Skagway Municipal Candidate Forum

Meet the School Board Candidates
Three are running for two 3-year seats: Christine Ellis, John Harris and Joanne Korsmo

THE QUESTIONS
1. The School Board wrestled with a decision earlier this year regarding the future of the music program and voted for a Reduction in Force. Now we have after-school music clubs. Do you see a day when the district can have a music teacher back in the school?

2. Skagway City School in recent years has improved academically and secured grants for pioneering technologies, yet the district struggles keeping enrollment over 100 students to protect its core programs. What more can be done to maintain enrollment or return it to levels of 10-20 years ago?

3. Please list your top five priorities for the school district over the next three years?

CHRISTINE ELLIS

Occupation: Self-employed
Years in Skagway: 40
Positions held:school board member 1 year, school board president 3 years.
Interests, hobbies: arts/crafts, gardening, spending time with family

ELLIS ANSWERS
1.Whether or not the district will be able to put the music program back into the educational program is contingent upon student count and funding. The district is keeping a close eye on the finances for this fiscal year and is waiting to see how the final count shapes up. I would like to re-instate the music program, whether as a full or part time program if it is financially possible. It is in the for front of priorities.

2. There are many elements in the community that contribute to the lowered student enrollment, which cannot be combated by the school alone. However, for the school’s responsibility, I believe the school should ensure that the basic need of all students are being met by offering key programs that best suit the student body. The core of the school’s academics have improved considerably over the past few years, but there is still room for improvement. I’d like to see the search and implementations of more programs, such as art, drama, voc-ed and various other electives continue, which will round out the educational program. The new foreign language grant brings many opportunities that may help with some of these programs. There are many works in progress, but it all take time to implement.

3. Music program, electives in fine arts and voc-ed, continuation of improving overall school environment, student count, and community involvement.

JOANNE KORSMO
Age: 46
Occupation: Station manager, Wings of Alaska.
Years in Skagway: 20
Positions held: President Skagway Childcare Council; Secretary Skagway Library Board; Clerk Skagway School Board
Interests: Reading, exercising, theater arts

KORSMO ANSWERS
1. Yes, it was never the intention of the board to drop the music program forever, we had to deal with a huge deficit and make a decision that would affect the least number of students. When all the funding information is gathered we will know better what type of music program we can afford and hopefully implement it.

2. Enrollment has been a topic of concern for many years, the answer of how to turn this problem around and increase our student numbers is difficult. Presently our school board is working with a forward thinking, innovative superintendent who is exploring new ways to market what our school has to offer and at the same time ensure quality education for the students we still have.

3. Watching the foreign language grant unfold, keep addressing enrollment concerns, reinstating a new music program, ensuring good maintenance of school building, encouraging communication with administration, staff, and community.


JOHN HARRIS

Age: 52
Occupation: Gallery owner/ artist
Years in Skagway: 7
Positions held: none
Interests: Doing research projects, glass fusing, photography

HARRIS ANSWERS
1. The district could probably have a music teacher back in school after the provisions of the reduction in force have been met, it may have to be part time, at least to begin with. The school could possibly get a grant to help pay for the program, maybe something similar to the foreign language grant.

2. Part of the enrollment problem is the seasonal economy and high cost of housing. It’s hard to attract families with school age children to come here unless they have a year-round job and housing lined up. There are some ideas out there to start a training center and or boarding school that would work in conjunction with the school, if that gets off the ground it would be a big boost for the enrollment problem. Another factor is that there are families in the community whose children are home-schooled instead of attending the school. Perhaps the school could try to address what the issues are, (assuming that there are any) that prevents these parents from placing their children in the school.

3. Priorities:
1. Boosting or at least maintaining enrollment levels
2. Getting band back in the curriculum
3. Community ed. program
4. Maintaining the athletics program
5. Maintaining good communications with the public.

Meet the candidates running for seats on the Skagway City Council

THE QUESTIONS
1. Skagway citizens will be voting on Juneau Access options Oct. 5. What should City Council do with these results? If the result is decidedly (say, over 60 percent) pro-improved ferries or pro-road, would you support a resolution backing the voters? If the result is more evenly divided, what kind of resolution would you support?

2. The city, at great legal expense, has lost two cases in the past three years with independent tour companies in an attempt to regulate off-premises selling, but appears closer to coming up with an ordinance which may work. Should the city continue this effort, even if it means more challenges in court?

3. Would you back an effort to change Skagway’s form of government from council-manager to strong-mayor?

4. Please list your top five city priorities over the next three years?

Four are running for two 3-years seats: Bert Bounds, David Brena, Dan Henry, and Mike Korsmo

BERT BOUNDS
Age: 63
Occupation: Electrical contractor
Years in Skagway: 15
Positions Held: City Procurement Committee, Eagles Bldg. Committee
Interests, Hobbies: Camping, researching alternate energy sources, genealogy

BOUNDS ANSWERS
1. They should be accurately reported in the paper and by city notice. I do not support any resolution, but the council, on issues that appear to represent the community as a whole, when they do not.

2. No. Taxpayers have already lost $300,000 and suffered the additional burden of higher property taxes. The judge advised that the present ordinance was flawed; and we simply needed to rewrite it. The city needs to write a constitutional ordinance and enter into a reasonable mediation process (which has never been done!). If this lawsuit is allowed to go forward, we will lose at least half a million from our public treasury. There is no benefit to the community to continue attempting to defend a flawed ordinance.

3. I don’t believe we have a choice. The current city administration has only caused our municipality to become fragmented and inefficient. When in City Hall residents are routinely treated with disrespect and disregard. There have been no consequences for costly oversights or the current administration’s violations of our cit ordinances. With an elected Mayor/City Administrator, the PEOPLE have recourse and better controls. However, the truth is that if the council fulfilled their duties and responsibilities, this would not be necessary.
4. 1) Apply procedures and take actions necessary to better secure the financial well-being of our municipal treasury; 2) Re-examine and potentially restructure the processes for city leases and contracts; 3) Creat a better Public Officials Conflict of Interest Ordinance (to include citizen committee members) with Council appointing a citizens advisory committee to develop an ordinance that safeguards the integrity of our democratic process; 4) Examine current capital projects – including moving forward our ability to release more land for residential dwellings, construct a system that will allow better communications and input from the residents, and ensure captial projects are done according to best interests of residents. Make a determination that projects in excess of a certain dollar amount must go before the residents for approval by ballot. 5) Take steps needed to ensure all Skagway residents are able to have the same opportunities and government representation without fear of reprisals or negative impact on their quality of life within the community.

DAVID BRENA
Age: 52
Occupation: Real Estate Broker, Appraiser, Developer and Small Business Owner.
Years in Skagway: 35
Positions held: Chairman of Enginemen, United Transportation Union
Interests, hobbies: Outdoor activities, boating and hiking

BRENA ANSWERS
1. I attended the council meeting where this issue was debated. The wording put to the voters should have been “Do you support a road to Juneau”. What does improved ferry service have to do with the issue. We all want improved ferry service. This issue is somewhat moot and should have been put before the voters a long time ago. The council has represented the citizens as being against the road and I am not sure that is the case. The pro road petition that was circulated garnered substantial support. In any case the City should not be attempting to form a 4 (f) park to block the road or to make the route to Skagway prohibitively expensive.
2. These cases are a good example of the City’s litigious management style. A much better approach would have been to reconcile the differences and develop an ordinance without litigation. According to one of the
opposing principle lawyers negotiation with the City was futile. Because these cases were filed as Federal Civil Rights cases the City ended up paying both parties fees and in one case the result was a cost to the taxpayers of nearly $100,000 when it could have been settled for $12,000.
3. The strong-mayor form of government has some merits and its following stems from dissatisfaction with the status-quo City government. With adequate oversight either form of government is ok and I am inclined to put the decision in the hands of the voters rather than with the council. The argument against the strong-mayor form of government centers around the pool of qualified mayors. I know of several qualified strong-mayor candidates who would improve our city government substantially.
4. 1) Control runaway capital spending. We cannot afford to litigate and overspend on every project or issue. Look at the cost overruns on the McCabe Building and what is going on with the Sea Wall. The latest estimate is 3.3 million. I believe the original budget was for 2.5 million and one would think that the seawall itself could be reinforced for substantially less. 2) Ensure fair treatment for all citizens. City land transactions should be at market and offered by competitive bid. Should council members vote the same if the same issue comes up but with different parties? 3) Enable City lands to be distributed to the citizens. Why are we getting bogged down in long-term litigation? 4) Ensure better fiscal responsibility and maybe we will have the money to; 5) Enable a better year-round living environment for our citizens.

DANIEL J. HENRY
Age: 49
Occupation: I work for Eileen M. Henry at Skagway Fish Co.
Years in Skagway: 15
Positions held: City Councilmember 2 terms, Exalted Rule, trustee and chairman of Community and Social and Veterans Committees for Elks, secretary Men’s Bowling League, Little League and intramural basketball coach, president and founder Skagway Booster Club.
Interests, hobbies: Chasing little white ball, chess, following commodities markets.
HENRY ANSWERS
1. My own personal preference is improved ferry service and no road, but I am only one vote, as each and everyone of you are one vote. I am not in favor of watching local businesses close the day they complete the road, but we will see our neighbors leave, to find community elsewhere. But the decision to build a road will not be made by you or I, it won’t be made in Juneau or Skagway or Carway or even in Skagcross. It will be made in Washington, D. C., and anyone naive enough to think otherwise, better wake up and smell the maplenut crunch!
2. The city has gone to great lengths to keep intact the history and integrity of Skagway. Part of this effort has included passing ordinances dealing with safety, congestion and prevent a Tijuana of the far north. These efforts have been challenged and will be resolved soon. Though I’m sure these situations can be reduced or eliminated. It is easy to throw stones from the cheap seats, as some seem to do. I only wish those who are so divisive, vindictive, and spineless (you know, the ones that won’t sign their own propaganda) would put in just half the effort they put into trying to settle old scores, and sucking others in for the ride. If they put in half that effort and would become part of the solution, instead of part of the problem, and participate in the process in a positive way, we would find ourselves less often in situations where we are trying to defend the integrity of our community, but then, they would have to freely volunteer their time and conscience. What are the chances? You would have to be someone who is unselfish ...and she...uh..they are not.
3. The strong-mayor form of government would cost the city considerably more money.This was tried in Haines in the recent past, and failed miserably. Our present system works fine. This idea stems from the afore mentioned group in answer two. Their only interest is stirring the mud not bettering the community. If their interest were to better the community it would be easy to identify them, because their faces would be the ones you always see at volunteer events, but YOU DON’T. No I wouldn’t back a group that is divisive just for the sake of stirring the mud, I would need intelligent dialogue and substantive reason or reasons to do so.
4. 1) Borough formation! 2. Flood control. 3) New Medical Facility. 4) Education. 5) Rebuild unity with Truth, not Spin.


MIKE KORSMO
Age: 46
Occupation: Tugboat Captain
Years in Skagway: 20
Positions held: City Council [3 yrs], Alaska Municipal League Public Works Committee, Southeast Conference Transportation Committee, Chairman Skagway Parks and Recreation Committee.

KORSMO ANSWERS
1. The question of Juneau Access should be put to a vote, there have been numerous surveys by professionals and local citizens but never a simple vote to see what the majority of our citizens want. As an elected official it is my duty to support what the community desires, if the vote is split then it is my duty to use good judgment to decide what the best alternative for Skagway is and convey that to the rest of the council.

2. It has been painful to watch our efforts fail on drafting an ordinance that will stand up in court but I believe we are close to having something that will work. I don’t believe any of the council members I have served with want to stop someone’s right to make money or run a business. The desire is to have a professional and equitable business atmosphere that our visitors can feel comfortable with and even be happy with. We have to protect our economic base and currently that is the tourist experience.
3. Changing the form of government from a weak mayor to a strong mayor is a bad idea for Skagway. No matter how gifted an elected mayor who also overseas all the city’s administration is, there is just too much work for one person. What would happen is that you would have to hire an administrator to help the mayor and then you would have two paid positions instead of one. The current form of government allows us to evaluate and replace the city administrator at any time. Changing to the strong-mayor form might leave us stuck with someone who isn’t doing their job for two years.
4. Top 5 priorities, new clinic, make land available and by doing so reduce the tax burden on property owners, complete seawall/seawalk and move right into harbor expansion, develop year-round economic growth, protect Skagway citizens local control of our lands and waterfront through borough formation, coastal zone management, and fighting any attempt to take away our given rights

Four are running for one 1-year seat:
Monica Carlson, Mavis I. Henricksen, Kathy Hosford, and Lance A. Twitchell

MONICA CARLSON
Age: 47
Occupation: Operations manager, Skagway Street Car Co.
Years in Skagway: 10
Positions held: Skagway Child Care Council (6 years) Treasurer and Vice President, Skagway Historic District Commission (5 years), Appointed City Council 11/03
Interests, Hobbies: Travel, skiing, cooking
CARLSON ANSWERS
1. The council should reflect the voter sentiment. If the Juneau Access vote is decidedly split, the council must act in the city’s best interest and protect our unique setting. Regardless of the outcome of the vote, we must work to protect Skagway from the state’s various agendas. When the state received word regarding our management planning of the Dewey Lakes area they chose to withhold funding for the small boat harbor. The incoming road to Skagway may be built without addressing our concerns. This will happen if we have no plan. The state’s divisive community involvement provides only a road to Skagway and does not address the value of our city or personal property. The Juneau Access road entrance to Skagway is via residential Main Street. Homes will be displaced. We need to continue city planning and when doing so not be labeled as obstructionist.
2. I believe the city should continue their effort to craft and pass an ordinance to regulate off-premise tour sales. If the city were to give up now, the monies and energy spent would be wasted. The city must find a new attorney with recent experience in application of constitutional law in municipalities. I believe we need control of off-premise tour sales to protect Skagway’s visitors’ experience. After all, the visitors are the economic life blood of our community. It does no one any good to be harassed walking down the street.
3. In a democracy, we as a people have the right to petition our government when we feel our concerns are not being heard. I believe petitioners feel the current city council has not listened to their concerns about the city manager and have sought signatures to force a change. I support their right to petition for change. However, I believe council-manager form of government is best for Skagway. The mayoral form of government leads to management by popularity rather than by competent professional experience.
4. The top five city priorities over the next three years should be:
1) Budget, 2) Comprehensive plan review, 3) Flood control, 4) Borough, and 5) Conflict of interest-clarification

MAVIS IRENE HENRICKSEN
Age: SHS grad 1951
Occupation: Assistant accounting manager, Sgt. Preston’s Lodge
Years in Skagway: 50
Offics held: City Council, Chair of Centennial Committee, Chair of Economic Development Committee
Interests, hobbies: Gardening, working with colored glass

HENRICKSEN ANSWERS
1. The Council should publish the results via the paper and the web. I would not support any resolution pro or con.
2. The city needs some lawful control on how the independent companies sell their tours, so the visitor is served, but not hassled. I understand the City Counci, Mayor, Manager, and Attorney have not tried to negotiate a settlement, which would have been in the better interest of the community. The judge recognized our need for some control and simply said: “write a new ordinance,” but presently City Council chose instead to waste hundreds of thousands more of taxpayers’ public funds.
3. At this time, yes. It is much simpler to get rid of one mayor not doing his job than four council members not doing theirs.
4: 1) Seek fiscal responsibility on the part of the Council. This involves reviewing all city income, expenditures, contracts and budgetary items; 2) More proetection for the public process: a) with a better “conflict of interest” ordinance for public officials, and b) more detailed information on major capital projects over a set amount and specific approval of the residents by ballot to proceed with the project; 3) We need to take immediate steps to “free up” land to allow more residential building; 4) No sales tax on food; 5) I support quality of life issues such as recreation center, parks, music and arts programs, but these need to be planned with long term goals and budget awareness. This is important to encourage people, especially families, to settle here and can also encourage tourism.

KATHY HOSFORD
Age: 47
Occupation: Operating engineer, Chilkoot Trail Outpost, co-Owner
Years in Skagway: Depending on economics, since 1974. Lifelong Alaskan.
Positions held: Current, Dyea Advisory Board member, Skagway Chamber of Commerce, Vice-President and Director
Interests, hobbies: Family, travel, community service, design and building
HOSFORD ANSWERS
1. A number of Skagway residents (approx. 250) were given opportunity to share their approval of the road issue on a full page in the Juneau Empire 1/04. This sentiment should have been conveyed by the current Council along with opposing opinions for the most honest representation. The damage made at State and Federal levels by this council regarding this issue will not soon be forgiven and Skagway will suffer loss of fiscal and governmental support we depend upon at every level: education, harbors, grants, disaster relief, to name a few. The question is unclearly stated. The generalized reference to ‘improved ferry service’ is not defined. In a perfect world, I would interpret this to mean minimal fares, daily year-round fast service, privately funded, with good and low cost food and staterooms, along with the ability to bring with me as much baggage as necessary. This is our year- round public transportation system. Final decision on this will be presented in October. A local vote at this point makes no sense unless our residents have the factual information to make an informed decision.
2. No. They made a poor judgment and must pay for repair. They should be humble and move forward. These lawsuits could have been settled for a minimal amount. I believe we can do a better job with healthy debate and compromise minus costly litigation.
3. No. Our form of government is not the problem; it is the lack of a strong council to direct its city manager. The Council should do its research and place value on public opinion to better run the City’s business. We need to restore trust back into our community.
4. 1) Educate and encourage public participation to approve or disapprove any decisions made on behalf of this City’s business. This empowers a well-informed council to instruct the city manager as to the desires of the people. 2) Influence Council to create new industry and jobs to recover a more healthy and robust year round economy for Skagway. 3) Make effort to resolve City legal disputes without further damage. 4) Delay further Seawall/Seawalk efforts until residents are informed and able to comment as to the direction they wish to proceed. 5) City council and employees are public servants and should act accordingly. We must address current controversial issues and make change appropriately.

LANCE AARON TWITCHELL
Age: 29
Occupation: Tribal President
Years In Skagway: 5 continuous (born in Skagway)
Positions held: SEARHC Board of Directors (Current Vice-Chair); Central Council of Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska (Skagway-Haines Delegate); Taiya Inlet Watershed Council (Vice-Chair); Alaska Native Health Board (Former Executive Committee); University of Minnesota American Indian Student Cultural Center (Former President)
Interests, Hobbies: Music (playing, recording, listening), art (producing & viewing), writing (teaching, producing, critiquing)
TWITCHELL ANSWERS
1. The City must realize that this is the first step to making critical community decisions. If there is an issue that has such potential to impact and to divide our community, a ballot should be cast to determine the true consensus of the community. An elected official should not base their political actions solely upon their personal opinions or interests, but should be in a position to speak on behalf of the entire community by studying the results of a formal poll. Regardless of the result, the City needs to be examining the impacts of the proposed road route, and incorporate the possibility into its long range plan. There are currently stronger forces than our local government that carry a great deal of influence regarding the road. Proper preparation can empower the community to protect as many valued resources as possible.
2. I think this is an instance where mediation can prevent litigation. If the City can hold a forum with involved business owners, than both sides should be able to reach an understanding of the Citys concerns and the business owners rights. With other issues on the table that can greatly impact the social and economic structure of our community, I think less emphasis should be placed on this issue and business owners should be permitted to sell licensed and approved tours.
3. I would propose that the City Council look for ways to gain more control by developing their board functions and working by the majority consensus of the community. In truth, it would be difficult for the community to elect a paid position, especially when the City’s income and expenses are so substantial. There should, however, be a method for the City’s citizens to evaluate the performance of its Council and its Manager. There also must be more accountability due to the high amount of successful lawsuits won against the City. The City of Skagway should be working with an attorney who does not have any personal connections in town, and who can more closely protect the interests and liability of our taxpayers.
4. 1) Increased funding for the Skagway City School. 2) Increased community input and participation in City activities and decisions. 3) More awareness of fiduciary responsibility and reduction of liability.

VOTE OCTOER 5TH!!!!!

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