2018 Juneau Municipal Elections
How can the city better address public safety concerns, and how would you pay for it?
How can the city better address public safety concerns, and how would you pay for it?
The public safety concerns would be, we’d have to make more public service announcements. Letting the people know about what’s happening here in the city, knowing about what our main concerns are right now, if there’s a spike in burglaries or stuff. We need to let people know to lock your homes and just to be safe. There’s some information out there that can be relayed to the people to help neighborhoods stay more protected, like keep an eye out if you see vehicles in your neighborhood that you’ve never seen before, you know. We can do those things and they are not essentially costing so much money out of the system or from the community or taxpayers even, and I think it does a large part in keeping people aware.
During my time on the Assembly, I put forth a motion to support our fire department and to increase their funding so that they can have an additional 24/7 ambulance crew on board. We heard that they have been overworked and really operating at full capacity almost 24/7 and so it’s important that we give them some relief. So that’s the first thing that I did to address that matter. Similarly, with the police department, as we were going through our budget cycle this year, I put forth a motion to fully fund the police department so that they have the money in their reserves should they hire the eight vacant spots. So really, it’s not that we’re not paying a fair wage. I think that the City and Borough of Juneau pays a very fair wage to our police officers. What it is, is that nationally, we’re having trouble recruiting police officers and firemen. So I think that we’re going to get there, we just need to the marketing efforts up.
Safety is so important in our community and every community. At AWARE, that’s been a cornerstone of my work so I recognize how important it is. We all need and deserve to feel safe in our homes. Part of the problem, I think, is the opioid addiction. I think what we can do as City and Borough of Juneau is look at treatment possibilities. I also think we can further support and partner with law enforcement — local, state and federal. I think about, like, where are the drugs coming from? Plane, boats and can we perhaps put funds towards dogs who can sniff out drugs and can we have personnel who can be at ports and at the airport to try to stop the flow and increase of drugs into our community?
Public safety is a broad scope of topics. So starting with the opioid crisis, we are making progress with that. There are several agencies in town working on the issue and one of the problems was there wasn’t enough providers in town doing medically-assisted training and now there are several providers in town doing that. We gave $2.5 million to Rainforest Recovery Center to expand its detox, and then other areas that we’ve improved on as a city is we funded more positions for the fire, excuse me I mean police department which includes two civilian investigators. And also in the fire department, I advocated to hire six 24/7 rather than four hour, just to help them in their short-handedness and all their call volume that has just gone up and up. There’s lots of things going on, I know it’s still prevalent in the community and the community is still concerned but it’s something that’s being worked on.
First of all, how you pay for anything has to be looked in light of the whole CBJ budget. It isn’t just adding money here from another source. You have to take a look at the budget and say ‘OK, what is the most important things that we’re doing? And what are those priorities?’ It may mean that not everything gets funded. There are lots of ideas that why you should fund this program or that program. But I think we have to take a global approach, which is what the city does every budget cycle. And they look at what are the most important things and what can we afford to fund.
With regard to public safety, my understanding is that we need to able to fill positions. I listen to the deputy police chief awhile back in talking about the difficulty in recruiting and hiring police officers. So, I think we need to look at what can be done to encourage people to become police officers here. We also need to work with the state relative to regards to what the penalties … the SB 91 question, what penalties are out there and what the rules are. If we need to change some of that to increase our efforts towards reducing crime in this town, we need to work with the state to do that.
The public safety concerns that are on everybody’s mind I think are part of a two-part problem. There’s the crime problem and I think that fully staffing of our police and fire departments and helping with issues of retention and recruitment is key on that side. On the other hand, there’s the public health epidemic with the opioid crisis and other problems of addiction in Juneau. I think that without addressing those issues, we’re not going to see a significant decrease in the crime problem.
Paying for it is, I think, one of the top priorities of government services that the city should provide, as safety comes first. So, I think it’s a priority in terms of funding. There are other things that maybe can be moved down the list in order to ensure that we have safe communities.
District 2 Assembly
I look at public safety as an absolute core service, and something that should come first and foremost. So, I’m fully supportive of backing our police and fire and making sure that they have every available resource for staffing, for recruitment, for retaining. And it’s an ongoing issue that – it’s challenging, but ultimately I think it needs to be our core focus, number one, in this city when looking at priorities is to back public safety.
Certainly the fire department and increasing their staffing levels, the current Assembly did that out of savings. Future assemblies are going to have to figure out how to do that within their current revenue resources. One of those things that I am concerned about is increasing taxes. So to do that within our current revenue stream and keeping public safety high on our list is certainly important. …
Public safety though, particularly JPD, making sure that they have every advantage that they require, and I’m not sure I know all those advantages at this time, but one of the things we talked about on the Mayor’s public safety task force is advancements in recruitment. Is there any opportunity to work with UAS … or go down into the high school and grow our own candidates? Any kind of opportunity like that I would certainly support.
I’ve got the endorsement of the firefighters already. And I think that another fire station at Lemon Creek for example should be something we talk about. I also think that we need to really take a look at the compensation and benefits of our fire department and our police department, and as a matter of fact all of our public safety officers. And really see if we are compensating them at a rate that we can recruit and retain each and every professional we have. We don’t need to be losing professionals to Seattle and Anchorage, but we are. I think also there’s some opportunities there to take a look at some of the city priorities and maybe reshuffle them so that we can afford these increased benefits.
The Assembly has just approved of a new ambulance crew for the fire department. And I think that was 361,000 (dollars). And I kind of liken the job of the Assembly to operating a great big checkbook. So, all those things that we need, that money has to come from somewhere. Sales tax revenue is up somewhat with the increase in tourism or the increase in tour ship passengers. …We also have sources of revenue like property taxes. We’re going to be retiring some debt. We don’t want to take on more debt willy-nilly, we have to be very aware of costs, but it’s really kind of a variety of sources. …
And we also just have to, as a community, evaluate things that have been here for a long time, and do we want to keep doing those? You know, what’s more important: Is it more important to deal with the addiction that we’ve got? Is it more important to hire more police officers? Or is it more important to keep other things in place?
The root of the problem is the flow of hardcore narcotic drugs into our community. No heroin is made in Juneau. But yet, it causes one of the largest problems that we have to deal with with public safety.
I’ve spoken with the chief of police a couple of times, and I strongly believe that a stronger fight for the flow of drugs coming into the community would lower the crime rate, it would lower the treatment costs. …
Once the drugs have gotten their hooks on somebody, even if they break that and they are able to get clean, the temptation of the drugs being around them is so great. … I’ve personally watched it happen time and time again. …
We’re not going to stop it completely. But if we put a giant dent into the supply of drugs coming into our community, the consequences of that will be beneficial to the community. … Increasing prosecutor funds and drug dogs I think would have the greatest impact on correcting this crime wave.
District 1 Assembly
For Juneau we can talk a lot about safety, we can talk about our personal responsibilities, the responsibilities of businesses. But once it comes down to a crime being committed, our local police department does their job, and then it’s out of the city’s hands. So I think the city has to continue with the police department, they have to support them in every possible way we can. We need to educate the public on what they can do for their own personal safety, personal belongings, their homes. But then we need to advocate with the state – for appropriate sentencing, for appropriate amount of prosecutors and judges. People that then can take the results of our police department’s activities and take those next steps in the criminal justice process.