The first of five city-sponsored tourism Web polls starts this weekend.
Computer polling starts at 7 a.m. Saturday and runs through 7 a.m. Thursday at www.cbjtourism.com/poll. Results will be posted within a few days after the poll closes and will figure into the city's long-range tourism plan. Weekly polling will continue through mid-December with a break for Thanksgiving.
The city is mailing information about Web polling to 24,000 registered voters in Juneau this week. The pamphlets include a personal identification number that allows access to the polls. City tourism director Maria Gladziszewski has asked people to hang on to the information even if they don't plan to participate in the polling at first.
The first Web poll has 15 multiple-choice questions that cover cruise ship passenger volume, helicopter and flightseeing noise, air and water quality, congestion, jobs, visitor spending and business opportunities. It also asks what people think about the tie between tourism impacts and the number of visitors.
Upcoming polls will be more complex, said Bob Harvey of Egret Communications. He is heading up the planning project.
"We're beginning to look at the idea of whether Juneau would like to continue to throw bandages at the problem or whether it would like to step back and find solutions," he said. "It's hard to say about the community. There are many people who would like simple answers to complex questions."
Harvey advises people to read about Juneau's tourism plan at www.cbjtourism.com or juneauempire.com/tourism. The Web sites include information about tourism planning in other communities and observations about tourism in Juneau.
"I want to remind people that we are neutral in this thing. We're not taking a side. We're here to do a job for Juneau and we have to ask tough questions," he said. "Juneau's choices are not all just simple and straightforward."
People who don't have access to the Internet at home can use computers at Juneau's three public libraries, the state library at the State Office Building, and the University of Alaska Southeast library. People who want to participate and didn't receive a pamphlet in the mail can call the city at 586-5240.
Although individual responses will be confidential, the city will be able to track results by Juneau's voting precincts. The city also has set up a student precinct and is encouraging middle school and high school students to participate, Gladziszewski said.
The Web polls are designed to reach a broad section of the community and get people involved who might not attend public meetings or write letters to the editor, Gladziszewski said. Because no one in Juneau has done Web polling before, the city isn't sure what the response will be, she added.
"However many people do it, it will be hundreds more than have ever expressed their opinion on this issue," she said. "If a thousand people do it, it will be 950 more than we've heard from (at meetings). ...We're trying to do everything we can to get as many people as we can."
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.