Six Borough Assembly candidates met for their first political forum on Tuesday. Most agreed that the government needs to put more resources toward enforcing land use rules. They disagreed on whether it was a good idea to bring the Carlson Center under borough management and on how the borough’s latest federal Covid-19 relief grant should be allocated.
Businessman Kevin McKinley and former state legislator David Guttenberg are the hopefuls for Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly Seat A. Life coach Patricia Silva and lawyer Savannah Fletcher are competing for Assembly Seat F. Power systems analyst Lance Roberts and school counselor Kristan Kelly have their sights on Seat G.
They all met at Journey Christian Church at a forum hosted by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce. The local elections are Oct. 5.
“One man’s treasure is another man’s junk. I think that is the problem we have,” said Guttenberg on the question about borough enforcement of land use regulations.
McKinley said the borough needs to address staffing along with changing some definitions in the borough code.
Fletcher, who serves in the Planning Commission, said the borough needs to establish code enforcement priorities.
“This is a huge issue at Planning Commission meetings,” she said.
Silva said something needs to be done but she wasn’t sure what.
Roberts, who served two terms on the assembly, said leaders need to work on definitions in the borough code and enforce the code protecting road easements.
Kelly said the borough should consider how other municipalities deal with land use issues, adding that the Fairbanks borough is probably on the light end of the spectrum when it comes to enforcement.
On the Carlson Center management change, Guttenberg, Fletcher, Kelly and Silva were optimistic.
“I think it’s a good idea to try something new,” Kelly said.
“Change is good,” Silva said. “I look forward to seeing the development and learning more about it.”
Roberts and McKinley were more skeptical. McKinley is worried about the higher cost of bringing the facility under borough management.
Roberts complained about the Covid-19 restrictions at the Foo Fighters concert last month. Requiring a vaccine card or a negative Covid test is medical discrimination, he said.
“The borough has no right letting people do that on their properties,” Roberts said.
Borough leaders are deciding how to spend $9.4 million in Covid-19 relief money this month, and the assembly candidates were asked how they would allocate it.
It should go to businesses most impacted by the virus, according to McKinley. Guttenberg wants to prioritize essential workers and use money to increase child care options.
Silva suggested grants for local businesses that have suffered due to Covid-19 and streamlining the application process.
Fletcher fancies spending relief money on infrastructure projects and a feasibility study around improving broadband access.
“We need to take the long view and continue to improve the quality of living here in Fairbanks,” she said.
Roberts had the opposite view. Too much of the Covid-19 relief money is going toward government infrastructure projects, he said.
“I think there is a real problem with how some of that money is being spent. Right now, it’s just all going to increase the government. Please pay attention,” he said.