What others say: The bully in the north

  • Monday, February 9, 2015 3:59pm
  • Opinion

An entire state office will likely pack its bags and be given a one-way ticket north this summer. We’re confused by the news that the Alaska Public Offices Commission is expected to be based in Anchorage from now on. The last we heard Juneau was still the capital and center of state government. Under the Bill Walker administration, that seems to be changing quickly.

It was bad enough that all but two commissioners call the interior home, but now APOC’s planned relocation smacks of something beyond capital creep. They call it capital creep when jobs disappear from Juneau relatively unnoticed. What Juneau is experiencing now is more of a capital crawl. The changes are happening in broad daylight for all to see.

APOC commissioners were relatively silent when asked about the move. A state document, along with a quote from APOC Executive Director Paul Dauphinais, contradict the rationale behind this move.

Closing the Juneau office is expected to save the state $188,500 (its total budget is $1.5 million) by reducing staff, saving on rent, and cutting telephone and copier costs. Wouldn’t the state save just as much by relocating the Anchorage APOC office to Juneau? We say this because Juneau, not Anchorage, is the base of state government. At least, it’s supposed to be.

APOC’s Juneau office is housed within the Alaska Department of Administration. We’re sure there will be enough space to accommodate more APOC employees after job cuts in other departments begin happening. Did the APOC commission even look into cost savings of relocating the entire office to Juneau? It would be interesting to view the cost comparison. Perhaps then we could be sold that this is the best option available.

Instead, it looks to be yet one more example of Anchorage playing the part of the big rich kid who steals everyone else’s lunch money. Anchorage is already the heart of commerce and banking, higher education and more. Now it’s taking more of our highest paying state jobs and an entire office to boot.

Anchorage, this is why Fairbanks, Kenai, the Mat-Su Valley and Juneau get so frustrated with you. Anchorage already has so many toys of its own but still wants everything the rest of Alaska has. It’s gluttonous, for lack of a better word, and potentially crippling to other regions’ economies.

According to the Fiscal Year 2016 budget change record, Juneau’s APOC office needs to go because efficiencies from an electronic filing system incorporated in 2012 for candidates, politicians and lobbyists have made it less necessary. APOC Director Dauphinais then told the Empire it also made sense because “Much of the contact is by telephone, that can be done from (Anchorage). Many of the lobbyists are not based in Juneau. Some are, but many of them are not, so they’ll have wider in-person access (in Anchorage). … Several of the larger (lobbying companies) are up here.”

The contradiction is hard to ignore. We’re being told an electronic filing system for financial disclosures streamlined efficiency, so the office must be located where lobbyists can have face-to-face interaction and become less efficient.

We’re sure Gov. Walker and other state officials need no reminding that the filing deadline for lawmakers happens during session — fortunately Juneau still has that, for now — and the majority of reports required of lobbyists are due between January and May. Also, since when does the state relocate its offices to appease lobbyists, a group that primarily works three months out of the year during session? That’s like moving the Department of Fish and Game to Bristol Bay to be closer to fishermen, or having the Department of Natural Resources based at the North Slope since it’s where we extract oil. We’re being fed a poor excuse and nothing more.

If most contact with APOC is done by telephone, and most reports are due during session, we fail to see how this is a smart move. Yes, it will save money for the state, which is important during this difficult financial time. However, we fail to see how those same savings couldn’t materialize by moving the entire office to Juneau.

— Juneau Empire,

Feb. 8

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