Back to the polls

It’s estimated to cost the City and Borough of Juneau $35,000 to elect a new mayor, but it’s a price a majority of Juneau’s Assembly members said they believe constituents are willing to pay.

“This is a long time to not have an elected mayor,” Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski said during Monday night’s meeting. “It is a special position, it’s the leadership position, and I think people deserve (a mayor) that they vote for.”

The election is set for March 15, with plans before then to fill the District 1 seat left vacant by Mayor Mary Becker when she took over for Greg Fisk after his sudden passing.

Becker opposed the motion to hold a special election, along with Assembly members Jerry Nankervis and Debbie White.

Nankervis and White both said a precedent had been set when handling a mayor’s replacement, referencing then-mayor and now Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott’s replacement in 1995 by Dennis Egan. Egan, now a state senator, won the position during the next regular election.

Assembly member Loren Jones said the processes were similar, but the time frames are not. As it stands now, without a special election a non-elected mayor would hold office for more than half a year.
“That time difference is significant, for me anyway, in that I would like to make sure that the community has a say in who the elected mayor is,” Jones said.

Before the vote, White said she was unsure what type of voter turnout could be expected for a special mayoral election considering only 4,389 people cast their ballots during the race in October. It ranked as the second-lowest turnout in at least 30 years.

“The fact is that only about 20 percent of the voters even bothered to show up anyway,” White said. “Maybe if they’re denied the opportunity this time they’ll show up in October.”

Assembly member Jesse Kiehl, who was elected deputy mayor earlier during Monday night’s meeting, said his one-on-one conversations with constituents led him to believe at least half the people in Juneau wanted a special election and his urge was to lean toward “more democracy” when hard questions present themselves.

The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of Fisk’s term through October 2018. Becker did not state any plans to run for mayor during the special election, and if she plans to return to her District 1 seat a new ordinance will be created to ensure she is allowed to return to her former role.

In a press release by city officials Tuesday, a call was made for community members interested in filling the vacant District 1 Assembly member seat until Becker’s potential return at the end of the special election in March.

To be considered, individuals are asked to submit a declaration of candidacy form with a letter of interest that includes their reason for seeking office and relevant experience to the Municipal Clerk’s office by 4:30 p.m. Jan. 5. The Assembly will consider applicants during an executive session at a future Assembly meeting.

• Contact reporter Paula Ann Solis at 523-2272 or at paula.solis@juneauempire.com.

• Election Workers and Ballot Review (includes two absentee stations for two weeks, precinct poll workers and other rolls) — $18,000

• Ballot Printing (for 13,000 ballots at 46 cents per ballot) — $6,000

• Advertising (notice of election in newspaper and additional ads) — $5,000

• Moving (set up and remove equipment at precinct polling locations) — $2,000

• Accuvote Optical Scan Programming (program memory cards for optical scans to read ballots) — $1,200

• Miscellaneous Supplies and Printing (envelopes, labels, sample ballots) — $1,200

• Rents (13 polling places, absentee stations and parking for election workers) — $1,000

• Ballot Mailing (absentee stations are available two weeks before the election) — $300

• Disposal (confidential disposal of election materials) — $300

Information provided by the Office of the Municipal Clerk/Election Official.

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