Mallott lambasts Juneau’s annexation bid

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott addresses the Southeast Conference Mid Session Summit on Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018, in Juneau. He urged capital city leaders to talk more with its neighbors about annexation plans. (Photo by Heather Holt)

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott said Juneau is not behaving like a good neighbor.

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During a Wednesday speech to the Southeast Conference Mid Session Summit, he lambasted officials for trying to annex parts of nearby Admiralty Island.

Leaders from Angoon, the island’s only city, oppose what they call a land grab.

“Juneau needs to recognize that it’s the capital of Alaska but also the regional center of Southeast,” Mallott said. “And it has a responsibility and an obligation to reach out affirmatively to every other community in Southeast and say, ‘Let’s be neighbors and let’s work together and let’s build a place that is unassailable by the Legislature or anyone else who would seek to divide us.’”

The Juneau Assembly voted in January to add four parcels to its borough, including parts of northern Admiralty Island.

It later dropped one parcel after hearing objections from cabin-owners, most of whom live in Juneau.

A former Juneau mayor, Mallott said officials should respond similarly to objections from the island’s traditional residents.

“The people of Angoon feel so passionate and spiritual about all of Admiralty Island,” Mallott said. “They’re concerned about economic development on that side of the island now. What’s the future of their island, that they share with the rest of our country as one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth.”

Most of Admiralty Island’s million acres are protected as a national monument.

It’s used for subsistence hunting and fishing. But it also has a mine on its north end that has already been annexed by the capital city.

Juneau Mayor Ken Koelsch said Mallott is wrong about officials not reaching out to its neighbors.

“We attempted to go over to Angoon several times and were not able to find one (time) that was acceptable to the mayor and the group over there that we were trying to meet up with,” Koelsch said.

Koelsch said he’ll continue to try to set up a meeting. He also noted that Angoon Mayor Pauline Jim has since come before the Assembly.

Angoon residents cite their traditional ties to the island.

Koelsch said Juneau also has longtime connections to the land it’s trying to annex. The land includes historic trade routes and areas are claimed as traditional territory by Juneau’s Aak’w Kwáan and Taku Kwáan.

The annexation process can take a least a year.

Koelsch said that gives Angoon and other opponents more chances to object.

“The Local Boundary Commission that’s set up by the state has public hearings once we put the application in and it involves everyone possible that could be affected by it,” Koelsch said.

Juneau began looking at the parcels after losing a boundary battle with Petersburg.

Both boroughs claimed rights to absorb acreage on the mainland between the two communities.

Juneau lost, in part because Petersburg petitioned for the property first. So it began looking at other areas within model borough boundaries set years before.