You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel,
You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch,
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!
GOVERNOR WALKER EMULATES MR. GRINCH, SALLY JEWELL
Juneau’s working families are reeling with today’s news: Gov. Bill Walker, a multi-millionaire who flies in and out of Juneau on a State Trooper plane, has just killed the one shovel-ready project the State had going for it: Juneau Access, a road extension that has been in the queue for more than 20 years.
Juneau Access is a major Juneau priority, yet Walker gave it up without a fight, saying the State cannot afford it.
The truth is, the State has the funds already appropriated for Juneau Access. The balance of project funds would come from federal dollars. Not a penny more of State money is needed.
Walker said in a statement: “I am a builder by background and understand the importance of construction projects, but I am very concerned with our current multi-billion dollar fiscal crisis and must prioritize the need for fiscal resolution.”
However, in the next paragraph of his press release he contradicted himself with the statement:
“Governor Walker will take steps to ensure that the $38 million in remaining state funds for the project will be available for other transportation and capital projects in the area. Governor Walker committed to working with Juneau and the surrounding regional communities to determine the best use of those dollars.”
Gov. Walker noted in his press release that the public process had been robust. Then he ignored the process when, among all the alternatives listed in the lengthy environmental impact statement, he simply chose to “do nothing.”
Walker’s decision aligns him with Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell, who sided with the birds rather than humans when she denied an 11-mile road from King Cove to the all-weather airport at Cold Bay.
Walker has become Alaska’s Sally Jewell. The eco-elitists, led by Gov. Walker adviser Bruce Botelho, a road opponent, must be dancing a jig. After all, Botelho and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott put the governor in office, and he certainly owes them.
“I participated in many of the dozens of Juneau Access meetings initiated by Governor Walker,” said Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who has always opposed the road to Juneau. “The review was exhaustive and thorough. Alaska’s need for fiscal certainty loomed large throughout and in that light the correct decision was made.”
Juneau is long-criticized by Alaskans for being out of touch with the rest of the state. The capital is known as a petri dish of liberalism, but even 60 percent of Juneauites now want the road built. They understand that access to and from the capital is the best protection for their economy, and for retaining the capital in Juneau.
The option the governor chose is the most expensive alternative: Running slow, mainline ferries that are unreliable and woefully inadequate to the transportation needs and are expensive for working class families. Ferry worker union contracts will continue to explode the cost of operations and require ever-expanding subsidies. Eventually service will have to be cut.
The access road would have allowed the state’s new shuttle ferries to make a 27-min run between Haines and the road ending at Katzehin, cutting travel time, costs, fees, and enabling service throughout the day. The current sailing from Auke Bay takes 4.5 hours.
Today’s decision ensures that the people who will be able to afford to get in and out of Juneau will be the monied class.
They won’t be the regular people wearing Southeast sneakers. They won’t be the independent tourists who could add to the capital’s economy. They won’t be families who just need a break from the weather, but cannot afford the ferry or jet service for a weekend away.
Governor Walker has caved to the environmental lobby. He has gone from being a self-proclaimed “build-it governor” to one who will have no new infrastructure to show for himself when he leaves office. He has taken a shovel-ready project with funds already in place, and canceled it without even identifying the other projects that are apparently more important to him.
All Juneau needed was a small dollop of political courage, something in short supply these days on the third floor of our Capitol.