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We applaud the Juneau Assembly for agreeing to allow residents to express a preference for enhanced ferry service or a road out of Juneau. We know that such expression is not binding. We know that the ballot language is lean. This advisory ballot is not the place to present all of the pros and cons which, after all, are a moving target.
Do we know exactly how much a road or faster ferry service will cost? Do we know exactly how the costs would be apportioned? Do we know the exact, milepost-by-milepost location of the road? Do we have a schedule for the faster ferries? No to all of the above.
Is such information needed? Yes, but it is not required at this time.
Let's say one proposal or the other wins overwhelming support. How much money then should be spent investigating the other option? Thus we see the value of the advisory ballot.
The people of Juneau will be most affected by whatever transportation development occurs, but the people of Juneau are not authorized nor deep-pocketed enough to bring either project to fruition independently. If some day we are to make our case successfully for outside funds and approval, it will be useful now to identify our preference. Let's go forward on a lighted path.
Regarding the reluctance of some elected officials and legal scholars to seek the people's opinion, participatory democracy involves more than having a small percentage of eligible voters show up at the polling place every two or four years, cast their ballot, retreat into a chosen lifestyle and hope their elected representatives get it right.
Direct, continuing communication between the people and their representatives is not only OK, it's obligatory.
The electorate should not be too busy to leave governance entirely to office holders. Office holders should not consider themselves so anointed as to disdain contact with their constituents. And they should remember to make the distinction between constituents and lobbyists. The people really do know best.