Opposition building to Juneau area flightseeing initiative

Posted: Monday, May 15, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- Opposition is building here to a flightseeing initiative that would set strict hours for helicopter traffic during the tourist season.

The board of directors of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce has unanimously come out against such a move.

The panel is warning of far-reaching adverse consequences if the initiative is approved by voters this fall. The board said it would constitute discrimination against the aviation industry and undermine year-round air service.

Ray Preston, one of five people who organized the Peace and Quiet Coalition, said action against the group's initiative was anticipated.

''That's the sort of thing we would expect from the Chamber of Commerce,'' he told the Juneau Empire. ''I think the voters of this community deserve an opportunity to have their say on this initiative.''

Swift positioning on the issue by the chamber and by the pro-tourism group Destination Juneau is in contrast with the lack of an organized opposition to the cruise ship passenger head tax approved by capital city voters last fall.

''It certainly would be safe to say that the business community figures you can't just let stuff go by,'' said Jack Cadigan, president of Destination Juneau. ''I guess you could term last year as a wake-up call to the business community. We simply can't trust that everybody will understand what's there, because life's not fair.''

The ballot measure would limit flightseeing from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., six days a week. It would ban it altogether on Saturdays from May through September. It also would prevent the Juneau Assembly from approving new heliports without guarantees that noise levels wouldn't increase, and it would bar the use of public money for noise studies.

The noise hasn't been bad so far this year but the real test is yet to come, with back-to-back days when multiple cruise ships tie up in port, Preston said. It's the relentless barrage of noise perhaps even more than the number of decibels that has residents concerned, he said.

Some have ''abandoned their gardens, abandoned their yards,'' he said.

The initiative needs 2,165 voter signatures to get on the October municipal election ballot. The signatures must be gathered within 30 days of receipt of petition booklets from the city clerk, a clock that was to have started running last week.

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