Assembly takes over work of tourism advisory group

Posted: Tuesday, July 11, 2000

The Tourism Advisory Committee, as predicted, has been axed.

After listening to testimony from critics and supporters, the Juneau Assembly gave a unanimous send-off to the committee Monday night by dismissing the resolution establishing it. At the same time assembly members promised that the advisory committee's replacement -- the assembly's Planning and Policy Committee -- will try to be more responsive to the public than it has been.

``It's time,'' said committee member and helicopter tour operator Bob Engelbrecht to the assembly. ``The committee has done a lot of good work, but tourism is an important enough part of the community that it deserves the attention of the (Planning and Policy Committee).''

Fellow committee member and downtown clothing-store owner Rod Swope echoed the sentiment: ``It really is time the assembly members handled issues directly.'' Swope is a former assembly member.

The Planning and Policy Committee is made up entirely of assembly members, while non-elected community members served on the Tourism Advisory Committee.

Tourism industry representatives on the TAC had in the past described the committee as dysfunctional and its members as quarrelsome.

Pre-emption of the committee's functions by the assembly's Planning and Policy Committee made shutting it down necessary, said assembly member Jim Powell. The PPC is ``shining a bright light on tourism and other issues,'' he said.

But advisory committee member Mary Irvine testified the committee still had a lot of work to do and complained the only real issue the panel had been assigned to deal with this year was noise -- a ``horribly overwhelming'' issue, she said.

She recommended that at least half of any tourism panel in the future comprise members not affiliated with the tourism industry.

Committee member Kim Metcalfe Helmar testified the advisory group had had to operate without staff and without its chairwoman, whose work had caused her to be away from meetings.

``But this was an issue of control,'' said Helmar, a citizen representative only recently appointed to the advisory committee and a critic of city tourism policies. ``Once the assembly lost control of the votes on the committee, they decided to get rid of it.

``That sort of thing is unhealthy. By stifling debate, the assembly is forcing people to take to the streets, to go the initiative route.''

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