Capital location should be up to all Alaskans

What others say

Posted: Tuesday, March 29, 2005

If the Legislature had anything resembling

a heart, it long ago, and mercifully, would have ended Juneau's quixotic, desperate quest to design and build a new Capitol building.

It would have said, ''Forget it,'' when the city, looking for a way to nail down its capital city status for decades to come, offered to build a new, $100 million Capitol and lease it to the state for the next 30 years. That essentially would leave the rest of the state to pick up the tab for Juneau's peace of mind.

The Legislature should have said ''No, thanks'' when the city came up with a design competition that produced some strange, futuristic ideas of what Outside firms thought the new Capitol should look like.

Lawmakers should have said ''No, no, no'' early on and loudly; that a new Capitol in Juneau is an idea whose time is not likely to ever come. But they did not, and Juneau — we commend it for pure chutzpah — has proceeded like it actually has a snowball's chance.

Because nobody officially has driven a stake through the heart of Juneau's effort, there has been enough time to spawn yet more insanity.

Now, some of those who want Juneau to remain the capital, are saying, ''Hey, the city should pay for the new Capitol itself and present it to the state.'' Their thinking is that Juneau should get first refusal, but other cities also should be able to compete for the capital, based on what they can offer the state.

That is nice, but it ignores the quaint notion that the capital actually belongs to all Alaskans, not just the city that can kick back the most to the state for the title. Perhaps those few who actually can afford to make regular trips to Juneau to talk to lawmakers and those who live there have forgotten that all of us have a stake in where the Capitol building is located — and we all should have a say.

Perhaps that is what they want to avoid. Voters more than once have opted to move the capital out of Juneau. Their will was stymied only by campaigns by that city's establishment and its backers to inflate the moving costs to preposterous levels. Before a new Capitol building is authorized, voters should have the chance to go to the polls. It is, after all, more than a business decision.

The best thing to come from Juneau's latest effort is that it puts the question of moving the capital back into the public spotlight. Should a capital city be easily reachable by citizens? Does an isolated, remote capital serve the public? Does Juneau's location hinder government? Does it add to government and business expense and public mistrust? Those and myriad other questions need to be asked and answered — again.

In the meantime, somebody should step up and give Juneau the bad news.

— Voice of the Times,

March 21

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