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Newly elected Juneau, Whitehorse leaders seek deeper ties

Sister cities share similar issues, Whitehorse mayor-elect says

Posted: October 22, 2012 - 8:07pm  |  Updated: October 22, 2012 - 11:06pm

The mayor-elect of the Yukon capital of Whitehorse, Dan Curtis, said Monday afternoon that he would like to work on further developing the relationship between his city and Juneau.

Curtis, who won election last Thursday to a three-year term as mayor, said he has spent a lot of time in Juneau over the years and values Whitehorse’s relationship with its Alaskan sister city.

“I was born and raised in Whitehorse, and I’ve been to Juneau countless times,” said Curtis.

Juneau and Whitehorse have been sister cities since 1989.

“We want to do everything we can to nurture that ­— I want to say ‘relationship,’ but it’s more like a family relationship. It’s really important to us,” Curtis said. “I know it’s only been since ’89, but it feels like it’s been forever. It’s an awesome relationship.”

The sister city relationship between Juneau and Whitehorse has been less active in recent years than it has been in the past. While both cities participate on the Southeast Alaska Tourism Council, and a rivalry exists between them in several sports, government-to-government meetings have not occurred in several years (http://bit.ly/XMlkHi), Juneau Mayor Merrill Sanford noted Monday.

As to specifically how the two cities can deepen their ties, Curtis said he is “open for ideas.”

Sanford said he is “most definitely” interested in renewing the exchanges formerly held between the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Whitehorse City Council, as well as exploring potential areas for cooperation between Juneau and nearby communities to the north.

“I think that that’s a good idea, and there’s a lot of things between Whitehorse and Skagway and Haines and Juneau that we should meet about and talk about,” Sanford said.

Many of the issues that Juneau faced in its municipal election earlier this month — housing, property taxes and downtown development — were mirrored in Whitehorse’s election last week.

“Being Northern communities, we face a lot of the same challenges, and we have a lot of the same successes, too,” Curtis said. He suggested that the way for Juneauites and Whitehorsers to share their perspectives on common issues is “by getting together and … addressing them.”

Curtis added, “The top priority of our mandate is to really enhance the tourism and have a lot more opportunities brought down to our city center. … I’d love to hear the perspective of the Chamber (of Commerce) from Juneau as well as to what’s working, and how we can work together, as well.”

“There’s a lot of things are happening that could cause us to share resources … like mining technology and energy” with the Yukon, as well as with neighboring British Columbia, Sanford said. He also suggested that more could be done to foster some of the already existing tourism and sports travel between Whitehorse and Juneau, such as the creation of a direct commercial air route between the two cities.

Sanford, like Curtis, was elected mayor this month. In Juneau, former Mayor Bruce Botelho was term-limited after nine straight years on the Assembly (http://bit.ly/TbRgUC).

Whitehorse Mayor Bev Buckway chose not to run for a third term, setting up a five-way race to succeed her that Curtis won with a strong plurality of the vote (http://bit.ly/TbXmnW).

The results of that election were made official Monday as well. Curtis and Councillors-elect John Streicker, Jocelyn Curteanu and Mike Gladish will join reelected Councillors Betty Irwin, Kirk Cameron and Dave Stockdale in comprising Whitehorse’s new City Council.

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

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