So the city has managed to pass another temporary-permanent sales tax extension. The hospital will get larger, and no doubt so will my bills. The schools will all be restored to showroom condition until it rains and one of the roofs starts leaking. And hallelujah, a new ice rink will be built! Maybe not quite built, but almost built. Maybe not quite almost built, but at least we will have a lot of money in the bank to start thinking about building one.
It appears that more than a few people are upset over the fact that they thought they were voting to build an ice rink, not just voting to put money in the bank.
So who is to blame for the voters getting duped into giving the thumbs up to the sales tax extension? Lets look at the suspects.
Rich Poor, the head of the Douglas 4th of July Committee and in charge of trying to get the rink built. It must be his fault. No, it's not. He knew that more money would be needed, and he knew that the information was out there. All you had to do was look for it.
Kim Kiefer, director of Parks and Rec. The day after the vote passed, she pointed out that it wasn't enough money to build the rink. Is she to blame? No. She was just saying what she knew was true and anyone who paid a little attention or did a little research would have known the same thing.
The city assembly. Yes. I place some of the blame with them. Not for trying to dupe the voters, but for treating each tax proposal-extension as a game they must win. If that means putting out the information in a way that the average voter won't quite know all the facts, well, that's just part of the game.
I'm sure most voters don't realize that the new high school is going to cost over $110 million by the time we get done paying the interest on it. Or that after we voted no on the new police station because we though it was too big and extravagant, the new "scaled back" version actually cost over a million more than the one we voted against. We should have voted yes the first time. We would have gotten a bigger station and saved more than a million. We could have put that toward a new ice rink.
I also place some of the blame with the Juneau Empire for taking sides. When the vote to impose a tax so we could build a new high school was coming up, there were articles in the paper every week on the overcrowding problems. Now that we voted to build the new school, the problems must have gone away because I haven't seen a single story in the paper since then.
When the police station vote was coming up, there were articles all over the paper on the rampant crime problems and gang-related activity plaguing the city. Luckily we built the new police station and all the gangs were scared away. They must have been because I'm not reading about them in the paper any more.
That brings me to the spot where I place the most blame. The people of Juneau. The voters and non-voters alike. For not going out of their way to be more informed. For not demanding the city's elected officials do a better job of representing us. For not letting the city assembly know what we want and what we are willing to do to get it. For believing everything they read, just because it's in the paper, and for allowing themselves to be fooled over and over again without doing anything about it.
The point is, the information is there, but most people don't take the time or have the inclination to sort through the pro and con rhetoric that it takes to make an informed decision. The old adage still holds true. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.
Don't be fooled the next time you vote. Be informed.
John Newell is an air traffic controller for the FAA and has lived in Alaska for 32 years.
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