Juneau, city of hope

Empire editorial

Posted: Sunday, December 23, 2001

This is the season for celebration and giving thanks for the blessings God has bestowed upon us. Christmas is also a time of hope. In our private lives we share this common desire for fulfillment of our goals and ambitions with our families, and in our churches and schools and with humanity in general.

On another plain, we all share hope for a better community, although we have different ideas on how to achieve that goal. A very simplistic analysis of our differences balances the forces of economics against the will to preserve and protect the character and beauty that is unique to Juneau. On whole, there is an interdependent relationship between Juneau's economic viability and its powerful esthetics.

The coming year will be a watershed year for Juneau. In 2002 Juneau will face a variety of important decisions that could very well seal its fate for years to come.

There is hope in the hearts of most of us that the right choices will be made in dealing with looming public infrastructure, transportation and tourism decisions. Next year we will see forward movement on the Area Wide Transportation Plan, the Tourism Master Plan, the Harbor Plan, and the Juneau Access question. And, hopefully the city's Comprehensive Plan will be updated and acted upon. To date the Comprehensive Plan represents a lot of hard work and public process with very little to show for the effort.

We hope to see forward movement in our city government in the coming year. The current Assembly is exhibiting an ability to get things done in a responsible, progressive way. This past week Mayor Smith and the Assembly took decisive action on an issue that has divided the community, the volume of helicopter landings. This level of leadership is critical if our community hopes to have a sense of direction.

With new leadership in the Community Development Department, the opportunity exists to move past the inertia that has prevented this office from meeting its mission. Director Dale Pernula has pledged to make the CDD more efficient and responsive to those seeking permits. In 2002 we should at long last see a decision on the Conditional Use Permit for the Totem Creek Golf Course.

Under the strong leadership of Jamie Parsons, the Juneau Chamber of Commerce has been reinvigorated and is bristling with energy and vision. The Chamber will play an important role in building Juneau's status as the region's economic hub.

Another critical transportation issue will be decided next year as the community weighs the prospect of lengthening the runway's safety zone or shortening the runway itself to meet Federal Aviation Administration demands. Shortening the runway will roll back air service for Juneau and send out a loud message that Juneau wants to be isolated.

The most significant decision Juneau will confront next year will come when the voters of Alaska decide whether or not to move the capital. Don't be misled. The reality of this initiative involves a wholesale move of the capital being thinly disguised as a legislative move.

Our hope is that the voters of Alaska will understand the gravity of Alaska's fiscal crisis as Rep. Bill Hudson has long warned, and see that the extraordinary expense associated with a capital move is the pure folly of over-zealous speculators. The risk of an exodus of state jobs remains real, however. Juneau must steel itself against this threat by concentrating on economic diversity and tourism growth if it hopes to preserve its assets and provide opportunities for future generations.

As lieutenant governor candidate Gail Phillips said last week, road access to Juneau would permanently put to rest the idea of moving the capital out of Juneau. Funding for completing of the Juneau Access Environmental Impact Statement must come next year.

We offer best wishes for the New Year to all of our readers and hold the hope that out of our differences will grow understanding and consensus.

It's also time for Juneau to show the rest of the world what it stands for rather than what it stands against.

Don Smith

dssmith@juneauempire.com

586-1428



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