Skagway voters on Oct. 7 will elect two borough assembly members and two school board members, as well as deciding two ballot measures related to the funding of a propoosed new public safety facility. We will begin with the ballot props, and then the candidate forum answers starting with the assembly seats and then the school board seats. Remember to vote on October 7th.
Oct. 7 Ballot Propositions
Below is the text from the ballot voters will see on October 7th:
$12,000,000 GENERAL OBLIGATION BONDS PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY PROJECT
Shall the Municipality of Skagway Borough incur debt and issue general obligations bonds in a principal amount not to exceed $12,000,000, maturing within a maximum of 30 years, to pay costs of developing and constructing a new public safety facility in
Skagway, as further described in Ordinance No. 2014-18, and shall Ordinance No. 2014-18 of the Borough authorizing the issuance of bonds for this purpose be approved?
VOTE: For or Against
1-PERCENT SALES TAX INCREASE PUBLIC SAFETY FACILITY PROJECT
Shall the rate of sales tax collected upon sales made and services rendered in Skagway be increased from 5% to 6% during the 2nd and 3rd quarters (April through September) of each calendar year; for the purpose of repaying general obligation bonds for funding the construction of the Public Safety Facility?”
VOTE: For or Against
Borough Assembly – Two 3-year seats
Incumbent Dan Henry and two new candidates, Angela Grieser and Roger Griffin, are running for two seats on the Skagway Borough Assembly.
Questions for Borough Assembly Candidates
1. What special qualities would you bring to the assembly table?
2. Which capital projects do you think are the most important and why? What do you think is the best option for funding these projects: sales tax increase, bonds, existing sales tax proceeds, a combination?
3. A new White Pass & Yukon Route Tidelands Lease has been an ongoing venture between the railway and the Municipality of Skagway for the last several years. It has also been a point of contention at the assembly table and in the community. What are your thoughts on the terms of the Memorandum of Understanding? Do you have specific terms you would like to see when the lease is finally presented to voters?
4. What current and future issues or projects can community members expect you to be the most passionate about if you are elected to the assembly?
Occupation: Fairway Market/ Small Business Owner
Education: High School, Some College, Life.
Years in Skagway: 17.
Public offices held: None
Interests, hobbies: Reading, hiking, and family.
ANGELA GRIESER ANSWERS
1. As a 17-year resident of Skagway, with children and a grandson being raised here, I have a vested interest in the future of this community. Having no prior political experience (besides attending many assembly meetings), I believe I can bring a fresh perspective to the table.
2. The public safety building is definitely a necessity and long overdue. I believe the 1% sales tax increase is the best option for funding it. I support an expanded recycling center as well. It will not only be good for the environment, but also help alleviate some of our trash disposal challenges.
3. I don’t have an opinion on the proposed agreement because the details have not been released to the public. When I have factual information, I’ll be happy to share my views.
4. I am most passionate about our school. I believe our children deserve the highest level of education we can possibly give them. Several years ago we had a huge challenge with enrollment numbers dropping and ensuing financial struggles. I don’t agree with how that crisis was handled and I believe it negatively affected our school and our students’ education. I hope to be part of an assembly that, if faced with such a challenge, would rise to the occasion and support the school to the best of its ability.
Occupation: Retired – Small Business Co-Owner
Education: 16+, University of Massachusetts/Amherst (geology), University of Arizona (economic geology), University of Alaska Southeast (power technology), a variety of military and civilian technical, leadership, and management policy courses.
Years in Skagway: Approximately 10, Alaska 35.
Public offices held: None.
Interests, hobbies: Boating, reading, motorcycling.
ROGER GRIFFIN ANSWERS
1. An elected official holds a trust position, and, as such, is responsible for and accountable to the electorate. There are times when an elected official takes a position that may not enjoy wide public support. Regardless of the popularity of a given position, this person has a duty to provide a timely explanation of the reasoning and the facts used to develop that position. An elected official also has the same duty to listen to those with other views and be willing to alter his position if his reasoning is flawed or factually incorrect. Debate and dissent make for good public decisions.
2. The current assembly has been spending money like a drunken sailor on a long overdue liberty. The financial arrangement with White Pass over the cleanup of lead contamination from the ore dock basin has the potential of bankrupting Skagway. Until the magnitude of Skagway’s financial obligation under the White Pass lease has been quantified and put to a vote, there must be a moratorium on all future capital projects, to include the proposed public safety building. As a general policy, I believe that the assembly must hold the line on sales and property tax increases. There may be circumstances where a tax increase could be justified, but that circumstance does not presently exist. Aside from the foregoing discussion, I am absolutely opposed to a sales tax increase to fund the proposed public safety building because the assembly also made a deliberate decision to forego revenue from the proposed White Pass lease.
3. The White Pass lease is a bad deal for Skagway, and here’s why:
– Skagway will lose control of the waterfront for another 35 years.
– Skagway is going to give White Pass $2 million so that they can construct a floating dock that will accommodate a larger class of cruise ship. White Pass’s revenue from mooring fees will increase as will revenue from passenger traffic on their trains. Even though Skagway is providing half the money to build this dock, White Pass will keep all of the revenue it generates.
– Skagway will gain control of the uplands surrounding the ore dock. This land is currently occupied by firms who are currently making lease payments to White Pass – and will continue to do so, even after the new lease takes effect.
– In order to remove the lead contamination from the ore dock basin, the cost is guessed to be $4 million. White Pass will put up half of this money, as will Skagway. If the cost exceeds four million dollars, as is likely, Skagway is responsible for all cost overruns. See the foregoing discussion on funding capital projects.
The White Pass lease is a shell game Soapy Smith could only dream of. It’s 21st Century capitalism: “Privatize the profits and socialize the costs.” It’s completely unacceptable and must be re-negotiated. Dan Henry, who is up for re-election, was the lead negotiator for this agreement.
4. I have a low tolerance for arbitrary and heavy handed government, the most recent example being the herbicide ordinance. I also have a low tolerance for a secretive and opaque government, as exemplified by the assembly’s frequent executive sessions. I have a vision of good government: Good government is transparent. Good government is rational and can explain itself in understandable terms. Good government is responsible to the electorate. Good government depends upon an alert and diligent news media and a well informed and engaged electorate. As to the relationship between municipal government and the electorate, Thomas Jefferson said it best: “That which governs least governs best.”
Occupation: Skagway Fish Co. co-owner.
Education: Tutored in agriculture and economics at Continental Grain Co. on Chicago Board Of Trade, certified by Commodity Futures Trading Commission and approved for CBOT membership as floor broker in August 1978.
Years in Skagway: 25.
Public offices held: City Council / Assembly 17 years.
Interests, hobbies: Trading precious metals futures market and securities, hitting a little white ball with a crooked stick.
1. I bring 17 years experience to the Assembly table, with a clear understanding of what the accurate “facts” are regarding the subject and all the options that the city has to make a sound decision, not speculation about whether there was a second shooter behind the “Grassy Knoll” like Roger would like you to believe. “Tis better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open one’s mouth and remove ALL doubt!”
2. Public Safety Building, bond it, “historic lows” on interest rates. The best course is sales tax dedication, with the user bearing the cost. Retire a 30-year bond at your discretion, (the voter that is) … (optimal position for the one paying the bill!). That’s US!
3. The “lease proposal” between WPYR and the MOS is still a subject yet to be concluded, whether from a term or condition perspective, so whether I think it is good or bad does not make a difference; what matters is whether the people of Skagway think the FINAL product that is delivered to them at the ballot box, after being explained in detail, is something they want. So for you to ask me something I cannot answer in a responsible manner; it is irresponsible and silly for you to do so.
4. Supporting current and expanded education, both academic and vocational, continue on infrastructure needs, education, quality of life projects, ah………….did I mention EDUCATION!!!!!
SCHOOL BOARD – two 3-year seats
Incumbent Cara Cosgrove and two new candidates, Mark Smith and Mary Tidlow, are on the ballot for two 3-year seats on the Skagway School Board.
Questions for School Board Candidates
1. What special qualities would you bring to the school board?
2. What do you think of the current curriculum? Do you think more college level Advanced Placement classes could be added to the course schedule? Do you have any other curriculum suggestions to better prepare children to enter college or the workforce?
3. We have had a small spike in enrollment this year. If this trend continues what programs would you like to see added or enhanced at the school?
4. Please state your top 3 priorities for the district, or any other issues that need attention.
Occupation:Business Owner; Kirmse’s.
Education: Hign School graduate.
Years in Skagway: 29 (10 of which were seasonal).
Public offices held: School Board.
Interests, hobbies: Parenting, horses, pie baking.
CARA COSGROVE ANSWERS
1. • I’ve participated in curriculum review, selection of an evaluation plan, 2014/15 hiring, goal setting and all matters of the board. I value fellow board members’ perspectives and communicate respectfully toward our common goal.
• Innovative problem solving ideas.
• A passion for customized instruction (remedial or advanced) which elicits each student’s personal best effort.
2. • I’m pleased with Super-Principal Coughran’s finalization of the school-wide Language Arts and Math curriculum revision (to be refined with practical use). A K-12 Science review is on the docket.
• Ideally, each HS teacher will achieve two AP certifications. They wouldn’t teach all AP classes every year, but broad certification allows proper response to student needs. I conservatively support distance learning; however, the experience of a dynamic teacher is preferred.
• Our counselor, with parental involvement, develops a student portfolio from grade nine. Paramount in preparing students to enter the work place, or college, this program is in its infancy. Its tentacles must grow to reach far beyond Alaskan resources.
• As a community, Skagway achieves its goals. We should be proud of having earned the Dept. of Education’s five star rating, but what does it mean? With so many variables, effectively ranking state to state education systems isn’t easy. Still, the highest placement I can find for Alaska is 23rd with many publications placing Alaska in the bottom ten nationwide. SAT, ACT and MAP test scores could be summarized more comprehensively to reveal Skagway’s national placement. Holding ourselves to this higher standard, our municipality and students would accept and achieve the challenge of climbing to the top!
3. • First, effectively staff the fundamentals; separate the combined classrooms as needed by adding staff. In kindergarten through middle school, we have two grade levels in each classroom. High school Language Arts and Social Studies are instructed by a single teacher as are Science and Technology.
• Vocational Training opportunities such as welding, woodworking, construction and auto mechanics,
• A progressive, comprehensive program for early identification of, and response to the needs of Gifted & Talented learners.
• Drama, Debate and Forensics (DDF), a school garden, and large group music opportunities based upon interest.
4. • Effective implementation of the state mandated evaluation system.
• In order to reinforce the importance of education to our children, increase transparency in the community, and aid the teaching staff’s efficiency and effectiveness, I encourage increased parent volunteerism which is initiated, overseen and directed by each teacher within his/her classroom.
• Long term financial planning.
Occupation: Business owner.
Education: High School.
Years in Skagway: 16
Public offices held: None listed.
Interests, hobbies: None listed
MARK SMITH ANSWERS
1. A level head and an appreciation for the importance of a good education.
2. I think the current curriculum is very good but there is always room for improvement.
Additional Advanced Placement classes added to the course schedule, is a good example of a way to improve the current curriculum. One suggestion I have to better prepare our children for college and the work force is a better foreign language department and possibly introducing
foreign language to the children at the elementary school level.
3. If enrollment continues to increase there will be a need to hire more teachers.
4. I am not aware of any issues that need immediate attention.
MARY TIDLOW (Tranel)
Occupation: Architect, National Park Service.
Education: Master’s Degree in Architecture, BA Art History and Anthropology.
Years in Skagway: 3.5 years
Public offices held: Skagway Recreation Center, Board Member 1.5 years.
Interests, hobbies: Family, hiking, cooking.
MARY TIDLOW ANSWERS
1. As a professional woman and mother of two young children, I am passionate about my family, community and career as an architect for the National Park Service. I feel strongly that public servants must meet the public needs of today while being thoughtful about the future through long term planning. This dedication, teamwork and general mindset will assist me as a school board member.
Twenty years living in Alaska and 3.5 years in Skagway provides a deep understanding of the Alaskan lifestyle and the special needs facing the SE Alaskan schools.
2. During my three years in Skagway, the school has made excellent decisions and curriculum enhancements. The school recognizes the critical need to offer both vocational training and college preparation for students.
Skagway School now offers several Advanced Placement (AP) courses, including staff lead and virtual classes. The school has successfully incorporated AP classes by scaling the grades to ensure the difficulty of the material does not adversely affect a student’s GPA. I firmly believe the AP classes should continue.
Another key ingredient to vocational or college preparation are paid internships with local businesses and local/state/federal agencies. Recognizing that retail employment can out-compete volunteer summer positions, we need to creatively investigate and pursue the internship opportunities that work best for our students.
3. With the recent growth in enrollment, the elementary program remains very strong and with the addition of classroom assistants, continues to thrive. The school needs to prepare for upcoming changes in the middle school grades to accommodate these students.
Adopting Common Core is fairly new and I am interested in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of that curriculum to identify any learning gaps. I would look to the experienced teachers for thoughtful insight into successful learning techniques to fill identified gaps.
4. Top Priorities:
1. Supporting and educating our teachers: training, certifications, and updates in technological changes are invaluable investments directly benefiting our students.
2. Enhancing the middle and high school curricula to ensure college and career readiness will help retain the current elementary student population and their families. A larger student population will generate greater interest in AP classes, more requests for career training internships, larger sports teams, and additional non-sports activities such as the Lego Team.
3. Supporting safety among the students, including safety on the playground, proper fire alarm and lock down procedures, educating students about and reducing bullying, protecting students from threats to their personal safety, and pursuing the positive wellbeing of all students is imperative. Each of our children deserves a safe place to learn, an opportunity to be themselves, and a positive sense of self-esteem on their path to becoming an adult.
VOTE OCT. 7: Polls open at Skagway City Hall from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. Absentee voting available weekdays through Oct. 6 at 5 p.m. at borough offices.