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Story last updated at 1:03 PM on Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Questions & Answers
    Candidates for Assembly, District 9: 3-Year Term

1. What is the most important role of an assembly member and why do you want the job?

Mako Haggerty: The role of an assembly member is to be a conduit for the residents of a district to the Borough government, and vice versa. It is very important to listen to your constituents and present their concerns in a clear and meaningful way to the proper Borough agency. For the last three years I have learned how to navigate the process and believe I am well equipped to deliver their message. It is the job of the Assembly to keep taxes low while providing the services we have come to expect from the Borough government. It is also our job to protect property values and the quality of life we have here on the Peninsula.

Jesse Clutts: The most important job of any elected official is to faithfully represent the people in the District and to act as a wise steward of the monies taken from those people through taxation. I am running for the assembly because I have been asked by people who didn't have the time or ability to run themselves but felt that they were not being represented.

2. What tops your borough to-do list? Why?

Mako Haggerty: Work with the Solid Waste department to develop new methods for reducing what we put into our land fills. Our local land fill has reached its limit. Solid waste will now have to be trucked north to the Central Peninsula Landfill at a great cost to Borough taxpayers. It is time to be proactive about how we deal with solid waste. Some specifics would include a robust recycling program and community composting. The easier we make the process the more effective it will be. Otherwise costs will continue to rise and the taxpayers will bear the burden.

I will also work to support development of new, cleaner sources of energy such as tidal and geothermal for the Kenai Peninsula.

Jesse Clutts: For several years I have talked to people that were surprised and discouraged when their property had been assessed at a much higher value when they had not made any new improvements. According to State law, all property must be assessed at 100% of the fair market value, but I am committed to finding a solution that would allow for a series of credits that would offset these drastic increases that individuals are not able to foresee or properly budget.

3. What are your top three budget priorities? If you had to cut the borough budget, what's the first place you would cut?

Mako Haggerty: First we must look for waste. Second we must look for areas we can streamline, make more efficient. Third we must build what we need, not what we want. I believe every department and Service Area has something to offer to overall budget reduction.

Jesse Clutts: The primary purpose of the Borough and its number one expense is the schools. The next largest expense is for solid waste management. Almost all of the other activities in the borough are accomplished through service areas voted on and managed through boards in the various parts of the Borough. These service area boards should operate relatively independent of the Assembly and Mayors office. These are the three areas that appropriately have a priority in the Borough. If cuts need to be made we will first look to any new projects or positions that we can avoid getting into in the first place, then begin to cut those programs that do not produce revenue and fall outside of the three priorities already listed.

4. What, if any, changes would you like to see in the borough's tax structure?

Mako Haggerty: I think we have a very workable system. Our taxes here are equitably distributed between property taxes and sales tax. Other boroughs in Alaska place, what I believe, is an undue burden on property owners by not enacting a sales tax.

I would like to see a more fair and equitable distribution of some of the fees and taxes that the State collects and I would like to be able to fund some of the non-departmental services through other revenue sources.

Jesse Clutts: I would first refer to my earlier answer regarding property tax credits to offset drastic increases in property values/assessments.

As an individual citizen and business person in the Borough, I am not a fan of the variable sales tax rate that changes between summer and winter. I would rather see the non-prepared foods be exempted all year long or not at all. That being said, the law that brought about the current sales tax system was from a voter initiative and I respect that.

5. What is the borough's greatest strength and how would you build on it?

Mako Haggerty: We are a second class Borough, but we have a government dedicated to bringing first class services to the residents of the Kenai Peninsula. Our quality of life here is par none and I will work to maintain that quality and the level of services we have come to expect from our Borough government.

Jesse Clutts: At the risk of sounding too much like a baby-kissing politician, I have to say that the greatest strength of the Borough is its people. What good are the schools without exceptional students and teachers. What good are the abundant natural resources without the people to enjoy and profit from them. What good are the businesses without the people that run them and the customers that support them. It is not the responsibility of the government to build on this. We will provide the basic services already discussed and then get out of the way and let Alaskans do what Alaskans do best.

6. What is the borough's greatest weakness and how would you improve it?

Mako Haggerty: Although we have a few sustainable industries here, commercial fishing and tourism, to name two, I think we need to develop and encourage a more diverse economy. There are new technologies that can harness our abundant tidal and geothermal energy. The Kenai peninsula is ideally located for technological institutes to study and develop these resources. Organic farming is gaining in popularity and we should encourage more of this self-reliance as well as the economy it engenders. As the global economy becomes more important to Alaska we are in a prime position to be Alaska's transportation hub with Kenai peninsula's ports and harbors. These are just a few directions that I believe our Borough needs to take a leading role.

Jesse Clutts: In my business I often say "there is nothing wrong with this business that a million dollars wouldn't fix." To apply that to the Borough I would probably have to increase the dollar amount, but just as in business, in government we do not have unlimited resources so we are going to do the best we can with what we have. I am going to do the job that the people in this District elect me to do and not assume that there is a government solution to every problem.