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Vantage Point: Airport parking space decision misses mark

Posted: Sunday, December 12, 2004

The Juneau International Airport administration's decision to charge $35 for monthly parking spaces rather than the same amount for individuals may have been well intended, but it still misses the mark relative to providing real relief for many airport employees and tenants.

The measure, passed last week by the Juneau Assembly at the recommendation of airport authorities, means that some airline employees will realize a savings because they may share parking spaces, but it is of little benefit to employees of airport tenants who don't pay for parking spaces for their employees. It is also of no help to some 60 security screeners who work for the federal Transportation Safety Administration who must pay for their own parking.

The airport, in an effort to offset increasing expenses, began charging employees the $35 monthly fee on July 1. The revised plan, for which the airport will charge $35 per parking space, goes into effect on Jan. 1.

As compromises go, surely the airport administration can do better. It has, after all, been meeting with employees and tenants for months trying to agree on a more palatable plan. Let's face it, $35 a month is still steep for the likes of the security screeners and other airport employees - many of whom are not full-time workers - whose wages aren't especially high.

Not only that, many who work at the airport can't utilize public transportation because their 5 a.m. shifts begin before city bus service does.

The Assembly and airport should find a way of doing more for these hourly workers whose paychecks are, in so many cases, already stretched.

•••

It's good to see that one of Juneau's local success stories is doing even better and is expanding its boundaries well beyond the state of Alaska.

The Alaskan Brewing Co. will this week begin shipping its products to Arizona, some 2,000 barrels in 2005 and perhaps as many as 4,000 to 5,000 barrels the next year. Alaskan, which produces seven styles of beer, will initially distribute just its Alaskan Amber beer to compete with a Colorado-brewed amber beer.

Arizona will be the ninth state, including Alaska, in which the local brewery will now be distributing its products.

•••

It'll be interesting this week to see the particulars of the budget that Gov. Frank Murkowski hopes to see passed by the 2005 Alaska Legislature when it convenes in January.

With oil prices at record-high levels recently and an expectation that they'll remain high for the next 18 months or so, the Murkowski administration and state legislators may find themselves in the enviable position of having plenty of money to spend in the next couple of years on education and much-needed capital projects. That could keep to a minimum the partisan politics and deep disagreements that led to the failures of last year's legislative session.

Having money in the bank, with more on the way, is a great way to begin the budget year. If our lawmakers can focus on what really matters in 2005 and 2006 while setting their personal priorities aside, this state stands to be in rather solid financial shape heading into the second half of this decade.

• Robert Hale is publisher of the Juneau Empire. He can be reached at robert.hale@juneauempire.com.



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