1. What is the city doing well? What can be improved?
Terry Bookey: One need only to visit one of the many parks or green spaces, enjoy a delicious lunch at the senior center, or check out a book from our state of art library to understand the importance Kenai places on quality of life. The city is also excellent as a collaborator with other entities. The upgrades to the Kenai High School sports complex were a group effort that involved the city, the borough and the state.
What can, and in fact is, being improved is city outreach to the citizens. Recent examples of increased outreach include:
■ Mail notification to all property owners within 300 foot of Beaver Loop Road notifying them of a work session with DOT regarding road upgrades
■ Parks and Recreation went door-to-door through Thompson Park subdivision inviting residents to an open house at Beaver Creek Park to solicit ideas for possible
Brian Gabriel: I believe that the City is doing a good job keeping the mill rate low while providing adequate services. We are maintaining a healthy fund balance and both of our Land Sales Permanent Funds are doing well. With the new water well coming on line and the addition of the 1,000,000 gallon reservoir that was funded in the Governor’s Budget last year, we will be resolving the water shortage that was an issue this past summer.
In areas that can be improved, I feel we can continue to do a better job of managing the dipnet fishery. This is an annual event that impacts virtually all of the citizens of our City in some way. We need to be more proactive in the Board of Fisheries process where these decisions and policies are made that affect all of us.
Mark Schrag: The city is doing well at providing basic services. The water quality is much better and the city fund balances are strong. The city is also doing well to recognize the importance of parks and recreation.
One service that could be improved is winter walk ability around business areas. Also, the potential exists for a revitalization of the central city area if the city has the will and wherewithal to capitalize on that potential. Information gathered for the old and new comprehensive plans indicate the will exists among both residents and businesses.
I believe the efforts in parks and recreation could be improved by developing a “destination” park that would draw people from the surrounding area, providing more customers for Kenai businesses. Soldotna is doing quite well on that front with their community children’s park that was planned and built by the residents.
2. What are the biggest issues facing the city?
Bookey: Bluff Erosion — With each passing year the citizens of Kenai watch their property disappear into the waters of the Kenai River and Cook Inlet. Kenai must increase the lobbying pressure on the federal bureaucracy that currently prevents this project from moving forward.
Personal use fishery — Each year increased utilization of the dip-net fishery strains the resources of the City of Kenai. Because the fishery is state mandated we are forced to react to policies outside of our control. I am proud of the positive steps made this summer in addressing the overwhelming amounts of fish and solid waste left littering our beaches.
Gabriel: The bluff erosion along Kenai River continues to be one of the bigger issues facing the City. This is affecting, and will continue to affect and limit, the developments along the Kenai River including Millennium Square. With the elimination of earmarks as a matter of policy during the Obama Administration, projects like these will take longer to get funded. We need to continue nominating this as our number one federal priority.
Schrag: An uncertain future. It’s great to see the oil and gas renaissance, but we shouldn’t stake our future on it. The fishing industries are in flux. State and Federal funds are drying up. These uncertainties will impact everything the city does or wants to do.
Kenai is in a good position right now, but we best be keeping our eyes on the road ahead because it can turn at any time. We cannot depend on the old paradigms that have gotten us to this point. Just ask some Midwest industrial cities how well that works out. Fortunately, there are examples of communities that have negotiated changes, and we can be prepared to learn from them.
3. What, if anything, would you like to change in the city’s budget?
Bookey: The City of Kenai is in an envious position in regards to our budget. We have a healthy fund balance and a stable mill-rate that continues to adequately support the services desired by residents. Council must regularly evaluate the burden placed on the tax-payer and take necessary measures to ensure that there is value for the monies collected.
Gabriel: I believe the City budget provides for essential services while also funding items that provide for a better quality of life for the residents of the City.
Schrag: Nothing blatant comes immediately to mind. As a council member however, I will be responsible for a more in- depth study of the budget, and I will take that responsibility seriously.
4. Where do you see the city headed in the next 10 years?
Bookey: The Kenai Peninsula is in the midst of the second generation of resource development with several independent companies working in the area. The City of Kenai is the ideal location to serve as home base for these companies. With an industrial park, which will provide complete city services including water and sewer, under construction nearby, companies will enjoy easy access to air transportation, both cargo and passenger, through the Kenai Municipal Airport.
Despite the current positive growth resource extraction is finite and city leaders have to continue to develop policy that attracts a diversified industry.
Gabriel: I hope to see a City where there are employment opportunities for young people to remain and to raise their families in Kenai. In order to accomplish this, we need to maintain a low mill rate while taking advantage of our geographical location as the hub of the Central Peninsula and our proximity to the development that is taking place in Cook Inlet and the west side of Cook Inlet.
I also hope to see an environment that is friendly to our Senior Citizens encouraging them to stay in the area while providing services to our Seniors that will contribute to a good quality of life.
Schrag: Not to overstate it, but I think the answer depends on the results of this election. The voters have a clear choice between leadership styles. The current leadership is more an Authoritarian approach; top-down, follow the company line. The voters now have the opportunity to elect candidates that will pursue a more Participative leadership style. One that is more inclusive of diverse opinions and therefore more flexible and creative at problem solving. I believe the current leadership will continue to push for commercialization of Spur Highway and eventually Beaver Loop. The Participative leadership will instead encourage distinct business hubs and distinct residential areas as a result of having listened to the people as well as following best practice planning principles.
I am running because I believe the Participative approach to governing will serve Kenai best as the future unfolds.