I encourage the citizens of Juneau to vote “yes” on all three propositions that will appear on the ballot for the Oct. 1 municipal election. Passage of these three measures would be an investment in Juneau’s future that will significantly enhance its status as the capital city of Alaska and as an attractive community in which to live and work.
I especially urge a vote in favor of the CBJ granting funds for the construction of a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center. The New JACC is the right project, at the right time, in the right place, and represents a perfect storm of opportunity to create a community asset of enduring value. My comments focus on three elements.
First is financial. Despite the real concerns Juneau and other cities in Alaska face as a result of state budget cuts, now is actually a very good time to be making investments for the future. Interest rates are low, and Juneau’s bonded indebtedness is being retired at a good pace. The city can well afford the bonds that will fund the Centennial Hall upgrade, thus freeing up sales tax revenue to be used for a grant to the New JACC. The CBJ is being asked to contribute around 20 percent of the overall project cost, but this would signal community support and serve as leverage for obtaining private funding of the balance. Studies have shown that the New JACC will be self-supporting in as few as three years, and that the economic benefits to Juneau from having a viable performing arts and cultural center will be substantial. Not to mention the jobs that will be created during the construction phase.
Second is need. I have lived in Juneau for 40 plus years, and as long as I have been here there has been talk of the need for a dedicated performing arts center. Others have written eloquently on this subject – in particular, I encourage you to read, or re-read, David Hunsaker’s “My Turn” column published in the Juneau Empire on Aug. 31 – and I won’t repeat those arguments here. But I will make one point: I researched online a random selection of 20 state capitals from all across the country – the northeast, mid-Atlantic, deep South, Midwest and western states. The overwhelming majority of these capital cities have a dedicated performing arts center which they tout as a major element of their artistic and cultural vibrancy. The few capitals that do not have a stand-alone performing arts center at least have civic or convention centers that include auditoria for artistic and cultural performances. Only one state capital – Pierre, South Dakota – does not appear to have a dedicated performing arts venue.
Finally, the New JACC is being propelled forward by a very diverse and enthusiastic group of supporters and donors who have committed much time, effort and resources to this project. A modest grant from the CBJ will help them complete the fundraising campaign and bring this wonderful project to fruition.
So when you step into the voting booth on Oct. 1, please vote yes on all three ballot propositions and show your support for Juneau’s future.
• Michael Stanley is a supporter of the arts who has lived in Juneau for over 40 years.