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Teacher's Guide

Regional History
Governing Alaska
The Capital of Alaska

Shortly after statehood the new state faced a financial crisis because revenues did not keep pace with the expenses that came with the new responsibilities of statehood. The economic problems of these early years gave momentum to the desire of Anchorage business leaders to move the capital out of Juneau.

By 1960, Anchorage Times publisher Bob Atwood embarked on a campaign to move the capital to the Anchorage area. This movement continues to rise and fall. In the first 42 years of statehood, voters faced 10 ballot propositions dealing with some aspect of moving all or part of the capital.

Alaska voters defeated propositions to move the capital in 1960 and 1962 and then approved it in 1974. In 1976, they selected a site near Willow as the capital, but two years later they rejected a $966 million bond issue to pay for it. Capital move supporters said that price tag was inflated, and continued to press the issue. In 1982, the voters rejected a plan with the cost of $2.8 billion for a new capital city at Willow. The voters rejected a plan to move the capital to Wasilla in 1994, and defeated a plan to move the legislature to the Mat-Su Borough in 2002.

Supporters of the capital move say that it's important for the seat of government to be closer to where most Alaskans live, in the Anchorage area.

Capital move opponents argue that the Juneau location is important for Southeast Alaska and that access to decision-makers is getting better all the time. The Juneau airport is much improved and a road to Juneau is under consideration.

The most dramatic change in access,, is that no matter where you are in Alaska , you are now closer to the seat of government than ever before because of the technology of electronic communications.

For example , the state website is a great place to gather information about state government. In the past much of this information was available only in a library. Now it is accessible to anyone with a computer. Each department has reports and other information posted on the website that allows any citizen a chance to be informed and involved.

Everything from campaign finance reports to the state statues of Alaska and the minutes of the constitutional convention are available online. The City and Borough of Juneau and private contributors sponsor an innovative service called "Gavel to Gavel Alaska" which provides live cable TV coverage of important legislative debates and meetings. In addition, audio and video coverage is carried live on the Internet for those without cable TV. This service includes some coverage of the Alaska Supreme Court proceedings and the executive branch.

The legislature holds many public hearings in Juneau that are teleconferenced to the rest of the state. It is possible in many cases to testify at one of 22 local Legislative Information Offices and communicate directly to legislators.

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