2012 Municipal Election Forum
Skagway voters on Oct. 2 will elect two borough assembly members and two school board members. Candidate forum answers appear below, starting with the assembly race.
Questions for Borough Assembly Candidates
1. What special qualities would you bring to the assembly table?
2. The assembly recently has weighed in on some environmental issues, including the ECA emission rules as they apply to cruise ships. Ahead for this assembly are probable decisions on West Creek hydro feasibility, Juneau Access revised EIS, and revisiting coastal zone management, as well as keeping on top of cruise issues like ECA and state water permits. Please briefly state you position on these issues.
3. It has been two years since the municipality began negotiating with White Pass for surrender of tidelands so it can move forward with the Gateway Project, and all that the assembly has been able to secure to date are undeveloped tidelands. Have these negotiations been a success or a failure, and how should the assembly proceed? Also, what would you like to see in a post-2023 lease with AIDEA?
4. Which municipal projects do you see as top priorities for the next five years?
5. Please briefly state your top 3 priorities for the borough, or any other issues that need attention.
Borough Assembly - Three-year terms
New candidates Steve Burnham Jr. and Gary Hanson, and incumbent Dave Hunz are running for two 3-year seats
STEVE BURNHAM JR.
AGE: 33.997 (at time of printing) OCCUPATION: Shop Steward & Maintenance of Way Trackman at WP&YR.
EDUCATION: Bachelor's from Evergreen State College
YEARS IN SKAGWAY: 33.997 (at time of printing)
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Currently: Planning & Zoning Commissioner, Recycling Committee Chair; Former: Historic District Commissioner INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): Music, film, home brewing
STEVE BURNHAM JR. ANSWERS
1. I was born and raised in Skagway, which gives me a unique view of the town’s history. My college studies included courses on culture and communications, and trash economics. I have experience in conflict resolution and negotiations with WP&YR as a union steward. I will support the public by making detail oriented decisions that reflect the needs of the current and future community. I am approachable and my interests are with the betterment of Skagway, not with the furthering of personal or professional priorities.
2. A comprehensive feasibility study for the West Creek hydro project is needed, keeping in mind that we are not required to develop the project just because a study occurs. The study should determine costs, potential pitfalls, and environmental impacts. A decision on whether to move forward can be reached after a public review and comment period.
We must implement our own coastal zone management program while lobbying the State to restore theirs.
In regard to Juneau access, I support improved ferry service. The Assembly’s opposition to the ECA is unfortunate in that we are sending a mixed message regarding air pollution. We want clean air, and are considering a hydro plant to help eliminate cruise ship exhaust, but at the same time we stated that we can’t support the lower sulfur fuel resolution which intends to limit pollutants near coastlines. AML and AMHS are already compliant. We need a consistent message; clean air and cruise business do not have to be on opposite sides of the coin.
3. To deem a negotiation still in process as “a success or a failure” is not something I would do were I involved at the table, nor is it something I will do now. To declare such, without fully knowing the details of a negotiation that has occurred outside of the public view, I think is irresponsible. There is still room to continue these talks. If we wish to move forward with the Gateway Project, we need to engage the railroad as they are a key component of real transportation job growth in Skagway. The same goes for the post-2023 lease with AIDEA, for me to comment on that now, while the parties are still in talks, does not benefit Skagway. That said, we must take care not to repeat past ore haul missteps, and find a common ground with the community and AIDEA.
4. We should complete projects that are already underway: the wastewater treatment facility, small boat harbor, and library. Additionally, a public safety building is needed eventually, but meanwhile we must address the current state of our fire station. There will be a need for a recycling center as well as incinerator repair and ashfill solutions. Projects that improve basic quality of life should be priorities.
5. Developing a year round economy. Fully funding education programs. Cost effective recycling and solid waste programs. Safe, permanent housing solutions.
OCCUPATION: Retired from Skagway Ferry Terminal. Part-time bookkeeper
EDUCATION: 2 years college
YEARS IN SKAGWAY: 31
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: Served on Harbor Advisory Board, Port Commission, Outdoor Arts Facility Committee, Alaska Marine Highway Committee and Skagway Arts Council.
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): Music, Golf, Bowling.
GARY HANSON ANSWERS
1. While I do have certain points of view that I hold fast to, I have always been able and willing to listen to the other side of the issue and try and find common ground for agreement.
2. I am a supporter of hydro power. However, I am not convinced we need the West Creek project. I would prefer that AP&T devote their time and energy in helping Haines develop a hydro project in their own borough so that they are not so dependent on power generated in Skagway.
I am confident the revised EIS will show that daily ferry service with the new Alaska class ferry will be the best alternative for Juneau access.
The Skagway Borough must have final say on any project located within the boundaries of our coastal zone. This opinion was also expressed by the Skagway voters in August.
I understand that the ECA may put an unfair economic burden on Alaska as almost all our goods arrive and depart by ship. But, I also worry about the health effects of air pollution from the stack emissions of cruise ships burning bunker fuel while they sit here in port. Since August 1st the cruise ships have been mixing a higher grade fuel with the bunkers to comply with the ECA rules. I am hopeful a compromise can be worked out which will continue to keep the air over Skagway cleaner.
3. Since the negotiations are ongoing, I believe it is premature to label them a success or a failure. The recent mandate by the Alaska Department of Environment Conservation to clean up the lead ore in the ore dock basin has given a new urgency to the talks with White Pass. I believe we can come to an agreement with White Pass that will result in getting this contamination cleaned up.
I liked the fact that the proposed lease to AIDEA included some payment based on quantity of ore shipped through the Skagway ore terminal. It only seems fair that the citizens of Skagway have a stake in the commerce of our port. The proposed lease also gives us a say on how many ore trucks can come through town.
4. 1. Negotiate a post 2023 lease of the Skagway Ore Terminal with AIDEA. 2. Complete phase one of the Gateway Project. 3. Proceed with small boat harbor upgrades. 4. Establish a recycling program. 5. Seven Pastures dike and park enhancements.
5. 1. Continue to support the school to the extent of our abilities. 2. Work with the State and US Customs to facilitate anticipated truck traffic on the Klondike Highway and take steps to ensure the ore trucks do not negatively impact the tourism industry and the quality of life in Skagway. 3. I would like to see more citizen involvement in local government and to generate excitement about the opportunities that abound here.
DAVID M. HUNZ
AGE: 59…(feels like I’m 39)
OCCUPATION: President of Mineral Services Inc., Owner of Hunz & Hunz Enterprises and Klondike Fuels, White Pass & Yukon Route Engineer & Conductor.
EDUCATION: 12 + 1
YEARS IN SKAGWAY: 53
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: City Council & Assembly
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): Boating, fishing & grandchildren
DAVID HUNZ ANSWERS
1. Business owner, conservative approach, getting the best value for municipal dollars spent.
2. West Creek hydro: I support a study on the feasibility of West Creek hydro and design concept. After that study, I could make an informal decision on what would be best for the citizens of Skagway.
Juneau Access revised EIS: I support a review and what would be the best long-term dependable cost effective solution.
Coastal zone management: I support keeping coastal zone management policies in our municipal code. As proven by the State (DNR) it was abused in our flood control project which cost Skagway $350,000 in additional engineering and added five years to the permitting process. Some changes would have to be made for me to support at a State level.
3. White Pass negotiations: It has been a long process and going in I knew it would take awhile. We have had success in securing the undeveloped portions. We need to continue on with the gateway project to find common ground with White Pass for repairs to the Ore Dock (the old wood structure is currently falling down) which will improve our port infrastructure for both cruise and inbound/outbound freight and fuel shipments.
Post-2023 lease with AIDEA: AIDEA and the municipality need to work together to reach our goal of a stable year-round portion of our economy as an anchor to keep the Klondike Highway open year-round and/or the possibility of the railroad coming back as a year round “freight railroad.”
4. A) Public Safety building, both the Fire Department and Police Department have outgrown their existing facilities. With the Fire Dept. acquiring bigger & better equipment, ambulance service, search & rescue they need a much bigger facility. The Police Dept. taking on the added dispatcher duties they have also outgrown their facility. Although the cost seems high the Municipality should see cost savings by having them housed under one roof.
B) Gateway Project – Port infrastructure.
C) Phase 2 Boat Harbor improvements.
D) Flood control – Dike the south side of the Skagway River Bridge to protect the ballfields and future recreational areas.
E) Improvements to the Rec. Center building – finish siding and new windows.
F) Water system improvements – new pump station, upgrade existing pumps.
G) New playground equipment at Mollie Walsh Park and Skagway School.
5. A) Make more municipal selected land for sale.
B) Continue to make improvements to the municipal buildings – paint, and interior and exterior upgrades and Enterprise Funds – Harbor sewer, water and garbage.
C) Start the planning process and set the stage now for the eventual return of the municipal tidelands to generate jobs and revenue past 2023.
SCHOOL BOARD -two 3-year seats
Incumbent Stuart Brown is on the ballot and new candidate John Hischer is a write-in candidate for two 3-year seats
Questions for School Board Candidates
1. What special qualities would you bring to the school board?
2. Enrollment, enrollment, enrollment. We hear all the time about the need for more, but what more can the school district do to keep families and their school-age children here, or draw more families to Skagway?
3. When the time comes to make difficult budget decisions, what programs do you care the most about when there is a choice to cut, keep or enhance?
4. Please state your top 3 priorities for the district, or any other issues
OCCUPATION: Owner SMART Bus
EDUCATION: BS Media Arts
YEARS IN SKAGWAY: 16
PUBLIC OFFICES HELD: School Board
INTERESTS, HOBBIES (list 3 only): Fishing, Motorcycles, Skiing
STUART BROWN ANSWERS
1. I have 3 years experience on the Skagway school board and I own and operate a local business. I bring experience to the budget process and understand when tough choices have to be made.
2. I don't believe it is the school board's responsibility to attract more families to Skagway. This falls to our state legislature through tax incentives to start-up businesses, our municipal assembly through local tax incentives to new year-round businesses and assistance to develop more affordable housing through selling the many vacant lots the municipality owns, and entities such as SDC in offering assistance to obtain grants aimed at economic development.
The school board's responsibility lies with retention of students (families) by providing and maintaining the best possible education for our students with the funding we have available.
3. My main concern is that we maintain a high level of education, especially in the area of technology education, both for our students and for our teachers. We have been forced to reduce our staff to a bare minimum and we have done so keeping in mind that we have to keep our standards high in these times of budget cuts and reduced enrollment.
Our recent acquirement of SMART Boards in the elementary classrooms is an example of the enhancements we need to make. These are an investment in our children's future and the new teaching methods they make possible will help excel our students' learning process.
4. Technology: we must continue to pursue all avenues of technology possible to enable our students to compete with the rest of the world.
Standard of Education: our school must strive to maintain a higher standard of education than is required by the state, and we must also move to continually challenge our students through an enhanced curriculum.
Maintenance: I feel it is extremely important that we continue to maintain our school building at the current level and not let up or move to cut corners. Our facility is a great asset and it is the board's responsibility to maintain, preserve, and protect it.
Occupation: Behavioral Health Clinician
Education: Master’s Degree in Social Work
Years in Skagway: 3
Public Offices Held: None
Interests, Hobbies: Reading, backgammon and running
JOHN HISCHER ANSWERS
1. Since moving to Skagway, I have been involved in the school with my job as counselor. I have worked closely with the students, teachers, parents and administration to help the Skagway students succeed emotionally, behaviorally, and academically. I also bring the perspective and enthusiasm of a parent whose children are just entering into the school system.
2. I believe that the school district’s primary focus on the topic of enrollment should be to focus on the needs of the students we do have. That focus should be on finding creative ways to challenge and engage the students so that they or their parents do not feel that they need to go elsewhere to attain their full potential.
I also believe that the two other important factors that attract and keep families with school-aged children in Skagway are full time employment and adequate housing. I believe that the school district needs to be an important voice in that community conversation.
3. Early education would be high on my budget priorities. Early education may be the most important area we place our resources. The students’ time in the elementary wing sets the foundation for future academic and life successes. Another priority for me would be those programs that get our students college and career ready. These programs include core classes (math, science, English, and history), as well as vocational training, AP and dual credit courses.
4. First priority: Continued high student achievement. I believe the board can support high student achievement by ensuring teachers have the appropriate support, tools, and time to help our students achieve their highest potential.
Second priority: Fostering active parental and community involvement in the school. I strongly feel that educating our students is the community’s collective responsibility. I believe we need to promote more community partnerships, mentorships, and volunteers in the school.
Third priority: Promoting and expanding technology-based education. Having proven technology tools that are thoughtfully integrated into classroom instruction is vital for our students being competitive and successful.
VOTE OCT. 2: Polls open at Skagway City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting available weekdays through Oct. 1 at 5 p.m. at borough offices.