City council candidates tackle issues

Posted: Thursday, September 08, 2005

Residents of the city of Kenai have a choice between Superwoman, Elmer Fudd and — well — some character from a Tom Clancy novel when voting for a Kenai City Council member to fill the city's three-year slot.

Well, Kenai residents won't really be voting for this group of fictional characters Oct. 4. However, the candidates were asked to liken their candidacy to a fictional character, among other questions, during a forum at Wednesday's Kenai Chamber of Commerce luncheon.

So who is who? And where do they want the city to be 10 years from now?

"My children are going to want to be here 10 years from now," said Jim Butler, who said he was most like Elmer Fudd.

Ditto for Mike Boyle, who said he was closest to a character — or a scene — from the Clancy novel. He said he wants the city of Kenai to be a place where his kids can grow up.

As for Superwoman, or Linda Swarner, she said she wants the city to grow with small businesses.

"This is the best place to live in Alaska," she said.

John Osborne, the fourth candidate, was not at Wednesday's forum.

More issues were discussed Wednesday than cartoons and thriller novels.

For example, the candidates shared their views on a subsistence fishery, the role of city government in local business affairs and disaster preparedness.

Addressing the subsistence fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River, Boyle said this has been an issue for residents in the neighborhood. He said the fishery needs to be compatible with the residents who live there.

Swarner said when the fishery was first started, the city had to pay for the increased police power and needed to find ways to get rid of the garbage. Now, she said, the fishery has generated revenues for the city and that it should be used to "enhance" the areas affected.

Butler said this is becoming a commercial industry that "is going to be with us forever." He said the city needs to partner with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to deal with issues involving the fishery.

According the Swarner, the city does have a role to play in supporting local business.

She said the city should provide infrastructure, such as good water and snow removal. In addition, she said, the city needs to provide a stable tax rate for business.

"We have to be the listening ear," she said.

Butler said one role is a good partnership between the city and the chamber. In addition, the city should continue to develop infrastructure through programs like the Kenai Economic Development Strategy, he said.

Boyle said Kenai needs to work to market itself to attract more visitors.

"(The city) needs to get people to turn right in Soldotna," he said.

In light of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and other communities on the Gulf Coast last week, the candidates were asked to assess how prepared the community is to handle a natural disaster and what it can do to be more prepared.

Boyle said being prepared starts in people's homes.

Swarner said the community is not prepared for a large natural disaster. She echoed Boyle's response, adding that people should always have a stockpile of water and food supplies.

Butler said he does not think any city could be prepared for a disaster that "knocked it to rubble" in a couple of hours. He said when he looks at these issues, the city needs to use the Katrina experience as an opportunity to review its capabilities and systems. He said he wants to challenge some assumptions.

"I think it's important to look real carefully at those to make sure you're not inadvertently creating a sense of security that may not be there," he said.

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