SitNews - Stories in the News - Ketchikan, Alaska

Viewpoints: Letters / Opinions

With Significant Challenges Facing Ketchikan, I Am Stepping Up to Run For Borough Mayor

By Rodney Dial

August 01, 2019
Thursday AM

As a Borough Assembly member, the following are my personal thoughts; however I am not representing the Borough or Assembly.

jpg Rodney Dial

Three years ago, I ran for a Borough Assembly position after many of you asked me step up for our town.

As you probably remember, the borough budget had a nearly million dollar deficit just a few years ago. I spent the first year of my term (2016) going through every aspect of the budget for each department. I made several recommendations for reductions, offered ways to increase efficiency, submitted no expenses and turned down all travel. For more information please see my letters from 2016/17.

By my second year, it became clear that the best opportunity to deal with our future budget concerns was to seek additional/continued federal/state support, and demand fair treatment from the state during the budgetary crisis.

  • I supported resolutions (several) asking our state elected officials for tax fairness for our citizens. I also presented an idea on how that parity could be achieved though an unincorporated/unorganized area service tax.

  • I opposed a State Income/Payroll tax and offered testimony in front of the legislature. The reason is that we must have borough tax parity first (with the unorganized areas), before any new state taxes, because that is our best, and possibly only leverage. For more information see my letters regarding the “Required Local Contribution RLC tax”.

  • Asked for a change on the yearly borough tax assessment forms that allow citizens to track the yearly change in assessments (transparency in government). Shows you how much your assessments are changing each year.

  • I developed a plan to elevate Borough issues to the Whitehouse (first time in our history). This laid the groundwork to save our citizens over a million dollars in FEMA flood insurance premiums yearly in perpetuity and is helping to resolve several other issues as well.

  • I identified a procurement issue on the state level preventing our Shipyard from fair bidding on state contracts and forwarded a proposal to the Governor to remedy (pending).

  • Testified in Juneau in front of legislators and the SE Conference that “The Citizens I represent are not willing to pay more, so that others (unorganized boroughs) can continue to pay nothing”. Demanding fairness for our island. And I continue to do so.

  • Supported housing development in Ketchikan and requested help obtaining state land in support, from our representatives in Juneau. Unfortunately, we are having difficulties in this regard, but are still working on it.

  • Provided two plans on how to pay for Teacher contracts and health care increases without increasing the sales or property tax rates.

  • Worked on a committee to change the way non-profits are funded, allowing the non-profits to provide input. Non profit funding was increased without a tax increase.

  • Supported maintaining the senior sales tax exemption as is.

In short, we have balanced the budget, fully funded our schools, funded basic services and non-profits WITHOUT a sales or property tax increase for three years. To be clear, our success is a joint effort of the Assembly/Mayor, Borough Manager and staff. On the Assembly we are not Republicans or Democrats… just citizens… and we have worked well together for the last several years.

We have the best and most dedicated employees in the state and we are truly leading the way among Alaskan communities. Our Finance Director is a “Rock Star” in my opinion for identifying a way to generate hundreds of thousands more per year in interest on borough reserves (enough to pay for our non-profits btw).

In the last few years our little town has developed far more influence in DC than any other community in Alaska, including Anchorage/Fairbanks.

Working with our congressional delegation, we continue to push for, and have obtained Federal funds for our Schools, PILT for the Federal lands in the Borough, and received changes in national legislation in support of our community.

I just learned days ago that a proposal I developed and presented in DC will be bringing in funding for our Fire Services. Additionally, I had a teleconference with Whitehouse staff on July 23rd, in preparation for another visit later this year. I’ve also been appointed to the National Association of Counties Rural Action Caucus as a voting member. This will allow me to recommend national legislation and policy changes that support our borough.

We have made incredible progress as a community over the last few years and are getting our problems resolved while holding the line on taxes.

Looking forward we have significant challenges that need to be addressed. The recently approved teacher contracts, including health care cost increases of nearly 20% will weigh on the budget. Borough Insurance costs are up 60% due to reasons out of our control. Additionally, it appears that School Bond debt reimbursement and/or Community Assistance could be ended by the state this year or next.

We have a few options to address these costs:

  • Do nothing… spend reserves and deal with it when we are out of money. This was largely the State’s approach to their budget problem over the last six years. However, it is irresponsible and creates havoc. First, our reserves protect us from unforeseen situations and generate interest revenue. If we spend our reserves it will increase the likelihood that massive cuts and/or massive tax increases will be needed when reserves dip below a level that require a 2/3rd Assembly approval to access (school reserve fund). Spending reserves also increases the chances that we could become like other Alaska communities that give “pink slips” to teachers on a yearly basis.

  • Generate new revenue.

If you know me, you realize I am one of the most fiscally responsible people you will ever meet. I scrutinize every government expense. Just this year I have personally paid for my own borough travel/hotel and perdiem costs to save taxpayer money. I have spent more to serve the borough this year than I have made from the borough. I’m not saying that to brag, I enjoy being on the Assembly and am honored to serve. I just want you to know I value every dollar of your money and will lead by example.

All that to say, we have to pay our bills and I developed two ways we can do that without a sales or property tax rate increase. The first was a plan to impose modest taxes on tourism. Long story short, I was unable to get consensus from the Assembly so at present that idea is off the table.

The second idea is to raise the sales tax cap from $1000 to $2000 or higher. The benefit of this idea is that it will prevent a MASSIVE property tax increase(s) in the future. It will also go unnoticed for about 99% of the purchases local citizens make in a year. However, this will allow a mechanism to tax high end tourist purchases such as jewelry, etc. Even with an increase in our cap, it will still be far less than other communities like Juneau.

Many have asked if we could generate more revenue from marijuana sales. That is more of a revenue generator for the City and would not do much for the Borough; so the short answer is no.

A few other things to consider. The sales tax RATE can not be raised without a vote of the people and I would not be in support of that. This would affect every purchase we make and make our businesses less competitive. We don’t want to make food and the necessities of life more expensive.

I am also not in favor of a Property Tax rate increase for a number of reasons. First, 100% of borough property tax already goes to education and we need to diversify school funding to protect from economic downturns. Second, property assessments are rising faster than inflation and amount to a yearly property tax increase already (we have no control of this / State mandated). Third, a recent housing needs assessment found that the average house price already exceeds the average family income/ability to afford and that most renters are cost burdened. Raising the property tax rate will only increase gentrification concerns, increase homelessness and make housing more unaffordable for our youth and elders.

The last three years prove that we can fund the things important to our community while controlling the cost of government; however the sooner we plan, the easier the solution.

I have recently been asked by Borough Mayor Landis, City Council Members and many others in our community to run for Borough Mayor this fall. Mayor Landis, who has done an outstanding job, will not be able to run for Mayor again due to term limits. For those reasons and many more, I am announcing that I will be running for Borough Mayor this fall.

One of the primary responsibilities of the Borough Mayor is to advocate for our community and even if you have disagreed with me in the past… I hope you realize that no one advocates harder for us than I do. I want to live here for the rest of my life, just like you, and I don’t want to see us make the mistakes other communities have.

The Mayor position is non-partisan and I will do my best to represent the best interests of all citizens if elected. I will also demand we are treated fairly by the State and Federal Government… that we fund essential services… that we take care of our elders… and do that while maintaining the growth and cost of government.

It’s incredibly important that we build on the progress we have made on the federal level and continue to work with our Congressional delegation and the Whitehouse to solve our local problems. This will put us in a better position to deal with cuts in state funding. We have the momentum, let’s keep it going!

My daughter (Megan Flora) will have a booth at the Blueberry Art’s Festival (#93) and will have a sign up sheet for signatures to qualify me for the election. If you are willing to support me, please visit Megan and ask her for the petition.

Thank you so much Ketchikan… it has been an honor to serve and I appreciate the opportunity regardless if I become Borough Mayor or not. I will do my best to help get our finances in order before my term on the Assembly is over in October, and my budget proposal will be heard in the Assembly in August.

Stay Strong Ktown!

Rodney Dial
Ketchikan, Alaska



Editor's Note:

SitNews provides letter space to all candidates free.

The text of this letter was NOT edited by the SitNews Editor.


Received July 29, 2019 - Published August 01, 2019

Related Viewpoint:



Viewpoints - Opinion Letters:

Webmail Your Opinion Letter to the Editor


E-mail your letters & opinions to
Your full name, city and state are required for letter publication.

Published letters become the property of SitNews.

SitNews ©2019
Stories In The News
Ketchikan, Alaska

Articles & photographs that appear in SitNews are considered protected by copyright and may not be reprinted without written permission from and payment of any required fees to the proper sources.

E-mail your news & photos to

Photographers choosing to submit photographs for publication to SitNews are in doing so granting their permission for publication and for archiving. SitNews does not sell photographs. All requests for purchasing a photograph will be emailed to the photographer.