In an election with some races that were too close to call, there was one clear-cut loser: the New Juneau Arts & Culture Center.
Unofficial results for a ballot proposition — Proposition 3 — that asked voters whether the City and Borough of Juneau should give the proposed replacement for the Juneau Arts & Culture Center a $4.5 million grant showed “no” votes ahead of “yes” votes by 3,743 to 2,602.
“I think we have a lot of work ahead of us, but we will continue,” Nancy DeCherney, executive director for the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council, said at Election Headquarters at City Hall Tuesday night. “The hill just got a lot steeper.” The JAHC manages both the JACC and Centennial Hall, and would own the new JACC, and the council has been a major supporter of the New JACC.
Election results aren’t official until next Tuesday, Oct. 8, when absentee votes have been counted and questions ballots have been certified. There were 1,500 outstanding absentee votes and 500 question ballots that still have to be counted, said City Clerk Beth McEwen.
There were three ballot measures in this year’s municipal election, all of which related to a new JACC project in one way or another. There was also an uncontested Assembly race with four candidates running for four seats, and school board race with four candidates running for two seats.
Proposition 1, which would allow the Assembly to raise hotel-motel tax from 7 to 9 percent, seems likely to pass by a 3,607-2,699 vote.
Proposition 2, which would permit CBJ to issue up to $7 million in general obligation bonds and could lead to a property tax increase, was too close to call Tuesday night. Unofficial results showed it trending narrowly toward defeat with 3,166 “no” votes to 3,150 “yes” votes.
The school board race was also too close to call Tuesday night, but there was a clear person on top — retired teacher Deedie Sorensen.
She was the top vote-getter (2,987) by more than 700 votes, according to unofficial results.
“I’m gratified people think 35 years in the school might inform some board decisions,” Sorensen said.
Second place for school board as of Tuesday night was Emil Robert Mackey III, who had about a 200-vote lead on Martin Stepetin Sr. — 2,239 to 2,045.
“I’m feeling good,” Mackey said. “The odds are in my favor, but Martin could pull it out.”
He said Stepetin deserves credit for running a good campaign, as did all the school board candidates.
Stepetin said he was not planning to concede until all votes are tallied.
“It’s very unsettling, but it’s also exciting,” he said. “I’m happy to be in the race.”
Bonnie Jensen was in fourth place, but not mathematically eliminated with 1,542 votes.
In the Assembly race, Greg Smith seemed to have secured a three-year District 1 seat on the Assembly by beating Alicia Hughes-Skandijs 4,017 to 3,764. Hughes-Skandijs would then hold a one-year District 1 seat.
“It’s been a wonderful seven weeks,” Smith said of his apparently successful campaign season. “It was great to go out and learn more about the community.”
Assembly members Wade Bryson (4,182 votes) and Carole Triem (4,422 votes), who ran unopposed to defend their respective District 2 and areawide seats, are definite winners.
More on those propositions
The lopsided Prop 3 results won’t send won’t send the New JACC back to the drawing board
DeCherney said while voters showed a clear preference for not providing $4.5 million in CBJ money for the project, it will continue.
“We’re just going to have to press forward with what we have,” DeCherney said. “We’re disappointed, but we’re not going to give up.”
With Prop 1 appearing to pass, Prop 3 appearing to fail and Prop 2 on the fence, the CBJ Assembly will have some decisions cut out for it.
The New JACC grant’s failure frees up $4.5 million for Centennial Hall, and the hotel tax increase could generate another $6 million or so for the project, said Mayor Beth Weldon. That could create no need for the bonds regardless of what voters ultimately gave the Assembly permission to do.
Assembly members who were present seemed undecided about what they will ultimately do.
Bryson said he would oppose issuing debt in light of Prop 3 failing.
Triem said she’s sure there will be many meetings and discussions with City Finance Director Jeff Rogers.
“I don’t want to (issue) any more than we need,” Hughes-Skandijs said.
Final unofficial results
Greg Smith: 4,017
Alicia Hughes-Skandijs: 3,764
Deedie Sorensen: 2,987
Emil Mackey: 2,239
Martin Stepetin Sr.: 2,045
Bonnie Jenesen: 1,542