Candidates differ on economic development, other strategies

Posted: Thursday, September 30, 2010

Four of the five people running for three Assembly seats offered their ideas at a League of Women Voters forum Wednesday evening.

Michael Penn / Juneau Empire
Michael Penn / Juneau Empire

Most of the voter's focus in the Assembly race is likely be on the body's District 2 seat, where three candidates are contending. In District 1, Mary Becker is unopposed; for the area-wide seat, incumbent Johan Dybdahl is unopposed.

All the candidates endorsed expanding public transit, but differed in the scale and scope of their ideas. District 2 candidate Karen Crane said she saw a need to expand the system, and make some changes to service areas.

"Some heavy use areas like Costco aren't getting enough coverage," she said.

Greg Brown, also a District 2 candidate, said he wanted more bus service to the ferry terminal, liked the idea of running the busses on natural gas, and said he had a plan for creating the gas in Juneau.

The third District 2 candidate, Chris Nelson, was unable to attend.

Dybdahl and Decker agreed, with Dybdahl saying the city had already made improvements, and Decker saying that newly developed areas need to include bike paths.

All the candidates wanted to strengthen Juneau's role as the capital, but differed in their strategies.

Crane suggested providing a residence for the lieutenant governor, similar the official Governor's House for the state's chief executive. She also advocated forming a statewide counterpart to the Alaska Committee, the city-funded capital retention effort.

Brown said Juneau needed to be cleaned up, and to strengthen its business community to retain the capital. Brown's other capital retention ideas include making Juneau a center for ecotourism, along with creating energy from the landfill and accepting trash from places such as Kake and Angoon.

Becker wants to better support neighboring communities so they'll back Juneau, while Dybdahl said they city needs to get a road out of Juneau, to be a better capital city.

Each candidate was asked for solutions to the city's homeless problem, along with what they'd done personally to show their commitment to the problem.

"I'm not sure what the assembly can do," Crane said. She said she's been cooking at the Glory Hole for 20 years, has seen many of the same faces and many need mental health issues addressed before more affordable housing will help.

Brown said the city should work to bring in more businesses to provide more jobs.

"If you have a future, you tend not to drink as much," he said.

Dybdahl said that because he's unopposed, and is in his last term allowed, he'll be donating his unused campaign funds the Glory Hole.

There were different strategies, as well, for diversifying Juneau's economy.

Brown wanted "take back downtown from seasonal jewelry stores," as well as developing alternative energies. High-tech manufacturing can also take advantage of Juneau's central location, he said.

Crane said the strategy was to make Juneau a "business-friendly" community.

Becker said she wanted tax breaks to encourage downtown businesses to stay open year round, as well as opening up more land on Douglas Island.

Dybdahl spoke of what the city had done in recent years, such as an expansion of mining and working to retain government jobs.

• Contact Pat Forgey at 523-2250 or at

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