As the City and Borough of Juneau prepares to spend more money on its lawsuit with the cruise line industry, members of the public can weigh in on the situation at Monday night’s Assembly meeting.
The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Assembly chambers at City Hall, and one of the items up for an Assembly vote is whether to set aside an additional $250,000 for the city’s lawsuit against Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Alaska. The city would use sales tax revenue to pay for this.
Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Alaska filed a lawsuit against the city in April 2016, alleging that the city misused money from a so-called “head tax” that gives Juneau $8 for every cruise passenger. CLIA Alaska’s argument in the case is that the city used money from the head tax — funds that are required to be spent to benefit a cruise vessel — for projects that do not directly benefit the vessel.
At the Dec. 13 CBJ Finance Committee meeting, Assembly members debated about whether to use head tax money in part to fund the lawsuit. CBJ Finance Director Bob Bartholomew said that so far, about half of the $597,000 that the city has already committed to the legal defense has come from head tax money.
City Attorney Amy Mead said it’s still unclear as to whether this is an appropriate use of head tax money. Mayor Ken Koelsch, along with others on the Finance Committee, was wary of dipping too heavily into head tax money for this.
“I believe that there will be ample opportunity in the future that if we want to put money in from head tax there will be an additional funding somewhere along the line,” Koelsch said. “I don’t think this is the last appropriation that we’re going to see.”
At that meeting, Mead said there are currently two pending motions in the case, but no negotiations at this point.
The Assembly is also considering a new addition to the city’s comprehensive plan. With the help of a 12-person steering committee (including residents, property owners and business owners in Lemon Creek) and community meetings, the city has put together the Lemon Creek Area Plan.
This plan paints a 20-year vision for the Lemon Creek and Switzer Creek areas from Fred Meyer to Vanderbilt Road. Future CBJ committees will refer to the plan when making decisions about the area down the road.
The plan looks to promote neighborhoods, create public parks, identify a future location for the landfill and improve Capital Transit bus schedules among other priorities. It also looks to “knit” the area together through the use of pedestrian bridges and other techniques.
The Lemon Creek Area Plan is available on the city’s website.
The plan was open for public comment in 2017, and both the Planning Commission and Committee of the Whole passed it through to the Assembly. If the Assembly approves of the plan, it will be the first addition to the city’s comprehensive plan since the Auke Bay Area Plan in 2015.