What's up with that?

The Empire ponders Juneau's puzzles, unravels its mysteries and contemplates its conundrums.

Posted: Thursday, December 26, 2002

We won't keep you in suspense any longer.

For those of you who read the last What's Up With That column, we promised to bring you a rough tally of how many lights grace the Governor's House each holiday season.

According to Karen Newton, executive residence manager and assistant to the first lady, the estimated light count is as follows:

• 10,000 white lights on the mountain ash trees, on the fence along Calhoun Avenue and on the front hedges.

• 2,500 red lights to create the "berries" in the trees.

• 1,000 lights on the tree in the front veranda.

• 500 large white lights to create an outline of the house.

• 500 large white lights to outline the roof and portico.

• 500 lights on the interior tree.

That's about 15,000 total, not counting the twinkling white lights in the garland along Calhoun Avenue between the house and the Juneau-Douglas City Museum. Enjoy them before they go dark for another eleven months.

Q: The National Weather Service forecasts for Juneau talk about winds coming out of interior passes. What exactly are the interior passes around here? Taku River? Mendenhall Glacier? Gold Creek/Perseverance Trail?

A: Well, you went one for three. The Taku River - along with Berners Bay - are the two major "interior passes" referred to in local forecasts as places where winds can be gustier than surrounding areas.

"It's a term used throughout Southeast Alaska (for) when you have breaks in the terrain, generally to the east or northeast," said Jim Truitt, a forecaster in the weather service's Juneau Forecast Office. Other examples in the northern Panhandle include White Pass north of Skagway and Chilkat Pass northwest of Haines.

The Mendenhall Glacier doesn't really qualify as a major interior pass, though Truitt said stronger winds can occur around the glacier. The same goes, to a lesser extent, for Gold Creek and any number of small valleys and basins around the area.

Q: How do they determine which legislators get the best assigned parking spots? I thought it was based on seniority, but I saw a parking space nameplate for Dave Donley a couple blocks down the hill on Main Street.

A: Parking spots are primarily allocated based on seniority, according to Pam Varni, executive director of the Legislative Affairs Agency, which does the assigning.

Varni said there is a hierarchy of "good spots," and at the top of the list are those on the lower level of the parking structure behind the Capitol. They are close to the building, but more importantly, they are covered against the rain, sleet and snow so common in Juneau during the session.

In addition to senior legislators, some spots on that coveted lower level are allocated to the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general and several judges.

Besides seniority, other factors do come into play. Varni said the covered spots for legislators are split fairly evenly between the House and Senate, regardless of which body has more longtime members. So a representative with six years in the House may get a covered spot while a senator with 10 years of experience has to dodge raindrops.

Regarding the sign for Sen. Donley you saw down Main Street - it's nestled against Telephone Hill at the corner of Second and Main - it marks a spot for one of his staff. House and Senate officers get a few extra spaces to allocate to their aides, and Donley was co-chairman of the Finance Committee last session.

Andrew Krueger lives downtown and wishes he had an assigned parking spot. He can be reached at akrueger@juneauempire.com. If you have questions or comments for What's Up With That, contact us by e-mail at whatsup@juneauempire.com; by phone at 586-3740; or send us a note at the Juneau Empire, 3100 Channel Drive, Juneau, AK, 99801.

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