1. What is the biggest issue facing the city and how can the council address it?
Mike Boyle: Providing and maintaining quality services to residents while preparing for the predicted economic and growth boom of our area is the number one issue. We need to be prepared to handle the increase in the demands for City services, housing and other infrastructure and related issues of good economic times. We need to get prepared for the future while still maintaining current quality services to the residents of the City.
Also, it is important to keep putting stress on the importance of the bluff erosion project and to begin and complete that project soon.
Henry Knackstedt: The expanded oil and gas activity in Nikiski will cause the biggest issues, positive and negative, that we will be dealing with in the near future. There will be in influx of people and money that will impact our resources, including housing, water, sewer, and land use. This expansion will increase business opportunities, reduce unemployment, and will help keep the mill rate low. The city needs to pass the comprehensive plan, which identifies areas appropriate for responsible residential, commercial, and industrial development. Industrial and commercial areas that should be promoted include the Kenai Industrial Park along Marathon Road, the industrial area along Bridge Access Road, and commercial areas along the Kenai Spur Highway, particularly nearer Nikiski. Land leasing on the Kenai Airport is also a priority.
Tim Navarre: The biggest issue is bluff erosion. It has been one of my highest goals to see stabilization of our bluff become a reality. Completion means economic stability and historic preservation of Kenai. The council can address it by continuing to work with our federal delegation to secure additional needed federal funding to start the project no later than Fall 2017. The City’s portion of the funding is already secured.
Holly Spann: I think one the issues facing the city, is the issue that keeps rising to the surface, repeatedly, is the bluff erosion. There’s been a lot of talk and concerns about it, and that’s good. I think the more the residents talks about it, the more the city has an opportunity to communicate with the residents about where the city is at with it and stays right on top of it. I think the city has been doing their job, by addressing it, and going through all the steps necessary.
2. How do you feel the city has managed the dipnet fishery in the past and what concerns still need to be addressed?
Boyle: While there are new issues that pop up over time, I think overall the city has done a pretty good job of identifying and addressing the issues of the dipnet fishery. Throughout the history of this fishery the City has met challenges and come up with some very good solutions. The fishery has been well managed by the employees of Kenai and users of the fishery can expect to come to Kenai and have a positive gathering experience. While issues have arisen from this fishery and there will be more to come, challenges have been met and are being met with satisfactory solutions.
Knackstedt: The City Manager prepared the current plan to manage the dipnet fishery which has been very well executed by the employees of the City of Kenai. The chaos of the fishery imposed upon us is probably managed about as well as can be expected, though it can be modified with little tweaks, as needed. I think that the biggest concerns left to be addressed are for public education and safety in the boating portion of the fishery, and protection of private property from both trespass and bank erosion.
Navarre: I feel the City of Kenai has continued each year to improve the negative impacts that surrounds the personal use fishery. It will again be my goal to work towards positive solutions to problems and guarantee limited affects upon our citizens. I support the new beach access road on the south beach which will alleviate impacts to property owners.
Spann: I feel that in the past, the city has made some adjustments where it was needed and have been able to learn what works, and what doesn’t work in managing the dipnet fishery. Every year, there’s always something to learn, and as more and more residents voice their concerns, it gives the city an opportunity to make adjustments and plan.
3. What, if anything, would you like to see changed as the city continues to work on a new comprehensive plan?
Boyle: The intent of a Comprehensive Plan is to look at and determine the future of the City. It should be an open process in which the residents take a very active part from beginning to end. As we move forward in the process it is important this be one of the most important guidelines. The Comprehensive Plan should be the work of the people, not a small group of selected individuals.
Furthermore, the Comprehensive Plan should be of a quality that it stands on its own and doesn’t need constant change. The statements that some make – “We can always change it later.”- takes away the validity of a document that is intended to be a sound tool for guiding us into the future.
Knackstedt: As the vice-chairman of the Planning and Zoning Commission I was very much involved with the comprehensive plan from start to finish. The proposed plan includes an expanded chapter on our history and a new chapter about our native community. Chapter 6 contains 8 Goals with 26 Objectives, followed with 121 Strategies to promote and encourage quality of life in Kenai. Opponents to the plan would have us believe that quality of life is not addressed, which clearly is not so. Also, the plan does not change zoning. Since the plan was prepared there has been an expansion of oil and gas development, plus the possibility of a new LNG plant in Nikiski, which may require modifications to economic development discussed in with Goal 2.
Navarre: The 2012 comprehensive plan is a good plan. I believe we would all benefit from additional community work sessions. I anticipate some small changes to the land use plan that had a few residents concerned, but I believe we need to complete the plan and get it to the Borough for final approval.
Spann: As we move forward in the future, the City continues to work aggressively on the upcoming comprehensive plan. The original plan, did not meet the residents standards, so there should be adjustments made. I believe that the City will plan for what’s best in the interests of the residents, and come to a solution that will be pleasing for the residents. This plan is “for” the residents, and “for” the city. I believe the residents will be heard.
4. What is your stance on the veteran’s memorial and your response to the argument of a religious symbol on city property?
Boyle: A U.S. Army Veteran with family history of military service going back generations, I obviously believe a veteran memorial is an appropriate honor to place on City land. Personally, I have no objection to this symbol or any religious symbol. Question: Is it a violation of our Constitution to display this symbol on public property? I neither know, nor get to make that decision. However, it is still a memorial without the symbol.
The City has been threatened with a lawsuit if the symbol is left in place. This would result in great legal costs and although another organization has offered legal aid, accepting would make the City a tool of two special interests groups using Kenai as the battleground for their legal agenda.
A Council Member’s job includes putting interests of the City above personal interests. I believe, it is unwise to put the City at such financial risk.
Knackstedt: I am very much in support of our veteran’s memorial, and of our veterans who have risked so much to protect our way of life. It is my opinion that the cross on the memorial is simply an artistic element within a mural that pays tribute to our fallen soldiers. It is appropriate and should not be changed.
Navarre: We should always support our veterans, and the personal sacrifice they have made to assure our freedoms. I have and will continue to support our Veterans Memorial in Leif Hansen Park. In answer to the argument, I believe the cross on this memorial represents a soldier’s death and therefore it doesn’t fall into the religious symbol argument.
Spann: I absolutely support the Veteran’s Memorial, just the way it was originally made. I think the City, made a great choice by taking a stand to support it. Everybody is going to have opinions on many different things, and I accept the idea we can not please everybody. When this Memorial was finished and was presented to the residents of the City of Kenai, the residents gathered around it, and were proud. They were proud of the work that was done to represent and remember our beloved Veterans. I believe that the Memorial represents many special and unique things to each and every one of us. To have the Memorial “altered”, in any way, may alter our beliefs, and what we stand for.