3-year term - Three Seats Open
Published: September 29, 2011
I decided to file for election to the Borough Assembly at the request of many friends and colleagues in the community because they think I can once again make a difference in how our government is run. That is a job that, frankly, is never finished. Our community, like many others, faces a lot of challenges. After a year off, I’m ready to go back to work to represent you with a fresh perspective, yes, term limits work.
In the past I often found myself alone on crucial votes. Most of the time it was not because I disagreed with the intent of the vote, I disagreed on the method or that we were spending too much for too little. Other times I thought we exceeded our constituted authority or legal requirements to vet decisions by a vote of the people. But I always tried to vote on my principles, conscience and duty to the public at large, rather than be swayed by passionate pleas of the vested interests’ voice at the podium.
The Borough Assembly sometimes creates its own problems when they try to get too creative or spend more than they can afford. I am there to speak to that. Sometimes I win, sometimes I lose, but all the time I hope I have considered the issue, the facts, and use my best judgment in spending your money.School Funding
Schools are still "Job One" and have become the major topic in this year’s election. We have good schools and they are constantly striving to improve. Contrary to what some say, the Borough adequately funds our schools. Our local School District budget has doubled in the past decade to over $30 million or about $15,000 per student while student populations have dropped about 25%. The student/teacher ratio has decreased from 17:1 to 12:1 meaning smaller average class sizes. Local and state contributions over the past several years have increased over 40% while we have attempted to keep a lid on local taxes.
Interestingly, we are spending far more than most private schools spend per student. Our results on standardized tests, however, barely measure up to those private schools and we have a serious drop out rate. So that begs the question, do we really have a funding problem? Or is it something else? That is a question for the school board, meantime the Borough needs to continue to funds schools to the best of our ability from available tax revenue.
I don’t believe that now is the time to be raising taxes considering the state of the economy. Rather I believe we should be looking to the state to fund a greater portion of schools and take steps to make Ketchikan attractive for investment that will expand the tax base without increasing rates.Economic Development
Local planning, zoning and development regulation should be done with a soft touch. We need to re-examine our regulations to make sure they are protecting private individual’s rights but not impeding investment.
Government needs to focus on infrastructure and amenities and leave other economic development to market forces. Borough infrastructure includes schools, fire protection and emergency medical response, public transit, water, sewer, animal control and some roads. Amenities include recreation centers, pools, parks, trails, and beaches. When this infrastructure is in place, operated and maintained properly, it provides the foundation to attract private investment. Priorities need to be established for investment of tax dollars. We need to have a clear definition of what projects qualify for funding rather than at the whim of the Assembly. Our powers as a second class Borough are defined and limited without a specific vote of the people.
Planning and zoning should encourage development and limits should only be placed where one person's use of property is in direct conflict or detrimental to another's use of theirs, or public safety and health is an issue. Beyond that, government should get out of the way. Permits, for the most part, should be a nominal fee or free but there should be appropriate fines for non-compliance.
By the way, we shouldn't try to compete with local banks because when we do, we lose. If a bank won't loan on a project, it's probably destined to fail. We should learn from our experiences in this area. The Borough’s investment in the RKG Veneer plant was an absolute disaster that I opposed from day one. Ward Cove still isn’t back in private hands, but it looks like it may be getting close. We need this property back on the tax rolls.Money and Taxes
Government is not free. Government provides beneficial goods and services that the private sector is somewhat ill equipped to provide. The costs of these services should be kept to a minimum and every dollar spent at the government level must be justified at the voter's pocketbook level.
It takes a lot of hard work to earn a living and some people are just barely keeping their head above water financially. When the government takes part of their earnings, the people have a right to expect them not to spend it frivolously or capriciously. It is too darn easy to sit on a committee and say, "Ten thousand dollars isn’t very much money” when you are spending someone else's hard earned money and there is no individual responsibility.
Elected officials and government staff need to remind themselves of that daily.
I have always tried to manage precious tax funds in the most efficient manner, balancing community priorities and needs. We did a good job controlling costs on the Borough side while funding schools within our means. We did a good job controlling taxes and we established reasonable reserves. If elected, I am confident we can do that again. I will continue to vote based on my established principles and you can expect me to fight for lower taxes and efficient government. When I left last time, the Assembly gave me a red cape as a going away present. It had “P.P.” on it that stood for “Captain PP, Protector of the People”! Well, I’m back and I haven’t changed my mind on the basics. You can check out all my postings in the candidate’s forum and Sitnews archives.
P.S. I still don't like secret executive sessions! There are VERY few reasons to hold them. I trust the public to remain informed and involved in the public process.
Since 2003 General Manager, Alaska Pacific Environmental Services, LLC (Tongass Sanitation)
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