For nearly 40 years, the Juneau-based Alaska Committee has worked tirelessly to enhance Juneau as Alaska’s capital city. As the “public relations” component of the (Capital) City and Borough of Juneau, our committee of volunteers meets regularly as we look for ways to improve access and communication among state departments and decision makers, our elected legislators and their staff, and Alaskans across the state.
The Committee’s role in promoting our capital city is an important one and includes ensuring that our capital city is welcoming to visitors and sensitive to the concerns and needs of constituents.
This is why the Alaska Committee is genuinely alarmed about the recent effort to place three initiatives on the municipal ballot to limit cruise visitors to Juneau through amendments to the City Charter. The available evidence indicates that this would create negative economic consequences, not just for Juneau, but for other Alaskan communities as well.
While we recognize the legal right of any citizen group to try to amend Juneau’s City Charter, this type of political activity does not occur in a vacuum. As Alaska’s capital we have an added responsibility of statewide stewardship. There are associated unintended consequences that reach far beyond the immediate negative impact to our local economy.
The Alaska Committee’s concerns are two-fold.
First, we are hearing from Juneau residents, visitors and other Alaskans across the state that the initiatives are so extreme they are reinforcing a perception that Juneau dislikes tourists and prefers to remain isolated and difficult to visit. This may seem like an unfair characterization, but most people don’t understand that the initiative effort doesn’t represent a consensus of our residents or our elected officials.
Is this the image we want to project as our capital city?
Second, other Alaskan communities fear that the economic impact of these initiatives will not be confined to Juneau. Any loss of cruise passengers or ships in Juneau will likely be translated into reductions in other communities as well – from Ketchikan to Fairbanks. Ships and passengers that come to Juneau cannot merely be redistributed throughout the region because available infrastructure and services cannot absorb the numbers these initiatives would displace.
Does Juneau want to be held responsible for the negative economic impacts that will likely occur in other Alaskan communities?
Juneau’s success in past capital and legislative move battles has largely hinged on the support of other Alaskan communities. They have a right to expect their capital city to support them when their economic future is threatened as well.
Signature petitions are being circulated now to qualify these initiatives for the October municipal ballot.
Juneau residents should carefully consider all the possible ramifications of the permanent change to our City Charter that could result if these initiatives are placed on the ballot.
• Wayne Jensen is the current Alaska Committee chair. The Alaska Committee is operated as a nonprofit corporation charged with enhancing Juneau as Alaska’s capital city. Working closely with the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly and in concert with other groups around the state, the Alaska Committee has initiated numerous projects that have enhanced access to the capital, improved communications and reinforced Juneau’s role as Alaska’s capital city.