Responses to Readers' Questions
Candidate for Ketchikan Gateway
3 year term ( 2 seats open)
September 17, 2003
Sunday - 10/05/03 - 11:55 pm
"Respect for the
Ideas for the Future"
Ketchikan, Alaska 99901
Questions For Ketchikan Gateway Borough
Reader's Question #1 - What planning methods would you use
for future projects? (09/15/03)
to question #1 - Published
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
to question #2 - Published
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
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!
to question #3 - Published
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)
to question #4 - Published
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?
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
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?
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)
to question # 1 - Published
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)
to question # 2 - Published
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)
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
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
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