A 55-year-old homegrown Fairbanks resident who runs the Fairbanks Conservatives page on Facebook and is active with the Interior Taxpayers Association and the GOP is hoping to return to the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.
Lance Roberts is a religious conservative who served two consecutive three-year terms on Assembly Seat G until 2018. He was born in Fairbanks, lives off Airport Way with his wife, and holds three degrees from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He makes his living as an analyst for Golden Valley Electric Association. If elected Tuesday, he would push for lower taxes and smaller government. His opponent is guidance counselor Kristan Kelly.
“The borough has continually increased the budget well over the Consumer Price Index,” reads Roberts’ campaign website, lancerobertsassembly.com. “Property taxes are high and are impacting us all in addition to the high cost of living that we already have. I intend to tighten the budget and lower taxes …”
In his free time, Roberts publishes a newsletter, Fairbanks Conservatives. His opinions on government affairs have appeared in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner and other newspapers across Alaska. He believes the country has been on a moral decline for 300 years, according to one of his articles. He is a popular foil for people on the left side of the political spectrum where he has been described as an extremist and a radical for his biblical worldview.
“I’m extreme to my opponents in that I love God, love my wife, love people and love America,” Roberts wrote in an emailed answer to questions. “I also believe babies should be allowed to live and not killed for the mother’s convenience. I mostly see my vocal social-media-type opponents as extremists since they are the ones who want to shut down all dialog and have all opinions they don’t share censored from social media. They want an apartheid of the unvaccinated and want little children to be masked and socially isolated, and they have no tolerance for those who disagree with them.”
During his time on the Borough Assembly, Roberts opposed legalized marijuana, fought regulations on wood burning and voted against public employee bargaining agreements that he thought were too generous.
He authored a popular proposal to get a question on the ballot to raise the residential property tax exemption in the borough to $50,000. The assembly advanced it to the voters after a 6-3 vote, and it passed in 2016 with 70% of voters approving it.
While on the assembly, Roberts took multiple positions where he stood alone.
In 2016, he was the lone no vote when the assembly broadened its policy on who could file land use complaints, allowing people to complain anonymously, and dropping a requirement that complainants needed to show that they are directly affected by a potential code violation.
In 2017, the assembly approved a resolution directing the mayor to “reasonably enforce” land use regulations, signaling that the assembly would be supportive if property owners were taken to court. Roberts was the sole person to vote no, arguing that it is about “making people conform.” If people don’t like what other people are doing on their land, he said, they should buy the property.
Roberts was elected to the assembly in 2012 after defeating Cliff Russell, a lineman with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, by 680 votes. Roberts earned 52% of the vote in a race characterized by attack ads against him launched by a union-backed Fairbanks Interior Workers’ political group. In 2015, Roberts ran for reelection unopposed and won with 70% of the vote.
Candidate Q & A
1. Name two of the borough’s most pressing issues and how you would address them.
The taxes are too high and have constantly increased for decades well beyond the CPI. I would lower them. Currently, we have a large problem of illegal lots (as defined by the borough) and it costs a lot of time and money to subdivide or combine properties. I will fix the platting system to remedy this and make it easy for people to deal with their land.
2. What new services are needed at the borough and how would you pay for it?
There are no new services needed at the borough. Businesses are the entities that provide services the best.
3. What cuts are needed at the borough and what should happen with the money saved?
There are numerous cuts that can be made. One example is to cut some of the public bus routes that run with almost no passenger load. The money saved should result in a lower tax burden, not spent on more government. We also need to sell more borough land, not buy more like we did last year taking it off of the tax rolls, when there was no need.
4. Should the borough hire more code enforcement officers to deal with the backlog of land use complaints? Why or why not?
No, the problem isn’t a lack of enforcement officers, it’s the will to do what will work to actually fix the issue. The backlog should be analyzed to see what the main issues are and we can probably fix many of those.
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? Please explain.
Obviously it’s too high now that there are thousands of less students. We’ll have to see how this year’s counts go to see just how high.