Ideas on some key issues

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Housing is the Number 1 economic challenge facing our city. We can and must be more active in solving this problem. (more...)

Whether it’s our young people wanting to return to Juneau, seniors wanting to stay here after retirement, new residents we are trying to attract, or legislators and their staff - all are negatively affected by the lack of good housing options at reasonable prices. This is true across all segments of the market, but is particularly bad in rentals. The shortage is often stated at 700 units. But, it’s really much higher than that considering the occupied sub-standard units that people would vacate if they could. Building rates are up a bit in recent years, and important efforts like Housing First are helping with particular high-needs populations. But we are nowhere near a normal market. The shortage has gotten so bad that some local employers are buying housing stock to ensure that their workers have places to live.

Streamlining permitting is important. And the recent proposal to delay tax increases on newly sub-divided lots until they are developed and sold is a great idea. But there is much, much more that the city could be doing to help lower developer costs, reduce risks, and make it easier for our banking sector to finance projects. In cities and towns around the country, the use of municipal bonding authority is a regular fact of life in supporting market rate, affordable, and mixed use housing. These tools are available to us, but Juneau doesn’t use them. The CBJ could also be much more innovative with its land assets. For example, instead of just selling land, we could use the land value to take an equity interest in projects. That would lower upfront costs for qualified developers and earn more for the city when the housing sells.

Fisheries science is a big deal in Juneau, and it can be bigger still. Consider the hundreds of federal fisheries science jobs that should be in Alaska, but are still in Seattle. (more...)

The Ted Stevens Marine Research Institute (TSMRI) at Lena Point is headquarters for NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center (AFSC) Auke Bay Laboratories (ABL) Division. It opened in May 2007, at a cost of $51 million. With 66,000 square feet of office and laboratory space it can house up to 84 scientists and staff. Unfortunately, there are only 64 people there now. But, much worse is the fact that 75% of all the AFSC’s positions are in Seattle! That’s 255 jobs. These are high-paying jobs that are dedicated entirely to Alaska science missions – and at least 170 of them should be in Juneau.

During 2014 I led a CBJ Review Task Force on this issue. The Task Force report explained the history and magnitude of this issue. But – most important – it outlined a clear, realistic and achievable way to get those jobs actually moved here. The benefits to Juneau will be immense - $30 million a year in direct payroll and secondary economic impacts; a $150 million construction project; huge positive synergies for our university system; and better science in support of our fisheries. Getting this done will require strong leadership by the Mayor – leadership that I can and will provide.

Downtown revitalization is an issue for all of Juneau, not just the downtown area. Our city center has problems, but also huge potential…and we have the resources to make great progress. (more...)

Downtown is what most visitors to Juneau see first. It’s what our fellow Alaskans think of as the Capital City. It’s where many of us work. And it’s a unique and historical place with some great neighborhoods, arts and cultural attractions, and fine restaurants. It also produces a disproportionate amount of sales tax and property tax – money that gets spent on schools, streets, recreational facilities and general services all across the Borough. That’s why downtown is important for all of us. But it has problems too: summer congestion, a lack of parking, public drunkenness, and some derelict properties. A lot of people have been working on Downtown Revitalization (Downtown Improvement Group, Downtown Business Association, Juneau Economic Development Council, City staff, and many individual citizens) and there are lots of good ideas out there.

  • Front & Franklin Streetscape Improvements (30+ years since last done) and the Willoughby District Plan;
  • Circulator Transit to connect all areas of downtown conveniently and safely for visitors, work commuters, and downtown residents;
  • Housing – there is big demand downtown from Millennials and Baby Boomers, but few options. Done right, a circulator can be a big stimulator for housing investment and mixed use investment;
  • Finishing the Seawalk while making sure visitors can easily access our entire downtown retail area.

Juneau has the most scenic setting of any State Capital in the nation. With active and innovative leadership, we can make the downtown experience every bit as good as our many natural attractions. That’s good for business, good for visitors, and good for all of Juneau!

Juneau Access has been a major – and too often very divisive - topic of discussion in Juneau for decades. The CBJ has only limited influence on this matter, but everyone nonetheless wants to know "Where do you stand on the road?" Here’s my take. (more...)

I think we will eventually have a road. And if we get the resources we need, the Lynn Canal Highway could be one of the great scenic highways in North America. But I’m not sure we will get the funding. Here’s my concern. The road project is now estimated to cost $570 million. Federal highway money should pay 90% of that. The State has to put up 10% match. The Legislature has put aside about 9/10ths of our match. But, that State money can be re-appropriated, and federal highway funds can be spent on any highway projects in the Statewide Transportation Improvement Plan (STIP). With essentially zero in the way of State capital funds for the foreseeable future, I think it is highly likely that Railbelt legislators will end up deciding to use that money for capital projects in Southcentral. Much as they might chide us about not having a road, I think that when "push comes to shove" they’ll move to spend that money on the Knik Arm crossing or other projects in Anchorage and the Mat-Su rather than on Juneau Access.

So, where would that leave us? No matter how much Juneauites may be attached to the ferry, the fact is, existing service to Haines and Skagway is inadequate and operating costs are high. Sticking with status quo service out of Auke Bay won’t get us any improvement in our transportation system. A not perfect solution, but perhaps a very good step in the right direction might be Alternative 4D in the Juneau Access EIS, which calls for a ferry terminal at Cascade Point. It would make full use of our existing road system, and would shorten the ferry trip to Haines by half, and would not be subject to avalanche hazards. That would allow us to essentially double the amount of service with the new Alaska-class ferries. It would be a major Juneau Access improvement that we could build and have operational soon.

Long-term, and in concert with other Southeast communities, we need to press for system optimization at AMHS, and get the system operating on a more business-like, less bureaucratic basis.


Paid for by Greg Fisk for Mayor, PO Box 20628, Juneau, AK 99802