Juneau group says capital city has alienated many

Posted: Friday, August 10, 2001

JUNEAU (AP) -- Alaska's capital city needs to mend fences with its Southeast neighbors if it wants their support in keeping the Legislature here, said the head of a group fighting a proposed move.

''From all the evidence, our support has eroded,'' said Win Gruening, chairman of the Alaska Committee. His committee is fighting a citizens initiative to move the Legislature from Juneau to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Gruening said anecdotal information shows that the city has increasingly alienated Southeast voters who supported past efforts to keep the capital in Juneau.

''We've ignored the needs of fishermen, we've ignored the needs of loggers. We flat told the miners that we don't want them,'' said Dave Fremming, the publisher of Juneau-based Alaskan Southeaster Magazine. ''Some of them I think want to have an opportunity to take a poke back at us.''

Juneau-based environmental groups have irked pro-timber communities in the Southeast and local lawmakers angered others with votes against a resolution to support oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, Ketchikan Mayor Jack Shay said.

Juneau was conspicuously absent from a delegation of Southeast political leaders who traveled to Washington D.C., last year to protest a Clinton ''roadless'' policy to ban expanding timber harvesting in national forests, Shay said.

Rep. Beth Kerttula, D-Juneau, defended her vote against ANWR drilling, saying opposition by Natives to oil drilling was being ignored. She predicted Southeast voters would oppose a move to send the Legislature near Anchorage.

A citizen's group has proposed an initiative for the 2002 election to move the Legislature to the Mat-Su borough. It needs 28,783 signatures.

Ballot initiatives aimed at moving the capital have come before voters several times. In 1976 voters picked Willow as the new state capital, but balked two years later on approving the $966 million cost of the move.

A similar vote in 1982 to spend $2.8 billion to move the capital also failed.

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