Loren Jones

Loren Jones

Candidate profile: Loren Jones, Assembly D1

What is your highest priority for the CBJ to accomplish during your term in office? Explain why this is a priority and how you would facilitate this change.

The City and Borough of Juneau must work to assure we have a stable financial plan that we can use to provide the services citizens need and want. Possible loss of state and federal dollars, including loss of jobs and possible tax changes at the state level, requires Juneau to look closely at its budget. Local funding for our schools will continue to put pressure on our budget. The Juneau Economic Plan, changes in tobacco tax and sales tax policy, and finding efficiencies in government have helped. I will continue to look at how to grow our economy and CBJ revenues.

Juneau needs more housing for several kinds of populations that range from the homeless to young families on limited budgets. The Housing First effort is an encouraging start, but much more is needed. What additional actions would you suggest the Assembly take to get on with solving the housing problem in Juneau?

We may never “solve” the problem but we can take additional steps to make it easier for people to find housing. The rewrite of the subdivision ordinance is one step. Increasing zoning density when water and sewer are extended to new areas is another. CBJ can more directly help by working on disposing of buildable land like what is being done near DZ Middle School and planned for the Pederson Hill area. We need to work with building owners downtown on new and renovated housing that will help revitalize downtown and make it safer and more livable for all Juneau.

As Alaska tightens its belt, city revenue is likely to shrink as well. What are your suggestions to increase efficiency in Juneau and/or reduce the municipal budget?

It must be a balance of revenues and reductions. There will be opportunities to increase revenues if population grows, if home values increase and if we can keep a stable and growing economy. That said, we must always look at reductions in the CBJ budget. We have been doing that in the last three years and it has resulted in our being able to balance the budget without raising property and sales taxes. If state and federal funds are cut drastically, then the CBJ will need to look at eliminating some services, as you cannot only keep reducing each budget, which promotes inefficiencies.

When considering public transportation, traffic, and parking issues in our municipality, what do you consider to be the major concerns and the solutions for them?

Our bus system is one of the best for this size community. A study completed a year ago or so indicated needs for increased service in some areas of the CBJ. We need to find ways to provide that increased service. Downtown parking is a critical component of revitalizing downtown for business and housing. We are all looking for the right solution to downtown parking as well as parking in the Willoughby District. Needs for parking for state and federal employees continues to grow and on-street parking is just not able to accommodate those demands. The two studies now being conducted should give us some answers this fall.

The legalization of marijuana requires new regulations for CBJ that determine how the use of this substance will be handled in the municipality. For example, the Assembly must decide whether or not to allow the production and sale of marijuana edibles such as cookies, candies or sodas, and whether or not to allow smoking parlors for marijuana, including in the downtown area to draw in cruise ship passengers. Select one of these two specific decisions that must be made and discuss what you would like to see done..

I was appointed to a three-year term on the new State Marijuana Control Board in July. We are working on the state regulations that will govern this new industry and set rules for licensure and for control. As such it is hard for me to answer these questions with regulations out for public hearing and many decisions at the State level yet to be made. What I will say is that any decision made by the Assembly will be done after our local committee, the Planning Commission and the Assembly have studied the issues. Whatever is the final decision, it must provide for public safety, prevent use by those under 21 and not weaken our local indoor air policy.

Tourism is a significant part of the CBJ budget. What steps should be taken to make sure tourism is a positive experience for both visitors and residents?

This is a tough question as tourism impacts Juneau areas so differently. Downtown sees constant daily impacts. The Mendenhall Valley may or may not see tourism impacts — such as some buses to the glacier or bike tours. Auke Bay at Statter Harbor sees tourist for whale watching and fishing charters but with the new boat ramp, parking and bus congestion will be reduced. The Assembly has set aside some funds to look at gateways and wayfinding (how do tourist find their way). With the new docks downtown, more passengers will be getting off closer to and at Marine Park. In addition with the new docks, the existing docks will be fully open to local pedestrian traffic. This should help. Improvements at the Mendenhall Glacier Visitors Center will also help.

The Juneau Economic Plan tells us that we need to be courting young people to fill state positions of retiring Juneauites. What can the Assembly do to further this goal?

Encourage students to attend the University of Alaska Southeast and to look at the job market as they decide what to study — and then live in Juneau. There is a need for more start-up homes for young families and quality apartments for singles just getting started in the work force. We also need housing for executive level persons moving to Juneau to take higher level state and federal jobs. Continue working with our state Legislators to keep high level jobs in Juneau and to see that Department of Labor and UAS work together to anticipate job needs and educate Juneau students in those occupations.

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