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Voting is a civic duty

Posted: August 26, 2012 - 12:09am

The brief window of time for residents of Alaska’s Capital City to file for candidacy for local elections opened and shut earlier this month. The municipal election will not take place until early October, which allows for a nice period in which to get to know the candidates for various offices, and to decide whom we wish to elect as our leaders.

Bruce Botelho is wrapping up a second tour of duty as Mayor of Juneau, and terms limits provided for in local ordinances prevent him from running again. Merrill Sanford, who served for nine years as a member of the City & Borough Assembly, announced his intent to run for Mayor this past spring, long before the actual filing period had opened. Mr. Sanford is well known in the community, for both his years of volunteering as a firefighter, as well as his service in elected office. He is committed to responsible resource development, which is essential if Juneau is to maintain its population, both in actual numbers and relative to the rest of Alaska. This year’s statewide redistricting process saw all of Southeast Alaska lose representation in the State House of Representatives and State Senate, because our population was stagnant while other areas, specifically the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, grew significantly over the past decade. Juneau will have an ever more difficult time in future if we don’t take steps to provide jobs that attract and keep people in our part of the state.

Mr. Sanford has supported the two mines that are crucial to Juneau’s economy, Kensington and Greens Creek. Moreover, he has helped lead the consideration of how we might re-open the A-J Mine and tap its vast wealth for the benefit of all. Mr. Sanford has further acknowledged the potential for mining activity out the road near Herbert Glacier, and in truth all these possibilities need to be considered moving forward. Mr. Sanford is open to the building of a second crossing from the mainland to Douglas Island, and is generally supportive of building the infrastructure that allow for economic development.

At the end of the filing period Cheryl Jebe announced her intent to run for Mayor as well. While I don’t know Ms. Jebe, I was pleased to hear that she was going to run, because I think it makes for a better electoral process when there is more than one voice in the debate. All of Juneau can look forward to learning more about Ms. Jebe’s vision for the future of the Capital City, and it was good to hear Mr. Sanford welcome her to the race.

Of the two Assembly seats up in the fall’s election, only one will see a contest. Jerry Nankervis filed for the Assembly District 2 seat currently occupied by Ruth Danner, who chose not to seek re-election after a single term. Mr. Nankervis comes across as intelligent and interested, and will make a good Assemblyman. Loren Jones, who ran unsuccessfully for an areawide seat last year, is seeking the Assembly District 1 seat, as is Paul Nowlin. This will be an interesting race, given that Mr. Nowlin chose to disclose a conviction long ago in his past without waiting for the media or any one else to dig up this piece of history. It remains to be seen if voters will hold this against him, while voters will also consider Mr. Jones’s record of service on the Bartlett Hospital Board of Directors and his previous efforts as a candidate.

The race for the Juneau School District Board of Education is the most actively contested in this fall’s election, with five people running for only three seats. Serving on the school board is a somewhat thankless task, and we should all applaud all of our fellow residents willing to undertake this task. It appears that Will Muldoon is the only one of the candidates who is a product of the Juneau School District. Mr. Muldoon has served on the Capital Community Broadcasting Board of Directors for several years, and would bring a different perspective to the leadership of our local educational system. Of the other candidates, Phyllis Carlson and Andi Story are current members, Destiny Sargent is a former member, and Michelle Johnston is a newcomer. It will be interesting to see if voters want to go with people who’ve served in the past, or instead change things up a little bit.

The deadline to register to vote in the municipal election is 30 days before the election, and there is no reason to delay in getting signed up to perform this civic duty. While local elections this year won’t have the intensity of the race for the presidency, or even some of the more exciting legislative races elsewhere in Alaska, the results are still crucially important to our future in Alaska’s Capital City.

• Brown serves as chairman of the Alaska State Council on the Arts, and is an attorney who lives in Juneau.

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