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Candidates' Forum
Responses to Readers' Questions

Dave Kiffer
Candidate for Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly
3 year term ( 2 seats open)
About Dave Kiffer


Published: Wednesday
September 17, 2003
Last updated: Sunday - 10/05/03 - 11:55 pm

DAve Kiffer

Dave Kiffer

 "Respect for the Past,
Ideas for the Future"

447 Hillcrest
Ketchikan, Alaska 99901

Questions For Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly Candidates

Reader's Question #1 - What planning methods would you use for future projects? (09/15/03)

check Response to question #1 - Published 09/17/03

Previouse borough assemblies have mistakenly treated planning as though it was a hinderance to development. An example was the Ketchikan 2004 process of the mid 1990s that tried to bring the entire community together to envision a Ketchikan after the pulp mill long term contract ran out. The process was cut short because the borough government, among others, decided that the mill would always be here so the process was moot. Another example is how the borough blew through nearly all of its Federal Disaster Relief without creating a mini-permanent fund (like Wrangell) that would allow the money permanently benefit the community. By the time that the Ketchikan Economic Development Authority was set up, the money was mostly gone. Planning is essential because if we don't decide how we want our community to be in the next 5 to 10 to 20 years, others will make the decision for us and we may not like where we end up. We need to continue planning projects such as the 2020 process and we need to open up the planning process to more members of the community. We all have a stake in how Ketchikan develops and too often only a narrow range of residents ends up with input in the process.


Reader's Question #2 - Several if not all of the candidates have stated that the Assembly should "fully fund" the school district. What obligation does the Assembly have, if any, to insure that the funding is wisely used by the school district ? (09/15/03)

check Response to question #2 - Published 09/17/03

As citizens we all have an obligation to make sure that all government funding - school district included - is spent wisely and has the desired result. I am concerned when Assemblymembers are perceived by the public as cutting school funding to make any sort of political statement. At the same time, I am also concerned that a significant portion of the local population doesn't feel that the school district is spending its money wisely. As an Assembly member, I will continue the current practice of regular meetings between assembly members and school board members in order to make sure that both sides have as much information as possible. I will also work get both bodies working together to improve our school system. Both the assembly and the school board have used school funding as a political football in the past. The community deserves better from its elected officials.


Reader's Question #3 - Reader's question #3. Recently the current Assembly increased our property taxes and refused to make significant cuts in Borough grants to non profit special interest groups. In at least one case, the Borough obligates local taxpayers to pay for services from the UAS Ketchikan Campus that, according to Statute, should be paid by State funds.

Should local residents be forced to pay for University services that are an obligation of the State?

How can we bring some sort of control and spending limit on this Borough grants program?

Should we continue this Borough grants program when we are forced to cut required services such as the Borough bus? Thank you!

checkResponse to question #3 - Published 09/17/03

I have always supported borough grants to non-profit groups. These groups generally provide services that are government funded in most other communities and they do so at a significant cost savings. In addition they provide valuable year-round jobs and other economic development in our community. They also provide for a better quality of life for residents and that is crucial because we don't live here simply because we like the climate. I can't comment on any specific grant to the University of Alaska Southeast without further information and research which I promise to do well before the next budget process in the spring. I do know that the state and federal government frequently fall short in meeting their funding obligations. When that happens, it is up to us as a community to decide just how important the programs are to us and whether we are willing to fund them out of our own pockets. Sometimes they are and we do. We must make the same determination with all of our grants and that's how we decide when to fund and how much.


Reader's question #4. In light of the current and continuing tight budget situation within the borough, what is your position with regard to the possibility of raising taxes to increase revenues? And if you favor increased taxation, how would you accomplish it? i.e. property tax increase, head tax, increased user fees, etc. (09/22/03 - 11:30 pm)

checkResponse to question #4 - Published 09/23/03

I am opposed to the current assembly plan of raising the sales tax 1.5 percent for a new borough office, a new pool and general government expenses. If those items were on the ballot separately, I would probably support a new pool because I have seen the difference that having pools (and swimming lessons for our schoolchildren) has made. Drowning deaths - especially among children - have dropped dramatically from the past. But since all three items are bundled, I can't support the proposal. I think there are times when tax increases are warranted because we require certain levels of service and we have to be willing to pay for that service. Each tax area (property, sales, user fees) has plusses and minuses and each affects different parts of the community in different ways. I don't think it is possible for the borough to get out its financial hole without looking seriously at all three areas. But - at the same time - we also need to consider what additional reductions can be made in the budget before we look at additional revenues.


Reader's question #5. (09/28/03 - 11:50 pm)

Have you ever been asked to be dishonest as part of your job? If so, how did you handle it? Would you lie to, or mislead, the public if you felt the public would ultimately benefit?

checkResponse to question #5 - Published 10/05/03 - 11:55 pm

Many years ago, when I was involved in a public relations job, I was asked to lie in public about the actions of the person who was the boss of my director supervisor. I resigned and took another job. There will be times when a public official may have to decline to comment about about something that should not be public knowledge. Government contract negotiations or personnel matters are the primary reasons for executive sessions. But that is a far cry from intentionally misleading the public. Lying or misleading the public is not an option now matter what "public good" could come of it.


Reader's question #6. (10/04/03 - 2:15 pm)

What do you think could be done to keep good jobs here in Ketchikan that are or might be exported to employees down south? And what more could the Borough do to promote new, good paying jobs?

checkResponse to question #6 - Published 10/05/03 - 11:55 pm

Too often government focuses on the major employer, the masterstroke that will somehow bring hundreds or thousands of jobs into the community. That's why the borough spent millions of dollars vainly trying to keep the veneer mill afloat. Unfortunately, it will always be hard to encourage large scale employers to relocate here because of the relative isolation and the fact that the sheer cost of doing business here will never be cheap enough no matter what we do.

In reality, it's the more simple actions of keeping the existing jobs here and encouraging growth one job at a time that help the local economy get stronger in the long run.

One thing that works in our favor is that as the information age progresses, there is more decentralization in job sites. If you put in enough infrastructure you can have people live here and work over the internet elsewhere. That is already working on a relatively small scale in Sitka. Since we are even closer - by air - to Seattle, we should be working to encourage people who would be willing to live and work here as long as they relatively simple access to Seattle.

As for keeping the current jobs, we are in such a state of flux with the rapid expansion of the visitor industry that it is hard to know where to start. We need to take a fresh look at what smaller locally based industries that we can develop with our limited access to the surrounding natural resources. It puzzles me that no one has stepped forward to make use of out endless water resource. Bottling plants are running in Sitka and Metlakatla, why not here. I have heard several individuals fault the borough for taking over the Connell Lake Dam and Pipeline, yet I see an eventual boon in that action - if money is put into fixing them up - to a bottled or bulk water plant in Ward Cove. I think people up here forget that water is becoming the crucial commodity in much of the American west. If we look ahead - instead of behind at industries that will never return to their past peaks - we stand a better chance of developing year round jobs again.


Questions For All Candidates

Reader's Question #1. Do you think it responsible of the Borough to increase our taxes to provide more convenient working (new government building) conditions, when the old mill offices are available to them while kids in this town fight for space to recreate. (09/22/03)

checkResponse to question # 1 - Published 09/23/03

No, I do not support raising the sales tax to fund a new borough office building at this time. First of all we need to see where the current consolidation process heads before we start planning any new government offices. Second there are other pre-existing options, the pulp mill site is just one of several, but it is not necessarily the best option because we need to be getting private enterprise going at Ward Cove, not government. Plus, I don't favor moving the borough offices farther away from the majority of the people who live in the community. Access is crucial and moving the borough offices out to Ward Cove would entail another costly borough bus route.


Reader's Question #2. Many candidates have suggested they would make staff cuts as either the sole means of achieving fiscal responsibility or staff cuts combined with revenue increases. Which Borough staff and/or departments do these candidates feel are superfluous and expendable? Or if not that, least important to retain. (09/22/03 2:40 pm)

checkResponse to question # 2 - Published 09/23/03

It's always dangerous for candidates to suggest staff or department cuts before seeing how the budget really works. I am concerned that staff did increase significantly between 1997 and 2002 and I will try to find out the reason. But right now, I am not certain that any specific department is entirely expendable. For example, the previous assembly felt that the borough gardeners were expendable and yet I have received more complaints from the public about the lack of upkeep of the parks than just about any other subject.


Reader's Question #3. If the city of Ketchikan has all this extra money in the bank, should city taxes be reduced to give taxpayers a break? Why is the city looking for so many ways to spend our money on lavish and expensive projects such as new library and museum construction? (09/25/03 - 1:00 pm)


check Response to question #3 (Published 09/27/02 - 1:45 pm)

First of all this is not a decision for the borough assembly to make, it's up to the city council.

But as a city resident, I have opinions on the situation. The reason there is a surplus is that city financial management has been good for the past several years. If the borough financial management - primarily the decision making of the borough assembly - had been as good over the same period of time, we wouldn't be looking at such a financial mess. As a borough resident, I wish that the borough were still pondering what to do with its surpluses!

Although tax cuts are always a politically popular thing to do, we only need to look at the federal government to see how we frequently end up mortgaging the future in order to make the present a little more pleasant. Just cutting taxes to cut taxes is neither good policy nor good planning.

As a city resident I support the planning processes for a new library and a new museum. Those are the sort of the projects that make things better for all the residents, not just a few. Those are the sort of projects that make Ketchikan a better place to live and - if we can afford it - we should be pursuing them

When the time comes to pay for such projects, there will be bond votes and we will have a chance - at that point - to say yes or




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Ketchikan, Alaska