Opinion: Survey gauges candidates’ views on senior issues

  • Sunday, October 4, 2015 8:02pm
  • Opinion

Editor’s note: This survey of Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly candidates was conducted by Homer resident Peter Zuyus and submitted to the Clarion. According to Zuyus, there are a number of issues impacting senior citizens across the borough, and the survey is intended to gauge candidates’ views on those issues.

Seniors on the peninsula number approximately 10,000 and provide a significant contribution to the KPB economy and volunteer community. A majority of them are fixed income based and those over 65 are Medicare recipients. Actually, Medicare payments to hospitals and physicians on the peninsula represent approximately 38-40 percent of revenues. KPB seniors, as a community are a major contributor to the KPB economy.

The needs of seniors are not a partisan issue, but a quality of life issue. Many duties of an Assembly member are routine and others require significant introspect and reliance on constituent input. Senior citizen issues are straight forward but many times put on the “back burner.”

Questions and results are printed below. Comments are in the candidates’ own words and unedited. District 1 candidate David Wartinbee declined to participate.

Question 1. Sales tax on non-prepared foods has a significant impact on the budget of fixed-income seniors. Do you support Proposition 1 on the Oct. 6 Ballot that reinforces the Seasonal Sales Tax Exemption on non-prepared foods?

District 1: Kelly Wolf, YES; Robin Davis, YES; Gary Knopp, See Comment.

District 6: Ken Carpenter, YES; Brandii Holmdahl, YES.

District 9: Willy Dunne, YES; Dawson Slaughter, YES.

Comments:

Kelly Wolf: First of all, I support Prop 1.

Gary Knopp: I can support a seasonal exemption or a complete exemption on groceries but I do not support Prop 1. This prop explicitly targets the city of Soldotna. It is the wrong way to conduct business. This prop allows every resident in the borough to tell the city of Soldotna how to conduct their business. What would the borough residents plan for the Cities of Kenai and Seward for whom this proposition won’t affect?

Dawson Slaughter: I have publicly stated many time that I support prop 1 and will fight to keep the grocery tax exemptions.

Willy Dunne: I am generally opposed to sales tax on food, as those taxes disproportionately impact our lower income residents, including many seniors.

Question 2. Senior citizen real estate property tax exemption: Although not a ballot issue, several KPB politicians would like to raise taxes on senior citizens by reducing the senior citizen real estate tax exemption. Do you support keeping the Senior citizen real estate exemption as it is?

District 1: Kelly Wolf, YES; Robin Davis, YES; Gary Knopp, YES.

District 6: Kenn Carpenter, YES; Brandii Holmdahl, YES.

District 9: Willy Dunne, YES; Dawson Slaughter, YES.

Comments:

Kelly Wolf: I do not support reducing the senior discount of property tax.

Gary Knopp: I do support the senior exemption as it is. I would not vote to repeal or change it without a vote of the people. This was done just a few years ago when residents of the borough voted to change it from unlimited to the existing $300,000.

Willy Dunne: Over the next few years the Borough will look at modifying the property tax code. The value of tax-exempt real property in the Borough has grown from less than 40% in 1990 to over 65% today. Finding equitable property tax modifications will be a major challenge of the Borough Assembly in coming years.

Dawson Slaughter: We have a growing community of seniors, many on a fixed income. Keeping the exemption gives our seniors the financial stability to continue living here.

Question 3. Borough Seniors have little voice in discussions regarding Assembly and Administration actions that affect them as a group. As an Assembly member, would you encourage formation of a senior citizens commission/committee to report to the Assembly and Mayor on issues that directly affect Senior citizens?

District 1: Kelly Wolf, YES; Robin Davis, NO w/comment; Gary Knopp, NO w/comment.

District 6: Kenn Carpenter, YES; Brandii Holmdahl, YES.

District 9: Willy Dunne, YES; Dawson Slaughter, NO w/comment.

Comments:

Kelly Wolf: While I’m not a big supporter of task forces, as any info gathered or developed by such is subject to interpretation. However if a task force could be organized without an expense associated to it then I would support a Task force to review senior benefits as long as it included well defined objectives. As I would not want a task forced convened as a witch hunt.

Robin Davis: I am a senior citizen. If elected my door will be open for communication with all Borough citizens.

Gary Knopp: Borough seniors have the exact same voice and opportunities to comment on all Assembly and Administration actions as every borough resident. I would love to hear from an organization with regards to senior concerns so long as it community based, has no government involvement, does not expect financial support from the borough, is completely volunteer-based and represents all seniors.

Kenn Carpenter: Pertaining to questions 2 & 3 I feel we really need to include our seniors in decisions pertaining to the borough. The seniors are our founding foundation for the State of Alaska and our boroughs. Some of these seniors help set up the governments for the state and the boroughs. I feel their opinions and views would be of value to the assembly, and a benefit to committees. I think a senior representative should be present during assembly hearings to give us the views and needs of the senior population in the Kenai Borough area. This of course would be a non-paid position and valued just for their opinions and views.

Brandii Holmdahl: Absolutely. I believe this committee would be an invaluable asset to those of us trying to make decisions in the best interest of the population. Seniors have specific issues that are not always readily apparent in seemingly unrelated issues.

Dawson Slaughter: I do not support another official borough task force. That being said, it is very important for every persons voice be heard. Community members often form groups to advocate for their issues. These groups are always welcome to meet with me and I will bring their issues forward if there is broad based support within the community.

Willy Dunne: I heartily support such a committee.

Summary:

In general, the participating candidates support senior citizen issues of the KPB. The comments provide a good insight to their reasoning and their thoughts on Senior Citizens.

Well, readers and Senior readers, it’s your turn, read the answers and comments, add those to your other thoughts and vote for the candidate of your choice on Oct. 6.

Please VOTE, you should not complain about the results of an election, if you are not part of the process.

— Peter T. Zuyus, Homer

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