We should thank our Assembly and school board for their service. Few realize how much personal time and energy is donated with meager rewards. Before swearing-in, these elected leaders never foresaw the pandemic and its devastating consequences. They obviously take the matter very seriously as exemplified by their reaching out for our comments. As a community, we should be grateful to each of them.
The stage and its players can be described metaphorically.
1. Our Economic Engine. The people of Juneau (voters) are the sovereign owners of the CBJ and all its assets. They are the economic engine that sustains Juneau’s very existence. These “sovereigns” pay for the CBJ’s operations through their taxes and their entitlement to federal and state support of CBJ.
2. Our Economic Fuel. The four major industries (pillars) of our economy are the fuel that runs our economic engine (1 above). These four pillars are mining, tourism, seafood, and state/federal government. We recognize much of this economic fuel is routinely siphoned off by distant entities. Tourism and seafood are now devastated. State government is facing impending devastation given the price of oil. Mining is facing lower demand from worldwide slow-down. It seems things will be getting far worse for Juneau.
3. Our Estate. The CBJ is neither part of our economic engine nor its fuel. Rather, the CBJ is merely the estate upon which our economic engine (1) resides and processes the economic fuels (2) it harvests.
4. Our Servants. CBJ employees are the servants that operate and maintain our estate (3); their masters are the sovereign owners (1) for whom they are hired to serve.
5. Leaders. The sovereign owners (1) elected the assembly and school board to act as leaders to set policy and direction for our servants (4) and to oversee said servants’ performance.
Our need for decisive leadership is now more pressing than ever. Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the greatest leaders in history, insisted upon being served the same food as his soldiers; he wanted to know how they felt; the hallmark of a true leader. Ironically, he then overestimated his army’s potential and thereby met his defeat at Waterloo, Belgium. These historical facts testify that even the best leaders can become disengaged and make crucial mistakes. It is critically important Juneau’s elected leaders (5), and its servants (4), share in the plight of the sovereigns (1). They must not overestimate how much sacrifice can be expected solely from the sovereigns. Demanding small businesses shut down and terminate their employees, while failing to terminate any CBJ employees, is not an act of leadership — it is an act of privilege. Although our leaders may seldom hear this viewpoint, they can be assured it is now shared by multitudes of Juneau residents. There is widespread feeling the servants (4) and leaders (5) are insufficiently engaged alongside the sovereigns (1) in this crisis.
It is especially important for leaders (5) and servants (4) to never underestimate the ability of the sovereigns (1) to see truth. For example, leaders should never allow our servants to merely “eliminate positions” which are unfilled anyway. Rather, our leaders must insist that living, breathing souls from CBJ staff head to the unemployment office just like private sector employees must do. We all agree people are more important than money. However, failing to terminate servants while masters are being terminated is a matter of fairness and equity. CBJ staff, as servants (4), must remember the money for their salaries is provided by their taxpaying masters, the sovereigns (1), who are now buckling under the weight of economic devastation.
People will endure severe hardships; it is a tradition Americans have never shrunk from.
However, people will not abide in unfair treatment—especially by their city government.
I have terminated countless employees during my career. Admittedly, many were seasonal or per job, but many were not. It was never easy but, as a leader, I was duty-bound. Our Assembly and school board are now similarly duty-bound. I am confident they will rise to the difficult challenges ahead.
General George Washington prayed unceasingly during our War of Independence. His army witnessed many miraculous victories and events. We must pray for our leaders at this time. I encourage them to pray to him for guidance as well.
Wayne Coogan is a Juneau resident.