October 04, 2016
Candidate for the
Well they have, and it’s important for everyone to know that I am talking about just the rate of taxation, not the natural tax increases we experience every year due to inflation. As an example, borough property tax collections increased by 6.2% in 2014 (last full year of available data) due to increased property assessments and new construction. This means that even with a stable tax rate, property taxes have been increasing faster than the rate of inflation. In recent years this increase has been as high as 25% annually.
Let’s look at just the last ten years…
In 1995, Borough population was listed at 15,028 with school enrollment at 2728, and 83 borough employees. Total debt $6.7 million, debt per person $413.
By 2014, Borough population had declined to 13,856 (7.8% decrease). School enrolment decreased to 2266 (17% decrease), borough employees increased to 107 (29% increase). Total debt $57.6 million, per person $3471 (up 740%). Note: Total debt per citizen for those who live in the city limits is now almost $23,500 or $94,000 for a family of four.
Total local governmental per capita spending now exceeds $13,000 per citizen, more than double the national average and more than quadruple the average community our size in the lower 48.
Here is why you should care:
Over the years as our taxes have increased, our population has declined, our debt has skyrocketed and our businesses have left in droves. If you look back over the last decade, we have built just about every governmental building imaginable, every one costing more than originally budgeted; some costing three times the projected cost.
With each new building comes new maintenance and operation costs, which always translate into higher taxes and new fees. For our citizens, higher taxes piled on top of an already higher local cost of living have increased the citizen tax default rate from a low of 1% to as high as 10.9% in some years.. Twice each year we read in the Ketchikan Daily Newspaper the scores of our fellow citizens who are losing their homes and property, confiscated by the Borough for non-payment of taxes.
We are also losing our businesses, which have been telling our elected officials for years that they are being taxed out of the community. Remember when we used to have a Roller Rink, Bowling Alley, a Downtown full of shops open all year long, a Mall full of stores (now half empty), Chain Retailers like Sears, a Burger King, two furniture stores (now only one), two car dealerships (soon none), etc.
We have been told over the years by our elected officials that the investments in tourism would keep our taxes low (actual slogan used by the City to push the Berth III bonds), however the reverse is true.
The downtown area looks like a boarded up section of a struggling inner city in the winter. We have supplanted local businesses that generate tax revenue and jobs year around with seasonal shops that in many instances employ people that only live here for a few months each season.
I am not in any way against tourism or the supporting businesses, but feel we are losing the character of our community and need to focus more on our citizens for a while.
Consider for a moment the water issue that has been impacting the community for many years. As most of you know, years ago it was determined that City water was high in harmful bacteria. At the time one option to address the issue was to construct a water filtration plant. A water filtration plant would have eliminated or vastly reduced the need for disinfectants to be introduced into our water supply. In essence, we could have had virtually pure water like Sitka which has zero additives. The cost for a filtration plant would have been approximately 1/3rd of the cost we will incur just for Berth IV (constructed to support tourism).
I only used the Berth IV cost as a comparison… numerous other public works projects could also be used as an example. My point is that because we failed to focus on our citizens in the past, we now have water loaded with chemical additives that have caused additional problems. The high level of disinfectants required to kill the pathogens in our water, reacted with the naturally occurring organic compounds to form Haloacetic Acids. Haloacetic Acids are known to cause cancer. I always found it interesting that the City would openly state that as long as people did not have kidney problems it was safe to drink. To me that does not seem like a ringing endorsement that the water is “good for you”, much less good for the ocean where it all ends up.
We are weeks away from the largest tax increase in State history (PFD reductions) and things are only going to get worse.
For most of the last decade, I was assigned as a legislative liaison between the Department of Public Safety and the legislature. My duties were to review legislation for potential unintended consequences, provide fiscal review and bill analysis. I’ve monitored the majority of major legislative hearings for the last several years and would like to relay my inside look at what I believe will occur with the PFD in the coming years.
A few weeks ago, Governor Walker vetoed $666.3 million in PFD spending, reducing the PFD checks of all Alaskans from what would have been slightly over $2000 each, to $1000. What this action highlights to me is that even cutting the dividends in ½ still left the state with a $3.2 Billion deficit. Another way to look at this is that if the Governor took the entire dividend, we would still have a $2.6 Billion deficit. You also may have noticed that the Governor has backed away from his insistence on a State Income Tax and is now open to a sales tax. The reason is that the metrics on how much the state could obtain from an income tax continue to get worse. Alaska has no billionaires to tax and (as of last count) only 12,167 millionaires. Based upon other states that have imposed a State Income tax, Alaska can be expected to lose a significant percentage of our millionaire citizens, who can easily “vote with their feet” and simply change residency to another state with no income tax, such as Washington State. I watched a hearing in House Finance last session where it was reported that only 330 thousand of the 740 thousand population base works and that many who work would not make enough to pay a State Income Tax. A relatively high state income tax of 6% would currently only generate about $200 million; of which roughly 3% of that take would be required to hire the additional 60 State employees needed to manage the tax.
My point is that even with the complete loss of the PFD and Income Tax; the state would still have a $2.4 Billion dollar deficit. Elimination of all oil tax credits that have been widely discussed doesn’t change this equation to any significant degree. From my perspective in Juneau, both parties view the credits (which are already set to expire) as a commitment the state has to pay. Where the parties differ is in elimination of future credits before the originally set expiration date. When Governor Walker vetoed spending on the credits in this year’s budget all he did was defer the cost to a later date (he even said so).
What this means for our island, and every other Alaskan community is that a financial storm is coming. Regardless of what happens in Juneau next session the one thing that is certain is that the State will be in deficit mode for years to come unless oil returns to historic highs (very unlikely). In truth, I think we all know the State will likely, eventually, take the entire PFD dividend (Gov’s plan only guarantees dividends for three years).
In Ketchikan, this year’s PFD reductions will pull millions from our economy. Some businesses on the edge will likely close. Some of our poorest citizens will move, others will decide not to retire here and our town will develop an even larger seasonal/transient workforce. We are moving towards an economic model that will look increasingly similar to communities such as Skagway.
In order to protect our community we must limit the growth of local government until the State situation has improved. The best way to protect current local government services and employees and the private sector is to improve borough efficiency and limit non-essential spending.
For the last 14 years of my career as a Commander with the Department of Public Safety, I managed multiple buildings, employees and budgets for an area from Yakutat to Metlakatla. While in charge of State Law enforcement actions in SE Alaska, I constantly found ways to improve efficiency while maintaining or reducing costs. These efforts helped to prevent the need to reduce employees and maintained services.
I realize that some see my Sitnews letters and frequent speaking at our local governmental meetings as confrontational. However, many who know me see me as someone who gets things done. I have received nearly 100 commendations/recommendations from the State, Elected officials, Former Governors, various agencies and citizens that I would be happy to share with the public to give you an idea of who I am and how determined I can be.
My goals if elected as your representative…
There are many other issues that we need to make progress on, from Herring Cove to the North end. It seems like every time a tough decision is required our local governments delay, postpone and defer having to make that decision until the last possible moment. It’s time we start getting things done and its way past time we start preparing for the lean years to come.
I started this effort with a pledge to use only my own money and will not take a single dollar from any group. If you see fit to elect me, I will start day one not owned by any group and will work only for what is best for all citizens.
At the end of this letter I will add information about who I am, for those who do not know me.
Thank you in advance for your consideration.
A few words about me:
I was born in Anchorage. My family, which is a mix of non-native and native Alaskans , has lived in the state for generations. My father was an Alaska State Trooper and I spent part of my youth following him around to remote locations and at one point attending school in the YK Delta region.
I graduated from High School at a young age, obtained a waiver and joined the US Army at 17 years old. I asked for the hardest job possible and enlisted as a US Army Ranger assigned to the 2nd/75th Ranger Battalion. In 1987, I was sent to Panama to receive survival training and after a month of living in the Jungle was awarded Jungle warfare survival expert status. The remainder of my military career included several overseas deployments, including joint operations with the Contra Rebels in Honduras.
During and after leaving the military I attended college at Franklin Pierce University, majoring in Business Management. I am also a graduate of numerous business and management schools, including the Southern Police Institute at the University of Louisville Kentucky.
In 1990, I was hired as an Alaska State Trooper and sent to my first duty post in Fairbanks. In 1991, I was transferred to Ketchikan where I remained until 1994. While in Ketchikan my main duties were patrol and participation in the Tactical Dive team. The first fatal motor vehicle accident I investigated was on North Tongass Hwy near the U-Haul dealership. Two young men on a motorcycle died after crossing into oncoming traffic. My investigation revealed that an adult had provided alcohol to the minors prior to the accident. A suspect was developed and later prosecuted for “contributing”. This case was significant because the mother of one of the young men, through her tireless efforts was able to convince the legislature to stiffen penalties for adults who illegally provide alcohol to minors.
In 1994 I was transferred to Talkeetna Post which covered an area from Big Lake to 1/3 of the way to Fairbanks. This was the most dangerous assignment of my career and I came close to death on three occasions, including a helicopter crash.
In 1998 I was promoted to Post Commander of the Glennallen Trooper Post. In both of my assignments to Talkeetna and Glennallen I witnessed firsthand the massive abuse of the state’s welfare system. These areas of the state were (and still are) magnets for people who moved to Alaska from the lower 48 with the idea that they would “live off the land”. In truth most live in squalid conditions, in cabins far off the main road system, completely dependent on government support to survive. My neighbor in Talkeetna had been on welfare for nearly 20 years before his death and when in Glennallen one of my problem people was the infamous “Papa Pilgrim” who lived near McCarthy. At one point I counted over $100,000 in state expenses just associated with Papa Pilgrim before he was eventually arrested for sexual assault and incarcerated until his death.
In 2001, I became one of the youngest individuals in Trooper history to be promoted to a Command Level Position. After promotion I was assigned to the Trooper HQ in Anchorage and put in charge of Recruitment, Licensing and Permits, and The Public Information Office. I was also the death protocol officer and responsible for coordinating the funerals for nearly a dozen of my fellow officers over my career.
In 2002, I was assigned as the Deputy Commander for Western Alaska and was responsible for directing law enforcement efforts for dozens of villages from the Aleutian chain to the North Slope. If you wondered why I am so passionate about social spending reform it’s because of my experience with the horrific levels of domestic violence, sexual assault, substance abuse and suicide in rural Alaska.
In 2004, I volunteered to return to Ketchikan. Throughout my career I had the opportunity to see every region, and most communities/villages in the State. Without exception, Southeast Alaska contains some of the finest people I have ever met and I wanted to finish my career here.
From 2004-2015 I served as the deputy and acting commander of law enforcement in SE Alaska, responsible for Trooper Posts, employees, and law enforcement services from Yakutat to the southern Canadian border. Additionally, I was the State Supervisor of Tactical Dive Operations and assigned as the Department Legislative Liaison.
My first experience with politics occurred on February 29, 2008, when Frank Bailey, Governor Palin’s director of boards and commissions, made a phone call to me in my capacity as the state troopers' liaison to the Legislature. During this phone call it was suggested to me that I provide information and take actions inconsistent with state law; I refused. When the details of this phone call came out months later I instantly obtained a great deal of respect from many legislators who saw me as incorruptible. I believe this was a large part of why I became the longest serving legislative liaison in Trooper history.
During my tenure as Commander of the Troopers in Ketchikan, we lost no officers, successfully solved all homicides, maintained the highest case solve rate in the state and had the lowest errors and employee complaints in the state. I give 100% of the credit to the outstanding Troopers and support staff serving SE Alaska.
In 2008, my wife Lisa, my Daughter Megan and I started the Alaska Ink Tattoo Shop in that continues to this day. I still work there, however the shop is now owned by my daughter. This has been one of the greatest blessings in our lives and we have met so many wonderful people because of it. I have firsthand experience with how difficult it is to run a business in Ketchikan and hope to be a positive influence supporting local businesses if elected.
I’ll close with a short story about why I own and drive a Tank around town. In 2010, I was on my day off, when I received a call that two Hoonah Police Officers had been killed and that the suspect was on the loose. I immediately responded to Hoonah with officers from around the state. We surrounded the suspect in his house and spent more than a day trying to negotiate a peaceful surrender. In order for us to protect the community we had to station officers at various locations, surrounding the suspect’s house which was in the middle of Hoonah’s downtown area. Eventually we safely made an arrest, but only after significantly risking the lives of the officers there.
Because of this incident I began researching armored vehicles; the department did not have any at the time. I found that commercially available armored vehicles started at $300 thousand; however some lower 48 departments repurposed old British military vehicles for far less. After significant searching I found an old, post WWII British Saracen in private ownership in the Midwest. I advised my command, but they did not have the resources to purchase the vehicle.
Not wanting to wait, and having a supporting wife, I took out a loan and bought the vehicle and had it shipped to Ketchikan. It was an old vehicle, and not very reliable. The great mechanics at All American Auto and Joe at Lighthouse Services did their best to repair it, but the frequent breakdowns were draining my bank account. It was then, that I met Steele Shrum at Alaska Diesel Power, who is probably one of the finest mechanics/craftsmen in the state. Steele began a six month project to completely modernize the drivetrain and make the vehicle suitable for on-road use. To finance the project each day after I finished working at the Troopers I would work at the tattoo shop late into the evening.
When the project was completed I offered the vehicle to the State and other LE departments across the state. The state initially tried to acquire the vehicle, but concerns over who would maintain it ultimately prevented the transfer. I decided to keep the vehicle and have made its use available free of charge if ever needed by law enforcement.
If I can answer any questions, please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
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