Unfortunately I am out of town for both of the public meetings that the city has scheduled on the second crossing initiative. I do intend to submit further comments, but I need to comment directly on the appalling public process that has been conducted to date.
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There are many problems with this process and with the result: environmental, social, neighborhood impacts, individual impacts, degradation of property values (even if a road is never built, there is a line over properties that will affect their value for years to come), safety concerns for traffic increases and - simple public process.
The Juneau Assembly needs to change the process. This is necessary if it is to preserve the image of a true public process. At the moment the process has made the community of north Douglas, who are constituents, angry and distrustful.
We requested a meeting with city consultants on the process (we went to them, they did not come to us!). One month later, much to the surprise of most of north Douglas and without any further input from or notification to the neighborhood, a brochure announcing city-wide public meetings to make a choice among four alternatives for a "community preferred alternative" appears in our mailboxes - with specific crossing locations and landing spots identified. Crossings that all bisect a high-value state wildlife refuge.
No explanation has been provided for the criteria used to determine the trajectory of the crossing, the consideration of impacts in a state-designated wildlife refuge, or the concerns of my neighbors and Assembly members' constituents. What were those criteria (other than the restrictions on Egan Drive)? Without explanation, they appear to be arbitrary. Could they be different if the concerns of the neighborhood and users of the refuge were taken into account? Did the city even consider communicating to this neighborhood that it was about to release specific crossing locations that land in our collective back yard with significant environmental and social impacts?
Is that a public process that is transparent, open and inclusive? It is not. What is the rush? The state has dropped this project to the bottom of its priority list. Why the hurry to push forward with a community-preferred alternative without truly involving the community? Take a moment to do that. Many on Douglas Island want a second crossing - done the right way.
This process has discredited the stated intent of creating a "community-preferred alternative" when limited choices are presented: Presented not only to our community but to the broader community. There are other choices. There are other choices within the confines of what the city has specified for the Egan corridor and there are other choices "outside of the box." The public meeting flyer has not acknowledged that. The process appears not to have integrated that. When the public is presented with the choice of an apple or an orange, they are going to choose either the apple or the orange. They are not likely to ask for the pear. The result then will misrepresent what could truly be a "community-preferred alternative."
Engage the community. But the city needs to engage people in a way that does not force an answer.
The city needs to take a step back. Include the North Douglas community and other stakeholders who use the wetlands refuge and who care about the social and environmental impacts of such a large scale project. This process needs to include the community in creating options, not simply in reacting to options.
Kaja Brix is a Douglas resident.
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