Empire editorial: Leave the ballot simple

Posted: Sunday, August 15, 2004

Thumbs up to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce's board of directors for opposing an October ballot measure that would increase the city's liquor tax, not because it would result in higher taxes, but because its presence on the ballot would draw attention from a separate measure to approve a second high school.

The city has proposed increasing the local liquor tax from 3 cents to 5 cents on the dollar, and that would be in addition to the current 5 percent city sales tax. At 5 percent, opponents argue, the tax on alcohol would be double that for other goods and services. Such an arrangement also would be in conflict with state tax laws.

The chamber board's motives had much more to do with the high school referendum than it did the tax hike, and that's as it should be. The chamber, as a group, has been supportive of a second high school in the past, and its board has endorsed the latest proposal that will appear on the October election ballot.

In this case, minimizing confusion with the upcoming election ballot was by far the right thing to do.

A big thumbs-up also goes to Juneau's Gastineau Channel Little League All-Stars who, although they ultimately came up short in the Western Regional Junior Division Baseball Tournament in Oregon last week, had one whale of a season in winning district and state titles, followed by a 3-1 showing in pool play in their region tournament.

Juneau coach Ron Wolfe, who was obviously proud of his team and its season, gets a thumbs-up as well for emphasizing the importance of his players' demeanor on and off the field. His players were "truly great ambassadors for Juneau," Wolfe said, and that may say more about this group of 13- and 14-year-olds than any of its accomplishments on the playing field.

A thumbs-down has to go to the city of Juneau for its increased bus fares for senior citizens and others who currently have free or discounted city bus fares.

The city is increasing fees to generate additional operating revenues, and to seniors and people with disabilities that will mean paying $12 a month for bus fare versus the free fares they now enjoy. In addition, youth monthly passes will increase from $10.50 to $12, and tokens for other bus riders will move from $21 to $24 for a roll of 20 tickets.

The city could more easily justify higher bus fares for youth and other riders, but it should rethink imposing the $12 monthly fees for local seniors and the disabled.

Thumbs down, also, to Juneau International Airport managers for imposing a $35 monthly fee for workers who use the airport's employee parking lot.

The short of it is this: $35 is more than a little steep for many airport workers, part-time employees in particular. Even full-time Transportation Safety Administration employees, who make but $11.66 per hour (less than $25,000 per year), are hit hard by an additional out-of-pocket expense of $420 per year. For part-timers the expense would be enough to send them in search of other work.

We can understand airport managers' need for additional revenue streams, but gouging hourly workers isn't the way to go about it.

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