With the first session of the 24th Alaska Legislature scheduled to begin Monday, people once again are likely to start grousing about how inaccessible Alaska's Capital City is especially since bad weather kept some lawmakers from reaching Juneau on their first try last week.
But physical location isn't what makes politicians or government accessible; it's the attitude of the politicians and others who run government that's the most important factor in accessible government. With today's information highway running at full speed, there are lots of ways to bridge the approximate 700 miles that separate Kenai Peninsula residents from their legislators at this time of year without ever leaving home.
People interested in improving the accessibility of government should focus more on that attitude than on moving the capital out of Juneau. After all, in places where citizens can drive to their capital city is their participation greater? Is government better? Nothing proves that's the case.
Accessibility to government happens when legislators see customer service as their No. 1 job. Their customers, of course, are all the citizens of Alaska. Lawmakers have an obligation to keep those citizens informed about what's happening in Juneau, and doing it in a language that everyone understands. One of the things that separates the people from government is the bureaucratic language that's used. Lawmakers talk and write in an alphabet soup of bills and policies that make it difficult for all but the most avid politicos to follow.
Another thing that separates the people from government is the different interpretation the various political parties put on events and bills. The goal of all politicians, regardless of what their political affiliation, should be to make government less confusing to citizens, not more.
Lawmakers need to know their constituents are interested in having them do that.
Keeping in touch with elected officials and elected officials keeping in touch with their constituents should be an ongoing process. Legislators are as close as an e-mail, fax or phone call. Plus, bills can be followed on the Internet through the Bill Action and Status Inquiry System.
If your a newcomer to the political process, the Kenai Legislative Information Office in the old courthouse at 145 Main Street Loop is a good place to get acquainted with the various ways to stay in touch and learn how to be most effective in getting your message to legislators.
Public opinion messages, popularly known as POMs, may be sent from the LIO to any legislators. POMs must be written in 50 words or less. Forms for sending a POM are available from the LIO. People may fax the signed form to 283-3075.
Legislators also welcome e-mails, letters, phone calls and faxes. When residents are seeking to influence legislation, some good advice to keep in mind: Be specific.
For example, it's really not fair to tell legislators to "cut the budget" and "live within your means" without offering places where you would like to see the budget cut.
To help you stay in touch, the following is the contact information for the peninsula Legislative Information Offices and the peninsula's legislative delegation, as well as some important Internet addresses. Contact information for legislators is from a draft list and is subject change. In addition, legislators often will have toll-free numbers for their constituents to use.
Address: 145 Main Street Loop, Suite 217, Kenai, AK 99611
Address: 345 West Sterling Highway, Suite 102A, Homer, AK 99603-7524
Address: P.O. Box 1769, Seward, AK 99664
Sen. Tom Wagoner, R-Kenai
Phone: (907) 465-2828
Fax: (907) 465-4779
Address: Room 427, State Capitol, Juneau 99801-1182
Sen. Gary Stevens, R-Kodiak (district includes part of the Kenai Peninsula)
Phone: (907) 465-4925
Address: Room 103, State Capitol, Juneau 99801-1182
Rep. Mike Chenault, R-Nikiski
Phone: (907) 465-3779
Fax: (907) 465-2833
Address: Room 505, State Capitol, Juneau 99801-1182
Rep. Kurt Olson, R-Soldotna
Phone: (907) 465-2693
Fax: (907) 465-3835
Address: Room 110, State Capitol, Juneau, 99801-1182
Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer
Phone: (907) 465-2689
Address: Room 102, State Capitol, Juneau 99801-1182
State of Alaska home page
Alaska Legislature's home page
Bill Action and Status Inquiry System (BASIS)
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