Assembly: Parents must pay $25 for kids biking without helmet

City creates panels to take place of Assembly in tax assessment appeals

Posted: Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Juneau Assembly passed an ordinance Monday night requiring everyone under 18 to wear a helmet while cycling here.

The fine is $25 for parents and guardians of children and teens in violation of the bicycle ordinance, Assembly member Randy Wanamaker said. The fine will be waived if the person provides proof that they have acquired a helmet after the time the citation was issued, he said.

"Some people think we have no business regulating this through penalty," Wanamaker said. "We want to stress tonight the whole point is that we want them to wear a helmet and not receive a fine. This is why you can get a helmet later and then the fine is taken away."

It is not clear how this is going to be implemented, Assembly member Jonathan Anderson said, before voting against the ordinance. He objected to making the helmet enforcement mandatory, when the city does little to monitor youths on skateboards, all-terrain vehicles and rollerblades.

"When officers see a violation by a 9 or 10-year-old kid with no identification what will happen?" Anderson asked. "Will they be taken to the police station, or home?"

Anderson was joined by Assembly member Bob Doll in opposing the measure, which passed with seven votes.

In other business, the Assembly also decided it was no longer the best body to hear appeals of city property tax assessments. Three-member Board of Equalization panels will replace the Assembly as the final step in the city's appeal process, Juneau Mayor Bruce Botelho said.

"We want to change the idea that these decisions are based on politics, rather than solid evidence," Botelho said. "The use of panels will also free up time for other Assembly responsibilities."

Assembly members Merrill Sanford and Daniel Peterson opposed the ordinance. It passed with seven votes.

"There may come a point that we have no time for these appeals, but I will not support a change until that time comes," Sanford said. "I still believe we are the people to hear the appeals."

Under the current system, a homeowner first has the right to appeal the assessed value to the assessor's office. The assessor's office will then send someone out to visually inspect the home. If the individual and assessor are still at odds, the case then goes to the Board of Equalization, which was formerly the Assembly.

"I understand Merrill's belief that it is the responsibility of the Assembly to hear all the concerns, but we need time to focus more on policy, budget and strategic issues," Wanamaker said.

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