Empire editorial: Kudos to civility, city's armory proposal; shame on Don Young

Posted: Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Thursday decision by the Eaglecrest Ski Area Board of Directors prohibiting the use of snowmobiles on parts of the city-owned facility came as no surprise to the Juneau Snowmobile Club, but the club's proposal still could lead to the opening of one or more other areas for its use.

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Eaglecrest directors' unanimous decision was based largely on the amount of feedback the board received from the community. The outcome wasn't all bad for the snowmobilers, however, as club President Ray Howard said an "alpine working group" has been formed to look at a multi-use recreational area that would be open to snowmobiles. Ultimately, Howard said, the group's efforts could lead to an area in which more snow machine enthusiasts could be served.

Perhaps the best outcome in the Eaglecrest-snowmobile proposal is that, although the ski area will remain free of motorized vehicles, the skiers, snowboarders and snowmobile enthusiasts didn't let their disagreement get ugly. Cool heads prevailed, and the snowmobile club is already at work in search of a solution that may serve its members better.

So, thumbs up to these two community groups whose members maintained their respect for one another during a time of what could have been heated disagreement.

•••

Thumbs up, also, to news that a performing arts center for Juneau may be moving from the drawing board to reality.

The former downtown National Guard Armory could soon become a multi-purpose performing arts facility if a proposal by the Juneau Assembly to appropriate some $2.9 million to purchase the armory from the Alaska Mental Health Trust is approved. If bought by the city, one proposal for the armory is that it be managed by the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, which has been eyeing a facility of its own for decades.

If the city succeeds in acquiring the armory, the building will need approximately $75,000 in repairs that would eventually be paid for by the arts council, which also would bear responsibility for monthly maintenance and utility costs. Making the armory work as a performing arts center will be a challenge for the council, and that's where public support will be essential.

The old armory building may not be the ideal facility Juneau's arts and cultural community has long envisioned, but it may well be a move in the right direction.

•••

A big thumbs down to Alaska Rep. Don Young for his part in yet another federal transportation "earmark" that creates even more suspicion that the man is corrupt to the core.

The latest controversy involving Young simply smacks of political favors - pork, specifically - in return for campaign money.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported that Young was instrumental in a $10 million federal earmark that appeared mysteriously in a 2006 transportation bill written by him. The money is for what is now known as Coconut Road, which runs through 4,000 acres owned by a Florida real estate developer and ultimately connects to Interstate 75 near Fort Myers.

The real estate developer's connection to Young? A $40,000 fundraiser for the Alaska congressman.

Young comes under fire for the Coconut Road debacle as several Alaska legislators, including former state Senate President Ben Stevens, are being investigated for extortion, bribery and the like. And within the past couple of weeks, it's been reported that the investigation has come to involve U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens.

Adding Young to the list of public servants whose actions are under suspicion does nothing to help this state, whose image is rapidly being tarnished because of endless congressional pork and what is an increasing appearance of corrupt politicians.



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