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This essay was published in the Juneau Empire on September 28, 2016. The Empire is a web and print newspaper published daily, except Saturday, in Juneau, Alaska.

My Vote for Kate Troll

I am a long time resident and home owner in Juneau, Alaska. I am a retired senior who is considerably older than 65, and I will be voting for Kate Troll for re-election to the CBJ Assembly in October. Many seniors in Juneau have good retirement incomes, and I'm sure we all love the perks and discounts at the movies, at various theater, arts, and music events, and at the many businesses around town who are happy to help us when we walk in.

So far, we also get serious discounts on our sales and real property taxes from the CBJ. Unfortunately, the collapse in the global price of oil means that a big chunk of Juneau's economic income - and, therefore, many of our senior perks - are going to go away in the next few years. In a letter to the editor last week by the representative of a group apparently opposed to her re-election, Kate Troll was described as "personally responsible" for all the tax problems the letter writer sees as affecting seniors today.

My first reaction to the writer's assertion was not printable.

The letter writer used a divisive political tactic called a "wedge" issue to try and defeat Troll on election day. "Wedge" issues are often used whenever conservatives think some of their wealth is at risk of being taxed, or some of their activities are at risk of being regulated. The purpose is to divide and defeat liberals, progressives and others who favor good government, and who are willing to do the hard community work involved to assure that taxes and regulations - when necessary - are fair and reasonable.

Actually, Kate Troll and six other members of the Assembly understood the real problems the Juneau economy faces with the collapse in the oil price, and those seven had the political courage to take a close look at the entire CBJ budget last year to try to figure out a way through the hard times that will be coming down like a sledge hammer on all of us, not just seniors, over the next several years.

Wedge issues are often successful. In the last mayoral election, a "wedge" issue turned on showing a candidate for Mayor in a rather bland photo sitting with her fellow Assembly members. Putting a right wing spin on the otherwise unremarkable photo was enough to defeat the mayoral candidate. Incidentally, she - the candidate for Mayor - had chaired the Assembly's Finance Committee during their deliberations on the CBJ's budget. She was the one truly responsible for putting the votes of her other 6 Assembly Colleagues together to see the final CBJ budget through to approval.

The Conservatives in control of our recently adjourned State Legislature had no problems finding and making cuts to lots of programs that lower-income people all over Alaska rely on each year for their job, their basic dignity, and their family and personal well-being. Unfortunately for the rest of us, the conservatives had no courage for the real work of finding which government services were really critical, and how many people would actually suffer, and to what extent, by losing those programs.

Our Legislative leaders also had no courage for developing new sources of revenue - like a personal income tax - to help stabilize and finance a longer term fiscal profile for the operations of the State of Alaska and municipalities across Alaska. Worst of all, among the biggest sets of payments to single groups the State makes each year are the subsidies to the oil industry. These oil subsidies were left untouched by Alaska's Legislature.

I take the writer's point that many people buy their cars outside. On the other hand, many who don't want to pay the premium purchase price and high shipping cost always have. I agree that some seniors are leaving town. But so are many young people with families who might lose their jobs and no longer see a future here. Among all the gifts I like best about Juneau, I think seeing a young family raising their children in my neighborhood is the greatest gift of all.

Jerry Smetzer; Long time Juneau resident.