Story last updated at 2:40 p.m. Thursday, September 26, 2002

Incumbent faces double challenge in District 7

Anchor Point harbor, taxation, economic development issues separate assembly candidates

Morris News Service-Alaska
Tuesday's municipal election features a three-way showdown for the District 7 seat representing the Kasilof-Anchor Point area. Incumbent Paul Fischer is being challenged by Doug Ruzicka and Paul Zimmerman.

Candidates, listed alphabetically, were asked to respond to four questions. Their answers are below.

District 7

Paul A. Fischer

Age: 66

Occupation: Retired small businessman

Family: Wife, Joyce; Children: Michael, Steven, David, Ann, Mary, Karen, Thomas, Chris, Matthew

Education: B.S. and M.Ed., superintendent and high school principal credentials

Previous elected offices: Borough assembly, 1976-82, 1998-present; Alaska Senate, 1983-92

Expected cost of your campaign: Less then $600

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today, and how would you address it?

Finding a single issue as the greatest issue facing the borough is difficult, since most issues are interrelated. Thus, I believe the greatest issue is economics. This issue encompasses but is not limited to:


* Taxes -- To be addressed by supporting a taxing program that taxes the citizens only for the amount required for a fiscally responsible operation of the borough programs.


* Excess Funds -- To be addressed by establishing tax relief or a permanent fund type account when excess funds occur.


* Borough Land Sale -- Address by providing more land sales that are affordable by the citizens.


* Economic Development -- Addressed by encouraging non-competitive businesses such as high tech and carbon black (a process used in producing tires) industries. Carbon black is made from coal such as is available in the Tyonek area.


* Helping existing businesses remain viable -- Addressed by projects such as the fish branding project.


* Supporting tourism -- Promote off season travel and events such as the Arctic Winter Games, and help avoid the negative preparation of combat fishing.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again, or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

In the 1980s, state projects were funded because the state had plenty of money. This spending is partially responsible for the present deficit in the state budget.

To avoid a similar situation on the Kenai Peninsula, we need to look at establishing a permanent fund similiar to Valdez. Surplus funds above the recommended carry-over could be placed in a permanent fund whose principal cannot be touched without a vote of the people.

The borough, in times of revenue shortfalls, could use an established percentage of the interest for government operations.

Absent the establishment of such a fund, I favor a mill rate reduction. I also favor encouraging raising the $10,000 homeowner exemption to $30,000 so we could implement such relief to our property owners.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

First and foremost we should find out how much and what kind of economic growth do we desire. Growth just for the sake of growth could destroy the lifestyle that makes life here so desirable.

Next, we need to maintain a strong education system to provide a reliable work force. We need to assure a low and consistent tax base to afford business the ability to plan well. We need to implement minimal regulations that protect the citizens but do not stymie business development.

After these attributes are in place, we need to make sure the types of business we desire are aware of this desirable climate. Economic development should include working with existing industries.

For example, commercial fishing is a vital part of our community. We see more and more families being driven out of fishing. Projects such as the fish branding should help revitalize this industry.

More work needs to be done with present and new local industries and government agencies to assure more local hire.

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I favor school board representation by districts. If passed, it will make the borough assembly and school board seats follow the same geographic area. Both your local assembly and school board representatives will be your neighbors.


* Prop. 2: General obligation board for solid waste disposal facilities

I do not support this issue as written. While there is a need for the development of a new landfill cell, I would prefer to have a $6 million bond issue, which would take care of the needs for the next five years with another vote in five years. In light of possible additional environmental regulations, etc., projecting a bond authorization for 10 years in the future is premature. We don't know what the cost or location of the second landfill may be in five years.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

I support Prop 3 provided the money is used for the Seward project. The amount of this debt is dependent upon the state Legislature's approval of at least 60 percent reimbursement for this project. Determination of the school district needs is the responsibility of the school board. They have determined this is a need of the district.


* Prop. 4: Non-prepared foods sales tax initiative

I support this initiative, as there are presently various tax exemptions already in place. Passage of this initiative will provide every taxpayer some relief. It provides you an opportunity to spend the money saved on what you determine your needs to be. If passed, schools will not be affected, as the borough already provides the maximum allowed by law to the schools. With the large surplus in the borough treasury, there is no need for that to change. Cities need not be affected. A bookkeeping nightmare need not be encountered, as the system could simply follow that which is already in place for those on food stamps. Finally, the initiative is for a minimum of two years. If, after that time, it is found to be a hardship, the assembly could reinstate the present system.


* Prop. 5: Proposed Anchor Point Port and Harbor Service Area

This is not applicable to where I live.

Doug Ruzicka

Age: 46

Occupation: Self employed small businessman

Family: Wife, Debbie; children, Starr, Ben, Will, Mark, Rebekah

Education: Two years college, one year trade school

Previous elected offices: none

Expected cost of your campaign: $1,000-$2,000

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today, and how would you address it?

The greatest issues that we face and will face in the future arise from the growing pains that the borough is experiencing. It will be imperative that the assembly address these issues with a calm and informed approach, while keeping tax rates as low as possible and protecting property rights.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again, or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

Our local economy continues to struggle. Tax relief should be the major cornerstone of any assistance that the borough can provide for its residents. Every opportunity to lower taxes should be embraced.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

Business should not be the government's business.

Government creates artificial economics to entice new business. But this results in an unstable business base. Only business can decide when and where the climate is good for development and expansion. Government can provide a truly healthy business environment by keeping a low profile and maintaining a low tax burden.

We must also concentrate on providing a healthy and stable economic environment for those businesses that already exist. Lower tax burdens encourage capital investment in both large and small business, which results in strengthening the economic climate of the borough.

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I enthusiastically support districting the borough for school board representation.


* Prop. 2: General obligation board for solid waste disposal facilities

The borough's increasing population requires dealing with the increased waste load. I support this bond issue.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

It is clear that Seward needs a new middle school. However, the bond that the voters will be asked to approve is a proposition for the borough. Repayment of this bond is based upon an annual state contribution of 70 percent of the annual debt service. Should the state fail to appropriate this money, repayment then becomes the obligation of the borough, which will result in the increase of tax rates to the borough residents.

I support a new middle school in Seward, but I very much dislike the bond arrangement. Unless this arrangement changes, I will reluctantly vote against this bond issue on Oct. 1.


* Prop. 4: Non-prepared foods sales tax initiative

I do not like "gotcha" taxes. The government knows that we need certain things to survive, food being among the most important.

Since the government knows that we have to have food, they "gotcha," and you have to pay. I support repealling the sales tax on non-prepared food items.


* Prop. 5: Proposed Anchor Point Port and Harbor Service Area

The notion of a harbor near Anchor Point is a good idea in a bad place.

When this question came before me on the Advisory and Planning Commission, it was proposed as a self-supporting entity, and I supported placing the question before the voters. It is no longer being proposed as such.

Also, the recent Army Corps of Engineers report strongly questions the feasibility of a harbor because of very high construction and maintenance costs. Why should the taxpayers pay $1.1 million on a study to conclude what we have already been told?

In my opinion, the question of harbor feasibility has already been answered. I strongly oppose this question and will vote against it Oct. 1.

Paul Zimmerman

Age: 51

Occupation: Commercial fisherman and sportfish guide

Family: My wife of 33 years, Marci, and I are blessed with having our son, his wife and our grandson living in the area

Education: Evergreen State College, Western Washington State, Pacific Lutheran, Kenai Peninsula College

Political experience: Past Fish and Game Regional Advisory Committee chairman; Past Fish and Game Soldotna Advisory Committee chairman

Cost of campaign: Any monetary costs incurred, will be more than offset by the opportunity to meet and discuss with District 7 residents their concerns about our borough government.

What is the single greatest issue facing the borough today, and how would you address it?

With the rapidly growing population in the borough, providing for the ever-expanding need for borough-funded services without creating an undue tax burden on its populace will be key.

Education funding should remain our number one priority. Our schools are rightfully proud of their accomplishments, but they will need our support and funding to meet the needs of students now, and in the future.

Our continued quality of life depends to a great degree on borough-provided services such as transportation, health and emergency services, fire protection, recreation, and services for our seniors. Adequate funding and administration of these services are additional challenges that must be met.

The ability to balance all of the needs of a growing and diverse population with the services the borough provides, depends on having representatives that are responsive and accountable to its residents.

I would consider it a privilege to be your representative in that endeavor.

What is your view of the borough mill rate? Should it be lowered again, or should the borough continue to collect the revenue at the current rate? If the mill rate should remain where it is, what should the borough be doing with the revenue?

We create government tax authority to administer sharing of the costs of common services. The borough should operate on a balanced budget, retaining much of its reserves to be held for possible future emergency needs. Deficit spending will continue to erode our reserves. Should those reserves be totally depleted and services become underfunded, property tax mill rate increases have historically been sought, and we will have no hedge against emergency needs.

What should the borough do to encourage economic development?

The borough should continue to pursue economic growth with an emphasis on local industry and manufacturing, creating long-term sustainable employment for its populace and expanding the tax base to support infrastructure improvements.

Incentives to utilize our resources for an increase in growth can and must be structured to enhance the benefits to our communities.

Where do you stand on each of the five ballot propositions and, briefly, why?

The decisions on these ballot propositions rightly belong to the voters, and my personal vote is just that, personal. That said, I do have some concerns I am willing to share.


* Prop. 1: School board representation

I am not overly concerned that, however the school board is chosen, the board will be any less dedicated to boroughwide education needs. Our input on concerns that we want the board to consider should not stop with the election of its members.


* Prop. 2: General obligation board for solid waste disposal facilities

Improving and expanding solid waste facilities are crucial to our continued health and safety in the borough.


* Prop. 3: General obligation bond for Seward Middle School

Building a new middle school in Seward is the cost-effective alternative to upgrading current facilities.


* Prop. 4: Non-prepared foods sales tax initiative

Eliminating these tax revenues that are earmarked for education will either have to be raised elsewhere or education funding will decline. The effect of revenue loss to our cities is also substantial.


* Prop. 5: Proposed Anchor Point Port and Harbor Service Area

While the impacts of proposed harbor facilities in the Anchor Point area should be analyzed for merit, more time might be spent researching alternative sources for planning and development funding, before creating a service area to bear those costs without quantifying the benefits to the service area as a whole.

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