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Tony Yorba

Tony Yorba

Tony Yorba

Age: 60
Family: Wife Lori and children Antonio, 34, and Daniel, 32, and four grandchildren
Occupation: Architect
Current Community Involvement: Juneau Economic Development Council, Catholic Community Services
Hobbies/Interests: Family, kayaking, hiking, trail running
Previous government experience: Historic District Design Review Board

Positions on Juneau Issues

Housing

According to a 2012 Juneau Economic Development Council report, the capital city needed to add about 700 fair market homes or rental units and nearly 450 subsidized rental units to achieve a healthy housing market. What can the Assembly do to encourage new housing development that meets the needs of Juneau residents?

For every thousand people that move to town, you’re going to need another 250 or so housing units of whatever type. Just more beds. Since that report, I’m not sure how many additional people have moved to town. Maybe 2,000, 3,000? I’m not sure. Over the last two years, I think that we’ve about maybe 200 housing units permitted. I’m not sure (it’s) even keeping up with current demand. In other words, it’s getting more and more critical. So, one of the big things is to reduce the cost of living, the cost of home ownership not only to the developer, but also to the buyer. That’s the big thing. I don’t have any particular silver bullets how to do that. There are some really great minds in this town, both in the private sector and the public sector.

One of the things I really do bring to the table is a lifelong ability to listen and communicate. That’s what I think we need to do as an Assembly. And, God bless them, they have been doing that. They have been willing to listen to ideas. You have a great (Community Development) Director down there in Hal Hart who has really been motivating people to look at new ways of planning housing. I think that has been a really good change in maybe what was a historical past in which there was a reputation of the Borough being maybe difficult in getting housing through. Now, I get the sense that it has really become a partner in helping to achieve that goal of additional housing.

Homelessness

What are your thoughts on a Housing First facility in Juneau, where chronic inebriates can live and access services, such as Karluk Manor in Anchorage? What role, if any, should the city play in pursuing such a facility?

I’m intrigued by the idea. I’ll be honest, I don’t know that much about that process. You think that (I would) as a long-time non-profit board member, but that’s been a little different than the focus that Catholic Community Services has taken. But it has been pushed as an idea that – for instance – the downtown group is looking at as a possibility to help with some of the problems in the downtown area. It’s definitely something that I believe can help the situation and needs to at least be further studied. If the City needs to be a partner in terms of finances and that kind of thing, we’d have to look at it to the extent that we could with the rest of our financial situation in town. If it becomes something where the Borough can help with zoning, ordinances, or other issues that they have direct control over, I think that would be an important contribution to that process.

Downtown Revitalization

Recently a group called the Downtown Improvement Group (DIG) organized a cleanup day in Juneau. What solutions would you offer to make the center of Juneau a better place for residents and visitors alike?

I attended DIG’s forum with Hal Hart back two or three weeks ago on the subject. I think that the biggest thing that we as a Borough need to embrace is the fact that all of us in the Borough need to recognize that a healthy, vibrant downtown is important as anything else in this community. It’s important as a Capital City that people that come to visit Juneau have a positive, good impression of their visit here. No matter where you live in the Borough, that is important to you because State and Federal government will always be the main economic engine for the community. Nothing will help that better than to make sure that people recognize Juneau as a responsible and positive Capital City. It could include to allow the private sector – to the extent that it can – to do what it does best: it is to seek solutions. That is what DIG is doing.

To the extent that the Borough can help with that process, be it assistance with regulatory changes and pushing to eliminate the derelict buildings, unused buildings, and properties in the downtown area, to transform those, I think that’s certainly an important job for the Borough itself. The other thing is to help the corollaries to housing, for instance, for parking and amenities that would foster a situation that would encourage more people to live downtown. The Assembly – I believe it was this week – approved use of a previously achieved grant to look at a new parking structure in the Willoughby area. I would really like to see that kind of solution being looked at as well as the possibility of some kind of downtown transportation system whether it is a circulator similar to simple bus (in) the way that the Care-A-Van works, whether it becomes just more taxis, something to connect a parking area to residents living in downtown so that you have something that is a good, year-round living situation. I think that brings more businesses to the downtown and certainly it brings more eyes, more people to the downtown and starts to reduce the vagrancy and vandalism, and the kinds of things that are associated with a downtown that is largely abandoned during the outside of the tourist season.

Transportation & Infrastructure

What’s your take on the Juneau Access Project (aka the Road)?

We need as the Capital City to do everything that we can to make the Capital City accessible to Alaska citizens so that they can take part in their government. Whether its additional ferry systems, whether it is improvements in internet and videoconferencing – a lot of the stuff that KTOO has done in the past – whether it’s additional road access, all of those things I think need to be in the mix to ensure the rest of the State that Juneau is a responsive and responsible Capital City and going to make sure that all citizens have access to their government. I’m definitely open to it. The thing to realize is that we – as a Borough – can’t afford to build a road. We’re not going to be building a road. However, if there’s State funds, if there’s Federal funds that are available and can be used and it’s shown that it’s going to help with that access, I think that it’s incumbent on us to do whatever we need to do to encourage that use.

For years, the city pursued a second crossing between Juneau and Douglas Island. In 2010, Juneau voters rejected a local bond measure that would have paid for the project, and it has not been as high a priority since. Do you support the second crossing, and if so how should it be financed?

I live out North Douglas. I voted against the second crossing back a couple of years ago mainly because I couldn’t see the demand in the near future that would justify the expense of a second crossing. That said, I was talking with an Assemblyman here recently who said there is a real possibility of some movement on an extension of the road towards an area that could serve as a deep water port. That is a game-changer in my mind. If there really is a market and a need for that second crossing that’s going to benefit the entire Borough – not just we in North Douglas that want to get back and forth quicker – then I think we need to really bring that much closer to the forefront and it becomes something that I think we need to pursue. As far as the financing, I haven’t got any idea. I really don’t know. Given our present conditions, certainly the Borough itself can’t afford it. But maybe there’s some other way to do it.

CBJ Budget

The CBJ’s finance experts are projecting multi-million dollar budget shortfalls in upcoming fiscal years. How would you address the shortfalls?

Which city services are your priorities to maintain?

There’s basically three ways that you could address budget shortfalls. You can increase revenues through taxation and that sort of thing. You can cut spending and government services which is a reduction in the scope of services overall. Or, you can stimulate growth that, by itself, brings in more revenues to the City by making more properties available, new properties that add to the tax rolls. Those kinds of things.

If I was elected, I would basically be the only person on the Assembly from the private sector. My natural predilection is to allow market forces and growth to allow the funds coming into the Borough to help stabilize the imbalance in revenues and expenditures. That said, I would liken the situation to something that actually I heard on KTOO a couple of days ago was that there isn’t really a magic bullet, but there’s going to be a thousand BBs. I think at the end of the day, the Assembly is going to have to get together and reach consensus on a wide range of efforts. That’s what they did last year and I think that’s what we’re going to have to do this year. We’re going to have to look at short-term, mid-term, and long-term ways to bring that into alignment. The truth is, I think in the short-term, we’re going to have to use some of the budget reserves. I don’t see how we get around that. There may be some additional revenues to be found by increasing the price of certain services or outside the basic services of government. But you have to realize that really our fundamental needs are to meet the demands for water, for sewer, for transportation, for fire, and for police. As a Borough, those are our fundamental needs and we need to meet those.

A lot of the other services that we have here in Juneau are the things that make Juneau a wonderful place to live. But, given that the number of good high-paying jobs in State and Federal government are decreasing, and they’re being replaced with jobs that have less disposable income than these other jobs, we need to look at the fact that maybe Juneau is changing and realign our expectations with what the realities are. That’s why I like the idea of really emphasizing growth and, in particular, growth in jobs that will bring more disposable income. A good example would be if we could capture some of the folks that work at the Kensington and the Greens Creek (mines) that live outside of Juneau. If it’s possible with a carrot and stick approach, to make them more open to the idea of settling in Juneau itself, then you’re hopefully capturing more of the disposable income from those folks and that could help with the imbalance as well.

School Funding

For the first time in years, the Assembly this year did not fund Juneau schools to the maximum amount allowed under state law. Do you categorically support funding to the cap? Why or why not?

The reason that it wasn’t funded to the cap I think speaks to the level of the seriousness of our budget situation. I would like to say that “Yes, we would fund schools to the cap” because of the importance of our schools. But having said that, can we do that without causing grievous harm to other areas of Borough responsibilities in the delivery of services? I don’t know that. Being an outsider to the budget process, I don’t think that I can categorically say that we would fund it to the cap because it might be there’s just no way for us to do it.

Economic Development

The Assembly has hired a consultant to come up with a Juneau Economic Development Plan. What ideas do you have to diversify Juneau’s economy?

That report which is out — I haven’t finished reading it all yet – has some good ideas. As a business owner who has tried and failed several times to hire people from Outside, I know that the cost of housing in particular and the overall cost of living in Juneau is a big impediment to economic development here. Those are some issues that we need to address. The problem is that if we raise property taxes (and) if we raise sales taxes, that automatically – by definition – increases the cost of housing and increases the cost of living. So, you can see the difficult position that the Assembly will be in in trying to find some sort of balance there.

Certainly, there are some opportunities and the Juneau Economic Development Council has identified some interesting potentials. For instance, in the seafood industry I believe that we’re that we’re using about the 50 percent of the resource that is caught. In Iceland, they’re using like 70 percent. If we could learn to wring additional value from the product that we’ve caught – and that would be through improvements to ground-based processing and after-market improvements to the product – to start reaching that 70 percent. That hits to the idea that there’s really only two ways to grow. One is to be either more efficient and the second is to be more productive and sell more stuff out of town. That idea of wringing more value from seafood addresses that idea of just producing more.

How do you feel about the city facilitating the reopening of the AJ Mine?

I was involved with the mine in the 1990s to some extent. We did some planning work. I think as a community I think we need be open to looking at what that would mean for the community. There’s certainly going to be opportunities there in terms of additional jobs (and) the likelihood that it would stimulate additional hydro development because certainly mines need electrical power. That’s an opportunity to get some value long-, long-term for the Borough to have additional sources of cheap hydro power for the community. Whether the community wants to go there (and) whether we want to entertain that, that’s a Borough-wide discussion and hits to the heart of what I would like to bring to the Borough. That is that I have always had an approach that you listen, that you communicate, and that you react collaboratively. That’s the type of opportunity whether it’s in a mine, or the road, or protecting our drinking water system, or bringing in more business to the community, all these kinds of things… We need to listen to each other, we need communicate back we heard, and turn that into viable options for consideration and then we to collaborate to bring those ideas into fruition to actual action.

Public Safety

In 2013, Juneau police seized nearly $2 million in illegal drugs and drug money. What can the Assembly do to curb drug use in Juneau?

If I knew the answer to that, then there’d be all kinds of communities looking for my help. Certainly, having successful families can bring about some reduction in the potential for children to move towards drugs. Although, there’s plenty of adults that are drug users.

If we can increase the possibility that a person can have a job and have a good place to live, that you reduce the stresses and the social problems that, I think, precede drug use. That’s something that I’ve learned working all these years working with Catholic Community Services. Certainly, the non-profits and the service providers in this town are expert in helping with these kinds of problems. As a person who’s always worked in the private sector, I’ve also seen being on the (CCS) Board that a number of these problems that could be mitigated if there were just be good jobs for people to have and good places for them to live. That’s one of the things that I think as a community we want to focus on. If we could foster growth in the community, some of those problems could be solved. At the end of the day, you’re always going to have problems. There’s always going to be need. Something like Housing First and other initiatives – both in the non-profit area and in the quasi-public-private sectors – are going to be necessary to help us come to grips with that. It’s not just a law enforcement problem.

Voter Turnout

Voter turnout in Juneau has been abysmal for several years. The city has not seen more than 50 percent of voters participate in a municipal elections in 20 years. As a prospective city official, what can be done to increase civic engagement?

I’ve been thinking about this because running for office you don’t want more than 10 percent of the population to think they want you to be a representative. In the area of media, I thought that if the newspaper could have some sort of crawler on the head that said kind of like at Christmas time: “It’s 21 days until Christmas.” If it said “21 days ‘til October” and keep that in there, to help get that in people’s minds. Push that into the social media area into Facebook, and into the various websites that are used throughout the community and the school district to help reinforce that. Another thought is that the Borough have a policy that limits the number of municipal elections a year. There have been so many elections, and people that I know that are responsible voters and want to vote are confused because they’re not sure. You know, ‘the areawide assembly election is going to be in November. What was in that last election with the primaries?’ I’m thinking that, as a Borough, if we just decided that we would have our municipal elections – including whatever bonds come up or sales tax votes – if could have those once a year, that you could focus more people, there would be more issues on the ballot, and hopefully foster more involvement with the people.

Southeast Footwear

XTRATUFs or Bogs?

Oh, that’s so funny because I’m not even sure I know what a Bog is. You can’t go wrong with XTRATUFs. I’ve got three pairs at home. I got the first pair of XTRATUFs that I bought when I first came to Juneau. They’ve got some glue spots on them, and I don’t wear them everyday. I’ve got two other pairs, one in the boat, one upstairs, one downstairs. Bogs? Are they those insulated things? Yeah, that’s lame yuppie stuff. Go with the XTRATUFs.

View the other candidate profiles

Elections HomeTom Milliron
Maria GladziszewskiNorton Gregory
Tony YorbaJesse Kiehl
Debbie WhiteJosh Warren
Kory HuntDavid Fox
Brian HolstSean O'Brien
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