My Turn: Let Juneau voters decide

Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2002

Who runs this town?

I'll start this letter with the opening paragraphs from an article in Tuesday's Empire:

"The Juneau Assembly on Monday voted 5-4 in favor of completing a Juneau access study and its preferred alternative - a road into Juneau.

"Deputy Mayor Ken Koelsch said he presented the motion at the end of Monday's meeting because of a pending legislative session-move vote and concerns about Juneau's isolation in the days leading up to the anniversary of Sept. 11.

" 'Hopefully, this sends a message to the state that we do want a road into Juneau,' he said."

What I would like to know is where Ken Koelsch and the other four Assembly members were when the vote whether or not to build a road into Juneau was put to the ballot. Since these five don't seem to remember, I will remind them of the outcome. It was voted down. Ken Koelsch is speaking for himself and four other members of the Assembly. He is not speaking for those whom he was elected to represent.

In addition, although the article says otherwise, I would guess that Ken Koelsch's decision to wait until the end of Monday's meeting was not spurred by the "pending legislative session-move" but rather by a sincere hope that he could quickly shove this motion through with the least amount of public interaction.

Apparently, Mr. Koelsch is more beholden to the voters in Anchorage than he is to his own constituency. Tuesday's article states that Mr. Koelsch's decision was based on a statement by Alaskan Independence Party Chairman Mark Chryson. Chryson said, "If there was a road that went to Juneau, I don't think we'd be having this discussion." This is the reason Mr. Koelsch wants to build a road. What should we do if Mr. Chryson decides he wants us to build a 23-story, stainless-steel bumblebee in the Marine Park?

As educated people, I would think we would grant Mr. Chryson his right to his opinion and then allow the people who actually live in Juneau to decide what should be built in Juneau.

I was under the impression that this was how the system worked. The road issue was put on the ballot. It was voted down. Done. This doesn't mean it can't be put on the ballot again. This merely means that it is not the choice of the people now.

Mr. Koelsch's idea of the system is apparently much different, however. His idea is that if you can't get the people that elected you to agree with you, then you just make the decision without them (as quietly and quickly as possible).

I would like to say that I am not arguing for or against a road into Juneau. What I am arguing for is Juneau's right to make that decision. We voted on this issue and we decided not to build the road. I think in light of this, Mr. Koelsch and the other four Assembly members who sided with him owe their constituents an apology. I think they should recall their motion to begin this environmental study. If this motion is allowed to stand, it begs the question of why we even bothered to vote in the first place? If our decision as voters can be cast aside by five people in a single afternoon, what does that say about our right to determine what is best for our community?

I say let the voters decide.

Patrick McGonegal of Douglas is a Web designer and consultant.

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