Empire Editorial: Thumbs up for turning off school pop machines; and thumbs down over loosening the leash law

Posted: Sunday, May 01, 2005

Thumbs up to school officials for considering shutting down soda machines at Juneau-Douglas High School during the school day. They should do it and go one step further - expel the machines from the campus altogether. A panel of educators, parents and students also recommended this week limiting the fat in foods served in school and cutting down on the frequency with which these items show up on school menus.

These measures won't stop the growing problem of overweight teenagers, but at least the school won't be contributing to this national trend.

Some may argue that ousting vending machines at JDHS will hurt school activities because the machines brought in some $34,000 last school year. But it doesn't make sense to take in money for programs that bolster students' academic, emotional and social growth while undercutting their health.

True, these are tight financial times in the educational world, but there's got to be a better way to fund school activities than to do it with food that contributes to a host of debilitating medical problems later in life.

Thumbs down to a plan to loosen the city's leash law in favor of "competent voice control." The Juneau Assembly on Monday night changed the city ordinance requiring dogs to be leashed on all city park land. Instead, dogs could be off-leash as long as their owners can control them with voice commands only. The city will hold a hearing in June to decide which trails dogs can be under only voice commands.

The problem with the voice-control plan is that it will be virtually impossible to enforce. It will make the job for Juneau's three enforcement officers - covering 80-plus trails - even more difficult. Some owners of rowdy dogs will say their pets follow voice commands and not leash them, leaving the elderly and children once again vulnerable to boisterous animals who inadvertently scratch them or knock them down. Enforcement officers often will have no way of knowing how well the dog follows commands at critical moments until the dog has actually hurt or harassed someone.

Dogs should not be leashed on all trails around town. But instituting the voice-control option means virtually throwing away the leash law on that particular trail. Either leash the dogs or don't, but don't create a wishy-washy guideline that's as good as no leash law at all.

Thumbs up to the city for a proposal to restore half-hour bus service in the morning. Half-hour stops are especially important for the working poor, students and others who don't have cars and are trying to get to jobs on time in the morning.

The Juneau Assembly should push through this proposal, made possible by a revenue surplus that comes largely from property taxes. Higher assessments this year are going to bring in $3.7 million more than projected.

The city is looking at lowering the millage rate to give property owners some relief. But it also may use some of the increased revenue to undo department cuts made last year during a financial crunch. Another possibility is restoring about $41,000 to nonprofit groups, such as the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council and the Juneau Economic Development Council.

City leaders are discussing a well-rounded approach to divvying up these extra funds and should make their decisions benefit the poor, the property owners and the programs that enhance this community.

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