Why I’m voting ‘no’ on Juneau’s Proposition 3: The JACC Racket



Juneau is a jewel of a town.

With just 31,000 residents, it’s also our country’s fifth smallest capital city in terms of population. I would argue that small really is beautiful and by embracing that smallness, we can keep Juneau affordable and livable well into the future.

For over a year, proponents of a new performing arts center (JACC) have mounted a promotional campaign to convince Juneau voters to help pay for construction of an oversized 44,500-square-foot, two-story, $26 million facility. (For perspective, Centennial Hall is 19,680 square feet.)

Some supporters signed on early when the original concept was somewhat more modest and no public funding was anticipated. After plans ballooned and the cost exploded, many community members began questioning the scale and price tag of a project that now demands our tax dollars.

Promoters seem to suggest that the arts in Juneau are in a state of emergency. Yet somehow, as a JACC zealot tells us, the Western States Arts Foundation ranks Juneau as one of the country’s top 10 small cities for creative vitality and vibrancy.

We’ve been admonished that “Juneau is the only capital city in the country without a performing arts center.”

Well, we’re also the only capital city in the country without road access — unlike Santa Fe, New Mexico, a capital city which some suggest should be our model.

Santa Fe (population 84,000) is located within an hour’s drive of Albuquerque (population 560,000) and in comfortable driving distance of numerous communities in the four states bordering New Mexico. That makes it relatively easy and inexpensive for visitors to access and support its cultural resources.

But Juneau could be the Native art capital of the Northwest if only we had a $26 million performing arts center?

I would submit that Juneau has a world-class Native arts presence on display at both the Walter Soboleff cultural and research center, and especially in the galleries of the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum Building.

Perhaps more correctly, Juneau could be (and have) just about anything we wanted if we only had a road — and a growing population. But we don’t have either.

The arguments for a 44,500-square-foot JACC deny the stark reality of the state budget and Juneau’s demographics.

Here’s an inconvenient metric to ponder: According to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development, in 1998-1999, Juneau’s K-12 school enrollment totaled 5,740. By the 2018-2019 school year, K-12 enrollment had dropped to 4,567.

A 44,500-square-foot JACC will require an ever-expanding universe of patrons to meet the revenue projections proponents claim are possible. How will they manage expenses without undercutting the competition and diminishing the rental income streams of smaller venues?

What’s sorely missing from this conversation is a sense of proportion and a measure of modesty. That old-fashioned virtue shows up in another capital city.

About equal in population to Juneau is Helena, Montana. Helena is also a highly cultured community with a history as a regional center for the performing arts.

In 1976 Helena’s municipal offices moved from the (1919) Algeria Shrine Temple to the renovated (1904) federal building, and the Algeria Shrine was converted to a convention/civic center akin to Juneau’s Centennial Hall.

Then, in 1991, Helena transformed its (1894) Lewis and Clark County Jail into a performing arts center, and named it for actress Myrna Loy, who grew up down the street. The community raised the funds to renovate the historic downtown structure into a state-of-the-art venue for concerts, films, art exhibits, and arts education experiences. Known as one of the most vibrant small arts organizations in the rural West, the Myrna Loy is a fully equipped facility with an auditorium, theatre and gallery. And it’s about 7,500 square feet.

Helena embraced its “smallness” and with creativity, but not puffery, re-imagined and re-purposed existing buildings.

Not Juneau.

Rather than propose a less ambitious project, or attempt the hard work of an innovative remodel or inspired addition to Centennial Hall, our glitterati demanded big and brand new. City leaders swooned and got in line.

Perhaps we’re not that creative after all.

I’m voting “no” on Proposition 3.

Paulette Simpson resides in Douglas, Alaska. 


  1. Socialist always want other people to pay for what they want, even if you don’t want these things, by using your Direct Taxes. A Constitutional Republic only spends money on the protection of our Rights to Life, Liberty and Property which is the Pursuit of Happiness. Everything is provided by the Land when our Rights to Life and Liberty are protected by a Constitutional Republic. That is why our Constitutional Republic originally provided the Land to us as “Allodial” which could not be taken for any so-called debts such as Property Tax. The Land is the single most important thing we will ever possess because everything is provided by the Land. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary definition, “Allodial, Free and Absolute. Not subject to Feudal Duties and Rents.” “Absolute, Life or Lives in being, plus 21 years plus ordinary period of gestation.” A child is one of “We The People” from the moment of conception instead of from the moment of birth as the Abortionists want us to believe, but today they are even killing babies after they are born. These Abortions are Satanic. A Deed is only “Color of Title” but a Patent is “Absolute Title”. The Patent must be brought forward. Please read “Blackstone’s Commentaries” on Possession, Right of Possession, Right of Property, from the 1500″s. These same definitions can also be found in Bouvier’s 1856 Law Dictionary and in Black’s Law Dictionary 4th Edition. Socialism creates Slavery but a Constitutional Republic creates Freedom for “We The People”. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  2. Concerning Allodial Title to Land, I will also include the case of Wallace v. Harmstad 44 Pa. 492, 1863. This case comes from the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania. A case on land titles, delivered May 6th, 1863 by Justice Woodward. This is proof positive that citizens use to get Allodial Title to their land from the State and the United States Land Patent because the Land Act of 1820 said this also. Seymour Marvin Mills Jr. sui juris

  3. Hilarious… probably more like $46M after all the bid rigging, cost overruns, and kickbacks are added in.
    Point is, you’ll pay your fair share and thank your lucky stars it’s not $56M because that’s how things work these days in the Holy City of Juneau, no?

  4. I’ve previously lived in both Helena and Juneau. Helena is a wonderful place to live! Juneau not so much…

    Having lived in Juneau previously, I now think of it as a community with champagne taste on a beer budget; Pabst Blue Ribbon beer and not the top shelf Alaskan Brewing Company beer.

  5. I think it is interesting that there seems to be a surge of proposals (most of them extravagant financially) in way of the State’s current financial crisis. It’s almost like the closer we lemmings get to that precipitous fall off the cliff the faster we run, as though in denial of the reality that awaits us?? We humans are an odd bunch for sure. Most of the people I know and associate with are tightening their belts and pondering what they might do with reduced ferry service, increased fuel costs, reduced State services. . . . . . . , but there seems to be a whole sector of the population that acts as though the financial situation is in fact one of prosperity — denial is a truly amazing force. Unfortunately . . . . Reality is far more harsh and more brutal than the mindset of lemmings as they accelerate off the cliff – reality is BRUTALLY rigid.

  6. A wonderfully written article.

    Yes ,nothing is too good for that group of Juneau residents that Rosalee Walker used to refer to as ” the playful” bunch. Whether it is a public financed Ski Resort or a shrine to the arts!

    • Here’s a story of that “public financed Ski Resort” where I must admit that as a cross country skier I felt such an expense was unneeded in Juneau and voted against it. I have since learned to alpine ski and have spent many days on the mountain watching an untold number of kids and young adults having enormous outrageous days plain having to much fun. I have regretted that original vote as I was just ignorant of the kind of recreation that ski area could provide, but now know what is possible to entertain our kids. Better late than never.

  7. I am writing this from a facilities point of view. The price per square foot comes to about $585. For the show piece that is in the renderings, it appears to be quite low. Besides the cost of construction there is design (usually 8-10 percent of construction), administration/contract management ( 6-9 percent), furnishings, equipment and contingencies. I would have guessed about $650 to 700. Also, I wonder what the ongoing budget for operations and maintenance is. Well maintained buildings should be at least 3% of replacement value for O&M, or about $780,000/year for custodial, utilities and minor repairs. It is a little less in the beginning and a lot more over time. Then there is the reserve for major maintenance and repairs like new roofs, mechanical systems, etc. The normal for this is 2% of replacement value and if the managers are not spending the correct amount for O&M, the reserve for major repairs goes up.

    If the costs for the facility exceeds the estimated price then there will be either another shot for more money or shortcuts are taken that end up costing more in total ownership. I am not inclined to vote yes. Not because I am against public facilities but, I have not been shown the need and the planning for costs now and into the future.

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