Alaska editorial: Juneau out of step with rest of the state

Posted: Tuesday, November 16, 2004

This editorial appeared in Wednesday's The Voice of the (Anchorage) Times:

Yah gotta love Juneau. What a delicious attitude it has toward the rest of Alaska, as it clings relentlessly to its conviction that the state's capital is now, and forever will be, something for its city to have and to hold. Too bad about other Alaskans, of course.

Juneau proved once again in this month's election how badly it has strayed from mainstream Alaska. It voted four-square for Democrat John Kerry. Republican President George W. Bush was a landslide winner in the rest of Alaska.

It voted with fevered vigor for Democrat Tony Knowles. In the rest of Alaska, Republican Lisa Murkowski rolled to an easy victory in her bid for a six-year term in the U.S. Senate.

It voted to legalize marijuana, a marvelous position for the state capital to hold. The rest of the state kicked the marijuana proposition in the trash can.

Now they're back again, the powers that be in Juneau, wanting to build a new $100 million capitol building. Oh, by the way - Juneau won't pay for this new governmental palace unless the new Legislature will sign a 20-year lease, guaranteeing the building won't cost Juneau taxpayers a dime.

What a wonderful deal. Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho, a former Alaska attorney general, is traveling to Fairbanks and Anchorage, attempting to drum up support for this latest scheme to anchor the capital in the isolated Southeastern coastal community far removed from the population centers of the state.

It's all old hat. Juneau has been attempting to foist off this building plan on the rest of the state for years and years.

For newcomers hereabouts, it's worth recalling that Alaska voters in 1974 approved moving the capital from Juneau to a new Alaska city to be located at a site to be determined "at least 30 miles from Anchorage or Fairbanks." In 1976, in another vote, 56,219 Alaskans picked Willow as that site.

Juneau went into a full-court press to derail the plan. They managed to get on the 1978 ballot a bond proposition calling for an inflated $966 million - almost a billion dollars - to pay for the move.

Even capital move supporters voted against that goofy figure. In 1982, Juneau was back again to squash capital move efforts with a ballot proposition asking voters for $2.8 billion to pay for the relocation. Guess what? Voters nixed that, too.

Part of this concoction, by the way, was a Juneau claim that it would cost $46.7 million just to move "personnel and equipment" from Juneau to the new capital.

Well, there already is a building in Anchorage big enough to serve as a capitol - and the state owns it. It's the huge, virtually abandoned fish plant just off Minnesota Drive, five minutes from Anchorage International Airport and 10 minutes from downtown. And a bunch of packing crates would handle the moving job.



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