Juneau voters on Tuesday sent two newcomers to the city and borough Assembly, re-elected an unopposed incumbent, and gave the Assembly authority to delegate management of city pools.
Assembly District 2
Debbie White is the likely winner of the closest race of Juneau’s municipal election Tuesday.
Unofficial results show White and Joshua Warren as the top two candidates in the race for Assembly District 2, a seat reserved for residents who live in the Mendenhall Valley or out the road. White has 40 percent of the vote to Warren’s 32 percent.
A real estate broker, White says she’ll bring private sector experience to the Assembly. She says the city needs to focus on living within its means.
“As a city we owe that to the taxpayers to be responsible,” White says. “And I’m not saying that anybody is being irresponsible. But I’m hoping that I can find some places to save some money.”
Turnout increases over 2013
Preliminary results from Juneau’s municipal election indicate a significant improvement over last year’s historic low voter turnout. More than 2,000 additional ballots were cast compared to 2013.
Election official Laurie Sica said, “I’m encouraged that it’s better than last year. Let’s put it that way. You know, it’s good.”
Only 19 percent of Juneau’s registered voters cast ballots in last year’s municipal election, the lowest turnout since at least 1985.
Unofficial results put Tuesday’s turnout at just over 23 percent. That will increase after absentee and questioned ballots are counted.
Sica said Tuesday night that there were 370 questioned ballots to be reviewed. Another 1,099 absentee ballots were received through election day. More can arrive by mail through Oct. 14.
Sica said higher turnout tends to line up with controversial ballot propositions.
“People don’t necessarily know the candidates, they don’t know a lot about them, but they usually have an opinion on a ballot proposition” she said.
Absentee and questioned ballots will be reviewed and counted Friday. The Canvass Board will meet on Oct. 14 to certify the final, official results.
White says her other top priority on the Assembly will be public safety. A former volunteer firefighter, she says she’ll make every effort to support Capital City Fire/Rescue and the Juneau Police Department.
Warren says he plans to stay involved in local government, advocating for his campaign priorities.
“I really wanted to make sure the Assembly fully funded education, and I’ll come to Assembly meetings and testify if that’s the route I have to take now,” he says. “And I wanted to help make Juneau affordable both for the younger people and for older people to stay here. And I think the people who won today are going to be able to do that, and have that as their priority as well.”
In a strange twist, Karla Hart ended up in third place for Assembly District 2. Hart’s name appeared on the ballot, even after she publicly withdrew from the race to support Warren. If her votes had gone to Warren, he would have beaten White by almost 200 votes. Instead, Hart finished 10 votes ahead of fourth place finisher David Fox. They both had about 11 percent of the vote. Kory Hunt finished in fifth place with about 3 percent of the total.
White will replace longtime Assemblyman Randy Wanamaker, who did not seek re-election.
In unofficial results, Maria Gladziszewski won the Areawide Assembly seat with 47 percent of the vote. She led in nine of the 13 precincts in a three-way race with Norton Gregory and Tony Yorba.
Gladziszewski says housing will be among her top priorities on the Assembly.
“That’s been an issue in Juneau for decades. The Assembly has limited tools, but needs to use all the tools it has to try to help that issue. And, of course, the budget is another one. The city is on notice that we are spending more money than we take in and the Assembly’s got a lot of work to do to figure that out and how to proceed and do what’s best for the most people in town,” Gladziszewski says.
Tony Yorba came in second with 35 percent of the vote. He says he’s humbled by the process of running.
“The best you could hope for is to spend hours and hours of your free time at service to the community and I really admire that, and after having gone through this, I admire it even more,” Yorba says.
Norton Gregory got 16 percent of the vote. One of the youngest candidates on the ballot at age 35, Gregory guarantees he’ll run for Assembly again next year.
“The issues that we’re facing in our community today will most likely still be here next year and they’re still going to need to be dealt with. I feel like I had a really good broad base and so next year, we’re going to try to add a little depth to that base,” Gregory says.
Gladziszewski will replace Carlton Smith on the Assembly. Smith decided not to run for re-election.
Assembly District 1
Jesse Kiehl ran unopposed for Assembly District 1, a seat reserved for a downtown Juneau or Douglas Island resident. He’ll be serving his second term on the Assembly.
Proposition No. 1
Voters approved a ballot measure that allows the Assembly to set up an empowered board to manage the city’s two swimming pools.
Proposition 1 passed with 59 percent of the vote. But some Assembly members have questions about the proposal before it moves forward.
The empowered board would take over operations of the pools, which are now managed by the city’s Parks and Recreation department. Assemblywoman Karen Crane says she needs more details about how the board would function before she’ll vote to create it.
“We have to decide who’s going to be responsible for both short-term and long-term maintenance,” Crane says. “How much money we expect the pools to bring in; what’s going to be the balance between revenue, and what the city has to put in?”
Crane also says there could be issues with employee pay and benefits if pool workers are no longer part of the Parks and Rec department.
Mayor Merrill Sanford admits certain details will need to be sorted out. But he says the empowered board is a good model that’s been used successfully with other city enterprises, like Eaglecrest Ski Area and Bartlett Regional Hospital.
“We get a lot of volunteer time, basically, out of individual citizens of our community,” Sanford says. “And I think they’re great, and usually they do a very, very good job.”
Pool supporters argued for the empowered board after City Manager Kim Kiefer proposed temporarily closing Augustus Brown pool to help the city deal with a projected $12 million budget shortfall over two years.