Proponents and opponents of propositions on this year’s local ballots shared mixed reactions since the city dropped its final preliminary results on Friday showing a tight finish for two controversial propositions.
The vote to OK $35 million for a new City Hall leaned narrowly toward disapproval, while the vote on whether to repeal a requirement that real estate sales prices be reported to the city trended toward passage along a thin margin.
Propositions extending the temporary 1% sales tax to provide funding for a variety of local projects and asking whether to issue $6.6 million in bond debt for recreation improvements both passed handily. The uncontested incumbents in the races for City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and the Juneau School District Board of Education won their terms.
Though the results are still unofficial, officials said the majority of votes have been counted and the expected amount of remaining votes to be sent in have a remote chance to impact the outcome of the election.
That means the most hotly contested things that appeared on the ballot this year are likely to remain in similar positions to their current ones once the election is certified by the Canvass Review Board, which is expected by Wednesday according to Beth McEwen, CBJ city clerk.
“We’re going into Wednesday and going to continue to work and once they have completed their work we will add to the official results,” she said.
Proposition 1, which asked voters whether the city should issue $35 million in bond debt to build a new City Hall, swayed toward narrow defeat. According to Wade Bryson, Assembly member and advocate for the propositions, it doesn’t necessarily surprise him but greatly disappoints him.
“We’re still left with a problem,” Bryson said. “We need to figure out what we need to do differently so the city can be behind fixing City Hall because no matter what we still need to pay rent on City Hall and we need to correct that.”
He said he felt most of the opposition for Proposition 1 came once it was on the ballot, rather than while it was being developed, which he said is why he at first believed voters were for the proposition.
“That’s what led me to believe we were moving in the right direction and why I was so supportive of it because we haven’t received tremendous opposition during development,” he said.
He said the next step for the city is trying to gauge new possible solutions for the lingering dilemma of the current City Hall building and the expected future costs required if the city chooses to stay at that location.
“We need to find out what direction residents want the city to go in,” he said.
Proposition 2, which asked voters whether the city should issue $6.6 million in bond debt to make improvements to the track and field at Adair-Kennedy Memorial Park, build a new public use cabin and maintain local trails showed to be passing 6,056-2,923 according to the final unofficial vote.
Lexie Razor, head coach of the Juneau-Douglas High School: Yadaa.at Kalé softball team and spokeswoman for Juneau Families for Youth Recreation, said she is really happy with the support Proposition 2 has received so far. She said coming into the election she thought the proposition would do OK, but she did not expect to gain as many yes votes as it has.
“I just want to thank everyone who voted for it in the community of Juneau,” Razor said. “Looking and agreeing to help out with youth sports and youth recreation — I’m just really appreciative and looking forward to having a turf in Juneau.”
Razor said she thinks all components included in the proposition are valuable to the community and all go hand in hand with gaining more support for youth recreation in the area.
She said she thinks this proposition passing will be the first step to potentially open the doors for more turfed fields to be implemented in Juneau and around in the future. She also said the track being fixed will benefit both the middle schools and the high schools track teams and make it more inviting and safer for athletes.
“We’re on the right track of getting turf in Juneau,” she said. “I think it will allow us to recruit more kids and get more kids to play softball and baseball when they see that nice field because it does make a difference playing in the mud and dirt versus playing on a turf.”
Proposition 3, which asked whether the city should extend a temporary 1% sales tax, is similarly on track to receive the OK from voters via 6,192 votes in favor and 2,793 against.
CBJ Finance Director Jeff Rogers previously told the Empire that he estimates over the five-year period the 1% sales tax extension will rake in between $60-65 million or around $12 million per year.
Intended projects, according to CBJ’s voter information packet
— Deferred maintenance of CBJ and JSD facilities ($23.5 million)
— Redevelopment of Gastineau Avenue, Telephone Hill and North State Office Building Parking Garage ($11 million)
— Affordable Housing Initiative ($6 million)
— Harbor Expansion and Maintenance ($6.5 million)
— Replacement of public safety equipment at JPD and CCFR ($3.2 million)
— Information Technology upgrades ($3 million)
— Childcare support ($2.5 million )
— Relocation of Juneau-Douglas City Museum ($2 million)
— Lemon Creek multimodal path ($1.5 million)
— Contribution to the Restricted Budget Reserve ($1 million)
Proposition 4, which asked voters whether the city should repeal an ordinance requiring the disclosure of the sales price of real property, also appears heading toward approval, which Jay Nelson, the chair of No on 4, an advocacy group that urged voters to vote no on the proposition, said he’s disappointed yet not surprised by.
“The Realtors put a lot of money into the campaign and they have a very strong interest in maintaining exclusive information about home prices,” he said.
He said if his group and others opposed to the repeal would have organized a few weeks earlier and spread more information ahead of time he thinks residents might have voted differently and more in favor of keeping the ordinance in place.
“It’s important that the assessments by the city be accurate,” he said. “It’s a fairly straightforward concept, it’s just the implications are more complicated than what the campaign was able to convey.”
Nelson said he thinks the Assembly originally implemented the mandatory disclosure to have better information to have more accurate assessments
“I think everyone would agree they want all assessments to be accurate and as a homebuyer or home seller I’d be interested in having access to information for sale prices of homes sold in our area, and now the only people who know that information are Realtors,” he said.
Nelson said if the final election results match the current preliminary votes, he hopes the city will revisit this topic in the future.
Errol Champion, co-chair and a deputy treasurer of Protect Juneau Homeowners’ Privacy disagrees and said the Assembly did not do its “homework” before passing the ordinance in 2020 and said he isn’t surprised by the apparent outcome.
“This was an overstep by the Assembly, without really consulting. I think there was a lot of information the Assembly didn’t even try to seek out.”
He said the city’s transaction prices should be a private issue, and noted that the state of Alaska is considered a “non-disclosure state” and said the outcome of the election shows that Juneau voters want to remain parallel with the rest of the state.
“I just don’t think they did their homework,” he said. “The assembly just went off and did this and when we tried to talk to them about it they just ignored the industry and ignored homeowners — so I think the results are very clear, the voters have spoken.”
However, the battle over disclosure might not be over.
According to Robert Palmer III, CBJ municipal attorney, either the Assembly or the public could reinstate a mandatory disclosure ordinance after a year of the repeal proposition being instated.
Once the year passes, new code can be created which in turn could replace the old code of mandatory disclosure if the Assembly or public chooses to pursue that.
“The core concept is if the repeal is certified on Wednesday, the repeal is the law for a year, but after that, the Assembly or public can ask to do something new or modify the legislation,” he said.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651)-528-1807. Follow her on Twitter at @clariselarson.