I agree with Ron Somerville that the supporters of the new JACC and the Assembly are doing a good job applying the smoke and mirrors principle to a complex subject. These were the same tactics used to justify the new high school and we are struggling with that decision. I remember the promise that the Soboleff building wouldn’t require any taxpayer funds but it did. The point is that the taxpayers were misled with unrealistic predictions and promises. We were told that the whale would be produced at no expense to taxpayers. However, the cost of maintenance, the poor location, and the lawsuit with the tour ship industry all provide an insight into the hidden costs of these mega projects. Do you think that all of this misinformation was deliberate? I’m thinking yes!
I don’t question quotes and references by the architects for this project. What is missing is the honest assessment of the risks. They fail to mention the site construction costs already spent to demolish the old building and prepare the parking lot which I understand runs between $1 and $2 million already. And will the parking lot really be large enough to accommodate all of the vehicles? CBJ wants to send $4.5 million of funds already approved by voters for Centennial Hall for the new JACC. They want to issue general obligation bonds of up to $7 million for Centennial Hall. We are promised that if the 75% of private funds are not achieved, the money will all be refunded to the city. Do you really believe that will happen? If the funding comes up short, the JACC proponents will target the Centennial Hall $7 million of bonds approved by the voters to complete it.
We are told that this facility will make money after only three years. If you read the report, there are some flaws in the estimate. Inflation is not taken into consideration and there is no contingency fund for unexpected expenses which always occur. Juneau residents were told the same thing when Centennial Hall was originally constructed. A look at the budgets of CBJ will prove that this was a complete fabrication. We are continually told that continued investments ($10 to $20 million) in Eaglecrest will produce a project that doesn’t require annual CBJ funding which is currently around $1 million per year.
Professionals have indicated that this project is under-estimated. Like all of the mega projects the city has embarked on, minimizing the potential costs is a standard procedure because if the public knew the actual costs they would not support it. They built a brand new high school and then told us that more money was needed to complete the interior of it.
There is also no consideration for the present fiscal climate. The recent state budget reduction has touched every single Alaskan. Seniors had part of their tax incentives taken away to increase the CBJ tax base with little or no regard for the impact on Juneau seniors. The city of Fairbanks and the Alaska Municipal League have indicated they wish to eliminate the state’s senior property tax law and transfer the option to municipalities. Our schools are under extreme pressure to find funds for maintenance and basic school educational programs. The state has made it clear that municipal revenue-sharing or municipal grants are going to be significantly reduced. In addition, these proposals will increase taxes whether anyone will admit it or not.
Bottom line is “just say no.” I would encourage every Juneau voter and especially seniors to vote against the three proposals on the ballot. Use the $4.5 million already in the budget for Centennial Hall to bring the facility up to standards as planned. A commitment to the JACC is a one-way street which will drain our fiscal resources. Seniors will be the easiest target for additional taxes. CBJ has already proven that.
Don’t get the wrong impression about me. I support the arts, but art is a luxury. At this time of financial uncertainty we should work with what we have and save for the future. Michelangelo had a benefactor, but the residents of Juneau are not even close to the wealth of the Medici family.
• Rosemary Matt has been a Juneau resident since 1971.