Sustainable energy. Food security. Upcycling. These are some of the issues that Robert Shields talks about.
He is running for Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor for the third time, and he’s continuing to promote his idea to deconstruct the Polaris Building, which is owned by the city of Fairbanks, and reuse the materials for a vertical farm.
“The technology exists where we can then use some of that material in actually rebuilding, or even possibly 3-D printing, a ten-story building—and my ambitions have always been to bring the community together around the idea of vertical farming as one component of that food sovereignty measure. One building that grows food, houses people, processes, and does all this kind of stuff,” he told KTVF Channel 11 in an interview.
Shields is one of three borough mayor candidates appearing on Tuesday’s local ballot. Incumbent Bryce Ward, a landlord and contractor, and Chris Ludtke, a blaster at Fort Knox Gold Mine, are also official candidates. Mary Caro Simmons, who has worked as a beautician and school bus driver, is mounting a last-minute write-in campaign.
Shields described his occupation in an email as a business development consultant. Financial disclosure documents show he earned money last year canvassing for U.S. Senate hopeful Dr. Al Gross. In his email sign off, he calls himself an “ecological industrialist.” He said he has an associate’s degree in natural resource management from a college in Vermont. He studied economics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
“My core skill set is as a business development manager,” he wrote in an emailed answer to questions. “Normally, I work as an independent consultant to companies just getting started or looking to move in a new direction. For the last three years, I have minimized my expenses to focus on the endgame solution that is the Butterfly Renaissance with supporters covering expenses. A 10-year transition plan that sees Alaska emerging as leaders of the fossil-free world.”
When Shields ran for borough mayor in 2015, he won 327 votes, or nearly 2% of the total. When he ran for Borough Assembly in 2017, he won 2,077 votes, or 11.5% of the vote. In the 2018 mayor’s race, 980 people voted for him or 6.25% of the vote. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, Shields is registered with the Green Party of Alaska.
“I am seeking the position of mayor because I know past mayors have been threatened and good people continue to get treated like mushrooms. Kept ignorant of economically viable solutions and fed the 50-year old bull that coal is clean, natural gas is cheap, and extraction is the only industry worth investing in. I bring new tools, including the knowledge a hydrogen economy can deliver at $1.60/gal or $0.03kwh comparatively,” he wrote.
The former grocery store baker was born in Indiana and has called Fairbanks home on and off for more than 30 years.
Candidate Q & A
Name two of the borough’s most pressing issues and how you would address them.
Air quality and high energy cost are related issues that are choking out this town’s future. Even taking time away from the campaign, ARK has been working on a $300M EDA grant to move us rapidly from a carbon to a hydrogen economy. As mayor I can sign the 3rd party flip contracts that can take the schools away from GVEA. Saves millions, create jobs, and help us grow.
What new services are needed at the borough and how would you pay for it?
Permaculture is the Rosetta stone of indigenous wisdom. A staffed Office of Resilience and Adaptation, that’s tied directly to the budget and reports to the mayor, will identify a plethora of new revenue generating opportunities that can be self-sustained without additional land taxes. A priority will be leasing borough land for hemp farming to address our housing issues and transforming our transfer stations into material reclamation centers.
What cuts are needed at the borough and what should happen with the money saved?
Millions of dollars are wasted in the borough paying for energy when the solution has been available for over a decade to signature finance an avoided cost solution. Savings can be applied to facilitating the rapid deployment of the hydrogen economy which attracts new businesses. Some estimate in the US there are billions in precious minerals in the landfill. Mining them will pay for itself and transform our economy.
Should the borough hire more code enforcement officers to deal with the backlog of land use complaints? Why or why not?
More code compliancy specialists can work with landowners to protect freedoms, preserve the peace, and ensure treasures don’t become hazardous trash. Waivers for clean-up can incentivize those who don’t want to pay higher property taxes. Community organizations could be activated to help resolve owners’ issues who may have just gotten overwhelmed with too much stuff. Enforcement officers, in title alone, create animosity with our neighbors and we can do better.
The largest annual appropriation by the borough is for public education. Is the local contribution to education too low, too high or, just right? Please explain.
Educating critical thinkers must be a high investment priority. Relying on state and federal funding has created a roller coaster that just makes people sick. With several areas of savings and revenues identified earlier, we can invest in trained high caliber teachers ourselves. And just like with food sovereignty, an 80% goal, as opposed to the current 27%, will create generational returns and the profits of a highly skilled workforce.