Empire editorial: Council deserves credit for transforming armory into temporary arts venue

Posted: Friday, October 12, 2007

A big thumbs up to the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council for taking a risk and working with the Juneau Assembly and other cultural groups to transform downtown's old National Guard Armory into a temporary arts and culture center.

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The building, while less than perfect, isn't intended to take the place of a planned performing arts center, but it is a great start as a venue for plays, concerts, exhibits, dances, lectures and seminars.

The arts council has leased the armory from the city, which will continue to pay for the council's operating costs. The arts group will have to take care of bigger-ticket capital expenditures on its own. But Juneau's arts and cultural community is much better off with the transformed armory - a change made possible with the help of more than 70 community volunteers.

The arts and culture center will benefit the full spectrum of Juneau's cultural and performing arts community, from the Juneau-Douglas Little Theatre to the Alaska Folk Festival, Juneau Jazz and Classics, Perseverance Theatre, the Juneau Lyric Opera, the Juneau Symphony and the city's public radio stations, one of which plans to air five-minute cooking segments from the center.

The new arts center is a great transitional use for the old armory, and now downtown has another hub for its many and diverse culture outlets.

Thumbs up, also, to Gov. Sarah Palin for her decision to cancel Ketchikan's notorious Gravina Island bridge recently. For the past two years the massive project, with a price tag of almost $400 million, had become the focus of widespread ridicule on the national level as U.S. Rep. Don Young and U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, both Alaska Republicans, shoehorned funding for it into a federal transportation bill.

The bottom line is that funding for the bridge simply isn't available and, even if it were, the project would, at very best, be a huge waste of federal tax dollars. It's good to have this issue put to rest by a governor who's making sound decisions based on reason rather than political favoritism.

Thumbs down to former Rep. Pete Kott, R-Eagle River, who, after his conviction on three federal counts of corruption, is asking the judge in his case to vacate the jury's guilty verdict or allow Kott a new trial.

What Kott and his attorney are asking of the judge in the case is based on arguments they made and which were denied by the judge during Kott's trial. If the judge vacates Kott's guilty verdict or agrees to a new trial, what would have been the purpose of the first trial?

C'mon Pete. You don't get a do-over just because you don't like the verdict that was rendered by a jury of your peers. You're no longer in the position of power and privilege that you once enjoyed, and it's time to accept responsibility for your illegal actions.

Thumbs down, also, to both sides in the negotiations involving the Kensington gold mine. Parties representing the mine and the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council have recently talked about holding open negotiations and what would have been "public report cards," which would demonstrate to the community what's being said at the table and under what terms. That isn't happening. Instead they're meeting behind closed doors.

So much for the open dialogue and transparent accountability the community had been expecting of these negotiations, which are so important to Juneau's economy.

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