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Polls open for Juneau municipal election

Election is concurrent with other municipal votes across Alaska

Posted: October 2, 2012 - 12:01am

Voters will head to the polls today to elect the City and Borough of Juneau’s 13th mayor since incorporation in 1970, as well as two new members of the CBJ Assembly and three members of the Juneau School District Board of Education. They’ll also have the opportunity to vote on this year’s ballot propositions.

Polls open across Juneau at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m.

Juneau’s candidates for mayor are Merrill Sanford, a former three-term Assemblymember and retired firefighter, and Cheryl Jebe, treasurer of the Juneau League of Women Voters and a retired state employee.

Candidates for Assembly District 1 are Paul Nowlin, a political newcomer and office manager at Petro Marine Services, and Loren Jones, a retired state worker who fell just short of winning election to the Assembly last year.

In Assembly District 2, Jerry Nankervis, a commercial fisherman who retired last year as captain in the Juneau Police Department, is the only candidate on the ballot. He is opposed, however, by therapist and mediator Dixie Hood, who filed as a write-in candidate last Thursday.

Those wishing to cast a vote for Hood will have to physically write in her name on the line available in the District 2 section of the ballot and fill in the bubble next to it.

The school board elects its members at large. It has three seats to fill this year, and five candidates — the board’s vice president, Andrea “Andi” Story; the Department of Education and Early Development’s Parents as Teachers coordinator and Juneau school board incumbent Phyllis Carlson; former board member and clinical psychologist Destiny Sargeant; former Tongass School of Arts and Sciences Academic Policy Committee president and state employee Michelle Johnston; and computer technician Will Muldoon — are vying to win them.

The top three vote-getters in the school board race will be elected.

All contested races this year are for a three-year term, meaning the seats of those who win the election will be up again in the 2015 municipal election.

Voters will also decide the fate of two ballot propositions.

Proposition 1 would authorize a $25 million general obligation bond issue for various projects around Juneau, including the construction of an Eaglecrest Learning Center and terminal renovations at the Juneau International Airport. To pay down the bond debt, an additional $39 per $100,000 of assessed value would be levied annually in property tax starting in 2018 and lasting until 2033.

Proposition 2, a five-year extension of the 1 percent temporary sales tax beginning next October, would fund nearly $29.5 million in projects — including the proposed public library in Dimond Park, matching funds for the airport’s planned Snow Removal Equipment Facility, and deferred maintenance on public buildings, parks and trails — and pay $5 million into the city’s budget reserve, or “rainy day fund.”

Ten million dollars from the sales tax extension would go toward retiring bond debt if both propositions pass. That money would be divided up between two projects on the bond funding list — Centennial Hall renovation and Aurora Harbor reconstruction — if Proposition 2 passes but Proposition 1 fails.

If Proposition 1 passes but Proposition 2 fails, the annual levy for bond debt retirement would be $42 per $100,000 of assessed value starting next year, as that $10 million would not be available from the sales tax to pay down the debt.

Due to statewide redistricting, several precincts and polling places in Juneau have changed since last year’s election.

The Auke Bay Fire Station, Nugget Mall, the Auke Bay Ferry Terminal, Mendenhall Mall, Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Glacier Valley Baptist Church, Shepherd of the Valley Lutheran Church, the Douglas Public Library, the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, Northern Light United Church, the Tlingit and Haida Community Council Building, Alaska Electric Light and Power, and the Juneau Fire Station are the sites for Election Day voting this year.

Alaska’s toll-free polling place locator number is 1-888-383-8683.

“A voter can call that number and it’s kind of an automated messaging system,” City Clerk Laurie Sica explained. “It asks the voter for their voter number or their Social Security number, and then it will tell the person where to go to vote.”

New voter cards issued by the Alaska Division of Elections this summer also have the updated precinct information on them.

In-person absentee voting began on Sept. 17 at several polling places. Voters are entitled to cast an absentee ballot in person for any reason starting 15 days prior to each election.

Sica said absentee voting is already ahead of last year’s total.

“We’re doing good on absentee voting. We’ve had probably about 1,070 ballots cast as of this afternoon, about 3:30, and that’s not including any that come in by mail … or any of the by-fax ballots,” Sica said Monday afternoon. “Last year, we had a total of 1,060 absentee ballots, so we’re over last year’s amount.”

“We’re just encouraging people to get out and vote,” said Gail Fenumiai, director of the Alaska Division of Elections, which does not administer municipal elections in Juneau. “Municipal elections generally have a low turnout.”

Juneau is one of many communities across Alaska holding its election today, the first Tuesday of October.

In Southeast Alaska, voters in Sitka and Wrangell will also be selecting a mayor today (http://bit.ly/O12Z7x). Municipal elections are also being held in Haines and Municipality of Skagway boroughs.

Fairbanks North Star Borough is the largest municipality holding its election today in Alaska. As in Juneau, Sitka and Wrangell, voters there are also choosing a mayor.

Today is also the date for Regional Educational Attendance Area elections, which are held throughout the unorganized parts of the state and are administered by the Alaska Division of Elections, Fenumiai’s agency.

The closest REAAs to Juneau is Chatham, or REAA 18, which includes Angoon, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs (http://bit.ly/O13eQ3). There are two other REAAs in Southeast Alaska.

Fenumiai said she is not sure why REAA elections are held the same day as many of Alaska’s municipal elections, but she speculated that the familiarity of a first-Tuesday-of-October election in the state may be a reason, “just to make things easier.”

“Perhaps it’s just because it’s kind of like their municipal elections,” Fenumiai ventured. “Most municipal elections have school board races on them, and so this is to elect their school boards.”

• Contact reporter Mark D. Miller at 523-2279 or at mark.d.miller@juneauempire.com.

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