My Turn: Make informed decisions by being a fully informed voter

Posted: Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Now that the dust has settled, I want to address those of you who voted "no" for a second high school. We all know you are concerned about education and our community. From talking with lots of people about this issue last week, it appears to me the primary concerns were that the high school population is going to decline (for the first time in over 100 years) and that we won't be able to support its operating costs. I want to appease your fears.

Here's the scoop: The crystal ball Dave Hanna, Dave Palmer, Clay Good and other opponents were looking into was murky. It did not show the migration to Juneau from outlying communities which are in economic decline. Just ask McDowell Group about the dismal outlook for our neighboring towns. It also didn't show the migration to Juneau from the Lower 48 where safe schools and quality of life continue to diminish. If we had waited till the crystal ball was clearer, Juneau may have had to pay 100 percent of the escalating building costs of a new school, and Juneau students would have been crammed tighter and tighter into the current school while a new one was being built.

Most people I talked to last week who were planning to vote "no" or were undecided thought Juneau would have to pay too much to operate a new school. Here's the scoop: With the financial figures arrived at by Max Mertz and Karen Tarver, two highly respected CPAs who volunteered countless hours to uncover projected program costs, Juneauites will pay an average of about $7.60 per year to operate the new school. That's two mochas. That's less than the cost of one movie ticket. That's less than the cost of renting two new release videos.

How do I know this? I attended one of the public meetings which presented all the information and where I picked up a copy of the "Report to the Public," which had the program proposal and its costs. There were only about 20 members of the public present. My guess is that you didn't see this report, although it was well known this report was available on the school district's website. I know you were busy. So was I, but this issue was important enough to lose sleep over. Most of the people I talked to (except you, Barbara) decided to vote in favor of the school once they understood the real operating costs.

My point is this: I know you are a concerned voter, otherwise you wouldn't have read this far. Next time you go to the polls, please take the time to become as informed as you can before you cast your vote.

We have the opportunity to vote for Assembly members, legislators, governors, senators, congressmen and presidents in the future who truly support education (not just claim to), as well as other values we hold dear. When you are picking your candidate, don't just listen to what they say about themselves, but delve into the facts and learn as much as you can from all sides. Please always be a well-informed voter. Together we can change the world.

• Jackie Stewart is director of the Juneau Small Business Development Center and has a 9-year-old son at Auke Bay School.

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