Empire editorial: Juneau dodges capital move, confirms leaders new and old

Posted: Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Congratulations to the winners in yesterday's election. Beth Kerttula, Bruce Weyhrauch, Kim Elton and Frank Murkowski won their respective races fair and square. Fran Ulmer, as predicted, won in Juneau and can take pride in the valiant fight she conducted in her quest for the governor's office.

Recognition is also due to the rest of the runners-up. An enormous amount of help, energy, money and personal drive is required to run for public office.

It is truly humbling to witness the sacrifice all candidates make in their quest to serve the public. Juneau can take pride in knowing there wasn't a weak candidate in any of the local state races.

Because of the capital move initiative, this election was especially stressful for Juneau. On a mild November day, Juneau's residents voted and then waited as voters throughout the rest of the state decided how badly they wanted to see the Legislature and the capital moved out of Juneau. Sadly, far too many of Juneau's registered voters didn't care enough about their community to go to the polls and vote.

Yesterday's vote was the 10th time Juneauites have had to rise to the challenge of defending the city's tenuous hold on Alaska's capital. We can celebrate the victory. The experience proved that Juneau's populace can put aside philosophical and political differences and work together when the call is raised.

Three individuals deserve special thanks from everyone in town. Jamie Parsons and Win Gruening representing the Alaska Committee, along with Mayor Sally Smith, put aside a good portion of their normal lives over the past year to lead the fight to save the capital.

They could not have succeeded without the help of a legion of committee members and volunteers. From manning fair booths around the state to the get-out-the-vote effort at the end of the campaign, Juneau residents rose to the task.

The local contingent of the FRANK Committee - led by Bill Corbus working with Mary Nordale, C.B. Bettisworth and Melissa Stepovich-Cook of Fairbanks - deserves thanks, too. Hundreds of local individuals, businesses and institutions donated the money needed to fund the effort to defeat the repeal of the FRANK initiative. These folks cared enough about the future of Juneau to contribute more than $300,000 to the cause.

Speaking on behalf of the community, Juneau extends a heart-felt thanks to our neighbors throughout Southeast Alaska who resoundingly supported our community by voting to keep the capital where it is. Juneau is committed to building a stronger, more unified region and will be there to support our neighbors and their best interests in return.

As with every election, a community learns a good deal about itself by the choices it makes. Juneau has proven that its citizens can work together when needed to attain a clear objective. As we emerge intact from this capital fight, we have little time to rest. We must mobilize immediately to find ways to improve our security as Alaska's permanent capital. Juneau has spent millions of dollars over the past 40 years fighting move efforts. It's time to redirect our resources toward more concrete solutions. This effort must be open-minded and inclusive. The work begins today.

Don Smith



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