For Kenai resident Grayling Bassett, being elected to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly for the Kenai seat would mean putting his background and passion for public policy to use. He is confident not only in his ability to look at a complex system and find the best possible outcome, but the analysis is a process he enjoys from a local to international level.
Bassett, an Alaska resident of 36 years, graduated from Occidental College, in Los Angeles with a bachelor of arts in East Asian Studies he also graduated from the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy with a master’s in Public Policy. He is running for public office for the first time.
Bassett views having a seat in public office as an “echo chamber to reinforce thinking.” He said he believes the best way to improve how the assembly responds to issues, is by increasing public discussion. He said he wants to see more real dialogue.
“People going into politics are ideology driven,” Bassett said. “Part of the reason I am running is to prove myself wrong.”
On the issue of the Central Peninsula Hospital declining to enter a transfer agreement with the Surgery Center of Kenai, more discussion between hospital administration and the assembly would improve the situation, Bassett said. The more two sides talk the easier it is to come to a compromise, he said.
Bassett suggested opening up the discussion further by putting more, unofficial advisory votes to the public. He said he has considered the possibility of building electronic surveys that would allow borough residents to weigh in on big topics, no matter where they are located.
The only issue with that is that there may be little response, Bassett said. In any election, no matter what percentage of the population turns out to vote, it must be assumed that the result is representative of the eligible voting body as a whole, he said.
If elected, Bassett said he is going into the position with other “pet ideas,” he will try to introduce. He said while it is fine to have a strong opinion on property rights for example, everything should be taken and examined on a case-by-case basis.
While he considers himself a moderate, he said he believes in social responsibility, and has strong libertarian tendencies. Generally, he said, public bodies are too overregulated.
“You can’t keep people from circling a lake,” Bassett said. There are limits to impeding on property rights. He said in the public sphere not everyone’s opinion is greatly relevant to every issue.
If the borough finds a way to interact more frequently with the public, it will be easier to identify issues that will ultimately affect the borough level of government, such as the Kalifornsky Beach flooding and erosion abatement, he said.
Bassett said while right now there is little risk to public infrastructure, eventually a natural disaster may begin to damage local roads. He said there is a cost effective way of planning ahead and handling big issues. He said it is important for the borough to responsibly develop the resources available to the borough.
The city, state and borough need to be more proactive and work with each other, Bassett said.
“It is odd they aren’t trying harder to do something because when it gets to critical infrastructure it becomes the problem of the state,” he said. “They should try to head that off.”
The Alaska LNG Project may bring in an unprecedented influx of revenue to the borough through taxes, housing, rental needs and money to local businesses. He said it is the job of the assembly to focus on planning for new infrastructure and how to spend that money on improving the community.
With experience in the oil field, local construction, commercial fishing and transportation, Bassett said he has a broad view in “both the primary and support sectors.” He said his strong suit is the ability to look at existing policy and a current issue and develop a reasonable response.
Bassett said he keeps up on local issues, but is not currently completely engaged in everything that goes on the assembly level.
“It’s one of those things that if you get the job you do the job,” Bassett said.
Bassett said his policy skills would be best put to use in public service where he can look at situations and identify a solution that will make the majority of people the most content.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.