ELECTION FORUM - from the Sept. 28, 2001 Skagway News


1) The mayor often represents the city on statewide issues from Southeast transportation planning to education funding. What message will you carry to Juneau?

2) Mayor John Mielke led a movement to transform the City of Skagway to a Borough form of government, fearing that the state may some day force Skagway into the Haines Borough. Did you agree with this approach? If the state rejects Skagway’s petition, what would be the next move?

3) Last spring, the mayor, reacting to rumors about alleged improprieties in city government, ordered an audit, which resulted in no evidence of financial wrongdoing. Following the audit, he proposed that the Economic Development Commission be disbanded, and won approval of most on the council. Did you approve of this course of action? As mayor, how would you have handled the situation?

4) Please list your top five city priorities over the next two years.

Timothy Bourcy, 38
Owner of Packer Expeditions and The Mountain Shop,
11 years in Skagway,
Two years on the city council, former Search & Rescue Lieutenant,
Enjoys family, the outdoors, reading.
1. As mayor, the message I would carry to Juneau is:
• The state funding formula for schools is still inequitable for many communities, including Skagway. This needs to be re-evaluated.
• Skagway needs to be made a top priority for receiving fast ferry service. Improved service is essential to many citizens and businesses in our community.
• We need to make sure that the pedestrian footbridge is moved up on the state’s priority list. This is a life-safety issue that needs to be dealt with sooner, not later.
2. I was in agreement with Mayor Mielke on this petition. As mayor, I would continue to pursue it. Skagway and Haines are two very different communities and need to be governed separately. We have enjoyed a government that is independent, accessible and responsible, and we need to preserve that.
If our petition is denied, I would seek legislative action. If that effort failed, I would suggest taking legal action to protect what we have worked to build.
3. I supported the disbanding of the Economic Development Commission, because I felt the EDC mandate was too broad-based to be effective. As a result, a tremendous amount of money was spent and little was accomplished. This, combined with the EDC director’s relationship with many city departments, committees and boards made the commission ineffective. Under the circumstances, I wouldn’t have handled the situation differently. However, I do feel economic development and economic diversity are very important to Skagway’s future.
4. 1. Skagway’s borough status.
2. Skagway’s economic stability in an uncertain economy is going to weigh heavily. We should review our present budget,, our investment strategy and our sales tax contribution to the general fund for emergency services.
3. The Rec. Center is moving forward and keeping the project on track is important to the health and well-being of Skagway residents. There is a referendum before the voters on researching the feasibility of a swimming pool. Depending on the outcome, we may have to address this need.
4. Property development: Skagway needs to get title to its land so we can give people the opportunity to become property owners and set roots in our community.
5. Addressing tourism impacts: In the last few years there has been a backlash against the tourism industry and it’s rapid growth. We need to work with the visitor industry to create a long-term solution that benefits the community, business, industry, and quality of life.

Jan Nelson, 63
Retired from the State Highway Department (Foreman),
43 years in Skagway,
No political offices,
Enjoys fishing, RC airplanes, and woodworking.
1. In light of what has happened in NY City, we need to be vigilant about the changes taking place. If our tourist trade drops we may need state help to keep our level of education and services to the city. We need to improve our ferry system so we can use it as an extension of our highway system as it was intended. Also, to let them know that we would like the existing permanent fund kept intact.
2. I think the Mayor did a good job in keeping the city out of the Haines borough. What the next step is will depend on the decision by the state.
3. As stated by the auditors, “We were not engaged to, and did not, perform an audit, the objective of which would be the expression of an opinion on the specific elements, accounts or items. Accordingly, we do not express such an opinion.” as, reported in the Skagway News, May 11 issue. If the Mayor had done a comprehensive audit, instead of a bookkeeping review, it would have indicated that he really wanted to know what shape the city’s finances are in. As far as the EDC, this is a moot question. The city manager, Mayor and majority of the council saw fit to abolish the EDC and all the work they had done, and I stand by their decision. We should not be asking what if or how it could have been handled differently. That is in the past, over and done with, we need to look to the future and bring the people of Skagway together in a common cause.
4. 1. To keep or increase the level of tourists coming to town by looking at other areas of the tourist trade and expanding the tourist season.
2. A comprehensive audit.
3. Bring the people of Skagway together and to make a level playing field for everyone.
4. To free up more land will allow more economic development. Without land available it is likely we would not attract more year-round businesses.
5. Tidelands lease review.

City Council
Five candidates running for two 3-year Seats
1) Do you approve of the way the city council handled the situation that resulted in disbanding the Economic Development Commission and its staff last spring? If elected, would you try to bring back the EDC in some form? If so, how? If not, why?
2) The city council can’t seem to agree on an ordinance to better control dogs and cats in the community. As a councilperson, what solution would you offer? (Editor’s note: this question was asked before the council reconsidered and passed a revised ordinance on Sept. 20.)
3) The present city government has been trying to regulate independent tour selling – from establishing a broker system to enacting the “10-foot law” to keep tour sellers in buildings and out of doorways. Do you agree with this approach? If the court rejects the law, what’s the solution?
4) Please list your top five city priorities over the next three years?

Karen Gee, 40
Dog musher (seasonal),
25 years total in Skagway,
No political offices,
Enjoys stained glass, hiking, horseback riding
1. No, I do not approve. I would like to bring back the EDC in a form as the council has already decided to do.
2. As a dog owner, I want to see enforcement of our ordinance that all dogs have to be licensed. In a small town like Skagway it is not a tough job to send notices to those dog owners who have not licensed their dogs and instruct them that if their dogs are not licensed in so many days there will be a fine imposed. If we have a police officer whose job it is to basically write traffic tickets, then he can double as dog catcher in the summer and because our winter months are usually quiet, as far as criminal activities, the officer on duty can be the dogcatcher.
3. The independent tour sellers are an important part of our tourist industry. They allow our visitors to see Skagway’s surrounding beauty, which is something they might not otherwise get a chance to see. I do not agree with the approach the city council has been taking. While I do not want our down town area to become “carnival-like” with “barkers” on every street corner, I believe if the city would work with the independent brokers they would come to an agreement that we all could live with. There is always room for compromise.
4. 1. To get a comprehension of all unfinished business and to get it finished.
2. Free up land to encourage community growth.
3. Economic Development to improve year round employment.
4. Senior housing and expansion of our recreation center with a swimming pool.
5. To ensure the previous EDC’s seawall, seawalk, fish hatchery and harbor expansion project is brought to completion.

Dan Henry, 46
Owner of the Skagway Fish Co.,
12 years in Skagway,
Councilmember, Past Exalted Ruler & Trustee Skagway Elks Lodge, President of the Panthers Booster Club,
Enjoys golf, chess, and being a stationary referee expert.
1. Yes, I would move to reform the EDC with a willing, progressive, volunteer committee.
2. At our meeting on Sept. 20, we passed an ordinance that we will have to enforce and support.
3. Yes, if for some reason the courts did not support this regulation, I would have to see to what degree the courts prevent municipalities to set their own tone for doing business.
4. 1. Skagway Borough formation
2. Pedestrian bridge
3. Flood control
4. Recreation Center completion
5. EMS and Clinic upgrades

Mike Korsmo, 43
Tugboat captain,
17 years in Skagway,
Harbor Committee member and volunteer firefighter,
Enjoys reading, camping,
family activities.
1. I believe, at the time, it had to be done. There were a lot of strong people on the EDC, but the paid city staff lost track of their mission and provided poor direction. We need an Economic Development Commission and there are lots of working models out there for towns like ours.
2. There needs to be some control over dogs in town. I think cats are a separate issue. The final draft ordinance needs to be enforceable. Ten years ago, I would have fought any leash law, but there’s a lot more dogs, and with children it does make me nervous at times when walking or riding bikes with them.
3. I believe the city has been sincerely trying to come up with ways to make sure tour selling is done in a professional manner. What we need is a comprehensive plan for vendors that will work for the future and ensure that visitors are being treated fairly. If complaints overwhelmingly show that people are being harassed while walking down the street, then I think the problem needs to be solved. If the 10-foot law doesn’t work, then the city and the sellers need to work together to come up with a different approach.
4. I have five priorities:
1. Resolving city/borough issue
2. Harbor development
3. A footbridge across the Skagway River
4. Continue building on recreational opportunities (including a pool if the public wants it). If you create an environment that people and families want to live in, they will stay and work.
5. Quality of life issues – our major resource is the area we live in. We need to make sure our air, land and water remain healthy.

Robert Murphy, 30
26 years in Skagway,
formerly on City Council,
Enjoys music, outdoors, having coffee.
1. If the council was disappointed with the overall lack of success of the EDC, then I cannot condemn their decision – I was not as well versed as the members involved in making the decision. However, if the problem was just with one person, I would rather have seen that person terminated (assuming due cause) rather than disbanding the entire commission. I would like to see an active EDC, whether it’s funded or non-funded. I would like to see that it had objective goals and timelines for those goals so that we could truly measure the benefits of the commission.
2. I would recommend strict enforcement of our existing ordinance.
3. I do not believe the Constitution will allow us to enforce such a law. I do believe however, that given the change in dynamics of the tour market, this proposed solution more readily remedies the symptoms of the problems rather than the causes.. If the businesses intend to be successful and profitable, they will not want a tainted image...maybe we should attempt to work with this industry rather than against it.
4. I would like to see a sales tax exemption for all food products, heating oil and rent paid for housing. This would essentially make it easier for people trying to maintain a year-round residence by lowering the cost of living.
I would like to see the conclusion of the formation of our own (Skagway’s) Organized Borough so that we do not lose full control of our tax base and potentially lose school funding.
I would like to continue to pursue a fair and just funding formula for all of Alaska schools so that we might be able to offer the same educational opportunities as any other public school in the state.
I would like to continue to promote Skagway as a destination for tourism as well as increase the quality of life in the off season, so that more people are encouraged to make this their year-round home as opposed to just their summer home.

Candice R. Wallace, 52
2 years in Skagway,
No offices held in Skagway,
Enjoys reading, civil history, rummage sales.
1. No. Yes, I believe that Skagway, now more than ever, needs an entity that would market and promote our city to new industry and potential residents, as well as work with current businesses. I endorse a non-profit, non-political, private organization. The city could donate the office equipment (already in place for EDC) and the balance of the Tongass Funds. It would be the EDC’s task to obtain other financial resources such as grants and private donations for future operational expenses.
2. This question is no longer applicable because the council has implemented the new ordinance. It would be inappropriate for me to offer another option.
3. I do not agree with the approach chosen by the city. I believe before the city arbitrarily implements a “law” that negatively impacts any private businesses operations, there should be an effort on the part of the city to meet with representatives of the industry to achieve a positive resolution for all. There was a better way to respond to the concerns about the “outdoor” selling and feelings of detraction from the “historic” streetscape, and while I do not endorse “hawking” on public property, I believe that the vendors have a right to respond to visitor’s queries (in a professional manner) about their product on their own property. I do support not waiting for the courts to rule, but would recommend that the city invite the plaintiffs to meet with the mayor and council now, and strive for a win/win, or everybody loses.
4. 1. Comprehensive audit
2. Implementation of equal protection issues/level playing field for residents and businesses. (Includes review of city codes/ordinances.)
3. Improving health and social resources.
4. Providing a positive forum to obtain and respond to concerns of community.
5. Research, create action plan for city to address potential repercussions of current national events, i.e. loss of tourism, interruption of transportation options, economic downturn. Begin meeting with business owners. Acquire information about state and federal aid options.

School: Three races

1) Did you agree with the state’s decision to delay the graduation requirements based on the first round of test results? Were you satisfied with how Skagway kids tested? Where can we improve?

2) In the wake of the recent terrorist attacks on our nation, is the school doing enough to talk to our children about the tragedy? What would you encourage staff to tell the kids?

3) Briefly list what you consider to be the school district’s top priorities over the next three years.

Two Candidates for Two Three-year seats
Christine Ellis, 37
37 years in Skagway,
One year prior on school board,
Enjoys painting, spending time with family, enjoying outdoors.
1. Yes. I wouldn’t be totally satisfied with these test results unless all students pass the exam. Offering geometry as a freshman instead of a sophomore will help with the math and getting the English curriculum aligned with state standards should help the writing and reading portions of the test. I do not fully agree with this sort of testing, however, I do understand why it was implemented and I can see some positive results from it.
2. Yes. The only thing I would encourage the staff to do for the students in the elementary is to offer reassurance and move on with daily routine. All other classes should do the same, with the exception of possibly the history room, where the issue could be discussed and monitored.
3. English curriculum, maintenance on building, voc-ed, policy manual revision and update, school to work programs, budgeting and much, much more.

Dawn Kilburn, 39
10 years in Skagway,
School Board Member, treasurer,
Enjoys research and gardening.
1. A. Yes, because it will give school districts more time to use the test data available to evaluate where the curriculum may be weak and improve it. Yes, I thought the Skagway students did very well on the tests. B. Update the curriculum to meet Alaska State Standards. Test scores from the Alaska Qualifying Exam and the benchmark tests are broken down to the State Standard that is to be taught. The staff needs to identify the standards that need the most improvement. Once the specific standards have been identified, the staff needs to look at the curriculum and make sure performance measures have been written, then make sure the concepts are in the lesson plans, and taught to the students.
2. Yes, the kids I talk to know what is going on. Parents know their children much better and should be the ones making sure the kids are talking things out. Sometimes children interpret things and make it much worse than it is. I remember my mom telling us kids to hurry up or she is going to get fired. I knew about fire but I didn’t know anything about where my mom worked. I used the information I had to form my thoughts. My five-year-old mind pictured her going to a room in a building and she was put in a fire. It was much worse than what was really happening. Teachers and parents should be talking to the kids and make sure their thoughts are accurate. I would encourage the staff to provide factual information to the students about what is going on when the students ask questions.
3. 1. Updating and revising the School District Policy Manual.
2. Revising the Curriculum to meet State Standards and making sure the teachers have the materials to teach the curriculum.
3. Implementing the School Improvement Plan.

Two Candidates for One Two-year seat
Tom Cochran, 33
Telephone Tech at AP&T,
Seven year in Vermont, seven years in Army, the rest in Skagway,
Skagway City Council 1996-1999,
Enjoys reading, Skagway Panthers basketball.
1. I do agree with the decision to delay this program. The legislation that originally implemented this program has had a significant effect on schools statewide. It shifts the impetus from an accreditation-based to a standards-based curriculum. This requires a review of curriculum to ensure that students are prepared for such an exam. I think that the Skagway students did fairly well overall on the test, but our district has identified a weakness in the math portion. It is my understanding that steps have already been taken to deal with the problem area. I am willing to work with the staff to reach the necessary goals in this area.
2. It sounds like they handled it well and had a lot of discussion about it. Of course, this is on the junior high and high school level. I am not aware of the manner in which it was handled at the elementary level. I would encourage staff to keep age levels in mind with this issue. I think younger children need more of a good guy, bad guy approach. The older kids I believe can handle some more critical thinking type discussions.
3. I think the top priority right now is funding. Recent events have a potential to really affect the economy of Skagway. Currently, 100 percent of the local contribution to the school budget comes out of our sales tax fund. This amounts to $800,000. A huge hit on tourism equals a huge hit on the sales tax fund. As far as other priorities, I really don’t have any going into this. My main reason for running is primarily based on the past. I thin it’s important to have candidates that want to do the job.
Joanne Korsmo, 43
Customer Service Agent Wings of Alaska,
17 years in Skagway,
President, Skagway Childcare Council ,
Enjoys hiking, Cross Country Skiing, Theater Arts
1. Yes, I agree with this decision. A large number of students would have failed, especially in rural compared to urban areas. These were just a few of the issues before the legislature that prompted the decision. I was pleased to see how well our students scored in reading and writing and they did well over all compared to other students across the state. We need to make sure the students are prepared through effective instruction of concepts, skills and knowledge necessary to pass a standard based exam.
2. My children woke that morning to these events on TV. I think the school along with acknowledging the events also tried to present a feeling of normalcy. I would encourage the staff to educate a bit on the life of Muslim people, more importantly children. This could instill a feeling of tolerance about other cultures. So many times hate and prejudice occur from these tragedies.
3. Keeping curriculum strong in all grades, bolstering enrollment, ensuring funding, capital improvements, hatchery program and community education, to name a few.

Two Candidates for One One-year seat
Lynette Roseberg, 31
Customer Service for Alaska Power & Telephone Co.,
10 years in Skagway,
No offices held,
Enjoys spending time with my family, crafts and reading.
1. I do agree with the state’s decision as it was apparent that the state may have implemented the exam prematurely. I will need to further educate myself on the test requirements and our current curriculum to assess what needs to be improved to better prepare our students for the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.
2. Yes, the school is talking enough to our students about the tragedy. Our school’s responsibility is to discuss this issue as it pertains to our country politically, economically and historically.
3. a. To better prepare our students for higher education, the work place and community involvement. In order to accomplish this, we must improve our students’ study and research skills in the curriculum and continue to build on the well-rounded education our students need including vocational ed., arts, drama, music, and sports programs. And most importantly, we must continue quality fundamental education.
b. Maintaining and supporting the positive programs that have been recently implemented including the improved Community Education Program and the School Lunch Program.
c. Work with the city to build a community pool to provide our students with the opportunity to participate in a water safety program, P.E. swimming program and a Swim Team.

Bruce Weber, 51
Elderhostel Coordinator,
18 years in Skagway,
School Board Member, 3 years,
Enjoys family, hiking, skiing.
1. I think the exit test was altered for political and not educational reasons. If the state is going to set a standard that means anything there are going to be significant numbers of students who fail to reach that standard and as a state we need to be prepared for that outcome. We may, however, need to find something besides a Certificate of Attendance for those who do not pass the test. Skagway kids did very well on the test. With our low teacher to pupil ratio and lack of problems many schools face, I do believe we can do better. We need to work on the historic problem of scores falling as students move through our system.
2. The staff should adopt appropriate responses for each grade level and in some cases each individual including counseling where necessary.
3. The district needs to do everything it can do to prevent any loss in enrollment and funding. We should work with the city so that the state provides a fair share of the money necessary for our school district. We can not afford to lose any teachers. In the last few years the school district has expanded the educational opportunities for our children. We need to maintain that trend and expand those opportunities where appropriate. We need to make sure our graduating seniors have the tools necessary for either a career in the work place or attending an institution of higher learning. The school should be a linchpin of community spirit and pride that begins with the teachers and students and spreads throughout the community. The school board needs to do everything it can to hasten this process.

Pool advisory question

Proposition 1: The City of Skagway should research the construction and operation of a swimming pool, suitably sized for Skagway.
Vote “”FOR” a swimming pool
On Oct. 2, the citizens of Skagway will make the choice whether to research the feasibility of a swimming pool for our community. The reasons to support this position are varied and important.
Our citizens would have the ability with swimming lessons, lifeguard programs and kayak classes to handle accidents on the lakes, rivers and ocean that surround us. Seniors and others would benefit from physical therapy programs and water aerobic classes. The school could offer swimming classes and sponsor a swimming team. During the dark days of winter, we would have the chance to use the pool for everything from birthday parties to lap swims. Finally, an enlarged recreation center could be the center of a new sense of community that would enrich us all.
The opposition to this proposal is the questions of whether we could afford the cost of constructing and operating a pool. It currently appears that the construction cost of a swimming pool could be handled by a portion of one year’s sales taxes without any increase in taxes. Without a yes vote we will never know what the real cost is and what money is available to help us with this project.
It is even more difficult to argue the question of operating costs without researching the question. Again, we don’t know what other options exist for financing from grants and endowment programs. We also don’t know how far revenue generated during the summer would go to paying for the entire year’s operating costs. Finally, we don’t know how an expanded recreation center would benefit our economic growth as more people choose to make Skagway their year-round home. A YES vote will result in researching accurate information about these unknowns so we can make an informed decision. - Bruce Weber, Skagway Citizens for Prop. 1
Vote “AGAINST” a swimming pool
In the absence of any other source for a “con” statement regarding the swimming pool, I have come to the fore. Still, I do not want to be regarded by history as the SOB who didn’t want our community to have a pool.
While we do not have figures on the cost of construction and maintenance for a pool in Skagway, I have done research on other communities. There are few pools, if any, that pay for themselves. These are all pieces of community recreation infrastructure. It goes without saying that a pool in Skagway will not be totally supported by user fees, or even largely supported by these fees. While there may be other sources for funding a shortfall, including grants, endowments, or a new look at uses of sales tax revenues, these are not usually guaranteed.
The customary funding mechanism for the operation of any community service infrastructure outside of enterprise funds is the general fund. This means property taxes. If we have a pool in Skagway, the chances are likely that at some point in the future, we will have to raise taxes to support it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something that needs to be accepted when promoting the development of this facility. - Bob Ward, City Manager