Three candidates for two Kenai council seats

Two incumbents and one challenger will be running in the October 3 election for two open seats on the seven-member Kenai City Council. Incumbents Henry Knackstedt and Tim Navarre will be joined in the race by Bob McIntosh, who unsucessfully ran for the council in 2016.

Navarre has served two three-year terms on the council and also sits on the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education. By profession he’s a business man and vice president of his family’s business Zan, Inc, which owns the Kenai Arby’s franchise and other ventures. In his candidate statement, he wrote that completing Kenai’s bluff erosion mitigation and supporting veterans are two issues he’s concerned about. Navarre was out of the state on personal business Wednesday and declined an interview for this story.

Knackstedt, a civil engineer and project manager in the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Road Service Area, and a 20-year member of Kenai’s airport commission, is running for his second three-year term as a council member. In his candidate statement he describes himself as “fiscally conservative,” a trait he said would be necessary as Kenai’s appropriations from the federal government decline and its sales tax income shrinks due to less oil industry activity.

“We’ve got a balanced budget now and I want to be sure it maintains into the future,” Knackstedt said.

He mentioned an unsuccessful ordinance he introduced in May, meant to bring new revenue to the city by allowing the currently banned sale of fireworks with a $5,000 vendor’s permit. Following that meeting he challenged the other council members to produce other revenue-generating measures they could agree on. He said he has at least one other revenue idea, though a less direct one — expanding the Kenai airport, which he described as “probably the biggest revenue-generating asset the city has.”

The airport has unoccupied leasable land to its north and in an undeveloped industrial park to the east, and Knackstedt said the city could do more to encourage businesses to use this land. This wouldn’t put money directly into city coffers — leases and rents support airport rather than Kenai government activity, providing about a fifth of the airport’s operating revenue — but the increased activity would generally benefit the city’s economy, Knackstedt said.

He added that his attention to detail is an asset as a council member.

“A lot of the work council does is resolutions and ordinances that come from the administration,” Knackstedt said. “It is the bulk of our work, and I do go through those with a fine-tooth comb.”

McIntosh, now retired, came to Alaska as a U.S Air Force service member in the 1970s and subsequently worked as a computer technician and driver. In addition to his council run last year, he’s been outspoken on several Kenai political issues through public comments and online activism, creating and editing the local political website Peninsulatowncrier.com.

“The city has for years, if not decades, have been run by the same players,” McIntosh wrote in his candidate statement. “They may have moved between different elected, unelected, and administrative positions over the years, but they remain in control. They have shown by their actions they do not act in the best interest of many citizens. When making land use decisions the Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council has repeatedly marginalized and even ignored input from neighborhood residents. This must stop!”

In an interview, McIntosh pointed out incidents where residential and commercial interests conflict in Kenai — a recent dispute over the Lawton Acres property that ended in early August with council members voting against a proposal to release the property from development obligations, and the April 2016 permitting of the Red Run Cannabis store, approved by Kenai’s Planning and Zoning commission after being opposed by some residents of the nearby Thompson Park subdivision. He said Kenai’s residential interest needs to be better represented on the city’s council and commissions.

“When the council comes to make decisions, they seem to be more oriented toward making decisions in favor of businesses, as opposed to what those who live in the communities want,” McIntosh said.

McIntosh said he’d also like to increase resident involvement with town politics by recording work sessions — council and commission meetings dedicated to specific discussion subjects which aren’t presently recorded because no legal actions are taken in them — and institute a limit of two consecutive terms for council members. Though candidates aren’t officially running against specific opponents — the two who get the most votes will take the two available council seats — McIntosh said his goal is to unseat Navarre.

Though McIntosh said he will post election information on Peninsulatowncrier.com and continue editing it, he will create a separate website for his campaign, he said.

Reach Ben Boettger at ben.boettger@peninsulaclarion.com

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