Alaska editorial: Governor's mansion needs a face lift

Posted: Tuesday, December 14, 2004

This editorial appeared in Friday's Anchorage Daily News:

Here's another reason to fix the fiscal gap: Alaska should be able to maintain the governor's mansion without bake sales and car washes.

First Lady Nancy Murkowski is leading an effort to refurbish the 92-year-old mansion, and good for her. She formed the Friends of the Alaska Governor's Mansion Foundation to raise an unspecified amount of money for the project. The foundation is selling $20 holiday ornaments to raise support.

The mansion has water damage, deteriorating pipes and cracks in pillars and walls. Residence manager Karen Newton says the exterior needs a complete overhaul.

OK, let's get it done. The First Lady deserves credit for addressing the problem. "It's nothing major, except the columns, which might need to be replaced," she said.

But shouldn't a state with $29 billion in the bank and nearly a million barrels of oil a day coming off the North Slope be able to keep up the maintenance on the governor's mansion? The state of Alaska is not exactly a charity case. The mansion essentially belongs to all the people and should be treated as a public priority.

The mansion is both graceful and stately, a delightful residence for Alaska's chief executive and a credit to the state. Built in 1912, it's on the National Historic Register. Planted on a hill just down the street from the Capitol and overlooking Juneau's Gastineau Channel, the home has large windows and spacious rooms - a lovely spot for state dinners and social receptions. Its doors are periodically opened for public events.

Former Gov. Bill Sheffield oversaw a major renovation in the early 1980s. Another less extensive one appears due now. So let's all buy a holiday ornament to fix it up as soon as possible. But then, conserving charity dollars for the truly needy, the Legislature should budget sensibly for doing the upkeep.

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