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On Nov. 5 you will be asked to approve moving the Legislature from Juneau to the Mat-Su Borough. Ballot Measure 2 will also ask you to repeal the requirement that Alaskans be informed of, and approve, the total costs of a capital move. I hope that you will agree with me that this is a bad idea for the state, and for Southeast Alaska in particular. Here's why.
1. A "legislative move" is simply a poorly disguised effort to move the entire capital out of Southeast Alaska. That's why the proponents of the move want to repeal your right to vote on the cost of any move.
2. Having the Legislature in one place and the executive branch 600 miles away will decrease government efficiency, regardless of who is governor. While proponents say a legislative move would make government more efficient, no state has its legislative branch in one city, and its executive branch in another distant city.
3. A capital move is fiscally irresponsible. In the early 1980s voters rejected a capital move, which we learned, due to the financial disclosure requirement, had a price tag of $2.8 billion! And that was when the state was relatively flush. Today, with state budget deficits estimated to be $500 million to $1 billion, do we truly want to start spending hundreds of millions of dollars to build a legislative complex in the Mat-Su Valley - followed by new buildings for the executive branch? Are we willing to forego basic state services to fund a move - perhaps through cuts to education or public safety? I think not.
I can certainly think of a large number of funding priorities for Ketchikan (port and harbor expansion, completion of the shipyard, Ward Cove redevelopment, Gravina access, Tongass Coast Aquarium, Ketchikan Arts Center) and for other Southeast Alaska communities that are more important than a capital move. I am not interested in setting aside those priorities by giving a blank check to capital move proponents. Are you?
4. A capital move will be devastating to the economies of Juneau and the entire region. Southeast Alaska communities share important economic and transportation infrastructure. Economic studies show that a capital move will have fundamental impacts upon the Marine Highway System, barge service and air travel. These impacts will not only hurt local residents in the region; they will also affect the tourism and seafood industries which rely upon these services.
5. Political influence: Moving the capital from Juneau will further erode our region's loss of statewide political influence. Do you think a capital move will help garner support for the Marine Highway System, or Southeast fisheries? I don't.
I have talked with a lot of people in Ketchikan about this issue. I know that some people feel that Juneau should somehow be punished for failing to support Ketchikan when we were trying to save our timber industry. While there are some people in Juneau who were supportive of federal policy changes which helped to decimate the timber industry, the fact is that many people in Juneau did support and work with us.
During the time I have been mayor, I have had many discussions with Juneau's elected officials and business people about the above perception, and the need for Juneau to consistently support communities throughout the region - in return for our support of Juneau. I think that the message has been heard loud and clear. That's why the Southeast Conference of Mayors and the Southeast Conference voted unanimously to oppose Ballot Measure 2.
I urge Ketchikan voters to say no to a bad idea - for the fifth time.
Bob Weinstein is mayor of the city of Ketchikan and chairman of the Southeast Conference of Mayors.