Whatever happened to that idea of building a domed capital? Not a domed capital building, but a completely domed capital city.
I always liked that concept. It somehow seemed fitting to put people who often seemed to be working in isolation from reality actually into a city that was physically isolated from reality. Politicians always seem to be screaming that the sky is falling and that’s why we need to enact whatever their latest quick fix is. They could use the fact that they are in a domed city as their excuse for not realizing that, in fact, the sky is not falling.
There is a symmetry there that I find appealing.
For those of you new to the state, who believe there are still some absurdities out there that even an Alaskan politician flush with oil money would not touch, you are wrong. I am not making this idea up. And when it was being discussed here in Alaska, back in those days when oil money seemed endless, it was being discussed by people who otherwise appeared sober and serious.
After all, how can you not like this idea? We build a capital somewhere between here and Fairbanks. We completely enclose it in glass. We not only get an accessible legislature, we get one heck of a tourist attraction to boot – one that people will literally have to drive through in order to get to Denali. What could the downside possibly be? These thoughts come to mind as I watch us gear up yet again for the perennial debate over why Alaska’s capital city is barely in Alaska. Now before all you Juneau-ites write to me to explain that Juneau is smack dab in this state, let me refer you to a map. If you look at it through neutral eyes, you will see that, in fact, Juneau is hanging on by it’s fingernails to a small piece of flat land backed up against some mountains that for some reason went with the Alaska purchase.
Logic would dictate that it actually be a part of Canada. But even Canadians, who pretty much surround the sliver of Alaska we call the panhandle, would have trouble getting there so they apparently didn’t want it either.
Of course, Alaska is hardly the only state whose capital is in some far-flung outer reach of its territory. It’s not as though Albany is close to the center of things in New York State. And Sacramento is not exactly nestled in the hustle and bustle of southern California. No one has ever accused Harrisburg, Pennsylvania of being centrally located. And as for Trenton, New Jersey…well, the reality is that most people who are from New Jersey would have trouble locating Trenton on a map.
But all those other capitals have one thing that Juneau doesn’t have – access; access by plane and access by road. Now there are those of you out there saying, “But Elise, you can get to Juneau by plane.” To which I respond, “Have you tried that lately?”
Getting to Juneau is the type of adventure most of think of as pioneer material. Where will I really land? When will I actually get there? Will the pilot be able to negotiate that runway? Will I lose all or most of my snack from the bouncing of the plane due to air currents?
So why do we persist in keeping the capital in Juneau despite, at last count, 300 separate votes by the electorate to move it? Some might say that although we vote to move it, in our hearts we really don’t want a concentration of that many politicians and lobbyists near our children’s schools and us. Others say that we, as an electorate, are just too stupid to understand the costs that would be involved.
I say we should demand that the government listen to our voices as exhibited by our consistent votes to move the capital and move the darn thing. I’m thinking Molokai. I hear the leper colony is pretty much closed down and that would leave lots of buildings empty that could easily be converted to legislative purposes.
After all, just because we voted to move the capital, no one should assume we meant closer to us.