Empire Editorial: Odd election gets no endorsement

  • Monday, March 14, 2016 1:00am
  • Opinion

Tuesday’s special election to pick a new mayor is unusual, so perhaps it is fitting we have an unusual endorsement.

We pick … no one.

There is much to like about Ken Koelsch and Karen Crane, but the conduct of the election will prevent us from fully backing either candidate.

When the campaigns began, we found ourselves favoring Crane, a six-year incumbent Assemblywoman who clearly had a better handle on the issues Juneau faces. But as Koelsch became more familiar with the issues, he became a stronger candidate in our eyes. He lost our support this week — or perhaps it’s more fair to say his campaign lost our support — with continued petty jabs at his opponent.

Koelsch has marketed himself as someone to unite Juneau. His campaign has undermined and belied this message. If campaigns are supposed to reveal the truth behind a candidate, we worry for his sake. This campaign has done more to divide Juneau and the Assembly than unite it.

This election has been a highly partisan affair, even though municipal races are supposed to be nonpartisan. Just look at each candidate’s financial backers, and the line is clear. Juneau is split on every major issue. When it comes to housing, Juneau Access or whether to have one high school or two, residents can’t agree.

What Juneau needs is more action and less talking. That’s one of the reasons we favored Koelsch for mayor.

Our continuing frustration with the Assembly, of which Crane was a part, is its sluggish pace. Look at the perpetual debates about the Gastineau Apartments, downtown parking, D1 zoning for marijuana, and the location of the whale sculpture.

Our city suffocates solutions with debate, and all we’re left with is lost time and a decision that still needs to be made.

Crane has the temperament and experience to be mayor, and if not for the Assembly’s indecision, she would have our vote. Crane knows the issues best and has ideas and solutions.

Crane also has shown grace under fire. She’s proven it during this election.

First, there was the quickly-dismissed Alaska Public Offices Commission complaint by Koelsch supporters over her use of a city photo for campaign use. Crane took the jabs without retaliating. Last week, she was attacked again, this time directly by Koelsch’s campaign over something a supporter wrote on her Facebook page.

Koelsch has decided to make the senior sales tax exemptions the key issue of his campaign. That’s a mistake. Deciding your vote because of this issue will be the same as tossing it in the trash.

The Assembly voted 7-2 to repeal some tax breaks for seniors. The two votes against the repeal were by members who are either no longer on the Assembly (Merrill Sanford) or who won’t be in the fall (Mary Becker). Even if Crane loses this election, there will still be six members on the Assembly who voted against (only one, Kate Troll, faces re-election this fall).

If Koelsch wins the election, we hope he will be a better mayor than candidate. And if Crane wins, we hope to see more action and less talk about solving Juneau’s problems.

Neither candidate has successfully made the case for our vote.

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