Jim Matherly Mug 2019

Jim Matherly Thursday afternoon, September 19, 2019. Eric Engman/News-Miner

1. What do you believe is the biggest issue facing the city? What will you do about it?

The budget. Our revenues haven’t kept up with inflation. If we maintain the same level of service, then we have to raise revenue. However, if we do not want to maintain the same level of service, then we need to identify what services we keep and which to reduce. If we do nothing, we risk spending our savings, just like the state. I don’t want to see that happen here.

2. How do you intend to address the city’s revenue shortfall? What options are you willing to explore to raise revenues?

Citizens in Fairbanks need to make some decisions. I have raised this concern several times in different forums. I do believe in a property tax cap; but it is the “cap within a cap” that is preventing us from keeping up with inflation. Involving public participation in decision-making will help guide us.

3. Chief of Staff Mike Meeks has said that the city can no longer “salami slice” in regards to the budget - whole departments would need to be cut entirely to stay solvent. If revenues do not rise, which departments would you consider eliminating first? Which would you not ever cut?

Clarification: He said “can’t keep salami slicing expenses; you are going to have to cut some services.” I agree. Sometimes managers will direct “across the board” cuts; for example, 10%. This means everything takes that 10% cut, including your most important and least important services. By making hard decisions on what is truly important to folks, and what can be outsourced or reduced, then can you make rational cuts.

4. If the business community does not contribute enough funding to maintain the current levels of the Emergency Service Patrol, how should the city respond?

CSP/ESP is absolutely vital. They “free up” the police and fire departments to respond to other lifesaving issues. Without CSP/ESP, the time spent on these issues will move to fire and police, which costs the city more in the long run. This is a service that I do not want to cut or reduce, but rather maintain.

5. What are your views on the legal marijuana industry?

We’ve seen very few problems with the cannabis industry. Some of the dire predictions are not reality. My concern is they can’t use the U.S. banking system, and this “all cash” business might result in someone getting hurt as they move cash back and forth.

6. How will you, if you are elected, support vulnerable residents? Who do you consider a vulnerable resident?

Drugs are taking a huge toll on the country, the state and our city. I fully support the CSP/ESP, the Opioid Task Force and the Sobering Center. Also, the elderly face an increase in the cost of living as the state reduces funding. This is why I announced a committee to examine senior needs which extends to 2030.

7. What should the city do to support existing businesses and attract new business to Fairbanks? How would you, as mayor, accommodate this?

Get out of the way so they can flourish. We provide police, fire, snow removal and trash removal. One example is that we assisted the Downtown Association with their “Third Thursday” events. We issued one blanket permit covering all these events rather than individual permits. This saved money for DTA.

 
8. How should the city approach LGBTQ rights? How will you?

Continue addressing LGBTQ-plus concerns with my full attention and respect, just as I have with any other discriminatory concern that comes before me. I believe the federal government should set the guidelines. Discrimination in any form is unacceptable. Under my administration, any claims of discrimination are immediately investigated. I will not tolerate discriminatory behavior of those who work for me and the city.

 
9. Consolidation of the city of Fairbanks and the Fairbanks North Star Borough governments was discussed in the 1990s. Do you favor consolidation? Why or why not?

I don’t support consolidation. The city has approximately $135 million in its permanent fund. The borough is struggling to fund basic maintenance needs. I have no desire to see our funds be transferred to the borough. This money belongs to the residents of Fairbanks and I want to keep it that way. This permanent fund helps pay for city services, and without it would cost residents more in taxes.