Borough Assembly District 1; Johnson: Bigger assembly would mean better decisions

Posted: Thursday, September 26, 2002

The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly should return to a 16-member body and give back to outlying areas the representation they once had, said Kenai resident Ronald Johnson, candidate in assembly District 1.

Johnson, 62, also said he thinks the borough Road Service Area should be broken up into regional service areas, as it once was, for the same reason.

If he is elected, he'll lobby for those changes, he said.

"My No. 1 thought is to get the assembly back up to representing all areas," he said, adding he doesn't buy the argument that a 16-member assembly would cost too much. The advantage, he said, would be that "you won't have such a clique group running it."

There are too many issues decided by a 5-4 vote, he said.

Johnson owns Real Estate Specialists in Kenai. That experience would make him a good assembly member, he said, because so much of what the borough does concerns land use.

Johnson, a resident of Alaska for 45 years, served on the borough assembly from 1984 to 1986. Now he's looking to return to the legislative body, but faces Kenai resident John C. Davis in the race for the District 1 seat. The contest is for a one-year term.

Johnson said he has nothing bad to say about Davis and figures either one of them would make a good assembly member. He said he just decided he had the time, experience and desire to serve.

Johnson said he thinks the assembly and the administration should be lobbying the state for help guiding new business to the peninsula. One approach, he said, would be to go after companies in which the Alaska Permanent Fund is heavily invested.

"The assembly can pass some resolutions encouraging the Legislature to do something," he said.

Giving property tax breaks to companies to encourage them to build and operate in the borough is a good idea, Johnson said.

As far as he's concerned, the assembly is not responsive to the public.

"No! They've got their own agenda," he said.

"And, they've got enough votes to swing it. They do what they want to do. If the people say they don't want to do something, the assembly does it anyway and no amount of hue and cry is going to change that."

He reiterated, however, that a larger assembly would help change that.

Asked what the assembly should do if the Legislature advocates a statewide sales tax, Johnson said he thinks fixing the state's fiscal problems should include state sales taxes, income taxes and property taxes. That way, everyone -- tourists, workers and residents alike -- is paying part of the cost.

However, he said a statewide sales tax should be even across the state. Municipalities should simply retain that portion of the statewide tax they normally collect now. For instance, he said, if the state imposes a 7-percent sales tax, the borough should keep its 2 percent and forward the other 5.

"It would eliminate 90 percent of the drives to Anchorage to pick up groceries and lumber," he said.

The borough should re-evaluate how it handles roads, he said. Unless the borough is willing to pave roads as thick as he said they do in parts of Canada -- 8 inches -- well-maintained gravel roads would be better. He said the paved Funny River Road is "an ice rink" when it freezes.

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