My Turn: Assembly not following its plan

Posted: Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Well folks, the logging has started behind McDonald's off Egan Drive. The logs are stacked up about 10 feet from Jordan Creek and clear-cutting is occurring about 15 feet away from a recovering salmon stream. If it were a Native corporation logging this, government would require no logging within 100 feet of the salmon producing stream under the Forest Practices Act - but not in Juneau.

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The Juneau Assembly, the mayor and the Planning Commission just ignore the law and let the owner do what he wants. If it were a Native corporation doing this, the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the city of Juneau, the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council and the Juneau Chamber of Commerce would be up in arms about the clear-cutting and advocating the maximum fine.

The Assembly adopted a new Comprehensive Plan a few weeks ago stating the values they would like to see in the borough the next few years. Some of the values included respecting the environment; protecting the integrity of the streams; providing affordable housing; and many others. The area behind McDonald's is the first area developed following the adoption of the document and by going through with the development, the Assembly is telling us the document is not worth the paper it is written on. You need only look at this development to see that run-off from this clear-cutting will set back the recovery of Jordan Creek for decades. And, what will be built on one of the big plats? A huge building for storage - storage of our things we cannot keep in our homes. The area was a perfect place to build affordable housing. It is close to water and sewage, schools, bike paths, shopping, the airport, a great subdivision nearby, and many other things that would make this a great place to live and compatible with the area.

But the Planning Commission, the Assembly, the mayor chose to go along with the owner and build a huge storage shed instead of trying to solve the affordable housing problem in Juneau. I would have liked to see it used for storage of people in affordable housing rather than storage for our material things. Something is wrong with our decision-makers if they are forgetting what they approved so close to the adoption of their planning guide.

We approved a huge amount of bonds to finish the new high school last spring. After the election, the school officials said "oops," the budget for completion is just an estimate and we might need more money. I remember a time when we were given a budget and stood by the figures. Now we are having election upon election to add more money for bonds to complete a school we might not need. And then we have the temporary sales tax that has been temporary for more than a decade. For Pete's sake, if it isn't temporary, say so and not keep it for buying buildings and other things.

I long for the good old days when we had folks tell us what they were going to do and stuck with it. Today, most of them are afraid to make decisions. That's why I believe what someone said last December - "Want affordable housing? Build ginger bread houses." Unless we elect folks to tell us like it is and believe in documents such as the Comprehensive Plan, then words will remain hollow with no meaning. And it will make good folks like me who pay for all of this with my property and sales taxes pretty frustrated.

• Gordon Jackson is a Juneau resident.

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