I’ve called Juneau home for 40 years, and graduated from J-D High in 1989. Like many of you, I’m a homeowner with a child in public school. Growing up here, my parents and grandparents taught me about hard work and saving, that money doesn’t grow on trees and that we don’t need all the things we might want.
Now, as Juneau faces the toughest challenge of our lifetime, I am quite aware of some things that we really do need. Contractors and tradesmen need projects that keep them working repairing public infrastructure, especially since our state budget crisis has dried up capital projects they normally plan on. Our kids need schools without leaks over their heads. We need public spaces like Adair Kennedy Park, Dimond Park and Savikko Park at Sandy Beach where we can safely get outside for fresh air and space. And if we have to use the bathroom while there, we need a working water and sewer system.Our fire stations have boilers that are 40-years-old and need to be replaced with efficient, modern options that save operating costs. These are needs, not wants. Recognizing these basic community needs, I am fully in support of Proposition 2 on the local ballot we’re receiving by mail.
Prop 2 is the right way to meet these needs for several important reasons.
First, it’s fair and smart to spread the cost of infrastructure repairs over the lifespan of the structures we’d buy with the bonds. School roofs that keep kids warm and dry will be paid for by families whose kids attend those schools over the next 20-25 years. If we pay cash for them now, we bear the entire cost of these repairs immediately. Furthermore, Prop 2 funds projects in several areas around town, fairly distributing the benefits of bonds. It is fair and smart to repair structures that are used by many people throughout Juneau, such as fire stations, schools, parks and streets. By voting yes on Prop 2, we meet our responsibility to maintain these basic parts of community infrastructure.
Prop 2 is the smart way to fund this work because it keeps CBJ reserve cash on hand for operating expenses, the original intent when the reserve accounts were created by the Assembly. It’s not smart to spend cash reserves on long-term maintenance. Cash should be saved in case we need to help vulnerable small businesses through another year or more of severely reduced revenue and help the city make up for lost sales tax revenue that pays for basic local services. What if we don’t get another $50 million bailout from the federal government? Should we depend on big government from out of state or should we take care of ourselves? We should save cash for short-term needs and use bonds for long-term repairs. That’s why the Economic Stabilization Task Force recommended a bond package and the Assembly voted 9-0 to put this option on the ballot.
Furthermore, Prop 2 is the financially intelligent way to get to work on these repairs because it takes advantage of the lowest interest rates we’ll ever see! By using bonds now, we minimize the cost. For regular middle-income folks with an average house the change to property tax will be 15 cents per day. We are talking about nickels and dimes to get this work done.
Proposition 2 is also an example of good public process, because all of the bond funds will be for existing facilities identified as needed priorities. It takes care of what we already own and use. Prop 2 provides the framework for projects that bond funds can be used for, but each project will still go through the public process and be voted up or down by the assembly, with ample opportunity for your comments and scrutiny, just like any other appropriation of public money.
Prop 2 is the right thing to do, it’s the fair way to do it, and it keeps Juneau working. So be smart and do your part. Mail in your ballot and join me in voting yes on Proposition Two.
• Ian Fisk is a Juneau resident, commercial pilot for a local private business and co-chair of Yes on Two – Juneau, which is an entirely local nonpartisan group organized to support Proposition 2 on the CBJ Municipal Ballot.