Jesse Kiehl Response – 2011 CBJ Assembly Candidate Survey

1. Is economic development your number one priority for the City and Borough of Juneau? If not, please explain what priority(ies) you hold higher and why. If your answer is yes, what are your plans for helping to bring and retain living-wage jobs to the community?

Economic development is an integral part of my goal to help make Juneau an even better place to live, work, raise a family, start or run a business, and retire than it already is. To improve our economy, we need to lower the cost of housing for people who want to work and start businesses in the capital city. We need to continue building essential infrastructure that lets us make fuller use of the land we have. We should keep extending our sewer lines, for example, and extend North Douglas Highway to the West side of the island to access land that’s planned for future development.

2. What are your thoughts on reopening the AJ Mine?

Greens Creek and Kensington prove it’s possible to do mining right in Southeast Alaska. But doing it right in the watershed that supplies our drinking water is a higher bar to clear. I’m looking forward to the results of the city’s water study, because if we need a new or enhanced drinking water supply, now is the time to begin planning it.

3. In what ways can the CBJ help contain the living expenses of area residents; and how will you help this effort?

The city needs to address our housing shortage. As more of our senior citizens retire in Juneau, it becomes more difficult for working-­‐age households to find – much less afford – housing. I understand the Affordable Housing Commission has worked with CBJ to identify city lands that are suitable for residential development. The city may need to consider building streets and/or sewer mains to these lands as well. At the same time, the city should keep extending our sewer lines to enable higher density development and work to extend North Douglas Highway to access city and private lands planned for future development.

I also think the city should pursue a change in state law that would allow an incentive for private developers to increase density and build more affordable units. We might defer taxes up to five years (or until time of sale) on the increased value created by building multifamily homes or increasing housing density. That way, developers have an easier time financing housing developments, with no pain to the treasury. It’s a marginal approach that could help increase our housing supply.

While pursuing these long-­‐term goals, the city will do well to maintain the sales and property tax relief it currently offers to senior citizens who contribute tremendously to our economy, our families, our schools, and our community.

4. List the top three industries in Juneau and the number each employs. What are the means and outlook to grow these industries?

Government ~7800 jobs (including active duty Coast Guard)
Tourism ~2400 jobs
Retail ~2000 jobs
The retail employment number comes from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development’s April 2011 Economic Trends magazine. Other data comes from the Juneau Economic Development Council’s 2011 Economic Indicators.
Government is unlikely to remain a growth industry, but we should take steps to keep it solid. Juneau can do much to secure the state and federal government jobs we enjoy today by continuing to improve our city-­‐owned airport (approach lights on the west end of the runway will likely be the next improvement) and expanding digital access to state government in Juneau. Addressing our
housing shortage can also help prevent government jobs from moving away.

Rebuilding the city docks to accommodate larger ships will help improve tourism industry employment, as will ongoing efforts to market Juneau as a destination for independent travelers. Current
and future improvements to our airport are also important. Together, these steps should help tourist visits regain a moderate pace of growth, although the cruise industry’s recent investments in developing new markets (Mediterranean, Scandinavia, and South America, among others) suggests a return to 8-­‐10 percent annual passenger growth is unlikely.

The retail sector depends on a healthy overall economy and on Juneau’s role as a regional hub to support year-­‐round jobs. Seasonal retail businesses are heavily dependent on cruise tourism, as discussed above, while the recent entry of a national pet supply store and a national office supply store into the Juneau market show reason for optimism in year-­‐round retail business. The increase in scheduled regional air service helps, too, as Juneau serves our neighbors around Southeast Alaska.

It’s interesting to note that healthcare, with significantly fewer jobs than retail, generates significantly more personal income in the capital city. Targeted improvements in our city-­‐ owned hospital can do a lot to improve healthcare and health sector employment in addition to the gains it is presently experiencing. I appreciate the cautious approach Bartlett management takes to increasing health services. For example: as much as we all want to have cardiac catheterization available without medevac, the number of heart attacks in Juneau won’t support it without major taxpayer subsidies. By contrast, laser lithotripsy is finally here because there’s adequate demand to pay the ongoing cost of providing the service. Geriatric care and assisted living will be a major growth area in Juneau’s health industry over the coming 20 years, and we should start building that capacity soon.

5. Do you support road access between Juneau and the rest of the state? ___Yes ___No

This question is not before the city assembly, which has already voted to permit the road north. It is a state question, and the state has decided its course. But the issue is a touchstone for many, and Juneau residents deserve to know where their candidates stand: if it were up to me, the state would add ferry capacity to provide predictable, consistent, daily service from Juneau north. What is before the assembly are projects to anchor the capital and improve Juneau’s economy, safety, and quality of life: We should extend North Douglas Highway to access developable land, further extend our sewer lines, develop more affordable housing, and improve our roads and intersections to accommodate a growing economy. We should add approach lights to the west end of the airport runway so people who want to do business with state government can land more often in bad weather. We should enhance digital access to state government in Juneau.

6. Do you support the State’s lawsuit to abolish the Tongass Roadless Rule? ___Yes ___No

This is another question that’s not facing the city assembly. The roadless rule, valuable in most of the Lower 48, is too blunt an instrument for Southeast Alaska. But I would not be likely to support putting CBJ tax dollars into the lawsuit.