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Candidates exhibit their similarities

District 1 and 2 Assembly candidates field questions at League of Women Voters' forum

Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2005

Juneau Assembly and School Board candidates showed more similarities than differences at the League of Women Voters' forum Wednesday.

Candidates for Assembly District 1 in the downtown area - Joan Cahill and incumbent Merrill Sanford - said the city should not use eminent domain to force development. Their views came in response to a Supreme Court ruling that granted broad condemnation powers to cities.

"Many people on the Assembly don't want to take that approach except for transportation corridors," Sanford said.

Although both candidates support recycling, Sanford said recycling can be costly and it takes a lot of effort to educate residents.

Cahill, who works as a communications specialist for the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., said she would promote curbside pickup.

"It would buy us a little more time on our landfill," Cahill said. "It could create economic development opportunities for Juneau."

Both District 2 Mendenhall Valley-area candidates - Jonathan Anderson and Andrew Green - said they would fund education to the state's cap and keep the mill rate low if the city's property assessment continues rising.

One participant asked Anderson and Green how they would address the racial tension at Juneau-Douglas High School.

Anderson, who served on the Juneau Human Rights Commission for several terms, said he was disappointed by the commission's ineffectiveness and would try to strengthen the commission so it can do what it was created to do.

Green, port manager for Cruise Line Agencies of Alaska, said the city should support all of the faith-based groups and various Native and Filipino communities to promote diversity.

"We don't need to reinvent the wheel," Green said. "Juneau as a whole is a loving community. We can work through existing local groups."

All the three at-large candidates - Bob Doll, Mara Early and David Summers - said they support having all three 1 percent sales tax projects lumped together with a sewer extension. The three projects are expansion of Don Statter Boat Harbor, purchase of a mid-mountain chairlift for Eaglecrest Ski Area and construction of a parking garage downtown.

But the three candidates differ on the other two 1 percent sales tax projects, the building of an aquatic center in the valley and the expansion of Juneau International Airport.

Early, chairwoman of Juneau Coalition for Youth, said she supports the swimming pool but she isn't sure whether the airport is such a high priority.

Summers, outgoing president of Juneau Chamber of Commerce, said a pool in the valley is something everybody wants but the city should focus on basic infrastructure first.

Doll, former state ferry system director, said all of the projects deserve residents' serious consideration. He said the city will benefit from each projects.

As for Juneau's garbage problems, Summers and Doll said the city should have make efforts to recycle. Early said Juneau should invest in a new incinerator but she isn't sure whether the city or a private company should do it.

All three School Board candidates - Mike Ford, Sean O'Brien and Margo Waring - said the school district should include the Tlingit language in the curriculum.

"It is important to include the cultural aspect in our system," said O'Brien, who has five children ages from 6 to 19. He is chairman of Riverbend Elementary School site council.

One person asked the candidates how they would lower Juneau's high dropout rate.

Waring, who has been a volunteer at local schools for 15 years, said she was on a task force last year to address the dropout rate. The task force reviewed four years of data on the profiles of the students who dropped out of school.

"We made 30 or so recommendations," Waring said. "I would like to see the recommendations be implemented."

Ford, who retired in 2004 as a legal counsel for the Alaska Legislature, said if the school district receives more money from the state, the district should spend money on decreasing class sizes and hiring more teachers.

"The only practical way to decrease class size is to hire more teachers," Ford said. "Lower class size allows teachers to be more effective with kids."

O'Brien said he agreed with the others and would seek to increase "connectivity" in classrooms.



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