Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Juneau’s City Hall on Wednesday, Sept. 4, 2019. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Empire Live: Juneau Assembly – Committee of the Whole

Live updates from the meeting

Summary for dockless devices: The assembly set out to consider a moratorium on “dockless devices” like electric scooters from the downtown area. That turned into a motion to create an ordinance putting a moratorium on bikes, scooters and their electric equivalents from downtown.

Do we even want to pursue this, Assembly member Maria Gladziszewski asks the Assembly. Edwardson says that it doesn’t seem like this is something they really want to do, he says. There’s no reason they couldn’t revisit the moratorium at a later date if the need arose.

Edwardson enters a motion to extend the moratorium and remove the sunset clause.

Assembly Michelle Hale motions to add an amendment that would add even docked devices, such as bikes, in the downtown area.

Assembly member Wade Bryson owns stake in the Juneau Bike Doctor and thus recuses himself from the vote on the amendment due to economic conflict of interest.

Amendment passes 5-3.

Motion to put a moratorium on renting bikes, scooters, e-bikes or e-scooters in the downtown area. Downtown area will be defined by staff in the ordinance.

Motion passes 5-3.

8:05 p.m.

The Community Development Department has a number of suggestions including that commercial devices should be offered first on a pilot basis to assess community impact and that devices should not be allowed in the downtown core.

However, Felstead says, based on conversation they’ve had with other cities if a company were to want to set up shop in Juneau it would only be economically viable in the main downtown area.

Assembly member Wade Bryson asks what some of the negative impacts other cities have experienced are. Felstead answers that street clutter was the main one, but also that electric scooters are relatively unsafe.

The lack of bike lanes and not having access to the downtown area are significant deterrents to companies coming to Juneau.

Mayor Weldon asks if there has been any polling of interest in having dockless devices in the city. Cosgrove says there hasn’t been because of the moratorium. There are serious safety and traffic issues in the downtown area especially during the cruise ship season. It would be very easy to to extend the moratorium, Cosgrove says.

7:45 p.m.

Last year the Assembly voted for a moratorium on “dockless transportation” or “micromobility devices” such as bicycles or electric scooters. This doesn’t account for bikes or others rented from a fixed location but the kind that are accessed via internet devices.

That moratorium comes to an end in February so the Assembly wants to look at a potential permitting scheme.

There are a number of concerns for the Juneau context, says Tim Felstead from the Community Developer Department. Those issues include Seawalk and sidewalk congestion, riding on the sidewalk and unsafe vehicles and accidents.

The National Association of City Transportation Officials has developed a regulatory framework for cities which Felstead recommends Juneau use as a basis for any pilot programs it may decide to run.

7:38 p.m.

Summary for child care: The Assembly has decided on a simplified version of the Best Starts model developed in Washington state. Under that model the city would provide a certain amount of reimbursement to child care providers depending on what level of education they offer. The city will work out the financial details at the Finance Committee Wednesday evening.

Mayor Beth Weldon proposes a motion to move the Simplified model forward, with some potential changes for price levels.

Motion is approved.

7:24 p.m.

Assembly member Loren Jones points out the program’s outcomes are more than 10 years down the line, and that evaluating a program after three or four years might not be able to effectively judge the program. He says that there is a danger of interest falling off.

Programs that already receive federal funding such as Head Start, would not be eligible for city funds so that smaller child care operations could grow and provide more capacity, Lyon says.

7:10 p.m.

Funding is the same per child, says Joy Lyons, executive director of the Southeast Alaska Association for the Education of Young Children, which will help both small family child care operations as well as larger child care centers.

Both models use the same administration so any program that is a licensed child care provided are eligible for grant assistance.

There is more demand for infant/toddler spots, Lyon says, but it’s not that there’s no pre-K readiness happening during those years. Infants and toddlers are learning quite a bit.

6:55 p.m.

A representative from the Best Starts program, former city manager Kevin Ritchie is now answering questions from the Assembly.

You can feel confident that the structure is good, he says, but it really gets down to the philosophical discussion of what numbers (i.e. funding) will make it work.

Some Assembly members are concerned the Simplified model focuses more on ensuring capacity for the demand rather than ensuring kindergarten readiness.

It’s a very innovative thing to try and work with the private sector to provide child care along a common framework.

6:50 p.m.

Cosgrove is showing a slide with an estimated amount for costs to the city. To provide for about 450 students, it will cost the city roughly $800,000 in the first year with costs likely increasing. The exact numbers will be examined at the next Finance Committee meeting.

Cosgrove has presented the Assembly with two options, the Best Starts model and a simplified version of Best Starts.

6:36 p.m.

The city manager’s office has been adapting the Best Starts model used in Washington state. Certain elements have been altered because they don’t work for Juneau, Cosgrove said.

The city is looking at Floyd Dryden Middle School, Mendenhall River Community School and the Mount Jumbo Gym as potential child care facilities.

The city would use grant funding and other means of subsidizing private child care businesses in order to keep costs affordable.

There are also training grants available, Cosgrove says, which can work towards the workforce stabilization issue.

6:20 p.m.

At the last meeting the Assembly asked for a breakdown for cost per child for child care programs in Juneau.

Deputy City Manager Mila Cosgrove is giving a slide show presentation with information on child care.

At the heart of the matter is an economic problem, Cosgrove says.

The primary cost drivers are facilities, personnel and administrative overhead, according to Cosgrove.

The biggest problem in Juneau is providing a suitable workforce. Lower wages means lower quality applicant pool and higher turnover.

Cosgrove says the city should prioritize infant and toddler care over pre-K.

6:12 p.m.

Assembly member Rob Edwardson asks what would happen if the Assembly once again voted against the project.

Watt says the city missed its 90 day window to object to the project, so the Assembly cannot vote against the project. They can however vote not to sell the land.

It would take six votes to undo the Assembly’s vote at the last meeting, and five votes to approve.

6:10 p.m.

Meeting jumps right in with tackling the Mendenhall Loop Road project. Last week the Assembly voted to not to sell the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities the land it needs to complete the project.

Assembly members felt the project as designed was not the right project at the time.

But the Assembly had the wrong information in their packets last week, according to City Manager Rorie Watt. Watt says that because the Assembly voted last week, it makes it more difficult to reverse the mandate of the vote.

However the Committee of the Whole can vote to send the matter back to the Assembly and vote on it at the next meeting on Dec. 16.

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