David Ignell: Juneau city officials usher in new era of voter misinformation



I want to thank the League of Women Voters for co-sponsoring last week’s election forum with KTOO, KINY and the Juneau Empire. Their mission to educate voters and ensure fair elections is to be applauded and promoted, especially when our democracy is hanging by a thread.

It was an honor to be asked to debate City Manager Rorie Watt at the forum and to represent the “No” vote side on Proposition One, regarding the proposed new city hall.

I care deeply about Juneau and its future. My family has been part of this community for over 70 years and helped establish the Glory Hall and Haven House.

The day after our debate, Juneau voters began to receive a voter information booklet mailed by city officials to “educate” us. Many of us were disturbed to read the biased, one-sided propaganda in favor of Proposition One that dominates the official guide. Key “facts” are grossly misleading. No opposing viewpoint is offered.

The booklet states with certainty the construction cost of the new city hall is $43.3 million. It‘s silent about a city staff memo dated May 3 acknowledging bids on other projects were 1.5 to 1.8 times the estimated cost.

City officials have known for months construction costs of the proposed city hall could easily be $65 to $80 million, yet their official guide avoids any mention of that probability.

During our debate, Rorie Watt acknowledged this “big inflation” is real. He admitted they might need to “value engineer” the project and a downsized structure was possible. He claimed not to be selling “blue sky,” yet by omitting critical material disclosures in the official guide he’s done exactly that.

Not surprisingly, the booklet’s FAQs are silent about the $2 million estimated annual debt service for a $27 million bond. If the construction cost balloons to $70 million, that annual expense will double to $4 million.

Architectural drawing of the latest proposed Juneau City Hall.

The booklet asserts the city pays $820,000 in rent, which is highly misleading. Back on June 2, Watt admitted to me the $820,000 includes utilities, janitorial services, maintenance, etc. These items are operating expenses the City and Borough of Juneau would still have to pay if they owned the buildings they occupy.

Those operating expenses are estimated to total $550,000, meaning the true rental cost is only $270,000, a third of what City officials claim.

Truth and transparency by our local government have sunk to new lows. Prop One is fiscally absurd, considering these numbers. City officials want to spend $4 million in construction and financing costs each year to save us just $270,000 in rent.

The ballot proposition for the proposed new city hall was first rejected by voters a year ago without any organized opposition. The City retaliated by significantly increasing our property taxes and earmarking $10 million toward their coveted luxury office building.

When Watt recommended the issue re-appear on the ballot, public testimony was nearly unanimously opposed. Yet the Assembly rejected us and then gave Watt $50,000 to drown out our voices before the election.

Last year the Assembly voted against using public funds to solicit votes for the new city hall on ethical grounds. This year, however, they crossed the Rubicon. What’s next? Using city funds to solicit votes for political candidates they think are in the best public interest?

Perhaps Wyoming lawyer Gerry Spence said it best: “Although we give lip service to the notion of freedom, we know the government is no longer the servant of the people but, at last, has become the people’s master.”

A variety of state laws are likely being broken by City officials acting as our master, but who will stop them after the fact? Even if State officials get involved, how will these actions be unwound?

Our best bet to stop this government tyranny is to first vote NO on Proposition One and choose Assembly candidates who have taken a sensible stand against it.

Afterward, have a special grand jury investigate this entire affair and report their findings and recommendations to the public. They can best determine whether our City officials are under the influence of any special interests.

Under our Constitution, the public is entitled to know the truth through a panel of 15 randomly selected Juneau citizens with subpoena power.

By next year’s election, we’ll be more informed. Like the League of Women Voters, that is also the fundamental objective of an investigative grand jury.

David Ignell was born and raised in Juneau. He is a forensic journalist and author of a recent book on the Alaska Grand Jury.


  1. Hey Dave, file a lawsuit. Juneau is a barnacle of corruption and 90% of the city’s economy is based off of government grift.

    • Political solutions (voters or grand juries) are more palatable. The legal system is compassionate to government entities. After all, it is one itself.

  2. I tire of the left of center trope “our democracy is hanging by a thread”.

    I’ve been hearing the left say that for decades. If true, it’s because the left keeps eroding the fabric of our republic.

    On his point, it’s the worst kept “secret” in SE that the faux junta doesn’t care what we think or want. They know better and don’t miss a chance to rub it in our faces.

    What I do find funny is the leftist on leftist conflicts this has resulted in. The left getting outraged people even further on the left spending their money for a version of utopia they don’t approve of.

    I used to tease my coworkers: you voted for (fill in the blank), so you got what you voted for. I lost a bit of leverage there when Wade went full dark side.

    Regarding a grand jury to investigate CBJ. I’d love it. Absolutely love it. Like the author I love this community and want to see it maintain, if not thrive.

    I don’t see a grand jury as a viable option since who would impanel it, and who would serve on it faithfully? We are a very incestuous community.

    If we ripped the band aid off, we’re not gonna like what we see. It’s one thing to know it, a whole other to see our mismanagement and corruption laid bare.

  3. So CBJ pays Rorie Watt $175.000 annually, he loses the last “proposed city hall” vote by 246 votes out of 9034 tallied votes. Now Rory wants a do-over with a ton of sleazy misinformation to support his do-over. Thanks, Mr. Ingall, for taking the vote no position. Great presentation
    Juneau is dominated by under achieving and poorly informed democratic liberal minded sorts who do vote in mass. Rory is out at end of September; I would bet he has all kinds of skeletons left in his office closet. Noone has cared to keep a tight rein on this fellow.
    PLEASE VOTE NO on the new city hall proposal #2. IF they lose there will certainly be a new city hall proposal #3. Last vote 4329 voted YES. Get some of these folks to switch and keep the 4640 who voted NO and there you have it. Rory has a legacy to protect, send him out the door with hat in hand.

  4. Good update David. I’d suggest you sue the bastxxds, and nail them to the wall during discovery. The cost of these idiot local governments have ballooned so much that most of us don’t own our homes any more- we rent them from the government- in massive property taxes.

    Vote “No”. Too.

  5. If the voting public actually knew the cost of government programs, especially infrastructure type spending, they would vote no on every bond, every initiative, and every government sponsored proposal.
    If the government says it will cost $, triple it, and you might be close to the final cost.

  6. We it’s so relieving to see the taxpayer stand up and say BS to the lies being told by politicians. Now if the rest of the lefty deniers like paying more go for it and put the government on their bank accounts.

  7. So essentially the city of Juneau is using taxpayer money to produce misleading ‘propaganda’ to deceive voters.

    • Elizabeth, the tragedy of your comment is it describes a legally allowable process for which the laws need changing.

  8. Its actually not ‘misinformation’. Its outright lies and those lies are being told with the specific intent of deceiving the taxpayer.

    • It’s easily googled. Its similar to investigative journalism except more rigorous as needed to provide evidence in legal proceedings. Mr. Ignell is very capable at it.

  9. “Our best bet to stop this government tyranny is to… choose Assembly candidates who have taken a sensible stand against it.”

    Which ones are those?

  10. The City of Juneau has the typical “money grows on trees” mentality. They don’t care what the costs are, if they’re higher, just raise taxes. We still have a huge tram sitting on the side of a road which was bought but I don’t know if they have a plan for installation. With increasing technology and use of the web, why do we need a palatial city hall? I guess kings need their castles.

  11. You might want to also separate out a few numbers within what “they” say is the cost of the new building.
    1. Purchase of the property.
    2. Planning, architectural and engineering.
    3. Actual construction costs. These can often be less than 50% of the cost of a project.

  12. Dave, you may be too young to know this, but the League of Women Voters used to be run by Republican women back in the 60’s and 70’s, before it was hijacked by Democrat women. Today’s it’s nothing more than a propoganda group for Democrat candidates, wokesters, and Trump haters.

  13. Democracy hanging by a thread ?? Give me a beak. Marxist sobs. Apparently the entire left has lost their minds. They are cowards with big mouths. All they do is flap their gums and stir up misinformation.

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