Ketchikan Regular Election Oct. 04, 2022
The work of the Assembly is immensely meaningful as the government closest to the people. This is the government that provides education funding, Fire & EMS, transit, planning & zoning, management of the airport, parks & recreation facilities, and many other services we enjoy almost on a daily basis. While it is the closest form of government we interact with, it is still very intricate. The Borough is expected to exist as a finely tuned operation running without flaws, and rightfully so.
However, we all know there are challenges. In 2022, we are recovering from a global-scale pandemic. Nationwide, consumer costs are rising at the highest rate of the 21st century and it is amplified here locally. On the island, we are experiencing an ever-worsening shortage of affordable, modern housing.
Over the last couple of years, I’ve been semi-retired, and for the last year, I have been mostly retired. I have been blessed to enjoy my retirement right here in Ketchikan. I want other people to have the opportunities, experience, and quality of life that I have been able enjoy for the past 35 years in Ketchikan. I have the time and the desire to help make that happen and, once again, several people asked me to serve.
We need to carefully transition from a government reacting to forces beyond its control under the pandemic to more business as usual. The decisions we make at the local level today will have lasting effects on the future. That’s why I decided to run for another term on the Borough Assembly.
Things are not doom and gloom by any means. We are still poised for success. We have a great staff at the Borough. We have a diverse Borough Assembly that is willing to tackle the issues at hand. I am running this year to bring my business acumen, institutional knowledge, and broad experience to the table to help the Borough continue moving forward in an effective and sustainable manner. It takes a strong team to get good work done, and that is what I want to contribute to.
We need to be willing to ask tough questions and listen to answers we may not really want to hear. We must be innovative and always willing to think outside the box. We even need to sometimes accept that the best-crafted and well-intentioned plans just aren’t working like they should and be willing to make a change. Everything done by government once started as a visionary idea, and we never know when we might have the opportunity to do something extraordinary, even if it is different than the way we have always done things.
Lastly, we must remember that local government is about getting things done for our community. We should always be ready to set aside our ideological and philosophical differences and come together as a team to make unbiased, pragmatic decisions that are right for community. More often than not, the best work done by local government happens right in the middle ground.
Schools are still “Job One”. When we established the Local Education Fund (LEF) several years ago, it created an avenue where the school district knew that they had an inflation-proof, reliable source of funding to base their annual budget and planning upon. It took most of the controversy and rancor out of the discussion by dedicating all general property taxes collected to the LEF by ordinance. There were a few other funds dedicated, like forest receipts and tobacco, however, we knew at the time that these dedicated revenue sources were close but not entirely sufficient to support local funding to the maximum under federal and state guidelines (the “cap”). It was close, but a shortfall existed. We decided that once the fund was established, we could tweak the funding sources to ensure that full school funding opportunities would be available without draining the LEF reserves. In the “worst case”, we could simply make an additional appropriation from the General Fund or the Land Trust Fund to cover annual shortfalls. Then COVID struck and other priorities took precedence. Now that COVID is resolving, we need to revisit various means and methods to fully fund the Local Education Fund. The first decision is whether to “Cap Fund” the LEF annually, which I support. Once we have a consensus that funding the LEF is a priority above all others, the means to do so can be adjusting the mil rate over time, dedicating some or all of the PILT funds, General Fund appropriations, Land Trust Sales, or some combination.
The library has once again become a flashpoint locally. The ballot measure regarding defunding the library is very interesting. Several people disagreed with a recent programmatic event held at the library. Their concerns appeared to fall on deaf ears at the City Council and they became angry. Interestingly, when your taxes pay for about 40% of a program and you have no voice in how it is governed, a negative reaction is not surprising, it’s taxation without representation. This is a re-hash of the situation in circa 2014 when the City decided to greatly expand the library facility and build a new facility up on Copper Ridge. The borough had no real input since we weren’t paying for the facility itself, yet we rightly believed that the operating costs would increase. Shortly thereafter, the City raised its sales tax which all residents pay (while only those outside city limits pay a special property tax for the library). I believed then and reiterate now that there is a real disconnect here: why do disenfranchised citizens pay a special tax instead of a fee for use? Something needs to change, no doubt. Perhaps the library should be converted to a borough function? Regardless of the outcome of the ballot measure, this discussion will go on until a fair and permanent resolution happens.
Housing is another issue that keeps cropping up. Housing responds to the market and fluctuates greatly over time based on the local economy. I remember 1997-2000 when there was plenty of housing available while only about 7 years earlier there was a shortage. Yes, we are in a shortage market right now, probably because, due to the economy, regulations, and inflation, housing is not profitable for the private sector in the “affordable” price sector. The borough has some tools to help with that, predominantly regarding planning and zoning. The borough needs to proceed carefully with regard to direct subsidy though, because if you have to subsidize something, that usually means the market can’t support it and it won’t remain viable over the longer term. We also need to remain acutely aware that we are a second class borough with limited powers.
There are many more issues for this multi-million-dollar operation but those seem to be the current “hot buttons”.
I always have one final issue to discuss, the budget (and consequently your taxes).
Our borough finances were and continue to be sound, but we need to remain vigilant. I have always been that “budget guy” because it is what I’ve done in my career. I am concerned that our current budget may not be sustainable over the longer term on its current trajectory. We all prefer the lowest taxes that support vital public goods and services. Keeping taxes low and providing services are a balance of priorities, needs vs. wants. Beyond funding schools, providing for land use, and collecting taxes, everything a second class borough does is elective (and most require consent of the voters).
These are the ideals and principles I hope to bring to another term on the Borough Assembly. We have seen just how resilient and creative our community is. Promoting these “Ketchikan Values” will carry us forward in a cooperative manner to make Ketchikan an even better place to live; a community that will thrive under any circumstances. I believe that my skills, experience, integrity, and innovation are assets that I can contribute to the team working hard over at the Borough. I would be honored to once again have your vote to serve on the Borough Assembly in the local election on October 4th.
“The world is run by those who show up.” - Anon.
“The world is run by those who show up and VOTE.” - Me.
For over two decades, SitNews has provided a front page section at no cost for all candidates for the local Ketchikan Assembly, School Board, City Council, and Mayors to provide information about themselves and their campaign for the voters to consider.
All candidates are encouraged to participate. SitNews will begin accepting candidates' statements on September 05, 2022 for publication. Note: Early or Absentee-In-Person Voting will begin on September 19, 2022. In person voting at the polls will be Oct. 04, 2022.
In your statement please tell the voters:
1. Why you are running for office.
2. Experience and education.
3. Community involvement
4. Identify at least two significant issues and challenges facing our community and your ideas on addressing these issues. (Please do not just say you will be open to public input. Be specific about the issues and challenges and your specific ideas to bring to the table.)
5. Email a digital photograph.
6. Email your information in text format or as a doc file and photo to email@example.com
Additional comments are allowed. (Posted Online: August 27, 2022 - Invitations to Participate were emailed to all candidates on August 27, 2022.) Editor SitNews
Printed ballots for inspection for the October 4, 2022 election will be available September 14, 2022.
Last Day to register to vote in the local election is Sept. 04, 2022