Anchor Point business owner, Jesse Clutts operates the Anchor River Inn. Like his challenger, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assemblyman Mako Haggerty runs a business, Mako’s Water Taxi on the Homer Spit. The two face off in the upcoming election Tuesday.
What do you see ahead as the hot-button issues for the Kenai Peninsula Borough in the coming year?
Jesse Clutts: If there is going to be a “hot-button” issue for the Borough in the coming year, I think it will be the push for the repeal or amendment of the Anadromous Streams Habitat Protection. There seems to be a group of property owners that is concerned about the latest efforts by the Assembly to take real property without an extensive notification and hearing process. The mayor has already established a task force to look into the ordinance and the process that was used to enact it.
Mako Haggerty: Funding the non-departmentals such as the Small Business Development Center, CARTS (Central Area Rural Transit System), and the Kenai Peninsula Tourism Marketing Council. These departments have been very important to certain sectors of our communities on the Peninsula.
I anticipate greater involvement with some of the conflicts between the fishing user groups. These groups are important to our economy and KPB must help find a balance between commercial and sport fishing interests.
Adjusting to the new Healthcare plan and preparing for the future of healthcare will have direct impacts on the Borough budget. There will be ways to reduce healthcare costs to the government and residents. We must be proactive in pursuing those savings.
As Homer sees more oil and gas development in the area, is there a role the assembly can play to advocate for the citizens and their questions, since many of the leases do involve obtaining borough land permits?
Clutts: Certainly there is a role that the assembly “can” play. The assembly “can” authorize staffing a whole new department that would deal with nothing but citizen advocacy. Then taxes could be increased to pay for this department or money could be diverted away from the school budget. Far too often the people we elect focus on what they “can” do and fail to ask the question of what they “should” be doing.
Haggerty: Kenai Peninsula Borough must have residents’ concerns as their priority. Any oil and gas development here on the Peninsula and in Cook Inlet must be done responsibly.
I am very concerned that there is a state sponsored race for these resources. This race can lead to some bad decisions and irresponsible behavior. The Kenai Peninsula Borough needs to be directly involved with the development of sub-surface leases.
If the Peninsula economy is to grow, which sector or sectors would you like to see emphasized, and how might the borough encourage that growth?
Clutts: I don’t think the borough government should be in the business of picking winners and losers. The Kenai Peninsula is a place with tremendous prospects and offers an excellent opportunity to see people from different industries working and playing together.
As the Borough continues to provide the basic services and resist the urge to regulate every activity, growth will naturally occur.
With that being said, I know that there are organizations within the Borough that seek to promote certain industries and activities like tourism, fishing, industrial development, and even vocational education opportunities that support these activities. I would continue to support these organizations through the Borough as they are able to demonstrate a positive return on the citizen’s investment.
Haggerty: I believe that a healthy economy is a diversified economy. We are fortunate to have several solid economic sectors here on the Peninsula; tourism, commercial fishing, and energy.
I want to see the Borough government actively encourage more diversity in the energy sector by supporting the development of our abundant tidal and geothermal resources. Our farmers markets are getting bigger and more popular. The Borough needs to take this new agricultural trend into consideration when making land use decisions.
I think we need to support all levels of education with an emphasis on higher education. I hope that someday we can have a university here on the south peninsula, one with a good basketball team.
What do you consider the “basic” services of a borough government?
Clutts: Any local government is formed to provide the services that the people under the jurisdiction of that government chose to have it provide. There have been attempts over the years to have us expand the services of the Borough to include animal control, ports and harbors, police powers, etc. We have always rejected these attempts in favor of the current services of schools, roads, solid waste management, and a few other services like hospitals, emergency services, and even recreation areas, as long as they have been limited to service areas voted on, paid for, and managed by the people in those service areas. This approach to limited, focused, borough government has kept taxes low and the borough prosperous.
Haggerty: The “basic” services we provide are schools, roads, and solid waste. But there are more services that the borough provides such as hospitals and fire and emergency services. The borough plays a vital role in the appropriation of State money and the pursuit of those monies for the betterment of the citizens of the Kenai Peninsula. Our legislative priority list is an important guide for our legislative representatives to what the borough sees as its most important needs.
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