Tuesday, Juneau voters will be asked to consider whether a second crossing from mainland Juneau to Douglas Island is a project the community should support. We believe this has merit and urge a yes vote on Proposition 2.
In a previous editorial we encouraged the City Assembly to vote in favor of placing this opportunity on the ballot because we felt a good public dialogue needed to take place for Juneau residents to solicit information to make an informed choice. Unfortunately, in keeping with recent trends, the dialogue instead degraded into fear mongering, instead of the constructive conversations we all want and need.
Many vote for the side that makes the most persuasive argument and lately it's usually the side that casts the greatest doubt. It has become a very effective strategy because it is easier to find fault than good. One only needs to read story comments on the Empire's website to find a collection of regular comment posters who can rarely find a good thing to say about anyone or anything.
This is a large project and it needs a significant financial commitment from the community and not all of the answers we seek are available until a full-blown Environmental Impact Study, or EIS, and multi-agency analysis is complete. Your support for this project will launch this multi-year process.
The community needs to demonstrate support for the North Douglas crossing before millions are spent to study the issue. Others believe we should spend millions before getting community commitment. Both sides could be effectively argued. However, if the majority doesn't believe in a second crossing, regardless of where the crossing would be built, (Sunny Point is not the only option), then it's a waste of millions in taxpayer dollars to carry out the studies to provide us with viable options.
We support a North Douglas crossing because we believe the community is always evolving and a second crossing provides us with future opportunities in a variety of ways. Visionaries who came before us recognized a need to plan for the future in a positive way. We over-engineer water and wastewater treatment facilities, hydro-power generation, arterials to handle traffic volumes, etc., with an eye toward an increasing demand, not less. The crossing is another such example of looking forward to the long-term health of our community.
We suspect only a minority will use the bridge on a regular basis, but that doesn't mean it is not a good investment in our community. How much of our total population uses the library, the pool, the ice arena, even our schools? We make these kinds of opportunities available not for the masses to enjoy but because they are a good fit with our vision of community. A second crossing is a good fit.
In the absence of an EIS, the members of the Safe, Affordable, Future, Efficient, or SAFE, Committee have done an outstanding job of providing as much or as little detail as one might ask. In the campaign that has been waged against the crossing, it is the unknown (details which can only be provided through an EIS and multi-agency study) which has allowed them to keep lobbing statements which cast doubt. Calling the crossing a "dam," labeling the proponents as "crafty" and stating voters will be giving the City Assembly a "blank check" all serve to play on voter emotions of fear of the unknown.
We have met with many on both sides of the crossing issue and respect and admire each and every one for their passion and commitment for their position. We may find fault in the methodology but not in their principles or their public participation.
Let's get answers and our options by moving this project forward. Vote yes on Proposition 2.
Yes on 1, No on 3
We encourage voters to vote yes on Proposition 1. Auke Bay Elementary School is in critical need of infrastructure repair and realignment, and the approval of $18.7 million of general obligation bonds is vital to this school's educational mission. We are always wary when politicians, or in this case a ballot proposal, ask citizens to assume a greater collective debt load. However, in this case, Auke Bay can become essentially a brand-new school for less than $20 million. We consider quality education of our children as perhaps the greatest possible return on investment possible, and endorse this venture.
We cannot endorse Proposition 3, and ask the electorate to vote no on it. This proposal, if passed, would create a commission to analyze the City Charter and recommend changes to it. While it is always good to ensure the charter, and all other laws, serve the greatest number of Juneauites in the best way possible, that adaptability is already available through the amendment process.
Often these decisions are complex, and require a thorough analysis of the issue at hand. Given that, it makes little sense to create a body whose job it is to propose several changes to the city's governing documents in short order. Additionally, if Proposition 3 is successful, it will require the time and expense of holding yet another election to choose the members of this temporary board. Certainly, Juneau can find better uses of its dollars than to create another level of bureaucracy to supervise a process that has existed, and worked, for quite some time without middle management.
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