Sprague: Tax relief, resource use, education on agenda

District 4 Soldotna

Posted: Monday, September 24, 2007

Name: Pete Sprague

Age: 57

Occupation: Retired letter carrier

Education: B.A. history, SUNY Albany

Organizations and special interests: Soldotna Rotary, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce, Kenai Peninsula College Council

Previously held elected office: Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly, Soldotna City Council

1. As a candidate (incumbent or challenger), list what you see as the three most important issues the assembly must address in the next three years.

I believe that three key issues that the assembly will be addressing in the next three years are property tax relief, resource development, and funding for education and training. The increase in the sales tax rate and subsequent reduction in the general mill rate are a good start in lessening the burden on property owners. In addition to the obvious need to bring additional natural gas supplies to the Kenai at an affordable price, large-scale resource development projects both within and in close proximity to borough boundaries such as the proposed Chuitna coal project and the Pebble Mine pose both economic opportunities and serious environmental challenges. Education funding and training, not only in the k-12 context, but in postsecondary and vocational education areas as well are important as technology advances and the 'boomers' retire.

2. How do you view the current relationship between the administration, assembly and the public? If it needs improving, what would you change?

Let's just say I believe that there is room for improvement. One of the inherent concepts built into our federal and state constitutions is the separation of powers. Article X Section 4 of the Alaska Constitution states that the assembly is the governing body of the borough. Thus there should be some tension and contention between the legislative (assembly) and the executive (the mayor and the administration) branches of government as we determine the best course of action for the borough. The system of checks and balances is healthy and necessary for good government. That being said, sometimes what is upsetting at least to me is not necessarily the substance, but the style in which policy is formulated and/or carried out. We all need to remember that we are public servants, and good service is good for the borough.

3. What do you see as the role of the borough government? If it were too big, what services would you cut?

The Kenai Peninsula Borough is a second-class borough, with duties and responsibilities clearly spelled out in state statute. We have a limited amount of area wide powers, with service area powers and several non-area wide powers that have been approved by the voters as well. I see the role of the borough government being to provide the services mandated by the state and wanted by the residents of the borough while at the same time keeping spending in check. It is of course difficult to please everyone all the time, but I believe that the assembly and the administration have done a good job in providing services while at the same time practicing fiscal restraint.

4. If voters approve, ballot initiatives will set term limits on assembly and school board seats and treat terms already served retroactively. What is your opinion of the initiatives and their possible effect?

I am philosophically opposed to term limits on the legislative (assembly) body at the local level, although I do believe that it is important to limit terms for the administrator (mayor), who as an individual is in a much more powerful position. I'm not sure why folks would want to limit their choices on the ballot, thus preventing someone who is experienced and motivated from having the opportunity to be a candidate for office. I also have reservations about what the various provisions of the current ballot proposition mean, and if they are enforceable. I am concerned about the retroactive piece of the proposition, which means that an incumbent in this year's election could win within the district, yet not be seated because the voters outside the district support retroactive term limits. Ultimately, I believe that the best term limit is a person's vote on Election Day.

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