PUBLISHED: 4:56 PM on Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Capital concern
Elected official outlines to-do list for Juneau
Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula grew up the daughter of a legislator and used to split her time between Juneau and Palmer.

She said her family moved their household back and forth from Juneau 68 times. That shift is no mean feat.

"Still it was a lot better when whole families came to Juneau. You'd hit the ferry after a long summer and there was a great feeling coming down to Juneau," she said.

Kerttula said only a few legislators still bring their families to the capital city. Speaking recently to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce, she told the group that there will be many special sessions in the coming years and debate over location will accompany each one.

She said more could be done to make Juneau appealing to elected officials.

"What they want is reasonably priced, safe housing, they want good laundry facilities," said said.

"For the few legislators who still bring their families, they want childcare and schools. They want flexible landlords who know legislators might have to extend a month for a special session."

This summer Kerttula spoke to state representatives and asked them to support the capital city as the location for the October special session to review the state's petroleum profits tax. House Speaker John Harris polled the 40 members and a majority chose the capital city. But they told Kerttula that Juneau would be more attractive if it had cheaper airport parking, was friendlier to legislators, and if it had restaurants that stayed open later.

Kerttula said Juneau's three elected state officials focus on keeping the infrastructure of government in Juneau. There is some concern among locals about important aspects of government moving to other parts of the state, also known as capital creep.

Last week Gov. Sarah Palin said her children are attending schools in Wasilla this fall. She said her children will attend Juneau schools for the second semester. This is a change from at least one previous governor. When he was in office, Gov. Tony Knowles rented his house in Anchorage and moved his whole family to the mansion. His children attended Juneau schools full-time.

Palin has three school-aged children. She said she decided to send them to school in the Matsu this fall because it best suits her travel schedule.

"My kids will do what legislators do and that is come at the next semester, that's when they'll enroll in Juneau schools," Palin said.

Kerttula said the offspring of elected officials sometimes have tough childhoods, and she can understand what the governor might be thinking. She said she does not see the governor's decision as an example of capital creep. In contrast, news that a division director position from the state's department of Health and Social Services is moving to Anchorage is bothersome, she said.

However, the governor's choice concerns Juneau representative Andrea Doll. The democrat said she can understand the governor made the decision in the best interests of her family, but believes it sends an ambivalent signal.

"As a pattern, what she does is important. I think people are watching to see what she does, and the fact that she doesn't make the mansion her home and operate out of Juneau as the capital city is important," Doll said.

Last year after Palin was elected, she sent three of her children to Juneau schools in the second semester.