What others say: Nenana is headed the right direction

  • Tuesday, July 10, 2018 12:06pm
  • Opinion

Being secretive and avoiding accountability in government can lead to public distrust. It can be problematic, too. Anyone holding public office, or considering a run for public office, should take note.

After years of being run by a secretive administration, the city of Nenana is mired in debt and scandal. Now, the current administration is dealing with the consequences and trying to clean up the mess. Nenana Mayor Pro Tem Jessica Shaw is taking the city in the right direction, but there is still a lot of work to be done. Mayor Shaw was appointed in April, after Mayor Jason Mayrand resigned. Mayrand had been mayor nearly 16 years.

In a June Nenana City Assembly meeting, Mayor Shaw outlined the city’s debts – totaling more than $755,000 — to public and private entities. She has also been up front about the possibility of Nenana’s power being shut off by Golden Valley Electric Association, which would result in the water and sewage systems also shutting down.

Copies of the fiscal 2019 budget are supposed to be ready and available to the public this week.

And, as painful as it was to close a library to save money, the city has more important obligations to worry about.

Although the reality of the situation is ugly, it’s good Mayor Shaw is being open about Nenana’s dire situation.

City officials could still do more to keep residents in the loop. During the same meeting, Nenana resident Adam White requested City Assembly agendas and documents be made available in advance of each meeting so people could be informed about what is happening at meetings. Mr. White’s request is reasonable, and Nenana should follow through. It is standard practice for municipal governments to make agendas and meeting packets available to anyone who wants them prior to a meeting. The people of Nenana should be able to know in advance about the business their elected officials are conducting at public meetings.

Another resident’s comment highlighted the need for residents to have their questions answered. Darcia Grace said she had questions about the city leasing the cultural center, but her phone calls have not been answered.

“… a lot of times no one’s answering. If you guys answered questions at these meetings, there wouldn’t be so much rumor and gossip,” Ms. Grace said.

Assemblyman Joshua Verhagen defended Mayor Shaw, saying there are too many questions for her to answer and oftentimes she does not have a good enough answer. It’s likely that she is simply overwhelmed. After all, Mayor Shaw is hoping to hire more administrative staff.

“The current setup is unrealistic. I live it daily. It’s a disaster,” she said about the staffing situation.

Nenana officials should implement a better method for answering the public’s questions. Whether that is altering the order of City Assembly meeting agendas by ordinance, a series of town hall meetings or some other method — the public deserves answers.

—Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, July 1, 2018

More in Opinion

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Session ends with budget, dividend and bills passed

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

The Alaska State Capitol. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Listen to PAs; support Senate Bill 115: Modernizing PA Practice in Alaska

Health care is rapidly evolving, demanding a more flexible and responsive system

Mount Redoubt can be seen across Cook Inlet from North Kenai Beach on Thursday, July 2, 2022. (Erin Thompson/Peninsula Clarion file photo)
Opinion: Hilcorp Alaska: Powering Southcentral Alaska — past, present and future

Hilcorp Alaska has and will continue to fully develop our Cook Inlet basin leasehold

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, a Nikiski Republican, speaks in favor of overriding a veto of Senate Bill 140 during floor debate of a joint session of the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 18, 2024 (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Sen. Jesse Bjorkman: Collegiality matters

Capitol Corner: Legislators report back from Juneau

Juneau Empire file photo
Larry Persily.
Opinion: Alaska might as well embrace the past

The governor, legislators, municipal officials and business leaders are worried that the Railbelt will run short of natural gas before the end of the decade

The Alaska State Capitol on March 1. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Opinion: Physicians oppose Alaska Senate Bill 115 — Independent Practice for PAs

Alaskans don’t want access to just any health care, they want access to high quality care

Norm McDonald is the deputy director of Fire Protection for the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection. (Photo courtesy Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service)
The Swan Lake Fire can be seen from above on Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Alaska Wildland Fire Information)
Opinion: This wildfire prevention month, reflect on ways to protect each other and our communities from wildfire

Alaskans saw what happened in Canada last year, and they know it can happen here too

Jason Sodergren and retired veterinarian Ralph Broshes capture and attend to crane shot with an arrow, July 9, 2023, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo provided by Nina Faust)
What happened to the ‘Arrowshot Crane’?

In many animal rescues, the outcome is fairly quickly known, but the… Continue reading

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski addresses the Alaska State Legislature on Feb. 22, 2023. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: Set ANWR aside and President Biden is pro-Alaska

Could it be that President Biden is more pro-Alaska than Donald Trump?