Opinion: Don’t oppose new JACC out of fear

It’s the math that apparently eludes these fiscal wizards.

What poses as a principled opposition to partial public funding of the New JACC is in reality a cynical campaign of fear-mongering and hypocrisy.

Preying on people’s justifiable anxieties about the state’s finances, opponents claim that the assembly has misplaced its priorities — potholes will not be filled, roofs not repaired, schools will suffer and other calamities will attend us. The former elected officials who have come out in opposition know better. The city annually approves a rolling six-year capital projects plan to fund these and other important public improvements. One can view it at http://www.juneau.org/engineering_ftp/documents/CIPBookFY20-25.pdf

“Needs” versus “wants”? Where were the objections of these guardians of the public purse when the city invested in capital projects like the Sealaska Heritage Institute’s Walter Soboleff Building, Housing First, University of Alaska’s College of Education or the city share of the Archipelago Lot project? All of these projects, like the New JACC, are public-private partnerships and serve a valuable public purpose. The latter three have been approved under the shadow of Alaska’s current fiscal condition.

Finally, it’s the math that apparently eludes these fiscal wizards. We should focus on Centennial Hall, they say. Expand it and there’s no need for a new arts and culture center. Aside from the fact that the community’s need for meeting space far outstrips Centennial Hall’s capacity to meet demand, the architectural consultants retained by the city to assess these needs concluded that without the New JACC, renovation and expansion costs for Centennial Hall would approach $18 million. Assembly members prudently reviewed both Centennial Hall’s and the New JACC’s plans and realized they could achieve even greater capacity for roughly 65 percent of the projected cost of Centennial Hall alone. In most places this would be regarded as good business.

To be sure, people have a right to oppose the New JACC, but they should do so on fact, not fear.

Jeff Bush,

Formerly of Juneau,

Boise, Idaho

• My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.