Ballot initiatives set for fall election

Sales tax extension, competitive bidding process will be up for approval

A pedestrian walks by City Hall on June 7, 2017. Elections for the City and Borough of Juneau are Oct. 3, and there are two initiatives on the ballot. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire)

The ballot for the Oct. 3 election is set, with the public set to decide on two initiatives in addition to the Assembly and Board of Education races.

 

On Monday night, the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly unanimously voted to put a five-year extension of the 1 percent sales tax increase on the ballot. This initiative would raise $43.3 million in tax revenue which the city would put toward 13 projects around town, particularly focused on maintenance.

The other initiative, which was approved at the July 31 Assembly meeting, institutes exceptions in the competitive bidding process. In the current process, contractors are awarded a contract based solely on the lowest bid.

This ordinance would allow for contracts to be awarded based on other factors, such as a contractor’s specific experience and expertise. There aren’t any other factors listed in the ordinance itself, but it would authorize the Assembly to make exceptions on more of a case-by-case basis.

City Manager Rorie Watt explained that the ordinance gives the city more options when it’s finding contractors for large capital projects.

“We think that making this charter amendment is gonna give us some flexibility that makes sense on a practical level,” Watt said, “and in the end is gonna let us, if approved by the voters, get the better value for their taxes.”

For the most part, money raised with the sales tax increase would go toward maintenance projects. The project receiving the most money ($13.5 million) is wastewater infrastructure maintenance. Just behind that, receiving $5 million each, are maintenance projects for the August Brown Pool and Juneau School District maintenance.

Municipal Clerk Laurie Sica said having initiatives on the ballot helps encourage people to vote.

“Issues tend to draw people to the ballot because there may be only just candidates on the ballot if the Assembly doesn’t put any issues on the ballot,” Sica said. “If people don’t know people or don’t know who to vote for, they’re more likely to vote for an issue on a ballot. I think we’ll have a pretty good turnout because we’ll have issues to vote for.”

The ballot goes to print Wednesday, which will include the two ballot initiatives, the candidates for three Assembly seats and the candidates for two Board of Education seats.

The deadline for registering to vote and updating voter registration is Sept. 3. Residents of Juneau can take care of their registration online at www.elections.alaska.gov or at any of these locations: State Division of Elections’ Office, 240 Main Street, Room 601; State Division of Elections — Region 1 Office, Mendenhall Mall; Municipal Building, 155 S. Seward St., Clerks Office Room 202; any CBJ library. Applications for absentee voting are already open, and those interested can find the application on the City Clerks website (https://beta.juneau.org/clerk/elections).


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at alex.mccarthy@juneauempire.com.


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