Giving our thanks

Hooligan expresses gratitude for lessons learned in 2008

Posted: Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's difficult to believe the holidays have arrived and 2008 is nearing its end. In the twilight of a historic year in Alaska, the Hooligan has many literal and existential issues to be thankful for on this glorious Thanksgiving.

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Illustrations By Mitch Watley
Illustrations By Mitch Watley

In keeping with the spirit of giving, we offer the following list, with the hopes of extolling the lessons gleaned this year that may help usher in a brand new era that we believe hides just around the corner. While by no means comprehensive, we present here the prevalent issues that we feel must be acknowledged and accepted by the masses in order for the community to move forward in 2009. Bon Appetit.

Thanks for only losing 1.6 percent of our population...

It was another harrowing year for the youth that have languished in Juneau during what could arguably be classified as the great exodus of modern Alaska. According to the Juneau Economic Development Council's 2008 economic indicators report issued in September, the community experienced an estimated net loss of 506 residents from 2006 to 2007. With an estimated cost of living index figure hovering around 34.5 percent higher than your average U.S. city, Juneauites should be thankful that we only lost an estimated 1.6 percent of our population. The trend seems to be continuing, at least anecdotally, and few of the local campaign promises made in recent years to ebb the flow of the "brain drain" have resulted in any tangible results.

Thanks for an old, rich capital...

Juneau could also be thankful that the economic indicators acknowledge the capital is older and wiser than most other communities in the Last Frontier. As so aptly articulated recently by one 20-something, the youth are "leaving in droves." Juneau's median age is now estimated to be 38.1, compared to 32.6 statewide and 36.6 across the U.S. The percentage of young people in Juneau has continued to decrease over the years, but we should all be thankful there are still people willing to cook and serve food, stock shelves, tend gas stations and bag groceries this coming weekend. If inflation continues to go unchecked and the people holding the purse strings continue to suffocate the future of Juneau, those are amenities that the community very simply will not be able to maintain in a decade or so. But at least the community will be old and rich, so that's something to be thankful for, too.

Thanks for the service of Sen. Ted Stevens...

Regardless of which side of the political aisle you favor, all Alaskans should be grateful and thankful this season for the tireless dedication of Sen. Ted Stevens during his 40 distinguished years in the U.S. Senate. He may have been convicted for not reporting roughly a half-million dollars in gifts on his Senate financial forms, but by some accounts the longest serving Republican senator in history has brought hundreds of billions of dollars to Alaska over the years. That's a lot of infrastructure for the 49th state. The Hooligan has spent much time pondering why Sen. Stevens sometimes wears a scrappy digital watch instead of a Rolex if he truly is the overtly money-hungry politician the Department of Justice has painted him to be. But those figures are well above our pay grade so we remain humbly thankful for not fully understanding the reasoning behind the indictments.

Thanks to the Gov. for putting Alaska on the map...

How can you look back at 2008 and not be thankful for Sarah Palin putting the great state of Alaska on the political map? Who cares if people in the Lower 48 all know that we put lipstick on our pitbulls - we're officially in the political game on the eve of the 50th anniversary of Alaska statehood because of Palin's nomination as the Republican vice presidential candidate. That's pretty cool. Plus, who knew that was Russia we've been looking at all these years? And if present trends continue, Juneau may play a special role in Palin's legacy as governor. According to the economic indicators, the population of Southeast Alaska continues to shrink, the Anchorage area continues to grow, many state jobs are being outsourced from Juneau, and in 2007 the average monthly wage in the capital was 8 percent lower than the statewide average. We should all be thankful that the capital remains in Juneau but understanding if a groundswell effort emerges to move it to Wasilla.

Thanks for our retirement,health insurance...

If your job still offers retirement benefits and health insurance, that's a good reason to be thankful this holiday season. We should also be thankful that Bartlett Regional Hospital has had such an impressive makeover in recent years, given Juneau's aging trends. In 2007, people between the ages of 45 and 64 represented 31 percent of Juneau's population. In 1980, that age group represented 15 percent of the community's population. You could surmise that the number of colonoscopies and mammograms are also increasing.

Thanks for our thriving tourist industry...

Even though Juneau should be mindful of a declining population, it should be celebrated that the tourism industry continues to thrive. While it's concerning that some seasonal businesses have apparently been quashing local businesses as of late, it is exciting that the cruise ship industry was able to increase its passenger count by 7 percent in 2007 and top the 1 million passenger mark for the first time ever. And there are unsubstantiated rumors that a new seasonal seafood and chowder restaurant will soon occupy the space once held by Doc Water's pub, so there's always that.

Thanks for the possibility of more recycling...

The Hooligan has reason to believe that a change is on the horizon regarding the community's recycling habits after years of discussion and posturing. Could there be curbside recycling in the near future? This town polishes off way too many beer cans and bottles to not start taking responsibility for our excessive consumption. Mt. Stinko is literally growing by the day, and it's going to be exciting to watch in future years how big of a garbage pile Juneau is willing to erect in the center of the community. Maybe it's really just a clandestine operation to build an ATV park.

Thanks that G.W. is leaving the building...

Regardless of partisan politics, how can any card-carrying Homo sapiens not be thankful that the Honorable George W. Bush has a matter of hours left in charge of the highest office in the land? While the Hooligan celebrates, honors and acknowledges the work and selfless duty of any public official, it's hard not to feel a sense of relief about the fact that our present commander-in-chief is nearly done being roasted as a lame duck. God Bless America, but let's hope that America's focus can return to the moral certitude that should make us all feel like we have something to believe in greater than ourselves.

Thanks for the plentifulhydroelectric energy...

After last year's energy crisis, we can all be thankful for plenty of rain this spring, summer and fall that will hopefully help keep the local hydroelectric energy flowing this winter. Plus we got a new avalanche forecaster out of the crisis. However, it's curious to watch the cost of heating oil and gas be somewhat disproportionate to other areas of the country. The national average price for a gallon of gas dipped below $2 this week, but the cost of petrol in Juneau still lingers around $3 a gallon. A recent survey of 5,000 gas stations found that Honolulu had the highest cost per gallon at $2.81, but once again Juneau didn't even make the cut.

Thanks for the highest cost of housing in Alaska?

Juneau residents can all be thankful that the capital still maintains the highest average housing costs in Alaska, according to the 2008 economic indicators report. The average monthly rental cost in Juneau in 2007 was $1,076, compared to $906 in Anchorage, $935 in Ketchikan and the Alaska average of $928. The cost of a single-family home in Juneau also reigns supreme in the state, with the average price in 2007 set at $324,054. In comparison, the cost of a single-family home in Anchorage was $310,250, $285,493 in Ketchikan, and the Alaska average was $265,987. Those of you with a roof over your heads this holiday season should feel blessed - and not too guilty if you consider applying for one of the state government jobs that seem to be mysteriously opening up in Anchorage.

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