Dan Chay is stepping down.
Chay announced his decision at the July 11 meeting of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly. of which he represents Kenai. In an interview Tuesday, Chay said he wants to pursue family opportunities that would conflict with his ability to perform his elected duties.
That could include travel to Latin America, where his oldest daughter, 14-year-old Maya, who has been studying Spanish, may enroll in an intensive language school in Guatemala.
Chay said the traveling is an adventure he wants to provide his daughter and stepping down from the assembly would free up the time to do it.
“Our older daughter is entering her sophomore year,” he said. “That means we only have three years left.”
Chay said he, too, plans to study Spanish, look for other opportunities and continue writing on his blog.
Reflecting on his term on the assembly, Chay, who was elected in 2003, said it has been, first of all, a great learning experience.
“I still feel honored that I was given the opportunity. I ran hoping to be able to bring a long-range, planning scenario perspective to the assembly. I think I’ve been able to do that in a small way.”
Chay, who along with wife, Heidi, runs a mediation service business, said he tried to broaden the avenues of public discourse by complimenting the parliamentary process of the assembly’s formal meetings.
“On at least a couple of contentious issues, the assembly gave me the opportunity to do some problem-solving in a different way,” he said.
One involved the way the borough taxes aircraft. Chay facilitated at problem-solving session “as a neutral” with members of the public directly affected. In the end, it helped produce graduated flat-tax provisions in 2004 that worked for the widest number of people, he said.
More recently, group problem-solving sessions have been used to hash out issues surrounding changes to the borough’s materials site permit provisions, he said.
The assembly currently is in a kind of transition period, acting along with a new administration and facing an upcoming election, Chay said.
“The mayor (John Williams) has put out a handful of big (political) fires with the cooperation of the assembly,” he said, adding that lately the assembly’s agendas have been pretty small.
“It will be interesting to see what happens next year.”
After traveling, Chay plans to participate however he can on local issues.
“I may be more effective on some issues not being on the assembly,” he said. “From time to time I will write commentary (about local issues) on my blog. I would have to see about running for office again.”
Asked to comment on issues in the assembly’s immediate future, he said the body has been working on a new material’s site ordinance for over a year. Each version has improved on the last, but none has won assembly approval.
“I’m hopeful that we will pass that,” he said.
Another complex matter is an ordinance that would place residency requirements on senior citizens’ and disabled veterans’ eligibility for the borough’s unlimited property tax exemption. The state mandates that those residents not pay property taxes on the first $150,000 of assessed value of their primary residences. The borough exempts those same citizens from paying any borough property tax on assessments in excess of the $150,000.
It is a controversial issue because the value of exempted property is skyrocketing, laying more of the burden of paying for borough services on younger taxpayers.
“I support the idea ” of “residency requirements based on permanent fund dividend criteria,” Chay said.
Chay said he is concerned about the ability of a 1970s-style government to meet the challenges of the peninsula’s population growth rate.
He also said the government should develop better policies for protecting renewable resources from damage by finite resource extraction. He noted the proposed Chuitna coal mine could damage some resident salmon streams.
“We don’t have the development policy that would weigh the tradeoffs. We tend to minimize those tradeoffs,” he said.
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