Candidate for District 2 Assembly
Wife Christine; Children Elizabeth, Elena, Hayden, Mary Ellen and Tessa
Small business owner, radio host
Current Juneau Assembly member
Winter solstice or summer solstice?
Winter solstice, it only gets lighter from there.
I just completed my first year and first term on the Assembly, and I absolutely love it. I really enjoy the work, I enjoy the Assembly group that I’m with right now. I’m very proud of the work that we do, and I’m very pleased with the results that we’ve produced for the city over the last year. I like being involved in things. My experience on “Problem Corner,” where I was getting involved in community topics, was a great segue into being an Assembly member. I get to talk to more people now that I’m on the Assembly, and I get to hear more and newer and different perspectives, and it’s allowed me to get a great bit of information and really be able to help solve some of Juneau’s problems. I’ve been involved in the childcare initiative, helping with the police force. And I look forward to all the opportunities that next year can offer, and I’m honored to serve the people of Juneau; I thank them.
Cuts to school bond debt reimbursement and Medicaid will have significant impacts on communities. What can Juneau do to mitigate the impact of state budget cuts?
When it comes to the state budget cuts, every Alaskan is going to feel them. And so I think it’s very important that we are aware that it is going to have an increased tax burden for us as the citizens of the community. So when we’re planning next year’s and the year after that, and the next, like, five years’ budgets, we have to take into account that we’re going to have to pay some school bond debt reimbursement back that we did not intend to pay. So that is going to change our ability to expand programs or fund programs or build new buildings. We just have to be very careful in what our budget level is. If we go into deficit spending, or don’t take the school debt bond reimbursement into account, we could be potentially looking at increased taxes. And so we have to think about how much we’re spending, knowing that we already have to pay this debt back.
Juneau has a significant increase in cruise ship tourism in one year, according to visitor industry estimates. Is the city doing enough to manage the growing number of cruise ship visitors? Why or why not?
I’ve been saying for quite some time now that this summer and next summer are going to be the tightest, most congested summers in Juneau’s history. We have major projects that are taking place right now. The Egan Road DOT project, when that’s done next summer, it’s going to provide a significantly better flow of traffic out of the community. We also approved and have already begun construction on the Archipelago project that has not only a short bus staging area that can absorb thousands of people a day … but then also the Archipelago shopping area itself is going to have increased shops and increased restaurant capacities. That is going to absorb, again, thousands of people a day. In two summers, it’s going to feel a lot less impacted. We have to go through the growing pains first, though.
The Juneau Police Department and Capital City Fire/Rescue are struggling with staffing shortages. What should the Juneau Assembly do about this?
Well last year, we increased the wages in what I called a price adjustment for the Juneau Police Department. We also increased recruitment bonuses and retention bonuses for both departments. So we made sure, first, they were appropriately funded. I worked very closely with not only the police officers, but the chief of police to make sure that I had all the information, what their needs were from the city. It’s with great confidence that I feel that the chief is on a great path to turning the tide against crime. That, along with the House Bill 49 that just took effect, we’re going to slowly start to see improvements in our first responders, or at least in the reduction in crime, which has been a primary focus of the community. Last year, we had a small reduction in crimes, and now that a few of the policies have changed and the police officers’ morale a little bit higher, we’ll see an improvement in our crime fighters.
Do you support additional city funding for improvements to Centennial Hall and a new Juneau Arts and Culture Center? Why or why not?
If we approve everything, if the voters of Juneau approve everything, we are committing the city of Juneau to $17.5 million of debt over the — or taxes — over the next 15 years. That’s $4 million of sales tax money that would be given to Centennial Hall, $7 million bond, which would then have $6 million of interest tacked onto it. So it’s a $13 million bond ask. That’s a lot of money to commit in a time when one of your previous questions is, “What are we supposed to be doing about school debt bond reimbursement that’s not happening?” I don’t know that committing the city to $17.5 million of taxpayer money through property tax, sales tax and hotel bed tax is necessarily the right path, if you’re truly concerned about keeping our debt structure intact.