in 1976 but now has lived in Southeast long enough to come to understand what people from Southeast have been saying for years. Get out and vote on Nov. 5 but let all of us be prepared to think outside of the box.

Wilson Valentine has lived in Tanacross, Fairbanks, Wasilla, Barrow and Juneau with a few moments in Anchorage.

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