Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support the Juneau Access Project during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support the Juneau Access Project during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Economic-minded candidates talk future of business in Juneau

Assembly hopefuls look to Douglas as economic future

At Thursday’s Juneau Chamber of Commerce luncheon, Assembly candidates were probed about an issue that many of them know quite a bit about: Juneau’s economy.

Six of the eight candidates for four City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seats participated in the Chamber’s forum. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey was traveling for work, and incumbent District 1 candidate Loren Jones was not included because he’s running unopposed.

Of the six, four of them are currently running businesses, one is working on a patent after a long career in the public and private sector, one has a master’s degree in public policy and all of them have extensive thoughts on Juneau’s economy.

While they disagreed about some topics, they all agreed that a second crossing to Douglas Island could help boost Juneau’s economy. Michelle Bonnet Hale, a District 2 Assembly candidate and former director of the Department of Environmental Conservation’s Division of Water, was the first to bring the idea of a second bridge to Douglas into her answers.

“We need to be looking at what kind of infrastructure we can fund,” Hale said. “A second crossing is a real possibility. It’s a real possibility for us to pursue that.”

Voters rejected the building of the North Douglas Crossing, but just this summer, the CBJ Assembly committed $250,000 to study the possible effects of a second crossing. The city’s 2007 overview plan for the second crossing listed goals as improving emergency response to Douglas and improving access to the possible development of housing, industry and recreation on West Douglas.

At the close of the meeting, moderator Mike Satre asked a trio of yes-or-no questions to the candidates. He asked them if they supported a second crossing, and all six of them raised their hands.

The other two questions did not elicit unanimous responses. Neither Hale nor Areawide Assembly candidate Carole Triem raised their hands in support of the Juneau Access Project. Triem — an economic advisor for the Department of Economic Development — was the only person to raise her hand in support of Ballot Measure 1, which would implement a new system of laws protecting salmon-bearing waters.

Earlier in the forum, when asked directly about Juneau Access, both Hale and Triem said the project “doesn’t pencil out,” and Triem said she would rather Assembly members focus on projects they can control rather than the Juneau Access Project that depends so heavily on federal and state commitments. Both Hale and Triem specifically pointed to a second crossing and developing West Douglas as alternatives.

[Feds sign death certificate for Juneau Road construction]

Other candidates spoke vehemently in support of building a road, including District 2 candidate Don Habeger. Habeger drew a laugh from the packed room at the Moose Lodge when he repeated himself for a full minute saying that he was in support of Juneau Access and would do everything in his power to make it a reality.

The majority of the forum was not so specific, as Satre asked about how to prioritize spending on the Assembly, how to address homelessness and how to promote job growth.

Of prioritizing spending, Areawide candidate Tom Williams — the chief financial officer at Ward Air who also runs a vacation rental with his wife — said he believes the three essential areas of spending are public safety, education and infrastructure, and money must go to those before anything else. Others had similar sentiments.

Candidates were especially animated when talking about how to fuel job growth. District 2 candidate Garrett Schoenberger spoke both at Tuesday’s Get Out the Native Vote forum and at the Chamber’s forum about wanting to see Juneau diversify its economy and not rely so heavily on state jobs. Schoenberger is a managing partner in the real estate firm Juneau Legacy Partners.

Habeger, who is working on getting a patent for a fishing lure and finding it difficult to get supplies to Juneau, said the Assembly has to make it easier for businesses to start and stay alive in Juneau.

“I think entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in this community,” Habeger said. “Letting it flourish is absolutely necessary.”

District 2 candidate Wade Bryson, who owns two Subway restaurants, had a very specific step in mind to improve business downtown. He suggested painting parallel parking lines on the streets downtown to make it easier for people to park efficiently.

“Parking is a big issue, and everybody in this room knows that a parking space equates to a sales transaction,” Bryson said. “If you go downtown, and I was already downtown today, every block has somebody that parks kind of in between a space.”


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


Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support a second crossing to Douglas Island during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support a second crossing to Douglas Island during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support Ballot Measure 1, Stand for Salmon, during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for the Areawide and District 2 seats are asked to raise their hand if they support Ballot Measure 1, Stand for Salmon, during a forum at the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for two District 2 seats speak to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. From left: Garrett Schoenberger, Don Habeger, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Wade Bryson. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly candidates for two District 2 seats speak to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. From left: Garrett Schoenberger, Don Habeger, Michelle Bonnet Hale and Wade Bryson. District 2 candidate Emil Mackey did not attend the event because of work travel. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly Areawide candidates speak to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau Assembly Areawide candidates speak to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce during its weekly luncheon at the Moose Lodge on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Jasmine Chavez, a crew member aboard the Quantum of the Seas cruise ship, waves to her family during a cell phone conversation after disembarking from the ship at Marine Park on May 10. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Ships in port for the week of June 15

Here’s what to expect this week.

James Whistler, 8, operates a mini excavator during Gold Rush Days on Saturday, June 17, 2023. People young and old were offered a chance to place tires around traffic cones and other challenges after getting a brief introduction to the excavator. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
There’s good reason to be extra charged up for this year’s Juneau Gold Rush Days

Digital registration for logging/mining competitors new for 32nd annual event this weekend.

Glory Hall Executive Director Mariya Lovishchuk points out some of the features of the homeless shelter’s new location a few days before it opens in July of 2021. (Michael S. Lockett / Juneau Empire file photo)
Mariya Lovishchuk stepping down after 15 years as executive director of the Glory Hall

Leader who oversaw big changes in Juneau’s homeless programs hopes to continue similar work.

Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian people gather in Juneau for the opening of Celebration on June 5. (James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Federal judge considers lawsuit that could decide Alaska tribes’ ability to put land into trust

Arguments took place in early May, and Judge Sharon Gleason has taken the case under advisement.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Tuesday, June 18, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, June 17, 2024

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Workers stand next to the Father Brown’s Cross after they reinstalled it at an overlook site on Mount Roberts on Wednesday. (Photo courtesy of Hugo Miramontes)
Father Brown’s Cross is resurrected on Mount Roberts after winter collapse

Five workers put landmark back into place; possibility of new cross next year being discussed.

KINY’s “prize patrol” vehicle is parked outside the Local First Media Group Inc.’s building on Wednesday morning. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Juneau radio station KINY is using AI to generate news stories — how well does it get the scoop?

As trust and economics of news industry continue long decline, use and concerns of AI are growing.

Most Read