1. Does the new comprehensive plan reflect your vision for Kenai’s future development?
Jason Floyd: The Comprehensive plan has been developed under a series of city meetings and with the limited input of a small minority of local residents and interested parties who feel they will be directly impacted, either positively or negative, by the wording of the plan. Since Council members are elected at-large and do not specifically represent districts and neighborhoods in various areas around the city, related deliberation and input regarding the plan has the potential to be unequally weighted for or against competing interests in any give area of proposed property development. This is especially the case for neighborhoods and areas having more Council members and city officials as residents. My vision for the comprehensive plan would put more questions to the residents through available low-cost on-line polling tools. Any related recommendations from the Council and city hall would carefully consider the input provided by responding residents.
Jim Glendening: Yes, the plan provides municipal officials, citizens and the business community with an understanding of present conditions, changes which may have occurred over time and future development. It provides for balanced economics, community development, land use, and so much more. It speaks to population, housing, community facilities, transportation systems, tourism, local industry, elder services, medical facilities, etc. It will aid developers and prospective residents considering Kenai as a home. Kenai has a rich history of the Dena’ina people and the impact they have made to our community.
The community was provided opportunity to be involved in the process. Every citizen was notified of the work sessions, public hearings and plan approval. Social media was used to target citizens in Kenai. The Planning and Zoning Commissioners were pleased be a part of the process that reflected the community’s needs, values, giving meaning, purpose and direction to planning and development within Kenai.
Christine Hutchison: I believe it does. I participated in the first few session of discussion and felt it was reflective of the residents. However, it is a vision, a guide, that will require watching by the residents. It is not a permanent plan that is cast in stone and will likely see planning and zoning changes as time goes by. That is where resident input will be vital.
Bob McIntosh: Overall it is not a bad plan, but it could use some adjustments. The Planning and Zoning commission is required to review it each year and recommend changes. With a new council and a new Planning and Zoning Commission and the insistence that they listen to the public, we should be able to fix things up. In the last few years the council and Planning and Zoning Commission, as well as the city planners, have been more concerned with kowtowing to the businesses, or what they want the business to be, than listening to the neighborhood residents. This must change. Community councils will be a vehicle for effective resident input. A good example of this is repeated attempts by the city to reclassify the land along the Spur Highway to allow commercial development. Voters of the city have not once but twice at the polls said no, but the city planners and politicians refuse to listen.
Since the 1980s the residents have said no to the development of Lawton Acres, but again the city will not take no for answer. The same goes for the strip of trees along Walker Lane. There is also the issue of buffer zones between woodland the airport. The city needs to start listening to the residents.
Glenese Pettey: As a commissioner of Planning and Zoning, I had the privilege of working through the entire process of the 2016 updated comprehensive plan. The citizens of Kenai were invited and participated in the creation of the updated comprehensive plan which was adopted by the Kenai City Council. I am very pleased with the work we accomplished and the plan we created. The comprehensive plan reflects well thought out strategies for growth and diversification for our city. I would invite all concerned citizens to get a copy of the plan and review the details of the long term goals and objectives for the future of Kenai.
2. What, if anything, would you change in the city’s budget?
Floyd: Essential services are necessary, and require close city oversight and management. These services, and those otherwise necessary for effective management and stewardship of city resources, should be staffed and fully funded within the city budget. City services deemed non-essential to maintaining health and safety, should be identified and opened to a transparent, well-advertised competitive-bidding process. The city should solicit proposals from private industry and grant related service contracts based on clearly specified plans for maintaining and improving existing services from their current levels. Existing departments providing non-essential services within the current city budget should be encouraged to provide their own competitive service proposals and budgets. The entity with the least costly, most robust proposal should assume or continue to provide high-quality non-essential so long as residents continue to support related expenditures.
Glendening: The adopted budget for FY2017, General Fund, is $14,693,379. Public Safety is 47% of the budget, Public Works is 16% and the rest is divided among services like the Library, Park and Recreation, Senior Services and Administration. The city continues to do a tremendous job of meeting the needs of its citizens while maintaining a low mill rate. Revenues remain close to estimates. I would be cautious about increasing service fees, but will continue to maintain the vital services our citizens enjoy. The special use funds, such as capital projects, personal use fishery, and equipment replacement fund need to be better defined. Better explanation of new projects should be prioritized. City facilities are aging and some roads need upgrading; City Council should identify them, prioritize the needs, and look for ways to make repairs. It would be beneficial to seek grant funding to help in the process.
Hutchison: At this time, there are areas of the budget I would like to research further and take a closer look into. There will be time to do that and get input from the local residents in the next budget process.
McIntosh: I would take a close look at the capital projects and evaluate what is really needed, and what we can get funding for. I would put a hold on any new projects, such as the event park, with state budget situation the way it is. I would like large projects to go to the voters even when fractional funding is used. This was the intent of the code, and fractional funding circumvents this intention.
A tax/spending cap that is set and changed by the voters. This would put control of the finances in the hands of the residents.
We need to take a look at the funding of non profits. Do we need to do this if the non profit is not providing a product or service? What about giving city land to non profits. We just gave land valued at about $32,000 to a non profit. In doing things like this is the council being a good steward of our land?
Pettey: The City of Kenai is currently operating in the black. The city isn’t spending more money than it takes in. I wish to applaud the city management and City Council for operating within its budget. Going forward, I will work to continue this trend! If there is a budget surplus, I would suggest the management and City Council set aside the surplus funds for an emergency fund. When the emergency fund is funded completely the City Council should look at reducing the mill rate for the Kenai citizens.
3. How would you improve community engagement with the city council?
Floyd: I recommend the Council and City Administration adopt low-cost, informal internet polling practices, and advertise opportunities for public input. I will encourage the City to incorporate Social Media as a means for making people aware of these feedback opportunities; and collect voter email and social media contact information from residents who wish to engage in ongoing issue-focused polls. This approach would reach out to those who do not have the time or resources to participate in live public meetings. Splitting council seats into identified districts, and incorporating term-limits for council positions would help provide more equally dispersed representation and greater buy-in from local residents. Council seats should not be won and controlled for long periods through influence and power, and no election should be, “bought.” Candidates should serve defined terms through their altruistic dedication to perform civic-service for their neighbors.
Glendening: First, I will always continue to meet and listen to all concerned citizens and business owners! That is the first responsible duty of any city council member. During the city council meeting, there are two opportunities to speak with the council on any subject. Every resolution and ordinance has public speaking opportunity. All work sessions provide for public input. I have been and will continue to be involved in public venues that citizens can easily approach me. The city has developed a web page that has a tremendous amount of information available and allows for public input. A city Facebook Page was developed to keep our citizens better informed. Once each month the Mayor has an informal coffee that citizens actively participate in. This setting allows for ideas, complaints and concerns to be discussed, plus the bonus of meeting other residents. I will always respond to concerns of the public.
Hutchison: I will continue with the current Monday meetings prior to KPB assembly meetings, and continue efforts to build up a similar group of citizens interested in the Kenai area issues. I have a considerable group of followers on Facebook and will be “reaching out” to them and others for this kind of input and hopefully involvement.
McIntosh: Resident and business community councils formed and run by the residents and businesses themselves not by bureaucrats and politicians. These community councils would be sanctioned by law.
More public friendly meetings. If citizens want to address an issue before the council they should be able to in the context of the discussion, not at totally irrelevant times.
More use of technology to inform and interact with public. Use of ilegislate and ecomments would improve operation of the council and commissions and allow citizen input to specific agenda items right up to the time of the meetings, from their computer at home.
Pettey: I would improve community involvement through public awareness for the opportunities which are currently available. The City Council holds two scheduled public meetings monthly, which are advertised in the Peninsula Clarion. These meetings are an opportunity for citizens to visit and discuss issues and concerns with the City Council members. The Kenai City website has listed for each council member the phone number, address, and email contact. I am sure all council members would welcome and appreciate a phone call or email to visit with fellow citizens on ideas to make Kenai the best it can be!
4. What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Kenai in the next three years?
Floyd: The City cannot continue holding its breath hoping for another petroleum-based economic boom. If the boom happens great! In the meantime, residents and businesses are economically vulnerable, and now is not the time for new taxes, user fees, or big-city style ordinance-based social controls and fines. The City must resolve to define its identity. Is Kenai a place people want to invest, put down roots, raise a family, and experience freedom from an overreaching bureaucracy; or is Kenai an oligarchical wasteland of box-stores, land speculators and big business control? Is, “Big Marijuana,” the future we hope to be our economic salvation? Or, is Kenai a wholesome, All-American city where everyone has equal access, protection, responsibility and opportunity to make something great of themselves, their neighborhood and city? This question of who we are will define and haunt us until we unite as neighbors around a common identity and goal.
Glendening: Our biggest challenge is to maintain quality services in the face of the declining oil/gas and state revenue. We must continue to support these industries and at the same time begin look at Kenai’s assets and use them to expand other economic development. Commercial fishing and sports fishing are very important to Kenai, and support needs to be given to these industries too. Medical facilities are expanding into Kenai, and small businesses have begun to appear throughout town. Encouraging shopping local needs to be a theme all our citizens should embrace. The bluff stabilization project is finally close to approval. It will bring a renewed interest in development that overlooks our biggest attraction, the mouth of the Kenai River. Our airport is also a jewel for Kenai. It has a tremendous opportunity for growth, and can help to bring investment that will bring new jobs to Kenai.
Hutchison: Developing the small business community; finding out what they need to continue operating in the Kenai city, and how the residents can be better served. The issue of the price of oil will continue to be an issue as there are numerous business enterprises that service those endeavors and we need to help all we can to keep them all working and paying employees.
McIntosh: Maintaining stable budget and tax rate. We need to keep the bureaucrats and politicians from messing up the city’s finances like the state has. A tax/spending cap that is set and changed by the voters would put control of the finances in the hands of the residents.
Upkeep of infrastructure and services in light of state budget constraints. This would include the waste water treatment plant and roads. We should not start new pie in the sky projects.
Involving residents in city policy and decision making. This would require keeping the public informed and allowing feedback from the public early in the process. We now have the technology to do this effectively and efficiently, and in a cost effective manner.
Term limits would also make it more difficult for special interests to gain and maintain control of the council and commissions.
Pettey: I see bluff stabilization as a major issue facing Kenai. The City of Kenai is partnering with the Army Corps of Engineers to solve the bluff stabilization issue. Much work and many studies have been invested into this project. I would keep this bluff stabilization project on the front burner so the project can be fully funded, moving forward and coming to completion.
5. How can voters contact you?
Floyd: I can be contacted directly by phone at 907-831-6003 or in person Monday through Friday at my business, the Ammo-Can Coffee shop in the Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna.
Glendening: With my new interest in social media, I am very accessible. Voters can Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or find me on Facebook. I’m also available by phone: 907-741-2883 I look forward to hearing from you!
Hutchison: Most effective is email: email@example.com; or else, cell phone at 252-7442. Call anytime – there is the possibility I will not pick up in the middle of the night, unless you are calling from Benghazi.
McIntosh: Bobforkenai.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, 907-953-7335
Pettey: My contact information is 252-4170 and email: email@example.com. I welcome your feedback and look forward to hearing from you. So, as election day quickly approaches, let me encourage you to fulfill your American patriotic duty! Take pride in your lovely home town! Take action! Vote! Tuesday Oct. 4th!