Easterwood's departure a blow for Juneau

My turn

Posted: Thursday, May 24, 2001

Juneau's future is at stake in a new and immediate way. This is an alert.

While listening to Monday's Assembly meeting on the radio, I heard the announcement of Cheryl Easterwood's resignation as director of CBJ Community Development. I was shocked and dismayed. As a mother myself, I can relate to her desire to reduce the number of after-hours meetings which take her away from her family. As a concerned and active citizen in the community, I am alarmed at the prospect of losing her leadership. More than any of her predecessors, she has demonstrated a commitment to public involvement in the shaping of policy and project planning. Her record has been impressive.

Through Cheryl's efforts to inform, promote exchange of ideas and encourage public comment at many, many areawide meetings, a new and refreshing level of citizen input has occurred. Under her guidance, there was a four-day Visioning Workshop in the spring of 2000 which enabled Juneau residents to take part in a series of focus groups, design exercises and public presentations. A report was produced, summarizing the process and describing the vision of a Juneau future created with a dedication to quality of life and walkability and the preservation of community environmental and neighborhood values. The work has focused especially on developing the transportation vision that was intended to direct a more detailed Area Wide Transportation Plan (AWTP). Last week's public meeting at Centennial Hall addressing the draft AWTP was the most recent event facilitated by Cheryl.

To what extent all this input will be accommodated in the final version of the AWTP to be presented to the Planning Commission and Assembly is an open question. Opposition to Egan Drive becoming a high-speed freeway with concrete overpasses at most intersections was loud and clear. Reduced (45 mph) speed limits, traffic calming roundabouts and traffic lights were endorsed as a more suitable course for the sake of safety and more fitting to the Juneau landscape. Traffic Demand Management (TDM) to reduce and moderate vehicular congestion on roadways was overwhelmingly urged as the highest priority. Will CBJ policy and plans be responsible to citizen consensus? Will developer-driven pressures deter- mine the selection of a new Community Development director? Changing this horse midstream is a troubling situation.

I want to express appreciation for Cheryl Easterwood's enormous contribution to open government and my disappointment at her departure from this particular post.

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