Juneau government to spend $50K of taxpayer dollars lobbying voters to change their minds, fund new city hall


Juneau voters said no last fall to a proposed bond that would build a new city hall. The Juneau Assembly wants a do-over and on Monday authorized city staff to to spend up to $50,000 lobbying voters to say yes to it next time it’s on the ballot, which appears to be this October.

The city staff will not be providing neutral information to voters, but will spend time pushing information in support of the project, with the intent to sway the voters to be in favor of the initiative that would fund $35 million of the approximately $42 million project.

City Manager Rorie Watt has continued to push the new city hall, even though it comes at a time when property taxes have sent property owners reeling.

Property assessments have soared in Juneau. In 2020, the average home was assessed at $429,000, but that went up to $527,000 in 2022. The mill rate went down slightly, but not enough to offset the high valuations set by the assessor’s office.

“Clearly, we would be trying to influence the outcome of the election,” Watt told the Assembly.

Several Juneau residents called out the Assembly on what appears to be a disregard of the voters’ will. After all, even though an online survey was conducted by the city’s consultant showed support for the project before it was placed on the ballot last year, the survey respondents were self-selecting and heavily weighted toward people who live in downtown Juneau, where Democrats dominate and like to spend on government. Fully 17% of respondents work for the city.

In other words, the survey design and responses show that the city has already spent taxpayer money to come up with the answer the Assembly wanted, which was used to try to convince the foot-draggers, critics told Must Read Alaska.

What the entire community actually thought was revealed in the real poll — the one at the ballot box.

“They voted nay on the project. We’re using their money to advocate against their vote,” said Wayne Coogan, a critic of government waste.

Others noted that the city has allowed the exterior of the current city hall building to fall into disrepair on purpose, in order to sway the public to support the $35 million bond. The existing city hall is aging and its exterior paint is unsightly. The building, built in the 1950s, needs about $12 million in upgrades to extend its life for another 25 years, the city says. There are other buildings in Juneau built in the same era that have been well maintained over the years.

Critics counter that the Juneau Assembly could have purchased the vacant Walmart building when it went up for sale at a reduced price last year, but instead caved to liberals who want to build a shrine to government downtown.

The Juneau Assembly has instead spent nearly $46 million in taxpayer funds to date for the planned construction of two government buildings, rejected by voters, which are estimated to cost around $120 million together, according to columnist Win Gruening. The other building rejected by voters was the $70+ million civic center.

“Secondly, property tax assessments this year are rising an average of 16% (though some residents report increases of up to 40%), which negates any purported “reduction” in property taxes by the Assembly,” Gruening said.

The Juneau Assembly has yet to vote on whether to include the city hall bond proposal on the October ballot. The Assembly meets to determine that on July 10.


  1. The Walmart building was never a viable option. It was a big box store and was designed that way so it would have been more cost effective to tear it down and start over. The Assembly should be focusing on our garbage problem, not building a palatial city hall.

    • Jim, I disagree about the old Walmart Building site. It is perfectly located for access throughout the Borough, has plenary space and as an added bonus is down wind of Lemon Creeks Mount Stinko! Surely after a couple of years of sniffing that stench your City Fathers, Mothers, excuse me, people who have babies along with cousin It and any number of other pronoun mangled genders that can act as “City Fathers”, (but I digress), will through olfactory experience gain a profound awareness of the STENCH!

      Juneau does many things well, Garbage disposal since Shorty sold out isn’t one of them.

    • Jim,
      1) I respectfully disagree as to the Walmart Bldg. It could be renovated reasonably for a modest City Hall with ancillary spaces. The location and parking are perfect.
      2) We have no control over the private sector garbage problem but the symptoms are falling upon us. If we build our own city dump then we gain control. However, it is a challenging public problem that makes building a new city hall look very easy in comparison. We can all understand why the assembly is attracted to the easier issue.

  2. It’s a waste of time and money. We’ve told them again and again no. But just like the backdoored the “new JACC”, they’ll back door the Tai Mahal.

    They want it, they’ll get it. Doesn’t matter what we say.

    But to be honest, when we sent these morons back, we approved this. Our Assembly has a long history of this.

    Until our votes match our words, the words are meaningless.

  3. The Juneau assembly has a long history of this. Between this sort of BS, streets full of junkies and abandoned cars I was already fed up with Juneau when the latest bloated tax assessment came along. I decided that I’m done wasting my money on Juneau lefties and sold everything. By the first of July I’ll be enjoying a more conservative climate.

  4. This is the problem with politicians they don’t like no for an answer. They want all taxpayers money for their pet projects regardless what the voters want. They are out of control and somewhere they need to be brought back down to the proper size. Taxpayers of Juneau stand your ground.

  5. Exactly what’s wrong with Government, multiply this by the tens of thousands What is happening Nationally , between Countless grants, studies, and other slush funds that get divvied out, you can be assured the 50.000 in this case will end up in the hands of several parasites who are manning the books, and still the stupid people follow these thieves like sheep, unbelievable how corrupt it is!

  6. Did unhappy Juneau voters really re-elect this Assembly, or did the magic of mail-in-only voting and remote ballot counting in Anchorage “somehow” have an impact? Nobody on the street admits to voting for any current CBJ Assembly member.

  7. It is always easy to spend other people’s money.
    I wonder how much the Anchorage School District spends every year to sponsor fishing reports on the radio, or advertising for input from the taxpayers. (Curiously, when I went to the ASDK12 website, I could not find a single place where I could provide input. But, the commercials sound good.)
    Government will always piss away your money for the shiny things the people we elect want. We put toddlers in charge, then get outraged when they act like toddlers.

  8. You all did this to yourselves by electing Portland to run your city. I don’t see what the problem is. You want graft, degeneracy, and hush money for the natives. You got got exactly what you wanted and now you complain? Whats another couple of dozen million dollars to build a temple to exhalt every principle you were warned against? It’s what the Juneau people want at the end of the day.

    • Which is why we have an aging, declining population. A large segment of our population still thinks this is the 60s and behaves that way.

      We nearly hit rock bottom in the 80s when people were literally just giving the house keys back to the bank and leaving town. We climbed back to our knees then got hit by the Clinton bans on logging. It’s been a slow slide ever since.

      Can we bounce back again? Probably, but the odds are long.

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