FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) There are four candidates running for Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Seat E: Michael LaDouceur, Jimi Cash, Tim Beck, and Incumbent Geoffry Wildridge, who was appointed to the seat in July of this year.
There are four candidates running for Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Seat E: Michael LaDouceur, Jimi Cash, Tim Beck, and Incumbent Geoffry Wildridge, who was appointed to the seat in July of this year. (Sara Tewksbury, KTVF)
The candidates were asked why they are running for this seat:
"I heard some things that the governor said that really caused me some concern, which was he was targeting taking the taxes from the oil patch properties in boroughs and other communities up and down the line. We fought too hard as a borough to get a fair assessment on those, but hundreds of thousands of dollars out, and for him to say 'I think I'll just take that,' is wrong," said Beck.
"You know there's a number of different reasons, over the past few years, things that the borough's done that got me talking about it, and thinking about it, but just a couple months ago, my wife and I were talking about it again, and she actually said something that made me make my decision, she said, 'you can only complain about it for so long before you have to step up and be willing to try and do something about it.' Most of the issues that got me talking about it, were property tax issues, or things that make it more expensive to live here," said Cash.
"You know when you and I first met, after I was appointed, I told you how that all came about, how I decided to seek appointment. It all stems back to an early March town hall that Mayor Ward had, with regard to the impacts of Governor Dunleavy's budget cuts on the borough. So I'm no less upset about those things now than I was back then. So that's why I'm running," said Wildridge.
"I've always been interested in politics, and I finally am just now getting my feet on the ground here, not being out in gold mines, and all over the state running around and I've always liked to get involved. Ya know the way the borough's going, has a lot of hard decisions coming up, so the best way to get involved, and throw in your two sense is to run for office and see if you can make an impact," said LaDouceur.
Wildridge thinks the biggest issue facing the borough will be the fiscal issue.
“It’s the result of Governor Dunleavy’s cuts, and our need to deal with those on a local level as best we can. The cuts this last time were very significant…we lost I believe 4.8 million dollars in funding for school bond debt reimbursement, we lost 1.37 million dollars of community revenue sharing, there was some other hits as well. We learned a couple of days ago through news coverage that the governor’s budget cuts have severely impacted the ability of local agencies to provide aid to help the homeless and poor hungry people in this community, things of that nature. So I’m very concerned that next year, we had the benefit of forward funding of schools this year, so Governor Dunleavy couldn’t do what he wanted to do in terms of cutting K-12 funding, but next year, I gather it’s all on the table and if he does what he proposes with regards to the base student allocation, we’re going to be taking a hit here in the borough in terms of school funding of about 26 or 27 million dollars, as I recall, so we’re going to be in tough shape, unless we find some answers to revenue related issues,” said Wildridge.
Beck thinks the biggest issue facing the borough is the economy. “The reality of it, is I helped write the formula for the additional revenue sharing, a few years back, and we agreed at that time, yes it’s okay to put a 0 in there because if the income goes up for the state, then our income goes up. If the income goes down for the state, our income goes down, they accepted it, as did we. Some of this appears to be politically charged, coming from the governor’s office. I kinda wish he had paid attention when he was in the legislature as to what he was allowed to do and what not allowed to do. But I think the biggest issue we got is, we’ve got a mayor that is not a novice mayor, he went from 3,000 people to 75-100, I’m not sure the exact amount anymore, I’ve heard a lot of people talking about ways of getting our way out of here, let’s sell off the borough land, sell of the borough properties. You got to have somebody to buy those properties also,” said Beck.
Cash thinks property tax issues are the biggest issues facing the borough right now. “Ordinances that come across that get the public involved are typically things that the public feels like are government overreach, telling us what we can do with our property, the wood stove issue is still a big issue, things like that,” said Cash.
LaDouceur thinks the biggest issue facing the borough is bond debt. “Currently we have approximately 115 million dollars worth of bond debt in the borough and find ways to pay down that debt without putting the burden on the property owners and diversifying the tax code is probably the number one issue with the borough. On top of that, we have a lot of hard decisions as far as programs, and how we want to maintain those programs in their current situation along with building maintenance,” said LaDouceur.
All of the candidates agree there is an issue with air quality in the borough.
“So there’s obviously an issue, we want healthy air, everyone does, I think it’s going to have to be a partnership between regulation and voluntary stuff, such as the ESPs, electrostatic precipitators, they’re not EPA certified right now, but they’re working on that. Natural gas is going to be a big thing, if we can get natural gas to most of the houses in Fairbanks, I think the air quality issue is just going to go away. But it’s always being in the climate we’re in and in the geographic region, there’s always going to be probably air quality issues. Especially when an inversion happens,” said Cash.
“Air quality in the borough has always been an issue since I’ve lived here, and I got here in 2006. Unfortunately we do have an inversion, and that’s always going to be the case unless we can find a way to get rid of mountains, which I don’t think we’ve successfully done yet. So as far as air quality goes, all we can do is try to mitigate it. So by creating an ordinance, if you’ve ever been in Safeway’s parking lot or Fred Meyer’s parking lot in the winter time, people will just sit there running their vehicles, just to run in the store for 15 or 20 minutes. I’ve lived in a dry cabin for seven years up here, and it just got parked in my driveway and it still started up eight hours later. Small things like that, trying to keep the PM 2.5 down, really helps mitigate that, along with maintaining the borough exchange program for the wood stoves, to try to keep that going, is also a main priority we should have, to try to encourage people to burn dry wood and replace the old stoves with new ones that don’t put out as much emissions,” said LaDouceur.
“It’s going to affect all of us, and as you know the impacts of climate change in Alaska are roughly twice as severe as they are in other parts of the country, given the nature of our climate. There’s a need to deal with more specifically the way energy is used, the way heat is used, or generated, I should say, in our community. We all know that burning wood in the winter during the very cold periods of the year is the most significant contributor to air pollution. That air pollution in parts of our borough have been in the past anyway, the most significant in the country, so I don’t think that we can assume that air pollution is going to go away, I do think however that there are ways to mitigate air pollution. You’re aware I’m sure of the climate change task force that we created in the borough, I cosponsored that as a member of the assembly, and of course there are no answers yet because the task force
is yet to meet. They’re going to meet I think for the first time on November 15th. I’m hoping given the nature of the knowledge they bring to that issue, they’re going to have some constructive recommendations to make in terms of how to mitigate problems with air quality,” said Wildridge.
“The community made a mistake when they chose to not accept responsibility for handling the air quality locally, by passing it off to the state and federal government, we’re looking at other people’s rules. It also undid a lot of work that we put into it, with respect to educating the people on how to help us clean up our own air. The knowledge is still there but without somebody, I hate to use the term but, administering it and policing it, people are not going to do what the law says. Laws are written down on pieces of paper, without enforcement, that’s what they are, pieces of paper,” said Beck.
When asked why residents should vote for them:
“I’m a new face, and even though I don’t have a lot of experience, obviously because this is my first public office I’m running for, I do have good ideas and solutions that can help, that aren’t immediate impacts. For instance, a 3% sales tax would be a small tax that would go forward and pay off the bond debt, but if we want to keep that sales tax and we continue to have the tax cap, then we lower property taxes to maintain the sales tax. I have not heard that type of thinking at all from the assembly and so with me on the assembly, I’d be able to input those new ideas, and hopefully get them implemented to help everybody,” said LaDouceur.
“I care about this community, I care deeply about it, I didn’t get myself involved in this effort because of a desire to achieve higher office or anything like that. I’m in this position because I think I can do a lot of good. I’m not going to use it as a launching pad for future endeavors or anything of that nature, I just want to do this job well and I hope people appreciate that,” said Wildridge.
“Because I want to be a voice for the average citizen, I think going into borough assembly is not about knowing all the answers in the beginning, or knowing what specific items need to be cut from the budget. It’s more so about having a set of principles, my principles would be smaller government, less burden on taxpayers, so every ordinance or resolution or budget item that comes across the table in front of me, is going to be looked at through that lens,” said Cash.
“I think the experience I’ve got, I’ve got not only the ability to look forward, but I can look to the experience in the past, like I said I’ve been here forty years, I learned a lot, and it’s interesting to note that actually I thought I’d be like everybody else, I’d retire and leave the state, but in reality I’ve been searching around in the winters for the last few years, and I keep toddling back up here to Fairbanks. There’s something about the outside that’s not as warm and comforting as being home, and the knowledge that I’ve got, I hope to be able to use it to help this community become a better place in the future. Hopefully the voting public will recognize that I still have value even as a senior citizen. There’s not much grey hair on that assembly right now and I’d like to represent those folks like myself, single income, retired people, we really can’t take much more with respect to additional funding mechanisms being taken out of our pockets,” said Beck.
Since former assembly member Angela Major had one year left in her term when she moved, the open seat is only for a one year term.
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