Assembly OKs resolution for building school

City leaders debate whether the measure unduly influences voters

Posted: Tuesday, May 18, 2004

The Juneau Assembly endorsed a second high school Monday night, despite opposition saying the resolution could unfairly influence the special election next week.

In a 6-2 vote, the Assembly Committee of the Whole agreed to pass a resolution that supports building a second high school at Dimond Park in the Mendenhall Valley. Jeannie Johnson and Mayor Bruce Botelho voted against the resolution. Merrill Sanford was absent.

Johnson said the Assembly was disregarding the initiative process and disrespecting the citizens who signed a petition that called for blocking the construction of a second high school. The election is May 25.

"It is the opinion of the mayor and I that this resolution is being done to influence voters and the outcome of an election," Johnson said.

Johnson favors the school but not the resolution, she said.

Other Assembly members contended they had the right to pass the resolution to show their support for the school.

"The resolution reiterates Assembly support for the second high school," Randy Wanamaker said. "It does not tell people how they should vote."

Marc Wheeler said the resolution is not influencing voters, because most people already have made up their minds.

"I just think it's not healthy for a community to revisit past issues," Wheeler said. "How are we ever going to have confidence in the planning process if we don't let it go through?"

Resident Mike Miller asked the Assembly to pass the resolution because the funding is in place to build the school.

"I think the time is right," Miller said. "Everything speaks in favor of building the new high school."

The Assembly acted properly in allowing the ballot measure to move forward and should leave the rest of the process up to the people, said school opponent Dave Hanna.

"I think it only fair that the city decide this unencumbered," Hanna said.

The motion for the resolution came from Stan Ridgeway, an ardent supporter of a second school. Ridgeway wanted formal Assembly support to counter the opponents the he claims are taking school-related facts out of context to advance their cause.

The school should be built because voters approved it once, Ridgeway said. Voters OK'd almost $50 million in bonds for the second school in 1999 and added $12.6 million in 2003.

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