Junior chamber identifies with departing president

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2005

Many Juneau Chamber of Commerce members at a candidates' forum for an at-large Juneau Assembly seat said they see eye-to-eye with David Summers.

After all, the candidate is the group's outgoing president, and he supports one of its priorities - a road north from Juneau - where opponents Bob Doll and Mara Early do not.

Summers, a downtown shop owner, said at the Friday forum that the chamber's issues are his issues.

"We have had difficulties getting different initiatives passed by the Assembly," Summers said.

He used the forum to advance the idea of increasing a business tax exemption.

"If we increase the business personal property tax exemption from $2,000 to $100,000, it is only 1 percent of Juneau's total tax revenues," Summers said. "Some people ask how we are going to replace that money. That money would be generated through sales tax. The exemption would provide incentives to business."

Early, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Southeast, said increasing the exemption would create more opportunities for young people to start businesses.

Doll, a former state ferry system director and retired Navy officer, said he would need to examine the issue, but some business owners said that is not a satisfactory answer.

"I am tired of people saying they would examine it," chamber member Linda Thomas said. "We have examined that issue for five years."

Doll said there must be reasons the city hesitates to increase the exemption if it has reviewed the issue for five years and hasn't done anything about it.

"I need to talk to other Assembly members and understand their concerns," Doll said. "But it does seem to cost the city relatively little."

Summers said he would support all five things the chamber has asked the city to do:

• streamline the permitting system for building,

• increase the city's business personal property tax exemption,

• make city land available for private developers,

• reduce the city's competition with private businesses, and

• build a road out of Juneau.

Early said many residents are dissatisfied with the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities' current proposal to build a road along east Lynn Canal to a Katzehin River ferry terminal.

"The road goes nowhere and people still need to have ferries," she said. She also worries about young people driving on the road after getting drunk, she said.

Doll said he wonders if legislators would approve spending $300 million for a road out of Juneau.

"We should leave intact the most beautiful fjord in Southeast Alaska," Doll said, speaking of Lynn Canal between Juneau and Skagway.

Summers said the Assembly should direct the city manager to avoid competing with the private sector. Some Juneau Chamber members have criticized the city for competing with private businesses by selling rock from Stabler's Point Rock Quarry.

Early said the city should have a formal process or a rule for determining whether the city is competing against the private sector.

Doll said he doesn't support the city building a housing subdivision, such as the one it plans to develop at Lena Point.

He said unless he hears private contractors say they don't want to buy from a city quarry anymore, he will continue supporting the city being in the quarry business.

One chamber member asked the candidates to prioritize the projects on the 1 percent sales tax ballot.

In the Oct. 4 election, voters are asked to pick any or none of the following projects:

• a $26 million swimming pool,

• a $20 million expansion of the Juneau International Airport,

• an $18.5 million package extending city sewer, expanding Don Statter Boat Harbor at Auke Bay, purchasing a midair chairlift for Eaglecrest Ski Area and building a downtown parking garage.

Summers said he supports the sewer extension and the airport expansion but doesn't think the city should spend so much money on building a swimming pool in the Mendenhall Valley.

Early said she supports the sewer extension and the swimming pool but is not convinced of the airport project's importance.

Doll said all of the projects are important but he advocated for the airport expansion most.

"The project doesn't have a broad appeal," Doll said. "But it will enhance the fact that Juneau is the capital of the state."

After the forum, many chamber members said they still like Summers better.

Charlene Nelson of Capital Chevrolet said Summers sees many issues the same as she does.

Chamber member Jessica Taylor said Summers has strong, concise opinions.

"He is very outspoken and direct," Taylor said.

• I-Chun Che can be reached at ichun.che@juneauempire.com.

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