MyTurn: Sending sheep to slaughter

Posted: Sunday, November 05, 2006

There is no doubt that Knowles will carry District Three handily. The Peoples' Committee on Ideological Purity is already measuring the drapes for when they're restored to their former glory in state government. District Four will be close since the Mendenhall Valley is almost in Alaska.

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But no one here, especially a newspaper editor who has access to facts, should deceive themselves about the Capitol. Everything but the star is for all intents and purposes gone; it left when Tony Knowles' commissioner of administration, Mark Boyer, bought the Hunt Building, aptly renamed the Atwood Building. And not one voice was raised against that purchase. This in a town that raised hell with the Hickel purchase of the Spam Can since it was built non-union. That's right; almost the only decent office space added in Juneau in more than 20 years was bought over local opposition by one of those rascally Republicans.

For those of you who don't visit the arctic wasteland populated by barbarian Republicans west of Yakutat, the state has built a very, very nice capitol complex in Anchorage, centered on the Attwood. Anchorage offices are not cubbies in old Butler Buildings and plywood palaces nor are they in a State Office Building that until the Murkowski administration looked like something out of the old Soviet Union and remains third rate office space beside the Attwood.

Clerks in the Attwood have better offices than most below commissioner in Juneau, and most commissioners have offices in Anchorage as well. Anchorage lacks only a suitable legislative hall, and as soon as it finishes its new civic center, it will generously give the Egan Center to the state, ergo a legislative hall.

Juneau set itself up for this with the abysmally stupid capitol design competition. That resulted in an immediate invitation from the Railbelt for a town of 30,000 not especially well-off souls to pony up a $100 million building and give it to the state. Juneau can't do that, but Anchorage is about to; nobody will remember or much care that the state largely paid for the Egan back in the 1980s.

I'm a Palin supporter, but I'm realistic enough to know that she can afford to be coy and say she'll leave it to the people. Knowles and the Empire's position is disingenuous fear-mongering based on the assumption that the Juneau electorate will follow like sheep as they have in the past. The governor simply does not have the authority to stop the Legislature from meeting where ever it wants. A governor could provoke God's own constitutional crisis by vetoing the entire legislative budget, but in the face of that "nuclear option," my money is on an override, end of story. And line-iteming travel or moving money would only hurt the Southeast Alaska and rural legislators. We'd be placed in the position of passing the hat to raise the money to send our legislators to the session.

The Legislature would save money by meeting in Anchorage, since it would only have to pay travel and per diem to Legislators from outside the Anchorage area; most of the staff already lives in the Anchorage area now. If you haven't noticed, the Capitol is a pretty desolate place when the Legislature isn't in session.

Juneau was preserved as the Capitol by the good will of the Alaskan people. That good will has been squandered by political stances that are dissonant from most of the rest of the state and by the unrelenting hostility towards the Legislative majority demonstrated by the chattering classes in this town. We've made our bed, and Tony Knowles and his supporters provided the linen. There may be some opportunity to restore some of that good will, but I don't see Juneau's political leopards changing their spots.

Juneau won't die, and the move will be slow, though after the 2012 reapportionment, there won't be enough representation in Southeast to do much about the pace. And for future reference, here's how you stock T-shirts: Small to large, light to dark, top to bottom, left to right. It'll be a good skill.

• Art Chance is a Juneau resident. He was the director of labor relations for the state of Alaska until his retirement.

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