Road, taxes among candidates' topics

Posted: Sunday, September 17, 2000

Editor's note: Empire profiles of candidates in the Oct. 3 city election begin today with two of the mayoral candidates, Jamie Parsons and Sally Smith. Mayoral candidates Patty Zimmerman and Mark Farmer will be profiled Monday, followed by candidates for Juneau Assembly and Juneau School Board later in the week.

Parsons champions road north

Former Juneau Mayor Jamie Parsons has worked in the past, both as mayor and chairman of the Alaska Committee, to maintain Juneau as Alaska's capital city, he said, and continues to do so as a vocal champion of the road north.

The city itself is in good shape, the mayoral candidate said, "though the local economy is very soft."

Parsons is worried about "the negative climate" in the city, which is "not a can-do atmosphere," he said, and, as mayor, would try to improve the tone of the dialogue in Juneau.

He supports propositions 1, 2, 3 and 6, but is against 4 and 5.

Proposition 1, the 3 percent sales tax renewal, "is critical to city operations," he said. "And it takes in almost as much as property taxes."

The Juneau Assembly has stated its intent to spend proceeds from the tax on schools, fire and police protection, roads, sidewalks, drainage, and water and sewer systems.

Proposition 2, renewal of the 1 percent sales tax the proceeds of which the assembly has slated for Bartlett Regional Hospital expansion, school repairs and renovation, and an ice rink also gets Parsons' nod. "I support it," he said. "The hospital and related health-care industries are a major economic engine for Juneau."

And the ice rink has been a long time coming, he said.

Parsons also favors Proposition 3, which would authorize sale of $7.7 million in bonds to fund school repairs and renovation. Part of the funding from the renewed 1 percent sales tax would go to retire the school bond.

Proposition 4 asks voters whether a commission should be convened to formulate or consider changes to the city charter. Parsons is against it. "Rather than have a full-scale commission, we can fine-tune such concerns at the assembly level," he said.

The former mayor is opposed to Proposition 5, the flightseeing noise initiative. "It's too restrictive," he said. "The whole scenario is surrounded by the conflicts and rancor over the tourist industry."

In most cases, he said, lack of communication is what causes problems. "We need to go where the problem is, identify the neighborhood, and maybe move assembly meetings there and televise those meetings."

The mayor sets the tone in the dialogue over such issues, he said. "We need to let bygones be bygones; maybe let citizens testify before the assembly via e-mail; and maybe set up meetings between the citizens and presidents of the tour companies. We need to have a little different climate, work together and develop a better attitude. We need to open up avenues."

Jamie Parsons

Age: 59

How long in Juneau: 28 years

Family in Juneau: Married 28 years to Mary Beth; three children: Robert, Sarah and Andrew.

Education: Attended University of Washington; studied history and geography.

Occupation: Business consultant; co-owner of Juneau Racquet Club.

Offices held: Member, Juneau Assembly, 1981-89; mayor of Juneau, 1991-94; chairman,

Alaska Committee 1994-98; president, Glacier Valley Rotary Club, 1998-99; president, Juneau Rotary Club, 1975-76; chairman, Mayor's Fiscal Task Force, Sept. 1999-May 2000.

Hobbies, other interests:

fitness, softball, gardening, yard work.

Sally Smith

Age: 55

How long in Juneau: 16 years

Family in Juneau: None

Education: Bachelor of Arts in music education, University of Illinois, 1967. Continuing education at University of Alaska in Juneau and Fairbanks, musical theater, Alaska political history.

Occupation: Arts development consultant and tour guide for groups coming to Juneau from other countries.

Offices held: Served in the state Legislature from 1977 to 1983 as a Democratic representative from Fairbanks; Alaska Department of Revenue's Division of Public Services director, 1984-87; director, Alaska Division of Retirement and Benefits, Department of Administration, 1987-90; human resources manager, Legislative Affairs Agency, 1991-93.

Hobbies, other interests: hiking, reading, music.

On Proposition 6, the advisory vote that asks voters to choose between improved ferry service and construction of a road north to Skagway, Parsons gives a solid endorsement to the road.

"I think a road is absolutely necessary," he said. "The biggest traffic nightmare in Southeast Alaska is northern Lynn Canal. It's a bottleneck. We do need an enhanced ferry system. Right now we're only moving 30,000 cars a year and have for 10 or 12 years. The Department of Transportation says there's a need to move 210,000 vehicles. The road, in the long run, would be cheaper."

Ferries are expensive, time consuming and inconvenient, Parsons said. "Young families can't afford to go anywhere on the ferry. A road would be good for mental health."

By building a road, Juneau will be sending "a message to the rest of the state that we're accessible, that we're a good capital city."

In that regard, Juneau will have to do what it can, Parsons said, "because after the coming (statewide redistricting), we're going to have even less clout than we have now."

As mayor, Parsons said he would work to implement recommendations of the Mayor's Fiscal Task Force, a group appointed by Mayor Dennis Egan in September 1999 to analyze the fiscal state of the city and to make recommendations about the budget and the city's fiscal future to the assembly. Parsons was chairman of the task force.

At the time the task force was appointed, the assembly was predicting $3 million to $4 million shortfalls in the city budget.

Among the recommendations Parsons said he would pursue if elected were conservative spending, increased efficiency, and the employment of as much state-of-the-art technology as possible, including electronic fund transfers for city billing.

Parsons said he would move to phase out some sales tax exemptions including senior citizens sales tax exemptions and to have Bartlett Hospital pay off some of its bonded debt.

Parsons would also dedicate the city's "rainy day" account approximately $5 million in reserves to an endowment that funds maintenance of city facilities.

Smith says she'll be a peacemaker

In her first run for city office, former state legislator Sally Smith describes herself as a "peacemaker and a good administrator with the ability to listen and work with other people."

These skills in particular, peacemaking will serve to bring together a community that is divided on some issues and, sometimes, may be excessively vocal about it, the mayoral candidate said.

"The community needs to come together to listen to itself think," Smith said. "Right now we're all thinking out loud at the same time."

She supports propositions 1, 2 and 3, but not 4, 5 and 6.

Smith will vote yes on both sales tax renewal measures. The 3 percent sales tax renewal Proposition 1 is important for the health of the economy, she said, and, in light of declining state revenue sharing, is essential to city operations. And passage of Proposition 2 renewal of the 1 percent sales tax, with proceeds slated for Bartlett Regional Hospital expansion, school renovation, and construction of an ice rink, "is important to our quality of life."

"Bartlett has become an important part of Juneau's economy since taking its rightful position as a regional center," said Smith, until 1999 the hospital's regional affairs coordinator.

She supports funding school renovation because "it's important to give our students attractive surroundings," she said.

Smith also favors building the ice rink, but thinks the city also needs to develop transportation for getting children to recreational facilities after school. "It may be buses, or something else. For example, we have a skateboard park, but the kids downtown have no way of getting there. It's something that needs to be explored."

Proposition 3 $7.7 million in bonds for school renovation, expected to be paid off with sales tax revenues will get her vote, she said.

The city charter mandates that every 10 years a proposition appear on the ballot this year's Proposition 4 asking voters whether a commission should convene to consider changes to the charter. Smith is against convening a commission. "We don't need one," she said.

With regard to Proposition 5 the flightseeing noise initiative Smith said: "I think the wording goes a bit too far. But the important thing is the attention the initiative brings to a legitimate problem."

Smith said any elected official has the responsibility to listen to different groups of people so that solutions are brought forward. "It's not just a matter of holding public hearings. It's a matter of taking action," she said.

The city is currently going about things in the right way, she said. "They have hired a mediator in cooperation with the forest service. I believe the mediator can defuse some of the emotion and thereby keep unnecessary laws from being implemented. Laws become the solution when people don't listen to each other respectfully."

Smith said she thinks it "unfortunate" that Proposition 6 is on the ballot. The advisory vote asking residents to choose between enhanced ferry service or construction of a road out of Juneau is an indicator of public sentiment, she said. "But such an advisory vote is based on emotion not on fact."

"I think it's important the Southeast Transportation Plan take precedence over the road," she said. "The issue is one for the state Legislature."

Smith characterized Parsons' and her positions on the issue as "external" and "internal," respectively.

"Jamie (Parsons) and I think differently with respect to transportation. I think (Juneau's) priority should be to solve downtown and valley traffic problems," she said.

Basic services are always the first consideration education, fire and police, water and sewer, and road maintenance, Smith said. "When you go beyond that, you have to begin discussing the services you have to give up."

Smith agreed with some of the recommendations put forth by the Mayor's Fiscal Task Force, chaired by rival candidate Parsons, she said. "But I don't want to presuppose without benefit of public hearings which of the services would have to be reduced."

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