Many towns in Alaska have bragging rights about parts of their identity, but Juneau's -- serving as the state's capital -- has been at the crux of a 40-year-old controversy, following several attempts at a capital move.
Resident Wayne Jensen says Juneau’s roots as a capital began in 1900 when Congress ordered the governor of what was then the Department of Alaska to move the seat of government, from Sitka to Juneau.
"It’s a privilege being the capital of the great state of Alaska, and that's something that Juneau takes very seriously," Jensen said.
Juneau's claiming right was solidified, when Alaska became the 49th state in 1959, the only capital city in the United States not accessible by road. Juneau is nearly 600 air miles from Anchorage, the state's largest city. Juneau is closer to Canada than mainland Alaska.
While tourism and mining are both major contributors to Juneau’s financial health, city leaders say its state government employees and their support systems that are the lifeblood of the economy.
"It's a great place to raise a family, it's small, around 35,000 people now," said Sen. Dennis Egan (D-Juneau).
That's why any threat to move the capital city in an effort to save state money or employee travel sends shudders throughout the local community.
"Every time something like this happens to my community Juneau, it is devastating property values go to heck, employment is stymied,” Egan said.
Yet, there have been 10 failed efforts to date, the most recent in 2011. Each move was aimed at relocating most, if not all of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches to different parts of the state.
Egan, a former Juneau mayor and the son of Alaska’s first governor, says a capital relocation committee was even set up in the 70s to determine the feasibility of moving the capital.
"We needed to know the cost of a capital move and it was a heck of a lot of money, and that initiative in '78 was defeated," Egan said.
In the early 90s city leaders decided it was time to go on the offensive, to defend the capital city's location. The Alaska Council was born, with a mission to enhance Juneau as a capital city. Jensen is the council’s chairman.
"We concentrated on issues like access to Juneau, communications, the infrastructure to support the capital, helping with the capital campus," Jensen said.
The council helped bring about Gavel-to-Gavel, a live broadcast of all of Alaska’s legislative proceedings, available for free on public television. Egan says it was accomplished without any additional state money.
The City and Borough of Juneau also donated workspace. The Tom Stewart Legislative Building, formerly a Masonic temple, was handed over to the state, along with the Terry Miller Building, both of which were gifts from Juneau to their government partner.
Egan says Alaska has three main seats in its largest communities for various functions: Fairbanks for education, Anchorage for commerce, Juneau for government.
“I think that's the way it should be and everyone should stop fighting about it, and leave well enough alone," Egan said.
The fact there are no current attempts to relocate the capital at this time may be proof alone that Juneau’s status is safe and bragging rights will remain intact.