Lively campaigns; interesting results

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

Despite being paved with good intentions and financed by truckloads of cash, the road went nowhere. Having raised a ruckus all summer, the flightseeing initiative crashed and burned. May it rest in peace . . . and quiet.

Dan Peterson, Juneau-Douglas High School Class of 2001, was promoted to the Juneau School Board, outpacing the field, including two incumbents.

Sally Smith and Jamie Parsons held their breath, uncertain who would become mayor and the city's chief ribbon-cutter until results from the Auke Bay precinct finally were reported.

Mark Farmer celebrated as if he had won the mayor's race from which he withdrew in the home stretch.

Marc Wheeler appeared shell-shocked by his big margin of his victory in the areawide Juneau Assembly race; PeggyAnn McConnochie was gracious and businesslike in defeat.

Maridon Boario and John Greeley learned it's better to sign up early than to write in on election day.

Voters approved taxation with representation and decided school repairs, hospital expansion and a covered ice rink were a nice mix after all.

The winners did not gloat; those who came up short were not seen pointing fingers or shopping for sour grapes.

What does it all mean?

Outside of the Peace and Quiet Coalition, the most commonly heard comment about the flightseeing initiative was that it went too far in its proposed restrictions. Coalition leader Kim Metcalfe-Helmar admitted as much after the votes were counted. Voters understand people want to visit Juneau. Voters understand the need to mitigate some impacts. The message from voters to everyone working in or impacted by the tourism industry is look for the middle ground, not extremes.

A road represented change and uncertainty. At least half of us seem to be content in our unpaved isolation. The road wasn't going anywhere at 55 to 60 percent voter approval. Two-to-one? Maybe. But 49 percent is a dead end -- for now.

The next closest contest after ferry-road was Smith-Parsons. Never having been mayor or served on the assembly, Smith may have been perceived as the candidate of change and uncertainty. But to many voters it was Parsons who wore the label because of his decision to make a road north the centerpiece of his platform. Smith stressed the need to address transportation issues within the city. Parsons sought to link the Capital City and the outside world. Residents clearly don't want the seat of state government to move but may feel we are linked sufficiently with Alaska's population centers.

The contrast was clear. Parsons' outgoing nature and familiarity were not quite enough to win over the segment of the population that feels road-wary and ignored.

Had he won, we would have urged Parsons to reach out to those who are not part of his natural constituency. In hindsight, he may have needed to make himself accessible to that segment sooner and more aggressively. Parsons may be disappointed today but he can continue to be a positive influence for the entire community if he works -- as we assume he will -- as Citizen Parsons to remove the barriers that separate Juneau residents.

As we said in the Empire's editorial endorsements, Smith deserves to be given a chance to succeed. Those who campaigned as peacemakers must follow up. The assembly has changed. Its members should discard political labels, roll up their sleeves and cooperate to solve our problems, nurture our economy and bring us together.

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