2002 Skagway Candidate Forum

Skagway City Council

The Skagway News asked the following questions of the City Council candidates.

1. There have been instances over the past year where the city has been sued, from the now defunct 10-foot-rule aimed at tour sellers, to the McCabe and fire hall bay contracts. Are you concerned about these suits, could they have been avoided, and how can the city protect itself from suits in the future?

2. There have been complaints and letters to the editor about the number of the police officers and the level of enforcement for a town of Skagway’s size. What is your opinion on this, and as a councilmember, would you advocate any changes in the police department?

3. Should Skagway continue pursuit of borough status, given the Local Boundary Commission’s recent decision? Would you approve of city lobbying to change state law regarding model borough boundaries?

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

Three Candidates are Running for Two 3-Year Seats

Bert Bounds
Age: 61
Occupation: Electrician
Years in Skagway: 1989-1997 part- time
1998-present full-time
Offices held: Electrical Board, city of Huron, South Dakota, 1980-1984, Skagway Eagles Building Committee
Interests and hobbies: Sports, camping, genealogy research

1. I am very concerned about the lawsuits. Whatever happened to sitting down with someone and making an honest effort to try and work out a solution before calling a lawyer (who will gladly take the taxpayers’ money)? Attorneys love Skagway. It’s time the mayor and the city council start making good decisions and have all the information before they act.
The mayor and the council are chosen by the voters to act responsibly in a fair and just way for all citizens. If elected, I will gladly meet with anyone to talk out problems and attempt to find a solution, instead of creating more problems and making attorneys richer and the city poorer.
2. I have heard complaints from numerous people, both city residents and visitors from Whitehorse. I believe that to have more than four police officers is a waste of taxpayers’ money (city, state and federal). I see no need for radar on the state-owned Dyea and Klondike Highways. If there is a problem, let the state send over a trooper. The city police should be used where they are needed most.
3. We need to continue working on borough status. But, before approving the city spending more money, we need to see specific proposals, know the council is kept informed, and the ones making the decisions. Hold public meetings to inform residents of all options and receive their input.
Priorities:
• Remove the roadblocks that have been the cause of derailing vital municipal programs (distribution of public lands for housing and business development, harbor expansion, review of outdated ordinances and irresponsible spending of public funds).
• Continue to work on the borough.
• Health clinic. Our clinic is in bad shape. An electrical engineer in June reported that the current building needs $350,000 to fix only the electrical problems. The current structure is not able to meet the community needs and is a safety hazard to employees and patients.
• Removal of the sales tax on groceries. Research proves this would not seriously impact the budget.
• Work with the state to find a solution for the Klondike and Dyea roads. This is very serious.

Michael Catsi
Age: 41
Occupation: Painter
Years in Skagway: 13 years
Offices held: None
Interests and hobbies: Travel, Outdoor Activities, Computers

1. I believe business in Skagway has been conducted informally for many years. Unfortunately, we now have to move toward a more formal, consistent and organized method of conducting business. My only concern is that in dealing with any lawsuit a lot of the City’s time and money is taken away from City projects. Although we cannot be completely prepared, we can mitigate further lawsuits by being more vigilant in the way we handle business and in limiting our liability.
2. I feel, at this time, we have been very lucky to have as many officers as we’ve had this summer. The ability of the Police Department to cover all shifts for 24/7 coverage is commendable. Skagway was just voted one of the 10 best cruise ship ports in the world (Porthole Cruise Magazine, Aug 2002). I feel that this will bring us even further into the spotlight. We must recognize this new reality and act accordingly. I am concerned about what impression residents and visitors have because of their interaction with the Police Department. I feel the complaints and letters about the Police Department are largely a public relations problem. We must define our Police Department’s objectives and direct their efforts accordingly.
3. The LBC’s recent decision was not unexpected given the current Model Borough Boundary guidelines. I support the Skagway sponsored resolution (that was adopted by the Southeast Conference in Craig last week), that encourages the State Legislature to revisit the regulations and standards under which the Model Borough Boundaries are adopted. We must seek the path, which ensures Skagway becomes its own borough. This resolution is the most viable step towards that direction.
4. Priorities:
• Ensuring high quality medical services;
• Fighting our Borough status;
• Completing our flood control projects;
• Continuing the development of the Clinic, Senior Center and Rec. Center complex;
• Working on the waterfront including the expansion of the small boat harbor, construction of the seawall and sea walk as well as a development plan for the entire waterfront.

Stan Selmer
Age: 54
Occupation: Employed at AP&T
Years in Skagway: 14 or more
Offices held: Current Councilmember, and former mayor
Interests, Hobbies: Grandchildren and golf

1. Everyone should be concerned about lawsuits against the City. Since court hearings and other legal proceedings are pending it would be inappropriate for me as a current council member to comment on whether any, some, or all of the suits could have been avoided. However, the city might want to consider engaging a paralegal and decreasing attorney expenses now and in the future.
2. Our funding for the Police Department this year included grant money from the state of Alaska. The conditions of the grant required a quantity of overtime (paid for by the grant) for the officers as well as additional enforcement. The council voted to accept these grants. Would I vote for it again – probably not. Would I vote to decrease the size of the summer police force – no .
3. The attempt to secure borough status was an exhausting process and while the Local Boundary Commission told us that we overcame all conditions except the size of the borough I’m not so sure that the odds weren’t against us from the very beginning. But, we probably had to go through the petition process to be able to get to the next step which is lobbying to change the model borough boundaries.
4. Priorities:
• Our first short term priority is doing what we can as a city and a community to keep the capital in Juneau
• Skagway River flood control project startup and completion . There is heavy snow on the peaks now and warm wet weather could put us in a precarious position. If the river does flood this year the city should be poised to take appropriate legal action aimed at any agency that has delayed our flood control process as well as be prepared to mount emergency efforts to fight any flood threat.
• Continued focus on land use planning for city land in Dyea and expediting the disposal of municipal entitlement land to the public.
• Eliminate sales tax on food not just during tax holiday times.
• Address and implement congestion relief from the impacts of tourism.
• Enlist legislative support for our borough efforts.
• Complete the Rapuzzi collection acquisition.

Skagway City School Board

One Candidate is Running for One 3-Year Seat

Julene Fairbanks
Age: 41
Occupation: Librarian
Years in Skagway: 41
Offices held: Secretary, F. O. E. #25 Auxiliary, and Secretary, Skagway Child Care Council
Interests, hobbies: Travel, gardening/yard work and reading, with my family

1. What is your opinion of the recent changes in the school grading policy and eligibility requirements? Would you approve of more advanced placement classes?
Grading policy/eligibility: In the new policy on eligibility, the wording “To encourage and support academic excellence” has been added to the requirement for a minimum grade of “C” to participate in all athletic and traveling activities. This wording acknowledges that the primary mission of the school is academic considerations. Changes in the grading policy only eliminated the A+ level. This is interesting in that it seems to contradict the encouragement of “academic excellence.” I will discuss these changes further with the policy makers so I understand their reasons. The school board spent so much of the past year reviewing policy, but some necessary fine tuning– such as the eligibility policy for playing at home that was raised at a recent work session – will continue to crop up as the policy is implemented. I would approve of more advanced placement classes, I will work on finding the funding to offer more educational opportunities to meet student needs no matter how few students have the need.
2. Skagway test scores remain above the state average, however enrollment is declining. More kids are being home-schooled or taking correspondence courses, and some are choosing to go Outside for their high school years. How can we make the school better to keep kids enrolled through high school?
I briefly spoke to this issue in the KHNS interview. It is a great concern of mine. There are many new programs in the school – the breakfast and lunch program, community education program, advanced placement in English classes, certified pre-school program. That is very impressive to me. Why are families still choosing to pursue education elsewhere?
Perhaps we need to advertise what is being offered in the school. Raise pride in our school. Raise school spirit.
3) Briefly list what you consider to be the district’s top five priorities over the next three years.
• The enrollment issue.
• How to maintain the programs we currently offer in the face of declining enrollment.
• The expense of keeping up with technology changes.
• Fine tuning policy.
• A 20-year-old building and its needs.

Editor’s Note: No prospective write-in candidates for the one-year school board seat had announced when this survey was complied for this issue.