This picture shows the City and Borough of Juneau City Hall on Dec. 20, 2021. City officials are eyeing options for a new or renovated city facility with four potential options currently in the running. (Dana Zigmund/Juneau Empire)

I don’t want to see a new City Hall until city services improve

After this year’s snow removal, they don’t deserve an extra rat catcher.

  • By Walt Gregg
  • Friday, February 11, 2022 6:03pm
  • Opinion

By Walt Gregg

I’ve never agreed with Win Gruening on anything. So “Pride Cometh before City Hall’ would be a first. I practically fainted when I read that he understood that an unscientific self-selected survey purporting to support the new city hall isn’t worth the paper it isn’t printed on. Thank you for getting it. Could we please get the assembly to ban the practice of using unscientific surveys? Even a practice survey by a high school probability and statistics class would have more merit.

If there’s one way to ensure that the CBJ gets what they want, in defiance of my view, that’s to express my opinion. After the city manager’s snow removal performance this year, the most they deserve is an additional rat catcher for the current city hall. They do have rats. Look under the mailbox. Those aren’t for mice. Nevertheless, not a penny more.

Just yesterday on 10th street, a far younger neighbor once again kindly cleared the sidewalks around the block. CBJ responded by plowing enough ice on that very sidewalk not only to block wheelchairs but to block a Leif Erikson with climbing gear.

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires pedestrian access all year, including snow and debris removal. They indicate that the most common way cities attempt to keep sidewalks snow-free is by ordinance requiring adjacent property owners to clear the sidewalk. (Report FHWA-SA-13-037, pages 21-23: safety.fhwa.dot.gov/ped_bike/tools_solve/fhwasa13037; 158-page pdf.) Juneau has such an ordinance, but it’s impossible to comply. Instead of a berm alongside the sidewalk, city and private plows wantonly use the entirety of any exposed sidewalk as the snow storage area.

How about the assembly going into executive session to set some tangible service standards for the city manager? We had performance standards in the U.S. government. Why not in the city government? What about courtesy phones so the unsheltered can reach the suicide prevention line? Everybody has “access” to a cell. But if yours is dead you don’t ask to borrow another’s for suicide counseling. Five folks have died outside since the courtesy (“pay”) phones were removed. How about requiring that the city at least attempt to not block entire sidewalks? How about public restrooms open 24 hours outside of tour season? Yes, it requires supervision since addicts may shelter there. Nevertheless, no service, no pay. It seems pretty simple to me. The whole point of government is to deal with difficult people. Get over it, or get out of the way.

Don’t buy the extraordinary snow excuse. I was born here. The calendar year winner was 1994 with 212 inches. Runners up were 1971 with 189 inches; 1975 with 170 inches; and 2009 with 168 inches. Our 2021 total was a distant 9th, with 136 inches. Above average, certainly. But the only thing extraordinary about it has been the CBJ’s woeful understaffing for removal. Sure, we’ve had more snow since December 31. All the years did. These are NOAA records, nicely summarized at extremeweatherwatch/cities/juneau/.

Yes, I know this is not how to win friends and influence people. But I’m retired. What are they going to do? Fire me? Our city government shouldn’t be planning a new city hall. They should be planning maintenance of basic public services.

• Walt Gregg is a 66-year-old Alaskan born and raised in Juneau, a U.S. Government GS11 telecommunications specialist long retired. Columns, My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire. Have something to say? Here’s how to submit a My Turn or letter.

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