Savannah Fletcher is running for Seat F on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.
Originally from Washington, Fletcher moved to Fairbanks for a year-long judicial clerkship after graduating from Stanford Law School in 2018. “From the very get-go, I saw what a close knit and supportive community Fairbanks was,” she said. “I instantly fell in love with the place, and since then...Fairbanks is home.”
Today, Fletcher works as an attorney for Alaska Legal Services — a local nonprofit that provides legal services to low-income Alaskans — and believes her experience as an attorney will bring valuable insight to the assembly. “In my day job as an attorney, I see all the different needs of every level of our community here, but especially low-income folks within our community,” Fletcher said.
For the past year, Fletcher has served on the borough’s Planning Commission. Fletcher said the experience has taught her to be responsive to community needs, regardless of partisan affiliation. “In my time on the planning commission, I’ve really seen first hand the importance of listening to community members,” she said.“We’ve had ordinances come before the planning commission that I’ve thought I was going to vote one way” and after hearing community testimony, “I’ve changed my mind,” Fletcher said.
Two important issues to Fletcher are expanding borough-wide broadband access and increasing affordable, quality housing for residents.
“One very concrete goal ... is to find a way to get broadband access available borough wide, regardless of the profitability,” she said. “I just think we have a major lack there, and if students have to go home for school and do online schooling, homework requires you to be online.”
“Another big goal of mine is affordable and quality housing,” Fletcher explained. “I would really love to find a way to encourage more new quality construction of homes that appeal to a wide range of families... I think that would also help keep housing prices lower because the demand could be met with an adequate supply.”
“I would love to have that be part of my legacy during my time on the assembly,” Fletcher added.
1. Name two of the borough’s most pressing issues and how you would address them.
Two pressing issues for the Borough are affordable housing and the Covid pandemic. I will promote affordable housing through tax credits to incentivize construction, clear zoning that promotes high quality housing development, and improving the platting process. I will address the pandemic by supporting practices at Borough facilities that follow the guidance of public health professionals and make borough buildings available for hospital beds and vaccination centers as necessary.
2. What new services are needed in the borough and how would you pay for them?
First, the Borough needs to update our current services: improving infrastructure maintenance and community recreational centers, expanding recycling options, and cleaning up buildings like the Polaris. We also need to encourage expanded internet availability. I will prioritize among these projects through fair and transparent processes like the Capital Improvement Program, and fund them with approved ARPA and federal infrastructure funds along with our current revenue base.
3. What cuts are needed in borough government and what should happen with the money saved?
The key to a sustainable borough budget is not cutting services but updating and improving operations to provide better service at a lower cost. Take our Planning Department: They have seen a major increase in daycare license applications and it has become costly and time-intensive to process, so an ordinance was just passed to streamline daycare approvals. We need commonsense solutions like these that save money and better serve Fairbanks.
4. Should the borough hire more code enforcement officers to deal with the backlog of land use complaints? Why or why not.
Yes, we should hire more code enforcement officers to address land use complaints. The community has requested that we enforce the plans and standards within borough code, and we need more officers to do that. By ensuring payment of taxes and applying existing codes and safety standards, we’ll minimize neighborhood conflicts and increase property values. Additionally we need to set clear standards and expectations so property owners have due process.
5. The largest annual appropriation by the borough is for public education. Is the local contribution to education too low, too high, or just right? Explain.
I support adequate education funding and this year’s local appropriation is about right. Our state contribution hasn’t adjusted for inflation over the last few years and the lack of predictability from the state has made it challenging to plan our budget. Our expected military growth and overall community resiliency depends upon our ability to maintain quality schools. We need to provide enough funding to keep schools strong with limited increases.
6. What makes you qualified to hold this office?
I’m qualified to serve as your Assembly Member because I have the experience, competence, and open mind necessary for responsible leadership. I have served and voted on the Planning Commission, have consistently followed Assembly meetings, and have experience working on various Borough plans. I advocate for families, see our greatest needs, and understand our codes and powers. I will always bring an open ear and open mind to reach nonpartisan solutions.