Ketchikan Borough Election
Since the 2018 municipal elections, the community of Ketchikan has seen some dramatic transitions in our local government. Overwhelmingly, voters chose candidates that were seen in the community, individuals that participated in local events and engaged with everyday people. The elected representatives were focused on community outreach, growth, and most importantly, bring to the table a different perspective to local politics. The political landscape has gained some new issues since then that has challenged our local government’s response and activated passionate citizens to get more involved in local issues.
Tourism is at the forefront of our community’s economic and social issues. We will have to decide whether to facilitate and manage or implement heavy restrictions on the cruise ship industry. I tend to stick in the middle, avoiding hardline economic barriers like capping visitors or advocating for untamed growth without any planning. However, the Borough in conjunction with the City of Ketchikan has to formulate a comprehensive strategy to help ease the legitimate frustrations our local residents have with tourism. Both local governments must set aside their past differences and help mitigate the effects of tourism by using public transportation to diffuse people and capital to other areas of the community, use port funds to improve upon upland infrastructure, and create strategies for tourist encroachment in outlying local neighborhoods.
Energy use has become a reoccurring issue due to less rainfall. Our hydroelectric facilities are experiencing record low water levels that puts a strain on our ability to create environmentally clean and affordable electricity for residents. Renting more diesel generators to produce electricity coupled with high fuel surcharges has skyrocketed utility bills, which harms both household pocketbooks and businesses alike. I believe it is worth exploring new feasible energy sources to supplement our hydroelectric dams during dry times of the year. An energy feasibility study should be a priority for both local governments.
Going forward some other issues the Borough will have to address are, creating affordable housing for locals and seasonal workers, education funding to our schools, cost shifting due to state budget cuts, and diversifying our economy.
Generationally, younger people tend to be less involved and tune out politics, which degrades their influence in the decisions that are made everyday in the chambers of government. The future of this community is too important for me to sit idly back and watch important decisions be made without any input. For these reasons, I humbly seek to run for the Ketchikan Borough Assembly in order to participate in those decisions that will impact future generations of Ketchikan residents.
Austin Otos, Ketchikan Gateway Borough resident.
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