Sitnews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska - Opinions



Legislative Hall Competition
by Representative Norman Rokeberg


March 22, 2005

"You are already so well informed as to the situation and environments of this little mining camp that I need not discuss its fitness for Capitol honors. By personal observation you know that that it has only a cramped, shelf like, narrow area at the foot of an almost perpendicular mountain 2400 feet high, without possible space for 5000 people. You, perhaps, observed its land slides endangering the houses already standing, and may have been told of the terrible winds sweeping down through the gorge, sometimes carrying houses bodily into the sea. The report of naval officers . . . show that its harbor is a terror to all mariners moving to stop there in winter. You have, undoubtedly, noted its uncentral location for all purposes except local mining whether considered geographically or in reference to the water channels connecting it with other portions of the territory; . . ." (Future Territorial Governor Lyman E. Knapp in a letter to U. S. Senator Charles Manderson, concerning possible relocation of the capital from Sitka to Juneau, dated June 2 1890)

Alaskans have been debating the location of our Capitol Building since Secretary Seward closed the real estate deal with Russia's Czar for the purchase of Alaska. We voted to relocate the capital from Juneau in 1974 and selected Willow as its site in 1976. However, at several other elections, we rejected the move. The most recent was a failed effort to relocate the Legislature to the Mat-Su area in 2002.

This perennial dogfight is in the news again because of the efforts of Juneau's Mayor Bruce Bothello to design and build a new Capitol Building in his fair city to be paid for by the people of Alaska. Juneau's Mayor is right about one thing - Alaskans need and deserve a new Capitol Building. Our current Capitol was first occupied in 1931 as a federal office building. It fails to meet fire and safety codes, has obstacles for the disabled, lacks parking and public amenities, has antiquated heating and ventilating systems and inadequate wiring, and has insufficient offices, committee rooms and space for legislative chambers. A new structure can be constructed and occupied near the existing structure for a cost in the $100 million range.

Alaskans deserve and need a new Capitol Building, or at least a new legislative hall they can be proud of as a symbol of our state. It should be functional, user and citizen friendly, and architecturally beautiful. The structure should be a statement of freedom, democracy, and the Alaskan way of life.

In order to break the location stalemate that has impeded any "political" progress on building a new building, I have introduced HB 23 that establishes a fair and open competition for construction of a new legislative hall (not Capitol). The concept of the bill is to allow any large community in the State the opportunity to offer to build a home for the Legislature - renting it for $1.00 per year, thereby costing the state very little and breaking the political logjam.

The building specifications, delivery time frame and selection criteria would be undertaken by the Legislative Council. This would allow the Mat-Su area, Juneau, Anchorage, Kenai, and Fairbanks to equitably compete for the privilege of hosting the legislature, if they desired.

While my personal preference is to move our legislature closer to the people (e.g., as suggested by Senator Cowdery, to Point MacKenzie), I truly believe my "build it and they will come" idea is the only way we can resolve this issue once and for all.

Juneau, understandably, will continue to dig deep into their pocket to retain the Legislature and Capital. HB 23 fundamentally lets Juneau put up their money, along with any other community. They have wisely spun the issue of cost to scare Alaskans away from a new capital city (1982 estimated $2.8 billion).

The time has come to examine, debate and resolve this issue. I believe most Alaskans will accept the need for and construction of a new Legislative Hall if it is awarded to a community after a fair and spirited competition and results in very little cost to the state.


Note: Representative Norman Rokeberg is a member of the 24th Alaska State Legislature representing District 27 - Anchorage.


Note: Comments published on Viewpoints are the opinions of the writer
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Sitnews.



Write a Letter -------Read Letters

E-mail the Editor

Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska