Dustin Aaronson has a vested interest in the growth and success of the city of Kenai. That interest led him to run for a seat on the Kenai City Council this year.
"I am a small business owner, as is my entire family," he said.
"... Our current situation is we are facing 20 years of zero growth in this town. A big part of my life is invested in the success of Kenai, and I want to ensure that happens."
Aaronson, 38, has been a Kenai resident for 25 years. He and his wife, Tammy, have one child. He owns three small businesses in Kenai, teaches music classes at Kenai Peninsula College, the Kenai Boys and Girls Club and gives private music lessons. He has a bachelor of arts degree in fine and performing arts from Alaska Pacific University and a master of arts degree from Washington State University in communications.
Aaronson is a founding member of the Alaska Voters Organization, Peninsula Citizens Against the Private Prison and Peninsula Citizens Against the Grocery Tax. He has not previously been on the council or served a term on any city committee.
He believes his experience as a business owner qualifies him for a seat on the council.
"As a small business owner, I am daily in direct contact with citizens," he said. "In my shop, everyone is welcome to discuss politics openly. ... And being a dad, I think that puts me right in touch with the problems facing the kids in town. I really love Kenai. If I didn't, I wouldn't get involved."
If elected, the city's budget would be Aaronson's main focus of attention.
"There are some departments that do a great job with a very reasonable budget," he said. "... (But) we're not getting the job done for a fair price right now."
Aaronson is in favor of cutting the budget to rein in spending.
"We're overtaxed and our progress is being slowed by arduous policies," he said. "... If we want Kenai to grow, it needs to be very business-friendly. ... All the citizens who promised me their votes expect me to cut that budget. It's probably not going to be a fun job, but it needs to be done."
Though he has no specific sections of the budget he plans to cut at this time, he vowed that, if elected, he would find places.
"I think we can learn from other cities that are doing a good job," he said. "The easiest way (to cut the budget) would be to ask the citizens what they want and (what they) don't see the city doing that well. Anyone who pays attention will see where cuts will be easy."
Aaronson supports cutting the mill rate, as well. Property taxes already are twice what they should be, he said. He said lowering the mill rate will encourage growth and private wealth that will increase the tax base.
"If you give enough tax relief to the very capable citizens of Kenai, I promise you the folks around here can grow this city. ... It is time to put this job in the very capable hands of the people of Kenai."
These are just two of the many things Aaronson would like to improve about Kenai. If elected, he said he would like to make the city's permitting process easier, increase the city's tourism industry, stop adding more commercial zones and encourage occupation of Kenai's many abandoned commercial buildings, add parks with campgrounds, add a boat launch and access point on the lower Kenai River and add a trails system from Ridgeway to Nikiski.
"We have been moving away from the true Alaska lifestyle for too long, it really prompted me to run (for the council)," he said.
"... The sooner we get back to having a good time in Kenai, the sooner people will invest more in their futures here."
One other cause is near and dear to Aaronson's heart -- the repeal of the grocery tax on nonprepared food items. He questions the city's estimate that it would lose $1 million in revenue from the repeal of the tax.
He also disapproves of the council passing an ordinance that makes it so the city's sales tax will still be collected, even if borough constituents vote to repeal the tax.
Aaronson has big plans for serving on the council, but they all come from his desire to fairly represent his fellow citizens.
"All I need to do is make sure my vote absolutely reflects the vote of the people who support me," he said.
"That's all anybody can do. My main concern is listening to the families and working people. That's who's important here."
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