Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly District 7 candidate Paul Zimmerman said one of the prime duties of the borough is to provide for stable economic opportunities for residents and ensure adequate funding for education, transportation, senior citizen services, health care, emergency services and waste management.
That means being on hand to see to it that the district's issues are heard even before they have reached the assembly level.
"We need to be sure that those basic services are adequately funded before we consider funding for private interests," he said. "My aim is to assist District 7. We need conscientious representation in borough decision-making; someone diligent in attending meetings and work sessions ... a representative available and accessible to provide information to (constituents) before those decisions are made that will affect their wants and needs."
Asked if he thought incumbent assembly member Paul Fischer had not met those criteria, Zimmerman answered simply, "I'm not going there."
He did say that in 1975, the population of the borough was a little more than 18,000. Today the population is roughly 50,000. The job of assembly member has grown more complex, he said.
"The regulatory process that controls your quality of life needs to be responsive to your needs so that quality of life can be maintained," he said.
Zimmerman, 51, lives in Kasilof. He is a commercial fisher and a guide and operates Zim's, a fishing guide service. He has lived in Alaska 25 years. He has not served in elected office before, but is a former chair of the Fish and Game Regional Advisory Committee.
Zimmerman said he would like the see the borough try to attract high-tech businesses, perhaps some that could make products from the byproducts of the petroleum industry.
"I'd like to see some diversification, instead of relying solely on resource extraction," he said. "I'm not ignoring the fact that we need to utilize the resources we have, however."
He said he would consider tax incentives to lure new industry and businesses, but he doesn't want to provide tax breaks that would be detrimental to the borough.
"Certainly we should explore all avenues to attract business, all methods to grow our economic opportunities," he said.
Zimmerman said that, on the whole, the borough has been responsive to the public and done an admirable job. But he also said the rapid growth of the borough population and the varying needs of such a large geographic area make it "increasingly important to get information out to the residents about borough decisions that may affect the quality of life in the future."
Regarding the possibility that the borough could be confronted next year with the possibility of a statewide income tax, Zimmerman said he is not sure how the borough should respond, except that it should prepare.
Citing the Alaska Constitution, which provides for local government and aims to "prevent duplication of tax levying jurisdictions," Zimmerman said, there was "a clear conflict if the state levies taxes on top of our sales taxes. Either we will raise our taxes or lose tax revenue and not be able to provide the services."
The borough needs to raise its concerns with state lawmakers before they go that far, he said.
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