2015 Municipal Elections: Notes and Comments

Borough Mayor-Elect Karl Kassel, photo by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Borough Mayor-Elect Karl Kassel, photo by Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

There is evidence that the voters in the Fairbanks North Star Borough have stepped back from the precipice.

The voters chose as Borough Mayor the genial, reasonable, consensus-building Karl Kassel over Tammie Wilson, who is none of those things, by a generous margin. Wilson’s ongoing effort to remove local control over air quality was defeated when Proposition 1 was narrowly defeated. Generally, the more reasonable – not liberal, or even moderate, but reasonable – candidates were chosen. With the exception of Lance Roberts, who ran unopposed.

It’s hard to parse Kassel’s victory. He spent the most money, but some of his votes, particularly those from the North Pole area, may have been a reaction to the Koch Brothers’ support of Wilson. It was the Koch Brothers, after all, who shuttered the North Pole Refinery, the largest single employer in the North Pole area. Perhaps the Koch Brothers can do us a second favor throw their support behind Wilson if she runs for a third term in the State House. Otherwise, North Pole will continue to have little voice in state government.

It’s disappointing that the two candidates for the Borough School Board ran unopposed. But understandable. No one wants to be in charge of working further damage to what was once a pretty good public school system. But the Legislature seems to be determined to do the mathematically impossible and use budget cuts to solve the state’s cash flow problem. Education is an easy target. And may get even more complicated in the Alaska Supreme Court strikes down the current funding system. So the future of Alaska – our kids – will be collateral damage as the state legislature hacks further money from programs like education.

And that’s the elephant in the room, isn’t it? The Alaska Senate Finance Committee has announced that the upcoming session of the Alaska Legislature will focus exclusively on further budget cuts. They won’t adopt new revenues.

Why? Because it is an election year. Senator Lyman Hoffman, in theory a Democrat, noted that “Elections are coming up, and right or wrong, politicians worry about their careers first.”

Can we be clear about this? The choices facing the Alaska Legislature are to impose further budget cuts and create a grave risk of a statewide recession. Or mostly exhaust the budget reserve funds. Or be sensible and adopt a state income tax or tap the Permanent Fund. But Senator Hoffman is right. It’s election season; sensibility isn’t on the table. Getting reelected is the goal; if the state’s financial future has to be sacrificed to get reelected, in the mind of the buffoons we’ve elected, that’s the price we get to pay.

By the 2016 elections – Alaskan’s next chance to elect someone  sensible – more than half of the remaining budget reserves, Alaska’s long-term savings account, will be exhausted. Grim choices.

The free ride is over folks. Waiting longer to start paying our own bills isn’t simply delaying the inevitable; it’s aggravating the severity of the financial hit. Waiting is stupid. WC challenges you to prove him wrong in calling the house and senate majority coalition buffoons: persuade them to be sensible.

Don’t let them lead Alaska back into the 1960s.