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Fairbanks North Star borough mayor race — Luke Hopkins

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Posted: Sunday, September 23, 2012 12:07 am

1. Discuss your idea for reducing the cost of heating homes and businesses in the borough.

First and foremost we must put the pieces in place so that we can deliver low cost gas to our community. Advancing a municipal energy utility, as I proposed with community leaders, will create an entity that can provide flexibility for a public/private partnership to deliver gas and ensure that it gets to our homes and businesses. This will not only lower operating costs at our refineries and power plants but must reduce your heating costs. Our families also need immediate relief and through more woodstove upgrades we can burn less wood, more efficiently, and lower thousands of families’ costs now.

Lowering the cost of in-state royalty oil is important because it’ll help increase business and jobs at Flint Hills. However, if government lowers the cost of royalty oil to local refineries, there is no guarantee all savings will be passed along. Indeed, the private sector has no such responsibility. Additionally, our community purchases approximately 80 percent of heating fuel from Petrostar Refinery, which purchases no royalty oil and stated they won’t, even if prices drop. We must begin now to prepare our homes and businesses for low-cost energy for when a supply of gas arrives.

2. Do you believe the borough should privatize any of its services? Why? If yes, what services should be privatized and why?

We must always look toward finding efficiencies in the budget. If privatizing a service will cut costs and not reduce effectiveness, it should be looked into. I have done this in the past by ending the borough’s administration of the state’s child care assistance program, returning it to private operation, saving money. We looked at privatizing Van Tran but didn’t find significant savings. I had a committee look at lower costs and improved service. Also, Alaska law calls for the borough to cover all future retirement costs when removing a group of employees from the borough payroll.

3. How do you intend to vote on Proposition 3, the borough air quality initiative? Explain.

No. Fairbanks burns wood and I’ll continue to fight to protect that right. We must realize we have a responsibility for what we put into the air. If we make the state and EPA solve our problem, they’ll give us rules that don’t work on the coldest days. We must solve our problem locally where residents have a voice.

4. How much authority should road service area commissioners have to make improvements to area roads without borough approval or oversight?

Improvements to public roads need to be done safely. How we handle runoff and drainage must not damage private property. Improvements that do not reduce the safety of a public road or damage private property can be handled by road service commissions. When minor improvements rise to a level where engineering standards are required, the project should be reviewed.

5. The borough provides property tax exemptions for property “used exclusively for religious, charitable, cemetery, hospital or educational purposes.” Last year, the assembly denied a nonprofit performing arts organization a partial exemption. Should the list of exemptions be expanded? Reduced? Why?

Properties having community purpose, economic development or are deteriorated are the issue. The list should not be expanded, and each decision needs to remain under the assembly’s jurisdiction. There are times to grant a special exemption for an organization that benefits us all. It has been done only seven times for community purpose, a reasonable number.

6. What role should the borough play in promoting the local economy, and what can it do to diversify businesses?

The borough must play the role of facilitator. It must take every step available to lower the cost of energy and keep taxes low to reduce the cost of doing business here. This also keeps more money circulating in the local economy making it easier for residents to shop at local businesses and support a wider variety of opportunities.

7. Why do you want to be elected to this office?

During my first term I lowered the tax cap more than any mayor ever, increased our credit rating, reduced the number of borough employees, slowed government growth, got a new North Pole library and reduced the tax rate. I am running for re-election to build on these successes and implement proposals to provide the best chance to deliver affordable energy.

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