Juneau Assembly to set goals for next year at Saturday retreat


The Juneau Assembly holds its annual retreat on Saturday.

No action will be taken, no money appropriated, just a discussion of the Assembly’s goals for the next year. By the end of the day, the Assembly and city staff will have a list of new of priorities to work on.

But just because an item makes it onto the list, doesn’t mean it will get accomplished in twelve months.

Of the Assembly’s top ten action item goals from last year, only one can be definitively crossed off the list. The Assembly successfully recruited and hired a new city manager when it decided in January to promote then-Deputy Manager Kim Kiefer.

The rest of the items range from some that are partially complete, such as support for a new state Library, Archives and Museums project, to longer-term goals like promoting Juneau as a world class climate research center.

New Mayor Merrill Sanford says he’d like to see this year’s list distinguish between those goals that can be accomplished in the next year, and ongoing projects.

“Maybe we do a ‘This years’ worth of goals,’ and then maybe we have things that are going to take us five to ten years out, and maybe we stick those in a different column,” Sanford said.

Sanford was an Assembly member from 2002 through 2011, so this won’t be his first retreat. The meeting is held every year, a couple weeks after the municipal, once the new Assembly has been seated.

In recent years, former Mayor Bruce Botelho led the retreat discussion. This year, Sanford asked Scott Miller from the McDowell Group to facilitate.

“This just gets a different perspective on it and lets us open up a little bit more and get ideas that we all support more of, instead of just individual ideas,” Sanford said.

Sanford gave the Assembly homework this week, asking each member to bring to the retreat some suggestions for the overall goals list. The mayor’s own ideas include increasing affordable housing, working on solutions to the city’s homelessness problem, and economic development. Sanford admits those are probably more long-term projects, but he says some things can be accomplished in the next year:

“There’s no one great answer to do all of these things. It’s going to take multiple actions to get to the end result of solving those big problems. “What I want to see is action started sooner than later now, because I think we’ve had many, many years of discussions and now we have to sit down and make some decisions.”

Assembly member Carlton Smith says he wants to revisit one of last year’s goals, which largely ended up on the backburner – development of a financial transition plan for the potential decline of state and federal revenue.

While Smith says the decline may not be imminent, a plan would help ensure the city is prepared if and when it does happen.

“The time is right to do this, because there have been many cities and boroughs across the country that have been hurt really hard by the economic downturn. “We have not been hurt as bad, but they’ve had to make some sacrifices, and we have the advantage of doing this review now.”

New member Loren Jones also wants to revisit a perennial goal that appeared on last year’s list. He says the Assembly needs a solid waste plan that will extend the life of the city’s landfill. Even though Arrow Refuse started offering curbside recycling this year, Jones thinks the city should resume negotiations with landfill operator Waste Management for a new municipal recycling center at the dump.

“Sitting through the Assembly meetings, I really haven’t heard much about it in the last six months,” Jones said. “That for me is I think it’s just a really important issue.”

Jones says another goal he has is getting more Juneau residents to vote, while Smith says he agrees with Mayor Sanford’s recent comments about reaching out to other communities in the state to enhance Juneau’s image as the Capital City.

The retreat is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Saturday in City Hall Assembly Chambers, with presentations from the City Manager and department heads. Sanford says the facilitated discussion of goals will take place in the afternoon, and last at least a couple of hours.

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