Issues of affordability, public safety prominent in candidates’ minds

Issues of affordability, public safety prominent in candidates’ minds

Assembly, mayoral hopefuls share visions of a safe, affordable Juneau future

A busy week of candidate forums culminated in the annual League of Women Voters candidate forum on Thursday, which was co-sponsored by the Empire and KTOO.

Almost all of the candidates took the stage at KTOO on Thursday, with three mayoral candidates answering questions alongside seven City and Borough of Juneau Assembly candidates.

Moderator Alyson Currey asked a variety of questions, ranging from topics as large as climate change to those as specific as the Juneau Economic Plan. A few themes stood out during the forum, which lasted just under two hours.

Making Juneau more affordable, especially for retirees

At the Get Out the Vote forum earlier in the week, almost all of the Assembly candidates answered that the biggest problem facing Juneau was the cost of living in town. At Thursday’s forum, mayoral candidate Saralyn Tabachnick said making Juneau affordable — both housing and child care — will have an effect on everything else in town.

“They form a cornerstone from which we can grow our economy,” Tabachnick said. “It gives people the opportunity to live here, to stay here, to come here and create new opportunities.”

At Thursday’s forum, the candidates specifically talked about how to make Juneau more affordable for retirees. Multiple Assembly candidates lamented the fact that family or friends were forced to leave Juneau once they retired because they couldn’t afford to stay.

Areawide Assembly candidate Tom Williams, who said he’s approaching retirement, said the main three factors retirees are struggling with in town are cost of living, access to health care and crime.

Other candidates were particularly focused on housing. Mayoral candidate Norton Gregory — who works for Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority — stated that his biggest priority is to make housing and food more affordable across the board. Mayoral candidate Beth Weldon included housing on her list of priorities as well.

In a pre-recorded opening statement, District 2 candidate Garrett Schoenberger (who was absent because he’s getting married this weekend) said all levels of senior care, including housing and health care, are lacking. Schoenberger is a managing partner in real estate firm Alaska Legacy Partners, which is working to open up a senior housing facility in Juneau.

The idea of expanding the senior sales tax exemption became a huge issue in the 2017 municipal election, and two District 2 candidates brought it back up. District 2 candidate Wade Bryson said the Assembly could at least look at the exemption to see how to help seniors save a little money, though he wasn’t advocating for restoring the whole exemption.

Fellow District 2 candidate Emil Mackey said he wasn’t sure how to best address the struggles of retirees, but said it’s risky to adjust taxes.

“If we give tax breaks, we’re putting more taxes on millennials who can’t afford it,” Mackey said.

The sole millennial on the stage, Areawide Assembly candidate Carole Triem, said affordability in one age group can affect affordability in another. If Juneau is an easier place to live for young health care workers, she said, there can be more health care options for seniors.

District 2 candidate Michelle Hale said the Assembly has to start taking action to address the housing shortage.

“The free market’s not going to un-stick it,” Hale said. “It needs city intervention.”

Diverse thoughts on public safety

Public safety has been at the heart of recent elections, and this one has been no different. Currey asked specifically about improving police retention and reducing homelessness, and many candidates had their talking points ready.

Weldon, a former division fire chief for Capital City Fire/Rescue, has made public safety a large part of her campaign. At forums and in her mailings around town, Weldon has pointed out her history of voting to give more help CCFR and the Juneau Police Department.

Weldon, along with District 2 candidate Don Habeger, suggested trying to figure out a partnership between JPD and the University of Alaska Southeast. The U.S. Coast Guard currently has a partnership with UAS to try and find interested students and get them involved in the Coast Guard.

“I think if we can get them from here, they are more willing to stay here,” Habeger said. “One of the issues is that we bring people up from the south and then they disappear after they get their training.”

In another public safety topic, Habeger and Williams both suggested moving homeless services including the Glory Hall (formerly known as the Glory Hole) away from downtown.

“One thing I think is important is you need to provide those services and facilities away from your business district,” Williams said.

The full forum is archived on the Empire’s and KTOO’s Facebook pages, both websites and KTOO’s YouTube page. The joint Assembly/mayoral forum begins about an hour into the video.

• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.

Juneau Board of Education candidates Kevin Allen, left, Paul Kelly, center, and Elizabeth Siddon answer questions during the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum at KTOO on Thursday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Board of Education candidates Kevin Allen, left, Paul Kelly, center, and Elizabeth Siddon answer questions during the League of Women Voters Candidates Forum at KTOO on Thursday. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Siddon reacts to the bell being rung when she went over the time limit. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Siddon reacts to the bell being rung when she went over the time limit. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in Home

Alaska House, seeking to boost oil and gas business, approves carbon storage bill

Story votes yes, Hannan votes no as governor-backed HB 50 sent to the state Senate for further work.

An illustration depicts a planned 12-acre education campus located on 42 acres in Juneau owned by the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, which was announced during the opening of its annual tribal assembly Wednesday. (Image courtesy of the Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska)
Tribal education campus, cultural immersion park unveiled as 89th annual Tlingit and Haida Assembly opens

State of the Tribe address emphasizes expanding geographical, cultural and economic “footprint.”

An aerial view of downtown Juneau. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Task force to study additional short-term rental regulations favored by Juneau Assembly members

Operator registration requirement that took effect last year has 79% compliance rate, report states.

Cheer teams for Thunder Mountain High School and Juneau-Douglas High School: Kalé perform a joint routine between quarters of a Feb. 24 game between the girls’ basketball teams of both schools. It was possibly the final such local matchup, with all high school students scheduled to be consolidated into JDHS starting during the next school year. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
State OKs school district’s consolidation plan; closed schools cannot reopen for at least seven years

Plans from color-coded moving boxes to adjusting bus routes well underway, district officials say.

In an undated image provided by Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska, the headwaters of the Ambler River in the Noatak National Preserve of Alaska, near where a proposed access road would end. The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company to build a 211-mile industrial road through fragile Alaskan wilderness, handing a victory to environmentalists in an election year when the president wants to underscore his credentials as a climate leader and conservationist. (Ken Hill/National Park Service, Alaska via The New York Times)
Biden’s Interior Department said to reject industrial road through Alaskan wilderness

The Biden administration is expected to deny permission for a mining company… Continue reading

Snow falls on the Alaska Capitol and the statue of William Henry Seward on Monday, April 1. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska’s carbon storage bill, once a revenue measure, is now seen as boon for oil and coal

Last year, when Gov. Mike Dunleavy proposed legislation last year to allow… Continue reading

People staying at the city’s cold weather emergency shelter during its final night of operation board a bus bound for the Glory Hall and other locations in town early Tuesday morning. In the background are tour buses that a company says were broken into and damaged during the winter by people staying at the shelter, and one of the first cruise ships of the season. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau’s homeless head outdoors with no official place to camp as warming shelter closes for season

“Everybody’s frantic. They’re probably all going to be sleeping on the streets by the stores again.”

Juneau’s Recycling Center and Household Hazardous Waste Facility at 5600 Tonsgard Court. (City and Borough of Juneau photo)
Recycleworks stops accepting dropoffs temporarily due to equipment failure

Manager of city facility hopes operations can resume by early next week

The Anchorage band Big Chimney Barn Dance performs in the main ballroom of Centennial Hall on Sunday night near the end of the 49th Annual Alaska Folk Festival. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
49th annual Alaska Folk Festival ends with promise of an ‘epic’ 50th

Weeklong event remains free after nearly a half-century “which is unheard of,” board president says.

Most Read