Mayor: 'We have it all'

Posted: Sunday, October 29, 2000

Referring to the new Juneau Assembly and to city resources, Mayor Sally Smith told Chamber of Commerce lunchers Friday, "We have it all."

Smith touted the new Juneau Assembly's diversity and praised fellow assembly members for being forthcoming and productive in describing what goals the city ought to have at an assembly retreat Thursday night. She described her role to chamber attendees as "one of nine, to facilitate what they want to do."

She may not be in favor of facilitating everything, however.

At the retreat, newly elected District 2 member Dale Anderson expressed doubts the state Legislature would help Juneau fund a new high school in the Mendenhall Valley.

Citing his experience as a legislative aide and his knowledge about the workings of the House Finance Committee, Anderson said, "We have to get realistic about whether that (high school) funding is ever going to happen. On that (Department of Education) priorities list, we're a long way down and we need to get a grip on the reality of that."

Large Bush projects are more likely to be funded, Anderson said.

A year ago, some 55 percent of Juneau voters approved the sale of nearly $63 million in bonds to build the new high school with the expectation the state would refund most of that to the city. Sale of the bonds without that remuneration means the bonds would have to be paid some other way probably with property taxes.

Responding to a question from a reporter at the Friday luncheon, Smith acknowledged the Juneau school project's position on the list last year was "at 52 or 54."

She disagreed however with the new assembly member, she said, and was confident a renewed lobbying effort and "explanation of the project to a lot of people in the community" could ameliorate the situation. "Gentle pressure, the pressure of persuasion" could turn things around, Smith said.

People and corporations look particularly for good schools when considering a move to a community, she said.

The mayor warned there was a serious threat to the high school from another source passage of Ballot Measure 4 in November.

The initiative calls for a statewide tax cap of 10 mills. Juneau's cap is currently at 12 mills.

Waving a baseball cap promoting the defeat of Proposition 4, Smith said, "If this passes, the likelihood of building the high school is slim to none."

About the city's future - the theme of her Friday talk - Smith said, "I am totally optimistic."

Citing her own experience as a state legislator, Smith recalled serving on an "Arts in the State" committee, which dealt with the arts, culture and tourism in Alaska. Beyond the fact that Juneau is the state's capital city, she said, the state of its arts, education and culture could be prime attractants for corporations.

In recalling her hometown - Springfield, the capitol of Illinois - Smith did not remember the state legislature or the governor, she said, but rather the cultural manifestations of Abe Lincoln, such as the Lincoln museums.

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