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Juneau faces many challenges and none more important than dealing with the cost of living. Juneau Economic Development Council recently published a survey of seven Northwest cities. Juneau ranked at the top in higher costs for groceries, housing, utilities, transportation and health care. Juneau led Anchorage, Fairbanks, Seattle, Olympia, Spokane and Bellingham as the most expensive place to live.
While the cost of living in Juneau increases, our population goes down. Juneau's population declined by 280 people last year. Our population is aging. Our school district enrollment is declining - 477 fewer students now than in 1999. Juneau's birth rate is below the nation's and our Sunday school populations and child care options are down.
The 20-35 age group is noticeable during the tourism season, but absent after September when college, jobs and housing beckon them south.
For 20- to 35-year-olds to remain in Juneau requires better entry-level job opportunities and affordable housing. With few "starter homes" available and an average home price of $253,600 (AARP Bulletin, Sept. 2005), most are shut out of the housing market.
When we moved here in 1968, home ownership was relatively painless to achieve. Now our family is paying more in property taxes than we paid in mortgage payments, including insurance, for the entire year when we purchased our home.
The Oct. 4 election is critical. Which candidates will stop raising our property taxes, start spending sales tax monies wisely, work to create jobs and address the cost of living and housing crises?
Incumbent Merrill Sanford demonstrated strong support for schools, police and fire protection and is the most vocal voice on the Assembly for basic infrastructure. Sanford isn't afraid of being on the losing side of an 8-1 vote if he thinks his position is best for the community.
Green and Summers are in their 30s. They network across the whole cloth of Juneau and face the issues of housing and cost-of-living from first hand experience. They bring empathy for 20- to 35-year-olds who are caught in a love for living in Juneau and a need to find a way to achieve that desire. They have carved out lives in Juneau's private sector and are the faces of Juneau's successful future.
A vote for Sanford, Green and Summers will keep the Assembly's focus on community needs, the cost of living and curbing excessive taxation.