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Capitol: A Better Place?
by June Allen


March 25, 2005

No Southeasterner would be all that ready to move the Capitol (that's CapitOl with an O, allegedly the building only) to Palmer, as suggested in the recent letter by Rep. Carl Gatto, Republican of Palmer. Rep. Gatto is a nice, hardworking guy who is naturally looking to bring as much as he can to his district. I don't remember his background from the campaign literature, but I live here now and I think I even voted for him. And his suggestion to build a spacious new legislative building at the corner of the Glenn and Parks Highway has a certain amount merit. There are, however, some drawbacks.

The acreage he mentions, just 43 miles from Anchorage, does have historical appeal. It's the 1914 site of Palmer's first homsteader, Norwegian John Bugge, whose name at least has not been forgotten. I've always wondered if he might have been a relative of Ketchikan's pioneer settler, Martin Bugge. But fat chance I'll ever find out, even though I've tried, because Palmer chooses to loftily date its much-longer history only from 1935, when the first Matanuska Valley farmers from the the dust-bowl Midwest of the U.S. were transported in at government expense to till the soil. Palmer is no longer the dairy and produce heaven it was not so many years ago, but we still get great Mat Valley vegetables at the Farmer's Market, which is, however, in big-city Anchorage. We do get the vegetables, too, in the grocery stores here.

The Palmer area is beautiful, no questioning that. Jagged, snow-covered picture-book mountains ring the Mat valley. Palmer, the city, is a nice little town of pleasant people and a folksy atmosphere of small, 1950s style homes with nice yards and gardens. There are just a couple of main streets, one of which, like Ketchikan of just a few years back, is lined with bars that stay open until 5 a.m., I believe. But then, just 20 or so minutes up the road is the much larger city of Wasilla. Wasilla, in my opinion only, is merely a collection of big box stores and unattractive strip malls, all of which are nicely separate from some of the very nice residential areas mercifully hidden and tucked away from the commercial strips.

I've personally discovered these Alaska Legislative months of January through early May are no picnic here! Often we get sub-zero temps and then there are the winds! They come with both bitter, screaming north winds or screaming if slightly warmer south winds. We just recently survived a common enough windstorm with north winds up to 50+ mph and much higher gusts. With those winds comes the pervasive glacial silt from the Matanuska Glacier, which has retreated up the Glenn Highway but blows down here no matter what. In addition to silt sifting through even tightly insulated windows onto drapes, curtains and windowsills are those blasted flying plastic bags from the grocery stores that stick in hedges and trees... not nice.

Still, the politicians in this area would like to see the capitAl city as well as the capitOl building moved here. The improved Glenn Highway from Anchorage to Palmer is not the death trap that is was some 30-40 years ago. But the crowded jockeying lane-changers don't make for a pleasant 55-minute drive.

All this, really, is insignificant. The bottom line is this: Southeastern has lost its industries, largely due to the bllossoming 1970's era environmentalism (which is now at death-gasp stage) and the oil-fueled growth of Anchorage and environs. Southeastern Alaska has lost its population, and thereby it legislative representation. Southeastern used to be the productive industrial tail that wagged the dog of struggling Fairbanks and infant Anchorage. Now we're the dog that has been put out for the night... and forgotten.

Don't take the Capital city or building away from us!

June Allen
formerly of Ketchikan, now of Palmer

Related Viewpoint:

letter Capitol: A Better Place? by Sen. Carl Gatto - Palmer, AK - USA



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