My turn: Tales from the Twilight Zone

Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2007

When I awoke on March 5, I sensed something was wrong.

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I was unable to determine what it was that seemed to alter my reality. I sat down after dressing and began to take stock of the situation. I knew I was still in Juneau as the landscape had not changed. All the clocks were running and on time. I pinched myself to be sure I was awake.

If I was awake at home, and time and space seemed unaltered, what was wrong? To gather more information, I turned on the radio.

Schools were closed, meetings were canceled, government had shut down, and all of Juneau seemed in a state of ennui.

When I moved to Juneau in 1972, no amount of snow stopped this town. Schools operated; federal, state and local government offices were open; and business and meetings were conducted without interruption. In fact, the only time government offices or businesses were affected by the weather was during the summer when sunshine was the reason for closing.

Nevertheless, this isn't the only thing that has changed.

Juneau once teemed with retail establishments that offered quality goods and service. Everything from baby shoes to automobiles could be purchased, and you'd know the product's inherent quality and value. Today, too few retail outlets offer choice, quality and knowledgeable service. Price seems to be the only thing that matters. Otherwise, purchase your goods online, save the sales tax and get what you truly want.

Juneau schools were once touted as among the best in a state where education was second to none. Today's schools not only seem not to educate, they don't even know how many students actually attend, and those that do are denied their First Amendment rights. And let's not even mention the appalling drop-out rate.

Government leaders once were decision makers. The new Douglas bridge was built, and the old bridge removed, without controversy. Egan Drive was built and named without divisiveness. Economic diversity was going to put an end to the reliance on government money. The capital-move issue united the community.

Juneau representatives spoke their minds and were admired. Today's officials seem more intent on keeping the public in the dark by forming committees on every issue and then hiding behind the committee's findings, never having to take a stand on an issue. Our current mayor and Assembly seem to be encouraging the divisions in our town, not working to bring us together.

The police department once comprised people who were compassionate and actually knew the meaning of "serve and protect."

Today's force seems more concerned with alienating and intimidating the community while working as few days as possible.

When I decided to stay in Juneau, marry and raise a family, I believed Juneau was a friendly, united community concerned with understanding, growth, economic diversity and opportunity for all - a true sourdough spirit.

Today our leaders promote divisiveness, and our schools virtually chase students out of town. Our police department seems to care more about their schedules than stopping crime. The growth of Juneau has stagnated.

Then I saw the writing on the wall. I was no longer in the town I love; I had entered the Twilight Zone.

• Mike McCurley is a Juneau resident. He has worked in retail for more than 30 years.

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