Crane hopes to complete unfinished projects in second term on CBJ Assembly

This profile is part of KTOO’s ongoing coverage of the 2013 municipal election. See all of the election coverage here.

Karen Crane

Karen Crane speaks to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce in 2012. Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO.

Juneau Assembly member Karen Crane hopes to complete a number of projects in her second term.

Crane is running unopposed for a District 2 Assembly seat in next month’s municipal election. Besides the unfinished projects, Crane says she still enjoys public service – something she’s been doing most of her life. But she says the decision to run for reelection wasn’t easy.

“The Assembly requires a considerable amount of time, and it means you can’t travel as extensively as you want and some other things,” Crane says. “So, it was a discussion with my husband, ‘Are we still comfortable with this amount of time?’ And I am retired, so I have the time to give.”

Crane is a former director of the State Division of Libraries Archives and Museums. Before moving to Juneau in 1986, she also spent seven years at the Fairbanks North Star Borough as Library Director and head of the transit, parks and recreation systems there.

She’s married to artist Dan Fruits. They have two terriers and live out Glacier Highway, though for many years they lived downtown on Basin Road.

Crane says she spent much of her first Assembly term learning the ropes, another factor in her decision to seek a second term.

“I’m just at the point there are a couple of projects that I would like to see through,” she says.

One of those projects harkens back to her days in Fairbanks. Crane says it’s time to update Juneau’s Transit Plan. While she thinks Capital Transit does a good job overall, she says the bus system has not changed its routes in more than 20 years.

“Having been involved in transit in Fairbanks, I know that consistency is critical to ridership in a good system,” Crane says. “But I also know that the system needs to be nimble enough to change with the community. And I don’t think that ours has.”

Crane believes Capital Transit could be faster and more convenient for riders.

“We have a parking problem downtown, and I think the transit system could be a big part of a solution there,” she says. “If we would take a look at park and ride, and then really have express buses maybe every fifteen minutes.”

Another project Crane hopes to see through is housing. According to a Juneau Economic Development Council report, the Capital City has a housing shortage at all levels. The Assembly this year formed an ad hoc Housing Committee to recommend ways the city and borough could address the problem. The Assembly is now working with the city manager’s office to implement some of those suggestions. Crane says the city is nearing a “crisis point” on the issue.

“If you look at economic development, if we want to bring more business into town, housing is an issue there,” she says. “If we want to expand in a number of areas, housing is an issue. If we want to keep young families in Juneau, housing is an issue.”

Crane is chair of the influential Assembly Finance Committee. The panel works with the manager’s office to craft CBJ’s biennial budget. That’s been a challenging task in recent years as the city has lost sales tax revenue due to the Great Recession, as well as state and federal support.

“Over the last few years, what we have done is, government has been cut,” says Crane. “We’re keeping positions open, and we’ve just had to live within our means.”

It’s a trend Crane expects to continue for the foreseeable future.

“We certainly know what’s happening at the federal level, and the state is cutting back as well,” she says. “And the city is going to have to make reductions commiserate with those.”

Crane says dealing with tough issues is what she likes most about Assembly service.

“The issues and the potential solutions,” Crane says. “I’m willing to dig in, do the homework, and I’m also really committed to public process.”

Karen Crane is running unopposed for a District 2 Assembly seat. District 2 includes the Mendenhall Valley and out the road, but voters throughout the borough cast ballots for the seat. Municipal Election Day is Tuesday October 1st.

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