December 25, 2004
This is the way the recent flutter of letters all started: A couple of months ago a group of Juneau businessmen released news about their effort to find funding to build a new, truly-needed, larger CapitOl building in Juneau - on land long since selected by the state and acquired on Juneau's Telegraph Hill. This new building would then be leased to the state. Anchorage, of course, picked up on that news item and began beating its worn-out old drum about having a new capitOl somewhere in the Mat-Su Valley which readers took for yet another capitAl move anthem.
The big "reason" most used by capitAl-move proponents up here is that putting the capital in the Mat-Su Valley would allow "more Alaskans, youth and adult citizens, to visit and watch how our state government works." Pffbb! Here I must speak up! Even Mel Gibson couldn't make legislature-watching into a regular guy and gal pastime! By and large, the intricate, formal legislative negotiations would put even a caffeine addict to sleep. Scratch that weak excuse.
I'm sure, too, that you've read news of the Knik Arm bridge? And I betcha they'll get it. It will span Cook Inlet right from downtown Anchorage to the ghost town of Knik, a now-vanished Gold Rush city of 10,000 and then zip into "beautiful downtown Wasilla" via the presently primitive Knik-Goose Bay Road. It is hoped that this Knik bridge-to-be crossing will solve the Anchorage and Mat-Su Valley's back-and-forth commuter problems, making a new Mat-Su Valley seat-of-government easily available "to most Alaskans."
Well yeah, but. The Knik bridge, when built, would allow the majority of our state legislators (and the Anchorage solons make up the bulk of the Legislature!) to zip to and from the Mat-Su Valley. It would beat navigating the present Glenn Highway, which has been a killer since it was built back in the '30s. But that slick new Knik Bridge idea leaves out all the other Representative and State Senators who live elsewhere! Let's face it, no matter where you locate a state capitAl in Alaska, it's going to be just as inconvenient as Juneau for a lot of people.
Let me tell you about the Mat-Su Valley - where I now reside? The part of this vast borough they're talking about is the area of the twin cities of Palmer and Wasilla. The "old" Palmer, c.1935, is the location of the State Fair, a quaint little one-main-street town with a city block of bars and lots of suburbs, beautiful scenery, a passion for fireworks for every occasion, and the worst year-round winds anywhere in Alaska (my opinion and I live here). Wasilla is well, you won't know when you're in Wasilla anyway unless someone tells you so. It's a collection of strip malls going every which way, with suburbs artfully hidden wherever they happened to blossom. Visitors ask, where is Wasilla? If a Bush or Southeastern legislator thought about maybe avoiding the blight of big-city Anchorage and renting a little place for the session in Wasilla? Forget it. Well, maybe at the Foot Stompin' and Chug-a-Lug Motel which is just across the four-lane highway from Lowe's or Wal-Mart or Fred Meyer or Gottschalks etc., take your pick.
But in all seriousness, I really hope that the people of this truly great state use their heads if they get caught up in yet another capitAl move or even a sneaky capitOl move "thing." Southeastern especially should be concerned about any goofy plan to move the seat of government up here. It would be for you that the bell tolled. Most legislators don't know Southeastern exists anyway. Let's don't make it worse. Juneau is not what you'd call a great friend of Ketchikan, but it may be time to join ranks.