A skeptic votes 'yes'

Letter to the editor

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

I'll be gone next week, so I went down to the Assembly chambers and cast my absentee ballot. After making the easy choices (selecting from many fine candidates and voting "yes" on the bond to repair Glacier Valley School), I confronted the 1 percent sales tax projects.

I stood there a moment, in my curtained confinement, and grumbled. I thought of reasons to vote "no" on all of them. I wondered why we use a regressive sales tax to pay for capital improvements. I wondered why we don't, instead, use those revenues for projects that democratically serve all our citizens (to fund state-of-the-art public transportation services or to provide comprehensive recycling services). And then I wondered if the way we do these things in our wonderful city simply evolved over time, or if it's the result of intelligent design?

And then I wondered how we could possibly spend $26 million on a swimming pool. Pools are great, but $26 million is a lot of money. With that kind of money we could build half of another substandard high school (or one-quarter of a new capitol building). And $20 million on airport improvements? I use the airport a lot, and it's functional. Spending $20 million to expand it to accommodate another airline (and the Homeland Security army) seems like an awful lot of money. For $20 million we could build a fine auditorium for our students in the new high school (instead of asking them to serve up their performances cafeteria-style).

But then, as I stood there pondering these things, I started to think a bit beyond my own self-interest and my occasional cranky way of viewing our community's policies and priorities. And it occurred to me that perhaps, for a change, I should just say "yes." I should put aside the labels and the charges and the counter-charges and trust that the advocates for the water park are smart and decent people who care deeply about Juneau and its future, as are the advocates for the airport improvements and those who support Eaglecrest and harbors and parking improvements.

I decided to trust them all. I voted "yes" three times. And I walked out of the booth feeling good and proud of myself for doing my duty. I recommend you try it.

Phil Smith


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