My Turn: 8 years of growth under Knowles, Ulmer

Posted: Monday, October 28, 2002

Paulette Simpson's doom-and-gloom portrayal of how Juneau has fared under the Knowles-Ulmer Administration (Empire, Oct. 24 was filled with numerous inaccuracies and misleading statements.

Fran Ulmer wants to make Alaska and Juneau a better place to live, work, and raise a family and she and Tony Knowles have been doing just that for the past eight years. The numbers tell the story since 1995.

There are nearly 1,500 more jobs in Juneau today than eight years ago. That includes 100 new mining jobs, 160 new construction jobs and 850 jobs in non-retail services, including about 200 in the health care field. And, despite misinformation being circulated by Paulette's political party, there are 125 more state government jobs in Juneau today than eight years ago.

Juneau's unemployment rate, always one of the lowest in the state, has fallen. It was 5.8 percent when Knowles and Ulmer took office. Last year, it was 4.8 percent and last month it was down to 4.6 percent.

Juneau has received nearly $24 million in school construction and repairs, including $5.2 million for renovation at Floyd Dryden, $1.5 million for replacing the Mendenhall River School roof and $13 million for the high school renovation.

Juneau has received $92 million from the state for transportation improvements, including $61 million for road projects like Egan Drive paving, Thane Road reconstruction, the new Auke Rec bypass and improvements at the McNugget intersection. An additional $23 million has been set aside for ferry terminal improvements. If the transportation bond package is approved by voters Nov. 5, another $7 million will go to renovations at several Juneau harbors and launch ramps.

The Johnson Youth Center was expanded by 22 beds so local young offenders can face consequences - and get the help they need - closer to home.

Four-hundred sixty more children in Juneau's working families have access to basic health care under the Denali KidCare program.

Thanks to the Knowles-Ulmer administration's welfare reform program, and their own hard work, more than 250 Juneau families have left welfare and gotten jobs or enrolled in job training or education classes over the past eight years.

Working with the Legislature, this administration secured more than $17 million in municipal assistance and revenue sharing for Juneau's local needs.

Paulette bemoans the fact that there's a backlog of "high-end" homes on the Juneau market, but under the Knowles-Ulmer Administration more than 65 percent of Alaskans now own their own homes. That's up nearly 10 percent over the past decade, one of the highest rates of increase in home ownership in the nation.

I suggest that Paulette's doom-and-gloom portrayal of this administration has more to do with her ideology than the facts. Let's also consider these facts:

It was members of the Republican majority who proposed three times during the last Legislature to move the capital from Juneau. It was the Republican majority that wanted to cut state services and jobs, and is the first to cry foul when their constituents later complain. It was the Republican majority that threatened not to fund state employee contracts. It is Republican Frank Murkowski who wants our schools to "do more with less."

Fran Ulmer has lived and worked in Juneau, raising a family here, serving as our mayor, legislator, and lieutenant governor. She has worked in both Republican and Democratic administrations and in the legislative majority and minority.

Fran Ulmer has a proven track record of working across party lines to solve real problems. She is a leader in using innovative technology to bring state services closer to the people.

Fran Ulmer has been a strong and effective leader for Juneau and she will be a strong and effective governor for all of Alaska. I encourage all Juneau voters to go to the polls on Nov. 5.

Jim Duncan represented Juneau for 24 years in the Legislature and currently is commissioner of administration.

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