Observers say city Assembly remains centrist

Bush leads incumbent Johnson by 167 votes; absentee ballots will be reviewed on Friday

Posted: Thursday, October 07, 2004

Although the Tuesday election might bring at least one new face to the Juneau Assembly, people who are familiar with city politics say the new Assembly won't necessarily have a major shift in its policies.

"The general direction of the Assembly will remain the same," Mayor Bruce Botelho said. "The candidates are centrist candidates. They all support a new state capitol, second channel crossing and the waterfront development plan."

Planning Commission Chair Johan Dybdahl will replace Deputy Mayor Jim Powell in the districtwide seat. Assembly member Randy Wanamaker successfully won re-election. Former School Board president Jeff Bush took Tuesday's unofficial tally over incumbent Jeannie Johnson by 167 votes, though the count could change as absentee and questioned ballots are reviewed Friday.

Former Mayor Dennis Egan agrees with Botelho that the election won't bring a lot of changes to the Assembly, despite the differences between Powell and Dybdahl.

Dybdahl is president of Point Sophia Development Co., which recently made Hoonah's Icy Strait Point a cruise ship destination. For the past 20 years, Powell has worked in the public and private sectors in natural resource and environmental protection programs in regulatory, legislative and policy positions.

"Johan is more private-sector-oriented than Jim," Egan said. "Although they are totally different in their other life, both of them are balanced in terms of development and environmental protection."

Dybdahl said he doesn't like to be labeled as being pro- development.

"I don't think the Assembly should be classified as pro-development or against development," said Dybdahl, who has served on the Planning Commission for 15 years. "They may come out in one way on one issue and totally in a different way on another issue. It depends."

Egan said no matter whether Johnson or Bush lands on the Assembly, either will add to it because they have had public office experience and are hard workers.

But environmental groups see a difference between Bush and Johnson.

Bush was the only Assembly candidate endorsed by the Alaska Conservation Voters, a coalition that aims at safeguarding Alaska's environment through public education, advocacy and supporting pro-conservation candidates for public office. The group sent questionnaires to all the candidates and a board made decisions based on the candidates' answers and experience.

"Based on the candidates' answers to the questionnaire, the board was impressed by Bush's commitment to taking care of what makes Juneau special and his interest in standing up to unbalanced tourism development," said Matt Davidson, legislative director of the Alaska Conservation Voters.

A six-member city board will review all 1,534 questioned and absentee ballots Friday. Election results will be certified Tuesday.

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