Mayoral candidates call for change

Farmer seeks new form of government

Posted: Monday, September 18, 2000

Photojournalist Mark Farmer thinks the time has come to change the city's form of government from one run by a manager to the "strong mayor" form. "Managers manage," he said. "They are not leaders."

"What people really want is a change from the rubber-stamp, good-old-boy stuff," he said. "This town used to be sewn up by a few, and the power brokers need to realize that change is coming."

Farmer has run unsuccessfully for the Juneau Assembly and the mayor's office in the past and has sometimes been pigeonholed as "the perennial candidate," he said.

But he said he is glad to be in this four-way maymayor's race, and feels his contribution will cause voters "to think long and hard about the issues."

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

Farmer is "not a big fan" of sales taxes and said he wishes the city would repeal the sales tax on nonprepared food. "A poor couple might have 10 bucks a day to spend food, and a 50-cent tax on 10 bucks is significant."

Still, he will vote yes on Proposition 1 renewal of the 3 percent sales tax because it is essential to city operations, he said.

Proposition 2 will get his vote as well. The measure renews the 1 percent sales tax, the proceeds of which will fund part of Bartlett Regional Hospital's Project 2005 expansion, school repairs and renovation, and construction of an ice rink.

"Enhancing the recreational asset base is important," Farmer said. "And the hospital is a regional treasure."

Farmer is concerned, however, that since city government and its bureaucracy are "there for health and safety concerns such as fire and police protection, roads, and the hospital," the latter is structured with "yet another level of (its own) bureaucracy."

Farmer will vote yes on Proposition 3 $7.7 million in bonds for Juneau schools, which will be paid for by revenue from the 1 percent sales tax.

Proposition 4 asks voters whether a commission should be convened to consider changes to the city charter. Farmer said he will vote no on that measure. "It opens up a whole can of worms and God knows who will get their way. I'd rather take what we've got right now."

Farmer supports the backers of Proposition 5 a measure that puts limits on tourist-flight noise.

"But I'm probably not going to vote for it," he said. "I think it singles out helicopters too much and is too restrictive. I do feel for the (initiative backers) because city government hasn't been responsible and voluntary compliance measures just don't work."

Juneau and Alaska in general are in a good position to become development labs for tourist-flight noise analysis, he said, and institutions such as the Alaska Science and Technology Foundation and the University of Alaska could help develop software to figure out sonic footprints.

"Technology is not always a fix," Farmer said. "But when it is, we ought to use it."

He suggested some possible fixes for the noise problem, including replacing two-blade-propeller floatplanes downtown with planes with three-blade props, active noise cancellation technology on the planes, and an increase in the number of blades on helicopter rotors all technologies that already exist, he said.

The road out of Juneau gets a solid no from Farmer. "The advisory vote on the surface transportation initiative (Proposition 6) is a damned dumb idea," Farmer said, referring to the road/enhanced ferry service choice on the ballot. "The road is a 19th century fix for transportation problems and is being promoted by (rival candidate) Jamie Parsons and his buddies so they can make money on construction."

"What we're doing is dumping on the rest of the Southeast community so we can have our road," he said.

"We need the ferries," he said. "And the technology for small ferries does exist."

With respect to the city's economy, Juneau is "pretty lucky," Farmer said. Cities elsewhere with populations of 30,000 often "have only one level of income. We've got fishing, logging, tourism, government, etc."

As mayor he would try to help solve problems that afflict small businesses in Juneau, he said such as the inability to get express package delivery on Saturday. "As an involved and active mayor, when there's a problem I would be a pain in the butt to the people making the problem," he said.

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