As officials plot strategy to deal with this year's bears, the chairman of the Mayor's Ad Hoc Urban Bear Committee announced plans to resign.
Dealing with this summer's bears
City officials Monday outlined a plan to deal with bears in Juneau. The effort includes:
An ad campaign and informational mail-out about urban bears.
A new community service officer for the Juneau Police Department to handle bear and garbage complaints.
Updated rules of engagement for bear encounters, as prepared by police and the state Department of Fish and Game.
A move to replace plastic Dumpster lids with stronger metal lids.
Two new bear traps.
Mark Farmer said on Monday he will step down and limit his future involvement in Juneau's bear issue to the role of journalist.
"Obviously my influence is waning," he said. "I've been shown my hat. I haven't been shown the door, but I've been shown my hat."
Farmer said he would "seriously consider" leading an effort to recall Mayor Sally Smith if bears are killed unnecessarily in Juneau. "That's not a threat, it's a promise," he said.
A frequent critic of city government, Farmer pulled out of a 2000 race for mayor and a 2001 race for Assembly after calling on the city to deal with urban bears and garbage. Smith appointed him as chairman of the bear committee after she was elected in 2000.
Smith said Monday it was hard to comment on Farmer's decision because she hadn't received an official resignation. Farmer has raised public consciousness about the bear issue in Juneau, she said.
"I think things are going a lot better for this summer than they were last summer," she said. "I think that Mark deserves a lot of credit for that because he raised the stakes and helped get the public pressure on an issue that wasn't getting the attention that it needed."
Farmer's resignation came as city officials outlined plans for dealing with this summer's bears. The effort will include a public education campaign with ads and informational pamphlets, revised rules of engagement and a new community service officer in the Juneau Police Department to deal with bears and garbage. Code revisions, an effort to replace plastic Dumpster lids and more bear traps also are on the radar, staff members said.
City Manager Dave Palmer told Assembly members to expect a funding request for bears in the weeks ahead. An ad campaign likely would cost $12,000 and bear traps could run $800 to $1,000 each, he said.
"We didn't have bears in the budget this year. We'll have bears in the budget next year," he said.
Assembly member Jim Powell said he wants to see prevention emphasized with a focus on metal Dumpster lids.
"The lids are a key thing," he said. "Let's put a lid on this bear issue."
Palmer said the city is ordering metal lids for its Dumpsters. The Assembly could ban plastic lids city-wide or work with Waste Management, the local garbage-collection company, to find a local supplier for the rest of Juneau's Dumpsters, he said.
Assembly member Jeannie Johnson said metal Dumpster lids also are on her list of priorities.
"I would hate for us to get in the business of legislating (lids), but if plastic lids are one of the main problems, I think plastic lids need to go," she said.
Assembly member Dale Anderson asked his colleagues to purchase two new traps to relocate bears. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game needs to have bear traps available in Juneau, and sometimes they are in other Southeast towns, he said.
"This situation with bears is serious. I'm tired of these arguments over and over and over," he said. "I want traps available for the first bears that come out."
The Assembly last summer approved an ordinance that tightens restrictions on garbage in an effort to protect bears. Under the law, trash cannot be left outside overnight unless it is in a bear-resistant container.
Farmer gave credit to some Assembly members for their interest in the bear issue on Monday. The city's new garbage ordinance needs to be enforced, he said.
"A lot of this should have been done last year," he said. "They've got about six weeks."
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.