Juneau rejects flightseeing limit

Posted: Wednesday, October 04, 2000

JUNEAU (AP) -- A ballot measure to limit sightseeing flights over Juneau failed Tuesday by a wide margin as voters refused to continue a trend of measures aimed at the booming tourism industry.

With all 19 precincts reporting unofficial results, the measure to ban flightseeing between 5 p.m. and 9 a.m. and all day on Saturday had only 31 percent of the vote.

Elsewhere in the state, local voters chose mayors, assembly members and decided the fate of tax and bonding proposals.

Helicopter and float-plane tours over the capital city have increased with the growth of the booming cruise ship industry. But the added aircraft noise has irritated many local residents, whose windows rattle as squadrons of helicopters rattle their windows dozens of times a day during the summer tourist season.

However, the initiative failed to gather the support that passed last year's cruise ship passenger head tax.

Aviation and tourism businesses argued against the initiative, saying it would cost jobs and hurt companies that rely on tourists.

''It would have cut our businesses at least in half,'' said Michelle Ward, who runs the Taku Glacier Lodge, which offers a combination flightseeing tour and salmon bake in partnership with Wings of Alaska. ''I don't think we would have been able to stay in business that way because we have to fly in all our fuel and groceries.''

Ray Preston, one of the initiative's backers, said the vote wouldn't end the contentious debate over aircraft noise.

''No matter what, this issue is not going to go away,'' Preston said. ''People have a right to enjoy their own homes and property and operate their businesses free of this level of disturbance.''

The race for Juneau mayor was tight well into the evening, but Sally Smith, who represented Fairbanks in the state House, defeated former mayor Jamie Parsons 4,820 to 4,611.

The city was also divided on a nonbinding advisory vote on whether to build a road connecting Juneau to the rest of the state's road system or improve ferry service. Ferry service got 5,213 votes, compared to 5,129 votes for the road.

Measures reauthorizing Juneau's 4 percent sales tax passed easily. The capital city's voters also elected high school student Daniel Peterson to the school board.

In Fairbanks, businesswoman Rhonda Boyles won the mayor's race in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. Mayor Hank Hove did not seek re-election.

With 95 percent of precincts reporting, Boyles, the owner of three Wendy's restaurants, had 55 percent of the vote. Three other candidates split the rest of the vote. Fairbanks North Star voters were also supporting $29.4 million in school construction projects, but rejecting $1.6 million to upgrade sports facilities at Lathrop High School.

In North Pole, Jeffrey Jacobson was leading the mayor's race with 48 percent of the vote with a third of precincts reporting.

In the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Tim Anderson defeated Darcie Salmon in the mayor's race with 53 percent of the vote with all 25 precincts reporting. The borough's voters also approved $14.1 million in bonds for school construction and related capital improvements.

In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, 70 percent of voters were supporting a $7.4 million school bond package with 88 percent of precincts reporting.

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