Leaders battle against move apathy

Up north, proponents run grassroots campaign

Posted: Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Organizers of Juneau's campaign against a legislative session move, worried that local residents are apathetic and overconfident, launched a get-out-the-vote effort at a town meeting Tuesday.

"We have an opportunity to make something bad go away and all we have to do is pick up a ballot and vote accordingly," Rep. Bill Hudson told the crowd of about 100 people at Centennial Hall. "Doing nothing means that you may be doing something that will drastically hurt you."

Ballot Measure 2 would move legislative sessions to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough or to Anchorage first if facilities aren't available. It also would repeal requirements that voters be informed of and vote on the cost of the move. The election is Nov. 5.

Alaska Committee Chairman Win Gruening said Juneau's campaign against a session move has focused on media advertising and direct mail in recent weeks because it was the fastest and most effective way to get the community's message out. At this point, however, the campaign will expand to include a postcard-writing campaign, a phone bank at Centennial Hall and a door-to-door effort to encourage Juneau residents to vote, he said.

For more Juneau Empire coverage of the November 5 general election, please visit the Juneau Empire Elections Guide.

"There are still people out there that will vote for this if they're not aware the reasons not to," he said. "We still have people across the state who haven't heard our ads, haven't read our direct mailer yet and when they walk in they'll only be faced with that one question on the ballot. And I'm not so sure people, uninformed, wouldn't vote for it."

The Alaska Committee has spent slightly more than $1 million on the campaign with the bulk of the money coming from the city, Gruening said. The Fairbanks-based FRANK Committee, which stands for Fiscally Responsible Alaskans Needing Knowledge, had raised $311,896 as of Oct. 4, according to the Alaska Public Offices Commission. Most of the money was from individual contributors from Juneau. The FRANK Committee's aim is to make sure people know the cost of a move.

Up north, proponents of a move are running a grassroots campaign with "zero money," initiative sponsor Bob Monson of Anchorage said. He's relying on radio talk shows, interviews and debates to get the pro-move message across.

"We're just patriots. David and Goliath," he said. "Just Joe Six-Pack against corporate Alaska."

Proponents do not, as the Alaska Committee suggests, want to move the capital, he said. A legislative move will only affect 60 legislators and their staff and will save money on travel costs, he said. The loss of 60 people will not devastate Juneau's economy, he said.

"We're just trying to combat all the lies and propaganda and misinformation that the Alaska Committee has put up since they have no morals," he said. "We're alive and well and the aim of the deal is access to better, more responsive government."

A McDowell Group study commissioned by the Alaska Committee showed Juneau could lose 380 jobs if the Legislature moves, and up to 5,000 jobs and 8,000 residents if the capital moves.

Alaskans for Efficient Government, the main backer of the effort to move legislative sessions, halted its campaign last week at the request of former Gov. Jay Hammond. The group has prioritized its projects and is launching a new initiative to protect the Alaska Permanent Fund dividend, President Uwe Kalenka of Anchorage said. Members also are working on an initiative that would cut the length of legislative sessions to 60 days.

Action against a legislative move

Leaders of the campaign against a legislative session move listed ways to get involved during a town meeting Tuesday. Juneau Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jamie Parsons said the goal is to have 17,000 Juneau residents vote in the upcoming election. The number of residents who voted in the Oct. 1 city election was 8,492.

• Parsons is asking for 200 to 300 volunteers to go door-to-door before the election and on election day to encourage people to vote. Call 463-3488 for more information.

• People can vote absentee starting Monday, Oct. 21, at the Alaska Division of Elections in the Court Plaza Building downtown and at the Nugget Mall. "We want to encourage people to vote early," Parsons said. "We don't want people frustrated the day of the election because they have to stand in line."

• A phone bank at Centennial Hall will be open from 7 to 9 p.m. weekdays starting Oct. 21 so Juneau residents can call friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote against Ballot Measure 2. Weekend hours also may be offered and postcards will be available. Contact the Alaska Committee at 463-4305 for more information.

• The city will provide free bus service on election day to encourage people to vote, Mayor Sally Smith said.

Alaskans for Efficient Government hadn't planned to campaign for the move and hadn't raised money for the cause, Kalenka said. People still may make independent expenditures to support the initiative and the group plans to see a court case related to the ballot measure language to an end, he said.

"We've gone on with other things that have become more important," he said. "One thing is to protect permanent fund dividends. Our goal is to provide benefits for the general public as a whole, all Alaskans, not just some."

John Wayne Glotfelty of North Pole, vice chairman of the Alaskan Independence Party, said his group continues to support the initiative, but is not actively campaigning for it. He urged the Alaska Committee to work with the rest of the state to improve access instead of being confrontational each time the move question comes up. The issue won't go away, he said.

"We want access. We don't care how we get access, but we want access," he said. "I want to be able to look my representative or senator in the eye and say, 'Why are you supporting this?' "

Alaskans for Efficient Government's decision to stop campaigning for the initiative was the result of "a backroom deal" and the AIP was blindsided, Glotfelty said.

Gruening told the crowd at Tuesday's town meeting that the Alaska Committee hopes the measure fails by a 2-to-1 margin "so we can put this issue to rest." He disputes claims that the group is misleading people.

"I don't care whether they spell capital with an 'a' or an 'o.' It's still a capital move," he said. "No matter how you put it, there's no way any state in the union would divide their capital in this way and not eventually have a full capital move."

The ballot measure's potential to damage Juneau was not lost on Alyeska Central School teacher Cecilia Miller at Tuesday's meeting. She was filling out postcards to fellow educators after the event.

"It seems that as a resident it's very important that I'm here to help in the efforts to let people across the state know what some of the consequences are," she said. "The scariest thing is people aren't going to know what it costs, they're just going to vote."

Joanna Markell can be reached at joannam@juneauempire.com.

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