CBJ Propositions 1 and 2: Vote No and No again

     

    CBJ Propositions 1 and 2: Vote No and No again 

    an op-ed by: Jerry Nankervis

    On October 6, in addition to electing Assembly members, Juneau residents will be asked to vote on two ballot propositions. The CBJ has mailed out the Voter Information Guide. I have studied mine carefully and will vote NO on both propositions.

    Prop 1 is pretty easy. Every ten years the CBJ is required to ask voters, "Shall there be a Charter Commission to review or amend the Charter?" If passed, this proposition would require a comprehensive, unnecessary and expensive review of the City Charter. Our Charter is working fine as it is and voters should just say "No" to this.

    Prop 2 is asking to add $15 million to our municipal debt and raise our property taxes to pay for it. Proposition 2 will "authorize the issuance of $15,000,000 in general obligation bond debt for paying the cost of planning, design, and construction of municipal infrastructure, facilities, and related capital improvements..." The ballot question states: "To promote the health, well-being, education, and economic recovery of the community..."

    This is a push to spend even more money than the previously approved budget by linking other projects to the leaky school roofs. Very different capital projects shouldn't be combined into one question. Combining projects is a tried and true tactic employed to get approval for unpopular projects: tie unpopular projects to popular or necessary ones. Major capital projects should stand alone and be voted on separately. School roof repair could very well be approved by voters, but it shouldn't be linked with other "vaguely" described projects.

    I don't believe I am the only person bothered by the vague and undefined, "planning, design and construction of municipal infrastructure..." What are they talking about here? A new City Hall? A new City Museum? A new performing arts center? I am not sure to what they are referring because they don't tell us, but I do recall Assembly discussions on those same topics. Are the leaky school roofs being used as click bait to ensure passage of undisclosed pet projects?

    Several of the bonded projects would fall under the category of "deferred maintenance". In other words, maintenance that should have been budgeted for but was not, so the money could be spent elsewhere. So, to ask it another way, Proposition 2 is to pay for some deferred maintenance on city property AND to build more city infrastructure that also won't get an adequate maintenance budget? Hmmm. Sounds like the wrong way to go about it in my opinion.

    Besides, as described by former Mayor Ken Koelsch in the Juneau Empire last week, additional taxes are not necessary. The City has available alternative sources of funding to address the leaky roofs. The City could have tapped into its $36 million sitting in savings to replace the roofs this past spring and summer when the schools were empty.

    In July, I wrote an op ed in the Juneau Empire reminding Juneau residents that going into debt to "stimulate the economy" is wrong headed. I wrote: "The argument is that because our debt has been paid down low enough, Juneau now has the bonding capacity to put more charges on the CBJ credit card. Just because the interest rate is low right now doesn't mean we should borrow. Thinking like that occurs in a vacuum. It also puts us back in the hole it has taken years to dig out from." "Times are tight right now for many of our neighbors, and our municipality. Creating more debt when we are already short on money and facing the highest level of economic uncertainty the community has faced since the AJ Mine closed is the wrong thing to do. Keeping Juneau affordable into the future is the right thing to do."

    Please vote NO on both propositions.