This is not just an editorial bemoaning a potentially destructive level of civic apathy that could lead to Juneau’s decline in the long term if not reversed, it’s also a note to Juneau’s future leaders — the ones who will step up and lead for the next decade.
Who are you?
Election season is the prime time of year to take the political temperature of a community. The results this year, so far, are pretty lukewarm. There was poor attendance all around at the Nugget Mall candidates’ day, which failed to attract all of the candidates not to mention much public interest.
There is widespread outrage among many that the Juneau School District Board of Trustees has banned middle school athletic travel. There was a school library full of angry people that recent night fighting for sports travel to other communities, so it was not without courage the board members who won the fight stood their ground.
Yet, interest in actually running for public offices like the school board is low. There is just one disputed race for Borough Assembly, and we know those candidates care — they showed up at the Nugget Mall to meet potential voters.
Agree or disagree with them, we owe a debt of gratitude to those who serve on the school board, the Assembly, really any city commissions and advisory panels. These are involved, active people who stepped up to shape our city’s future. If you want to see your vision of Juneau’s future revealed, you’d better be at the table and become one of the architects of a master plan.
The school board’s vote may inspire someone to get more involved, and we hope it does. Many become active in civic affairs initially over a single issue, and discover public service to be a calling and a responsibility.
To each of those parents who were on the losing side, who complain to their peers or type comments on the Empire’s message boards under amusing pen names (or not-so-amusing sometimes), that ringing in the air isn’t tinnitus, it’s a clarion call to action.
To those who dismiss elected officials as “hacks” for whatever interest group they despise, we have to ask, what are you doing to contribute to the debate? Don’t shake your head when the school board has to appoint someone to a vacant seat when no one ran — you had your chance to fill that seat or find someone who could. And it isn’t too late to shape future debates.
Does running for office come at a cost? Yes. You’re under a microscope, your personal time will not be all be your own, people who don’t even know you will instantly form an opinion of you and you will star in the often flammable debates found in the Empire comment boards.
But you’ll make a difference.
Juneau faces a great many challenges. The recent passing of a civic leader like Bill Ray, and the untimely passing of David Stone, remind us that responsibility for Juneau’s civic welfare isn’t accomplished election by election, but more as a chain of custody. We need more civic stewards. We are all called in our own way to perform community stewardship.
Whether the gesture is grand, like a run for office, or small but vital, like reading the Empire’s upcoming election guide and then casting your vote, if you aren’t part of the bunch shaping Juneau’s future now is the time to join-up. Alaska’s economy is promising. Our region is vibrant. We have to keep fighting together for a bright Southeast future.