City tables panhandling ordinance, discusses fall election

Juneau Assembly approves measure to place temporary sales tax on the October municipal ballot

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2007

After much discussion at its regular meeting Monday night, the Juneau Assembly tabled an "aggressive panhandling" ordinance until a regular meeting in September.

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The Assembly also discussed several items that will be placed on the Oct. 2 municipal election, including an extension of the temporary 1 percent sales tax and letting the voters to decide whether fluoride should be added to the city's water supply.

Multiple people testified Monday regarding the panhandling ordinance, which would replace an existing one City Attorney John Hartle has determined is unconstitutional. The proposed ordinance would prohibit panhandling, or soliciting money from a stranger.

"Panhandling is not going to stop just because you pass this ordinance," said George Briggs, executive director of the Glory Hole.

The proposed ordinance would include a $75 fine for each infraction.

"They're not going to pay the fine because they don't have the money," Briggs said.

Larry Spencer, a member of the Downtown Business Association board of directors, said intoxicated panhandlers increasingly have become a problem in the downtown area.

"What this is really aimed at is the aggressive panhandling," he said.

Spencer said it is not just a problem in the summer time during the peak of tourism, saying it is likely worse in the winter when there are less people.

Much of the discussion Monday night revolved around the language of the ordinance, which could prohibit musicians from performing in certain locations at certain times.

Nancy DeCherney of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council suggested having another way to distinguish the musicians or to take out the music provision entirely.

The Assembly decided to let the voters decide whether or not fluoride should be once again added to the city's water supply. A petition turned in by Citizens Promoting Dental Health was certified last month. The city stopped adding fluoride to the water in January.

The Assembly approved an ordinance Monday that will place the temporary 1 percent sales tax on the ballot of the October municipal election. The present 1 percent tax portion of the 5 percent sales tax will expire on Oct. 1, 2008.

If approved, the extension of would be extended for five years and is expected to generate $43 million in sales tax revenue. The revenue generated would go toward capital improvement projects, which include airport, harbor, sewer maintenance and upgrades, among others.

City Manager Rod Swope also introduced three ordinances regarding bond propositions for the Oct. 2 municipal election.

The city wants the voters to consider authorizing the issuance of $22.4 million in general obligation bonds to finance renovations at Glacier Valley and Harborview elementary schools. The project could qualify for 70 percent reimbursement from the state.

The city and the Juneau School District have determined that both elementary schools are in need of significant renovations. Of the $22.4 million in bonds, $15.3 would go toward renovating Harborview Elementary School to be combined with $5.1 million of existing district funds. The remaining $7.1 million from the proposed proposition would go toward the Glacier Valley Elementary School and would be added to nearly $6 million in school bonds authorized for the school renovation in 2005.

Swope also introduced an ordinance that would ask voters to approve $19.8 million in general obligation bonds to finance the construction of a pool facility in the Mendenhall Valley at Dimond Park. This project could also qualify for partial reimbursement from the state.

Also introduced was an ordinance that would put on the October ballot a proposition asking voters to approve $3.9 million in general obligation bonds for artificial turf at the Melvin Park and Adair Kennedy Memorial Park ball fields.

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