My turn: As capital creeps away, where's the outrage?

Posted: Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Imagine Kodiak without its fishing fleet and harbors. Fairbanks without its university. Bethel without its regional airport. Palmer without the state fair. Anchorage without its high rise buildings and center of commerce.

Would any of these communities stand quietly by if their very core was threatened?

Now imagine Juneau without the capital.

Why do we who live here watch in silence as our governor deliberately guts our home town? Where is our outrage at the hollow rhetoric of her campaign?

Through e-mail, the way most governance occurs, we have a clear record of her false insinuations and broken campaign promises.

July 2006: "The efforts by the Alaska Committee to connect Juneau to the rest of the state electronically and via the media are huge. These are shown in excellent productions such as (the television program) 'Gavel to Gavel.'"

October 2006 (from candidate forum): "I don't support moving the capital. The star on the map there in Juneau as the capital city, more the power to it. I say, keep it there. As for the Legislature, it is up to the Legislature to decide where to move. It isn't up to the governor to tell the Legislature where they will conduct any of their meetings or hearings or sessions."

Fast forward after her election.

March 23, 2007: "Come end of legislative session ... We're going to have to fundamentally change some perceptions of WHERE the administration needs to conduct its business in order to stay connected w/the world outside of Juneau."

March 24, 2007: "Hang in there! I'm anxious for the session to wind down (with no desire for special session - but if legislators believe one's warranted for AGIA approach then we'd conduct it in Anchorage.), and then we will start conducting a chunk of continued administrative work out of South-central Alaska, where it will be easier to all stay connected."

During the campaign we focused on where future legislatures would meet. We should have asked where the governor intended to live.

In the last few years about 200 state positions left Juneau, most with an annual starting salary around $52,000 or above. Of 14 commissioners, 11 live outside of Juneau. In total that represents a lost payroll of up to $10 million a year, money that won't be spent on Juneau homes, in Juneau restaurants and Juneau stores, or in contributions to local organizations from the Glory Hole to the arts.

Where are the real estate agents who stand to lose value not only in their own homes, but their livelihoods? Which of them will say to the governor, on behalf of small businesses which she called the backbone of America, "this is unacceptable?"

Who will speak up on behalf of local businesses, the restaurants, bookstores, dress shops, drug stores, who depend on legislators, staff and administration employees, to thrive as year-around businesses? Do they not represent the small town values she supports?

Do local Republicans care enough about their home town to say, "Governor, what you are doing here is wrong"?

In our 50th anniversary of statehood, who will remind the governor that the architects of our constitution struggled to insure every reach of this vast and varied state was represented?

To those who claim the vision to govern, but only from the confines of an hour commute from their house, I submit that governance is not meant to be convenient. Leaders who stretch beyond their comfort zone see more clearly that people live in different ways, with needs and concerns different from their own.

In fairness, the governor has spent so little time in Juneau that she probably is not familiar with it. While we must clearly state that gutting this town for personal convenience is not acceptable - Blackberries work here as well as in the Anchorage bowl - we can also commit ourselves to reaching out to the governor and legislators.

When the governor returns to town for the legislative session, I will invite her and her husband to be my guests at Perseverance Theatre. I encourage other residents to show her why this community matters, and to hold her responsible for being governor of all of Alaska, as she was elected to be.

• Judy Shuler is a resident of Juneau. She has also lived in Anchorage.

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