Think outside the pavement

Letter to the editor

Posted: Monday, November 13, 2006

Yesterday I received e-mail and photos from Thailand. Last weekend I chatted online with friends from Seattle, Canada, and Honduras. Several times per month my office hosts video conferences with colleagues from all over Alaska. And last month I saw a video interview between school kids and an astronaut on the space station. And still people like Rick Urion (Oct. 26) threaten capital move if more "access" is not created to Juneau. Clearly, capital move advocates like Sara Palin are only for moving jobs from our community to hers, not creating real access to government, and local road advocates may be for many things, but access for all Alaskans to the capital? Please.

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Let's be clear: The "access road" doesn't significantly change the logistics of access to Juneau. It's still a road/ferry combination. And I'm still amazed that people like Al Risley (Oct. 29 letter) can in the same breath attack the "ferry welfare system" as a reason for building a longer road, and then advocate for building another ferry terminal and buying more ferries to support it.

The original intent of the road project was to create more access to the capital. Do we really need more roads or ferries to provide people with access to the capital and the legislative process? The answer is no. The truth is that if Rick Urion and all the other "access" champions really wanted Alaskans from Ketchikan to Barrow to have equal access to the capital, we'd be talking about using the road funding for high-speed cable or wireless towers all over Alaska, not pavement in Juneau. I bet it would cost less to connect the entire state electronically than it would to move the capital to a different population center that most Alaskans still couldn't easily get to. Funds spent on statewide cable/Internet would certainly benefit more Alaskans in the long run than a longer road in Juneau would. Imagine a dozen video conferencing rooms in the legislative building, and a video conferencing station in schools or community buildings in each rural village. About a dozen school districts already have video conference capability, so we know it works. Each legislative office would set aside an hour a day for video appointments, so that all Alaskans, no matter where they live, could make an appointment to speak directly with their legislator's office. All Alaskans could have access, and Sara Palin could leave the job base and property values in Juneau alone. The technology is available right now. We just have to be willing to think outside the pavement.

Sheila Box


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