Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly 2022 Candidate
By Austin Otos
June 30, 2022
I’ve had the honor to serve on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly for three years starting in 2019. Since being elected, local government has undergone tumultuous changes starting with COVID, transitioning to having no cruise passengers, and ending with the community coming back into somewhat normalcy. I would characterize my short three-year term on the Borough Assembly as the “COVID Years”. Starting in 2020, the KGB declared a state of emergency and a two-year recovery process began. During those few years of economic recovery, the KGB was able to recuperate its loses from various federal and state government dollars such as the CARES Act, which helped restore tax revenue lost from an abysmal cruise ship year. With these funds, we were able to inject millions of dollars into the community into programs such as: rental/mortgage relief, daycare assistance, supplemental food programs, and local business grants. During the pandemic, both local governments worked together to provide services with minimum redundancy, which maximized the programs efficiencies. Without these crucial programs, the community would’ve had compounded social and economic problems.
As an Assembly Member, I’ve had the opportunity to take a proactive role through advocacy trips on behalf of the KGB traveling to: Alaska Municipal League events and Southeast Conference. These advocacy trips enable the KGB to bring forward local issues to seek proper funding from state and federal partners. Economic development summits such as Southeast Conference has spurred much of the growth within the Southeast region contributing to building up the mariculture industry, renewed interest in producing forest products, and creating an AMHS ferry working group positively impacting the local economy of Ketchikan. After many years of advocacy from multiple Assemblies and Mayors, we are beginning to see the fruits of our advocacy pay off with large infrastructure projects such as the Herring Cove Bridge rebuild, NOAA’s Fairweather layup facility, improvements to the Ketchikan Airport, and reconstruction of the South Tongass Highway. I believe these infrastructure projects highlight the growing local economy and markets our community as a favorable destination to live and travel to.
The initiatives I would like to pursue in the future are: 1. Continuing to focus our efforts in addressing the housing crisis by expanding upon service areas/subdivisions, 2. Input into the new parks plan by contributing to projects, 3. Addressing sales tax issues such as the sales tax cap and exemptions for certain purchases, and 4. Stabilizing the Local Education Fund by finding new revenue streams. The most impactful of these issues is addressing housing which we’ve began to tackle by increasing density on lots, a process for short term rental permits, and allocating $7.2 million into improving new service area/subdivision roads for increased housing stock. With these issues in mind, I plan on seeking reelection to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly and humbly ask for your support in this year’s election.
Received July 28, 2022 - Published July 30, 022
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