My Turn: Time for a qualified woman on the Juneau Assembly

Posted: Sunday, October 02, 2005

Joan Cahill's candidacy highlights some important issues for our community. It would be refreshing to have the public interest and the private interests coincide. Joan has the balanced perspective to do this.

When she suggested that she could consider supporting an ordinance calling for seasonal retailers to provide something besides plywood or newspapers for residents and visitors to look at during the off-season, she is reflecting a widely held view. We are tired of having our downtown look like a ghost town. It would definitely help to have the appearance of a revitalized downtown, until we are actually able to accomplish such a thing. Years have gone by without the guilty businesses doing this voluntarily. However, her opponents choose to approach this as narrow-minded idealogues, accusing Joan of advocating government interference and unwanted regulation of private enterprise.

Joan's dedication to health and safety issues has prompted her efforts toward passage of the clean indoor air ordinance, her work as a volunteer firefighter and service as mediator in victim/offender and parent/teen conflicts. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Frequently associated with alcohol abuse, this is a serious issue in our community and women most often suffer the consequences. It helps to have women in a position to advocate for funding services. Our present Assembly is nine men, zero women.

When Joan successfully shepherds the citizens' desire for clean air indoors in public places, she is advocating for protection from second-hand smoke for everybody. This includes employees, employers and customers, those that smoke and those who do not. She's not demanding that smokers quit. (It's a pernicious addiction, and they've probably tried.) She is concerned about smokers polluting the air that others are breathing. Women are particularly apt to suffer lung disease or breast cancer from this exposure, since they are overwhelmingly the majority of employees in the hospitality industry. Ironically, a number of bar and restaurant owners support clean air. They would have liked the ordinance to have been implemented across the board, creating "a level playing field" for businesses. Under pressure, the Assembly settled on an unfortunate compromise.

In both of these examples, Joan's advocacy has been in the public as well as the private interest. However, political opposition with a narrow commercial ax to grind has accused her of being bent on imposing governmental restrictions on small businesses. This is a total distortion of Joan's style or intent. It is totally a health matter, from which every one of us will benefit.

Joan's educational and professional background is particularly suited to serving on the Assembly and understanding the issues of our diverse community. At the University of Alaska Southeast she earned a bachelor's degree in secondary education and, subsequently, her master's degree in public administration with a rural emphasis. In the summers of 1995 and 1996, Joan was managing director for the Naa Kahidi Theater productions at the Sealaska Cultural Arts Park next to the downtown library. She has also served on the Juneau Advisory Committee on housing.

Joan's education, business experience in both the private and public sector, community service, and of significant importance, her life experience, will provide a unique contribution to our Assembly. Vote for her on Oct. 4. You will be glad you did.

• Dixie Hood is a Juneau resident and two-time candidate for Assembly

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