On Friday evening, Sept. 24, I attended a joint meeting of the Waterfront Development Committee and the Assembly Committee of the Whole. There were 17 of us citizen observers present and I wish there had been 70.
It was interesting to learn how the members of these committees feel about our waterfront. These are the people, willing to give of their time and energy, who are deciding the future of our waterfront. The only elected members are on the Assembly. There is an election coming up, but public testimony regarding the waterfront is scheduled for the day after.
I found the most interesting memo available was from Deputy City Manager Donna Pierce. It states in part "the Waterfront Development Committee was concerned that the survey conducted as part of the draft plan, mailed to approximately 16,000 voters and returned by approximately 2,200, was not statistically valid."
"Not statistically valid." Remember when we felt terrific because the company doing the draft plan (Bermello, Ajamil & Partners Inc.) and the city of Juneau wanted our opinions? About 2,200 of us filled out the cards, wrote in our concerns, and saw that information incorporated into the Long Range Waterfront Plan. The majority of us (67 percent) said we wanted no new cruise ship docks downtown. We wanted a marina, a seawalk and parks, and fortunately some of those features are still in the current plan. But attention must be paid.
The "random phone survey" conducted by the McDowell Group, to which about 500 residents responded, evidently is valid. (Fifty-five percent of those respondents also opposed a cruise ship dock across from Foodland.) Nevertheless, one or two big docks are still being considered and the cruise ship industry is going to be consulted.
There will be public hearings, but by then the plans may already have been pretty much set in concrete by the interested parties who, let's face it, are doing all the work. We know what frequently happens then: Citizens arrive to testify and leave feeling betrayed and angry. I hope 2,200 of us show up. I applaud the citizens who have been staying on top of this, but we all need to pay more attention before it is too late to save what is important to us from the original plan.
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