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The 2011 municipal election: Go out and vote

Posted: October 1, 2011 - 11:06pm

The municipal election Tuesday presents an opportunity for Juneau residents to choose three people who will represent them on the City & Borough Assembly for the next few years, as well as two people to serve on the Juneau School Board. I have great respect for those seek and hold these public offices, because they really involve a lot of important and time-consuming work. People certainly don’t run for Assembly or School Board for the compensation, which is essentially non-existent, or for the glory. In the end, I think we have to take it at face value that candidates for local public office are in it for the greater good, and we owe all of them — the winners and the losers — our gratitude.

The race for School Board isn’t really a race, because there are two seats open and only two candidates in the running. Sally Saddler has served on the school board generally, and specifically as Board president, with distinction. Sally’s cheerful disposition and hard work ethic make her a natural for this position, and I’m pleased she’s willing to continue serving. Sean O’Brien is a former school board member who decided to throw his hat into the ring after the filing deadline came and went with only Sally signing up as a candidate. Sean is also a positive and tenacious individual with the personal stake in our local school system and the necessary experience to contribute a lot to local educational policy-making. I wish both of these good people the best as they strive to make the best of our local educational system in the coming years.

Of the three Assembly seats open, there is no race for Assembly District 2, where former three-term Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker runs unopposed. Randy may not be known for his effusive cheerfulness, but he is a very smart man with his heart in the right place. Wanamaker understands from his many years in Juneau and from his nine years on the Assembly what it will take to keep the future bright for Alaska’s capital city. We need to ensure that there are economic opportunities in the form of good-paying jobs that will allow Juneau’s youth to remain here and raise families. It is a good thing that Randy is willing to serve again after a hiatus from his prior string of service.

The race for Assembly District One has two bright articulate young men in the running, both of whom I’ve known for years. Jesse Kiehl and Brad Fluetsch offer Juneau voters a pretty clear choice of options when it comes to a vision for Juneau’s future. Brad supports resource development and necessary, indeed long overdue, improvements to our transportation infrastructure that will directly improve our quality of life and economic potential, while Jesse is more or less in favor of the status quo. Brad tends to be direct and outspoken about his beliefs, while Jesse is more cautious and diplomatic in the way he speaks his mind. I think either of these gentlemen has a lot to offer, but given the more liberal proclivities of Juneau voters, especially in elections when there is fairly low voter turnout, it is likely that Kiehl will take this seat. If this outcome does come to pass, I hope Jesse will keep an open mind and perhaps he can come to see why the Lynn Canal Highway and a North Douglas Crossing are good ideas that he ought to consider carefully before rejecting.

The race for the open Areawide Assembly seat is perhaps the most interesting to watch, having drawn three contenders. Carlton Smith, Geny Del Rosario and Loren Jones have all been working hard in the past few weeks to get their message out to voters. In the interests of full disclosure, I know Carlton far better than the other two candidates in this race and I strongly support his candidacy. His many years of residency in diverse Southeast Alaska communities, and his impressive educational and business background place him in a much more electable position than his opponents at the outset, but in truth it is his skills as a communicator that will make him an outstanding assemblyman if the voters are wise enough to elect him. I have met Geny Del Rosario on a couple of occasions, and her enthusiasm is impressive and really encouraging. If she is not successful in this bid for public office, I hope she will continue to remain involved in local politics and get more people from a broad spectrum of Juneau’s population involved as well. Loren Jones served on the Bartlett Regional Hospital Board and worked for the state for many years, but beyond these résumé points I haven’t seen much that indicates that he has a great deal to offer the Assembly. I suppose he could win, but I think it’s a long shot.

Whatever your thoughts about the fine folks who are running for Assembly and school board, the most important thing is truly that as many people as possible should exercise their right to vote on Tuesday it they haven’t done so already by voting early. We’re incredibly fortunate to live in such a great place and to have such direct access to our local leaders, even if we disagree with them on some issues. So get out and vote, and let’s tackle the problems before us.

• Brown is an attorney who lives in Juneau.

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