Southeast mayors back Juneau's capital fight

Posted: Thursday, September 20, 2001

PRINCE RUPERT, British Columbia (AP) -- Southeast Alaska mayors have rallied around Juneau in its fight against a ballot measure to move the Legislature to the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

''I would hope that all of us recognize that's a threat to all of our communities and our regional economy,'' Ketchikan City Mayor Bob Weinstein said during the Southeast Conference meeting held in Prince Rupert.

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 to get on the ballot.

Mayors in 10 Panhandle communities pledged to fight the idea during a meeting this week of the Southeast Conference.

The Southeast Conference is a nonprofit organization largely made up of local governments and business interests. Juneau sent several members of its assembly to the Southeast Conference meeting.

Several mayors mentioned that there's some animosity toward Juneau in their communities from people who see the capital as a liberal pro-environmental enclave. Environmental groups based in Juneau have fought hard to restrict logging in the Tongass National Forest, they said.

''The environmental community has left us lame and bleeding in the street,'' said Craig Mayor Dennis Watson. ''It would be nice if they'd slack off a little, let us try to extract a livelihood.''

But the mayors agreed that Juneau is an important regional commerce center and that moving the Legislature would be a prelude to moving the capital.

''We would be naive to think that its only going to be the Legislature,'' Smith said.

Ballot initiatives aimed at moving the capital have come before voters several times. Alaska voters have approved moving the capital in the past, but balked at approving the funds to pay for it.

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