Michele Stuart-Morgan: Assembly Areadwide Candidate
Occupation: Semi-retired, Medical Assistant
Bio shared by candidate: “I’m Michele Stuart-Morgan. I have lived in Juneau for 31 years. I lived in the valley for 20 years and now live in Douglas. I have raised my three boys here. I call it home; my three boys call it home. I am retired from the State and still work in the community. My husband Greg is a Brewer at the Alaskan Brewery. We have 2 goats, 3 rescue dogs, some old chickens and 2 kittens. I have worked at Bartlett Hospital, Department of Labor, the Juneau School District and Ron’s Apothecary. My husband and I have our home and a rental. We see people wanting to stay in Juneau but are unable to due to housing shortages.”
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you want to be a member of the Juneau Assembly?
I want to be a member of the Juneau Assembly because I see things coming down that can change our community. The community is based because it’s beautiful, because we have a great business economy and because we have beautiful housing. But right now we’re at this conjunction where things can go down, or things can go up or things can stay the same.
I have three boys that I’ve raised, and two who live in Juneau now and are at the wonderful age of being able to buy their first house, but I don’t know how they’re going to do that. The other thing is that, what we’re seeing in the news about erosion and things like that, I’m a pretty tenacious person. I would like to be on the Assembly so I could look at these things that are coming one by one and piece them out, and then make changes and make differences and ask questions. That’s what I’m good at.
Describe your knowledge and involvement with Juneau’s municipal government and what you think the strengths and weaknesses of it are based on those experiences.
I’ve been involved with Assembly in many different ways throughout the years. I’ve lived in Juneau for 31 years, I’m still kind of a new person in some people’s eyes. I’ve been a small business owner, I retired from the state. I worked a lot with the city when I did my Stop Heroin campaign — we got a lot of changes there.
I think the city really does do good work. Just here are certain things I think need to have spotlights on them and need to be dealt with one-on-one instead of as a whole. I know that’s kind of hard because they do so much, but some of the big things right now need to be addressed. One by one by one.
I’d like to tackle our climate change issues and our housing. Some of our businesses are really hurting in many different ways, mostly because we can’t get employees. The other thing is childcare is a huge problem. I raised three boys here so I know.
Are you against, or in favor of the proposal for a new City Hall? What are your thoughts on the decision by the Assembly to both put it on the ballot again after it failed and to fund an advocacy initiative?
I’m in favor of the new City Hall. I live in a house that’s 116 years old — I know what it’s like to have an old building and what you have to pay to upkeep that. But I right now don’t have enough of the facts and the figures of what the new one will cost and what maintenance on the old one. What has been shared is not enough to make a concrete decision. I don’t have enough information.
I’m not a politician, but I’ve lived here long enough to know that when you go downtown to the City Hall I think it would be a good investment for us. What proposal I wouldn’t want to approve, I don’t know, I’d have to see all the facts and figures. I’m not someone who jumps to conclusions, I really need to sit, read and work on things. I’m a worker. So that’s something that I do think that’s going to have to come down the pike. And it would save us money in the long run.
What is your assessment of how much the city taxes its residents versus the amount of public services it provides to them? Specifically, outline what adjustment in each of those areas you’d advocate changing as a member of the Assembly.
I own a rental and I know that everything that goes into that rental has gone up — our water has gone up, and everything has gone up with property taxes. There needs to be some balance there in order to keep homes for younger people, or even single people or people who can’t afford to buy a home right now.
We don’t have a lot of homes available — it’s a great place, so let’s let’s try and look at that. Let’s look at that in a preventive mode, not after the fact which I think we’re chasing right now. So those are some of the things I’d like to look at on that. I’ve been a renter. I’ve been an owner and I’ve been a landlord. So I kind of understand how those things come.
I’ve been a small business owner, so I understand those taxes. Our public services we want to have good services, we want to flourish.
How can the Assembly better balance the growing cruise ship tourism industry’s impact on the quality-of-life of residents, specifically regarding affordable housing, environmental impact and overall cost of living?
A few different things. I have spoken with a few different agencies like Travel Alaska and things recently. It’s funny because the person who had one of the best insights on this was my son. Cruise ships are important. I’m very happy that we’ve put a five-ship cap starting next year. That’s good. I live in Douglas and I see the channel every day when I come in, so I see the cruise ships come in. Also working in the emergency room at the hospital for years, we saw the influx of tourism there.
I think they (the Assembly) do a pretty good job. What I would like to see is some independent travelers and more education shared with travelers to this wonderful town. I’m from San Francisco, which has a tourism site, their civic center is beautiful, it’s inviting and they can bring people in. I think we could just push up Centennial Hall a little bit and have some more educated tourism come in.
I think if we could get more education out there about how great it really is here. We’re running out of space for that. I mean, we’re not Disneyland, we’re packing people, and we need to tell them and educate people how wonderful the things we have are. I think that the culture centers downtown are a great start on that to see that this is not some little tourist place. This is a beautiful tourist place. So I’d like to see that pushed a little bit more and we have great people that can do that.
Are there any substantial matters that we didn’t get around to talking about that you think is pertinent to discuss?
Our fentanyl and heroin addiction is not gone from our community. It is still here. It is still killing people. Kids are still dying. We have a fentanyl crisis. We cannot push that under the rug again. We need to bring that back out. And I think the Assembly and the city need to keep that in the front — that’s my big thing. I think that the fentanyl crisis is going to hit us and I think COVID is manageable because we have vaccines, but it is not gone either. So those two things are kind of looming in the background. They’re in the corners, but we need to make sure that they stay a focus.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651) 528-1807.