Alaska’s capital has told the Navy it is not welcome to make Juneau a home port, election results showed Wednesday.
On a ballot question Tuesday, 53%, or 3,898 voters, voted “No” to consideration of the city as a home port and 47%, or 3,461, voted “Yes” to keeping Juneau in the running.
“The vote’s pretty clear cut,” city planner Murray Walsh said. “It’s dead.”
When Pentagon officials and Navy ships visited Juneau to see if it would be a suitable home port, it triggered an opposition campaign to keep the Navy out.
Dave Allison, a Juneau lawyer, said of the returns: “We’re really pleased. We did some serious celebrating. Both my brothers served in the Navy. We’re a Navy family, but this didn’t make sense.”
Allison added: “People were pursuing a military base for economic gain rather than national defense. This was a vote to avoid malignant growth. The impact of a fleet on the social fabric of Juneau would have ripped it asunder.”
Planning Process Started
The Juneau Economic Development Council spent $30,000 of city money to study the issue, and the planning department devoted the equivalent of two months’ work by two people to the effort over the last year, Walsh said.
The wording of the ballot measure put all undecided voters in the “Yes” camp, but that was not enough to defeat the anti-Navy movement.
A “Yes” vote would not have committed Juneau to becoming a Navy port, but it would have kept the idea under consideration while city and Navy officials worked out details of the project and what it would mean for Juneau. Once details were known, Juneau would vote again on whether to be a home port, the ballot statement said.
But the voters slammed the door on the process. The ballot proposition read: “A ‘No’ vote means that you are opposed to the location of a Navy home port in Juneau under any circumstances.”
Sentiment Is Clear
Although the election results are advisory, Walsh said the outcome was clear enough that Juneau is unlikely to have anything more to do with the Navy.
Allison criticized Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), who had pushed for the basing of ships in Alaska. “It would be real good for Ted Stevens to learn to ask first before delivering these dubious gifts to us,” he said.
Although many opponents worried that the naval presence might make the city a military target, Allison said Juneau is not anti-military. “The people of Juneau have had a very positive relation with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Guard for years,” he said.
Allison said efforts supporting an Alaska Navy port should be redirected toward support for the state’s Coast Guard fleet, which is threatened with budget cuts.