What’s the city’s role in child care accessibility?
I have a lot of friends that are dealing with this and I just talked to a friend of mine who owns a restaurant and he’s paying about $900 a month for child care. He told me it’s pretty expensive and with him owning a restaurant even, it’s taken a large chunk of his money out. As the government goes, if the citizens are battling something or dealing with something that they can’t really overcome, or there’s no real solution for, the government should step in and help the citizens and the community because that’s essentially what the government is to do, is to service the community and help the citizens. I really believe that.
So I believe that the city’s role to improving access to affordable child care is really a facilitative role. I don’t necessarily have an opinion as far as where that funding is going to come from, but I think that is something that should happen at an Assembly level where we work with the community to solve that problem. One thing I’ve realized during my time on the Assembly is to be very cautious with making any hasty decisions and any hasty judgments on how something is going to happen, because you never know, really know what’s going to happen until it comes down for a vote. So I think during this last vote to put affordable child care on the ballot, it unfortunately did not make it. I would really be curious to find out overall what the community’s desire really is and how they want that to be funded.
I think the city has an important role in ensuring access to affordable child care. Part of economic development is ensuring young families can make it and it also ensures that kids are getting off to a good start and a solid foundation. We have a lot of working families here. We want to help them succeed. There are lots of things that CBJ can do. You know, of course there was the Best Starts initiative. I don’t think we have to wait another year to see that initiative move forward. I think what we can do is look at things that are already working and broaden them. For example, there are some community co-op preschools and I think we can work with communities to see if we can create, if they can create, other preschools. So looking at other opportunities where shared spaces can occur and really people can get their needs met.
That’s a tough question and unfortunately we had to resign to run for mayor, because I would have put it to a ballot to have an advisory vote on that, because I think the main issue is: should the city pick up child [care] as a core function of its government? And that’s an interesting question and it’s something the public needs to weigh in on because we have to figure out where the money is coming from, if that’s the idea. So with that being said, Best Starts is the common child care idea out there right now. I do have some concerns and I think the schools could be more involved in child care. It would be nice to get a task force together and bring in a few smarter people than I am and look at it from different perspectives and come up with a better solution.
I know that’s been brought up as a problem and I’d like to look at it some more. I’m not sure (of) the causes of the problem, but I think the city may have a role in it. The recent proposal has been to help subsidize that, the cost of child care. I guess I’d like to look at that a little more and find out why those costs are so high, whether there’s restrictions on who can offer child care, (and) whether there’s problems with entry into the business.
I think it’s pretty obvious that there’s a child care crisis of both affordability and availability in Juneau. The city should be devoting resources and money to that issue because the investment in young children and quality education will pay dividends in the long run, and help our city in many other ways besides just alleviating this immediate child care crisis.
District 2 Assembly
I think child care and early childhood development is the foundation for successful education and developing our youth to become good, productive citizens in this city and I think it’s a great investment that we can make.
The only thing that I’ve come up with in the very short time I’ve been thinking about it is taking a long-term asset that is sitting fallow, perhaps CBJ land, converting it to a current asset. … For example, let’s suppose we have … some kind of daycare homestead ordinance where we convert that long-term asset, allow somebody to develop a business, potentially earning that land base. So I don’t know if that’s going to work. Certainly the devil’s in the details. …
I am very concerned about cost of living in Juneau. … and anytime we increase taxes to pay for something … that has to be a part of the discussion. … Recognizing that we want to encourage that younger generation, those starting families, back into the community — looking for that solution to encourage that and reduce the cost is a good goal.
What we’ve got here in Juneau is a situation where, for example, I have a 15-month-old son — for the first six months of life, we couldn’t find anybody that would take an infant, at all. Except for one person that had an in-home child care that happened to have a child the same age. That’s a huge issue.
My wife and I, neither one of us could quit our jobs to take care of a baby. We would have child care if we could find somebody that could take care of the child. So we need more child care and we need higher quality child care.
I think programs like Best Starts really addresses both sides of that equation. Because if you can raise the standard of living for the people that are in the business, then it will create economic incentives for more people to join as well as improve the cap of the quality for those people that are getting trained and really making this their profession.
I was at the meetings when the Best Starts initiative was voted down from appearing on the ballot. And I felt that — I was at both meetings — and there were a lot of disappointed people in the room.
I know child care has been a problem for a very, very long time. I supervise many people, young mothers for example that had infants, and, just — it was a nightmare for them.
I support putting it on the ballot. I also acknowledge there are costs associated with that. And it’s the job of the Assembly to be creative and work with the people of Juneau to balance those costs, to find a way of paying for something like the Best Starts program. Perhaps that’s not exactly the right one, but something like that, where people actually have options for child care if they need them.
The overall cost of education, the lifetime cost of educating each student is lessened the more prepared that the kindergartners are going into elementary school. …
And unfortunately, the daycare system is broken here in Juneau. Logistically, or small business perspective, there’s too many variable factors. There’s too many increased costs. We can’t just translate the cost straight across the board — ‘Oh, just charge 10 percent more’ — it doesn’t work that way. And so we have a daycare system that traditionally isn’t profitable. …
So the city doesn’t necessarily have to dump a tremendous amount of money onto this project, but they do need to help the day care situation out, to make it where it at least pencils out so that private individuals can make a go of it.
District 1 Assembly
Normally, communities in Alaska don’t get involved as much. We do through zoning, conditional use permitting, where we allow day care. The Best Starts initiative that was proposed would expand our role way beyond what we have done before, but I think in an appropriate way. We have to, in times of decreasing day care for families, and we want families to be part of our economy, we want them to live in Juneau, we’ve got to provide them an ability that their kids are well taken care of while they’re working, that their kids are getting quality pre-education, that they’re safe. And the community, just — I think it’s time for the community to step up. Otherwise, we have thousands of kids that are in care (that) might not be the best for them and I think we need to step up.