City Hall stands on a quiet morning on June 7, 2017. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

City Hall stands on a quiet morning on June 7, 2017. (Alex McCarthy | Juneau Empire File)

Child care committee taking shape

Members will seek to address city’s role in child care

The city’s committee on child care is taking shape.

At Monday’s City and Borough of Juneau Assembly meeting, Mayor Beth Weldon announced the seven people she tabbed to be on the committee. She also handed out a memo to Assembly members that stated the committee’s goals and that the committee should aim to have its work done by the end of February.

When she first announced the formation of the committee, Weldon said she pictured four Assembly members, a JSD representative, a representative from the child care committee and a representative from a large employer in town. That ended up being the makeup of the members.

The members of the committee include Assembly members Loren Jones (who will chair the committee), Rob Edwardson, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Wade Bryson. Juneau School District Superintendent Bridget Weiss, Alaska Electric Light and Power Vice President and Transmission Engineer Eric Eriksen and Discovery Preschool Director Blue Shibler will also be on the committee, Weldon announced.

The committee members will strive to answer two key questions: Should child care be part of the core municipal activities, and to what extent, if any, should education be part of child care?

In her memo to the Assembly members, Weldon advised the committee members to reach out to groups in Juneau who might be able to help and also provide a way for members of the public to provide feedback. Weldon mentioned the committee could recommend that the Assembly fund a public poll or could recommend that the issue goes to the voters in a future municipal election.

There was nearly a ballot measure this fall that would have had the city publicly fund an initiative called Best Starts that aimed to give child care providers financial incentives to try and encourage the growth of the industry. Property taxes would have increased to fund the program.

The Assembly voted not to put that on the ballot. Four of the seven Assembly members voted to put the initiative on the ballot, but the motion failed. Even though there were only seven sitting Assembly members, the city’s charter dictates that an ordinance has to have five yes votes to pass. Weldon had resigned from the Assembly at that point to run for mayor.

There has been a substantial amount of turnover in the Assembly since that vote. Two of the three people who voted against it — Mayor Ken Koelsch and Deputy Mayor Jerry Nankervis — are no longer on the Assembly. Bryson and Hale are new members, as is Carole Triem. During this fall’s campaign, all three of them expressed an interest in making child care a priority.

Jones said that from talking with other members, he thinks the meetings will likely take place on Fridays. The meetings will all be open to the public, whenever they get scheduled.

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

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