Talking with residents of District 2, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Betty Glick said she hears the assembly doesn't listen to the public, that members sometimes go through the motions of a public hearing, but that they've already made up their minds.
"This distresses me," she said, adding there must be respect for members of the public who come to testify before the body.
"It makes no difference if you (an assembly member) agree with the public. They have every right to express their opinion and be treated with respect," she said.
Glick, 67, was appointed in July to replace assembly member Bill Popp who took a job with the borough.
However, she served as an elected member in her own right from 1982 to 1996, giving her a wealth of experience. She faces assembly president Tim Navarre in the District 2 race, another candidate with years of experience.
Glick said while she has agreed with Navarre on some issues, on others the two have expressed opposing views.
"I think our approach to being an assembly member is different," she said. "I've heard it firsthand that when people express an opinion different that Mr. Navarre's, he says, 'I'm an assembly member and we are going to do it.' As a member of the assembly, I think you are there to represent the people."
Glick said she thinks the borough, a second-class borough, should consider becoming a first-class municipality. That would mean taking on more powers and responsibilities, but it may be time, she said.
"We cannot do all the things the first-class municipality does," she said. "It bothers me that people think that the borough can be the answer to all their problems when in fact it can't."
State law limits the powers of second-class boroughs, she said.
"We don't have health and social services powers. We don't have public safety powers, yet people think the borough should do this. If we want to get into all these different aspects, maybe now it is time to explore an upgrade to a first-class municipality."
Glick takes a global view of economic development on the peninsula. She supports efforts to bring in new industry, as well as moves to create "value-added" products from local raw materials. But those resources -- including oil, gas, fish, timber and coal -- that provide the basis of the local economy are competing in a global market place and returns are subject to global demands.
"So we have to keep looking at what our potential is and what we can do," she said. "But keep in mind, just because you throw money at it doesn't guarantee it will be a viable project."
The borough could consider offering more tax breaks or deferments as incentives to companies looking to Alaska.
But tax incentives should be granted only after a case-by-case examination, she said.
"It depends on the particular project and the time," she said. "There are so many variables."
Sometimes a simple resolution of support is all that is needed to aid a new industry. The borough should be cautious, however, about getting into positions of financial liability, she said.
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