Juneau’s current City Hall is outdated, according to local municipal leaders who are hoping voters will approve funding to help pay for a new building. A bond providing such funding was rejected last year. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

Juneau’s current City Hall is outdated, according to local municipal leaders who are hoping voters will approve funding to help pay for a new building. A bond providing such funding was rejected last year. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire File)

My Turn: History shows Assembly can’t be trusted on new City Hall issue

Do you want to know why our Assembly is struggling to pass major project spending proposals? A minor history lesson might give you a clue.

First, I support Tom Boutin’s My Turn fiscal analysis and his outlined potential impact on property owners. My analysis further assesses the credibility of the Assembly and staff when it comes to voting procedures, and transparency regarding bonding and other funding proposals force-fed to the public.

The Assembly created a huge negative voting block of seniors when they voted to eliminate a major portion of the senior tax exemption which was included in their retirement location decisions. Not only were seniors ticked off, but they looked for ways to reduce their expenses to make up for the fiscal loss. This included shopping as much as possible on Amazon Prime (to the detriment of local businesses) and keeping borough expenses as low as possible by voting against unnecessary programs and bond issues. At the same time, some Assembly members were supporting the elimination of the senior property tax reduction legislation. This show of disloyalty against seniors will not be forgotten.

The Assembly claims to be transparent and claims to listen to the public. However, a classic case of voter deception and smoke and mirror financing occurred when the voters turned down a bond issue to fund a new ice rink. The very next year it was included in the popular public-supported hospital bond funding to ensure the ice rink would not be defeated by the public vote. It obviously passed.

I don’t think I need to replay the second high school debacle where the will of the public was disregarded and multiple funding requests led to a total cost initially rejected by the voters. A classic public deception process is to underestimate proposals initially to encourage public approval and fill in the known fiscal blanks in subsequent years.

Just recently, the voters rejected the funding for a new JACC, but funded the Centennial Hall renovations. However, plans were initiated to bypass voter intent, and fund a rejected and larger JACC project.

Keeping the Assembly’s reputation intact, we are now faced with the same City Hall proposal, slightly changed, despite voter rejection less than a year ago. I guess you will have to decide if you trust the Assembly or you need to send a message that the voters are fed up with the fiscal insanity demonstrated by our Assembly and staff.

My advice is to ignore the propaganda costing Juneau taxpayers $50,000. The key questions you need to answer are:

• Do you trust the amount requested to be accurate and a reflection of the total costs? If it is, it will be a first.

• Does the CBJ address accurately Tom Boutin’s fiscal concerns? If they ignore his concerns, vote no.

• Decide if this bond proposal is absolutely necessary.

• Decide if the Assembly will try to address some of the voter abuses listed above. If they will not commit to examining some of the attitudes and abuses then vote no.

• Examine the proposal to see what alternatives were examined. If this proposal is a Taj Mahal then vote no.

• Do you trust that the Assembly will only use this bond money for this project and nothing else? The assembly was considering using some of the Centennial Hall bond monies to rescue the defeated JACC proposal. They seem to think they can use voter-approved project funding anywhere they want.

If your gut tells you that this is deja vue all over again (a quote from Yogi Berra) then vote no.

Determine personally if you believe the Assembly and staff have changed their attitudes toward the voting public. If your decision is “negative” — move.

Maybe we need an ordinance which prohibits bond issue reruns until a minimum of 5 years has passed.

• Ron Somerville is a lifelong Alaskan and a 44-year resident of Juneau. He served 23 years as a wildlife biologist for the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, and worked eight years for the Alaska Legislature and Gov. Frank Murkowski.

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