Mayor's race up to voters

Bagley, Lancaster find little to disagree on in campaign

Posted: Wednesday, September 25, 2002

Voters aren't likely to find much in the way of opposing views to differentiate the candidates for mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Personalities, style and other such comfort factors may have more to do with determining the outcome Tuesday than any divergence over issues.

Incumbent Mayor Dale Bagley, 39, has served one three-year term in the borough's top post, his first such experience in an elected administrative position. Bagley also has served a year on the Soldotna City Council and three on the borough assembly.

His challenger, Rep. Ken Lancaster, served four years on the Soldotna City Council. He was elected city mayor in 1993 and served until 2000 when he was elected to the Alaska House of Representatives.

But Lancaster, 59, decided against another run for state office and instead tossed his hat in the ring for an elected office closer to home. Both are lifelong Alaskans with experience in business, including real estate.

The economy hasn't opened much of a field for combat for the two candidates.

The latest economic statistics available from the borough's Community and Economic Devel-opment Division show a mixed bag as of June 30, with some areas experiencing modest growth in gross and taxable sales, while others are experiencing small declines. Construction is up, and by the end of the second quarter, the borough labor force was slightly higher than the year before, an indication of a moderately healthy economy.

Even taxation has been a nonissue for the candidates because property taxes have been reduced in recent years. Indeed, borough coffers are flush enough with tax dollars that the administration and the assembly have been discussing ways to reduce the size of the savings account, such as by spending for borough projects and cutting property taxes even further.

Both candidates have said the future availability of natural gas will play a major role in the borough's economic growth and they support a gas pipeline to the peninsula as well as continued exploration in the Cook Inlet region.

Bagley and Lancaster both said they would work to bring new industry and business to the borough.

Both oppose a statewide sales tax because of its potential impact on municipalities that levy their own. Bagley said he might propose a seasonal sales tax for the borough that would apply only in summer.

Lancaster said he believes borough departments should be working more closely together. Bagley promises to look for more ways to make the borough government more efficient.

Lancaster said he thinks he would be a better mayor because he'd approach the job differently. He said he'd be a more "hands-on" mayor and more willing to meet with the public than Bagley.

Bagley, on the other hand, said he believes the borough administration has been responsive to the public's needs and points to accomplishments in his first term, such as the new salmon marketing program, lowering of property taxes, the shifting of tax dollars to roads and efforts to put borough land in private hands.

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