Big turnout, big ideas at Capital City Forum

Citizens brainstorm hundreds of ideas to improve Juneau

Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2009

To make Juneau a better capital city, about 200 people attended the Capital City Forum on Saturday morning at Centennial Hall, brainstorming and proffering some 300 ideas reflecting perennial concerns, from landfill odors, the Juneau Access Road and capital creep, to the absurdly silly requests, like "stop the rain" and "import more eligible bachelors."

The ideas - mostly of the former variety and less of the latter - were indiscriminately brainstormed in small arbitrary groups of attendees, then collectively shared in a town hall forum. After ideas were recorded, they were sorted and fed back to the participants in new groups to pick out the top five ideas categorized by topic. A sample of the ideas identified as priorities include:

• Building a second crossing to Douglas Island

• Appointing youth representatives to boards and commissions

• Streamlining the permitting process for small businesses

• Starting a semantics campaign to distinguish "Juneau" from "the capital" in regards to state affairs

• Televising the Juneau Assembly's meetings

• Conducting exit interviews with legislators

• Encouraging affordable housing

• Building the road to Skagway and Haines

• Investigating a light rail mass transit system

• Supporting more large-scale arts and culture events to draw out-of-town visitors

• Becoming a regional leader in waste management

• Forgiving student loans for returning Juneauites

The ideas will pulled together as a report through the Juneau Assembly, the body responsible for arranging the forum in conjunction with the Alaska Committee. Many other notable and provocative ideas didn't make the cut or were lost in the shuffle, such as:

• Recycling paper and cardboard as heat pellets

• Eliminating sales tax on food

• Creating all-terrain vehicle sites

• Creating an architectural review board

• Tapping mine shafts for geothermal heat

• Renaming the landfill Seagull Crest

• Developing contingency plans for the capital move

• Creating more internships and opportunities for young leaders

• Filling in "the hole" downtown

• Extending this forum to middle and high schools

Participants expressed satisfaction with the three-hour session, and several said they would participate again given the opportunity.

"You know, you live somewhere, you deserve to have your voice heard," said Doloresa Cadiente. "What they do with it, it's up to them. I think it's a good start to the first day of the rest of our lives."

Irene Gallion thought it would be more informational and less participatory, but was also satisfied with the experience.

"Based on what I saw advertised, talked about, this was not what I expected. But this has been very productive," she said.

"It's good, it's good - just so long as they follow through on it. ... Unfortunately, there's a lot of people that should've been here that weren't," said Bob Garrison.

Assembly member Jonathan Anderson said he recognized that the activity would turn more attention on elected officials to act.

"Now they'll say, 'But what happens next?' It's up to us," - a collective us, Anderson said, that relies on volunteers and participation.

Mayor Bruce Botelho said the forum may be replicated in the Mendenhall Valley in the future.

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