Name: Alicia Hughes-Skandijs
Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: 16 years
Education: I homeschooled after third grade and obtained my GED in West Virginia before moving to Juneau to attend University of Alaska Southeast, where I took a Bachelor of Science in Mathematics.
Occupation: I’m a grants administrator in the Department of Health and Social Services.
Family: I’m lucky to have my mother, brother and sister here in Juneau with me.
Community service: I have previously served on the boards of the League of Women Voters and the Alaska Folk Festival. I’m a current member of the Juneau chapter of 100+ Women Who Care.
Other experience: I have worked successfully as an assembly member for nearly two years. The pandemic has been an intense challenge, but over the course of numerous emergency meetings I have gained unique insight and experience as we continue to address COVID-19.
Assembly Candidates’ Questions
1. How should CBJ respond to the Governor’s budget cuts? Are GO bonds a legitimate tool to stimulate economic activity in this environment?
The City should not expect a change anytime soon. We should consider ourselves on our own and act accordingly for needs like school maintenance (one of the reasons I support Proposition 2). We will need to determine as a community which services we value most and are willing to pay for. GO Bonds are widely recognized to be a valid method of lessening the impact of a recession. These are funds that will go to local workers and remain in the community, causing a multiplier effect. The items in the proposed Bond package will benefit the community, and while we are taking on more debt if it passes, we are currently well positioned to do so.
2. COVID-19 has caused disruption to tourism, including the cruise ship industry. What lessons learned during this time can the Assembly address and work on once we are in the the new normal?
We knew prior to the disruption that a well diversified economy is something to strive towards but I think the lack of the ships this summer has driven home just how important that is. Businesses who were preparing for their biggest season yet were left holding the bag through no fault of their own. While tourism will always be an important part of our economy, I think a lesson that we can take into planning for the future is that it’s crucial to foster industries that are less dependent on our seasonal visitors. Our relationships with neighboring communities have been strengthened during this time and I think there’s an opportunity for mutual planning in future tourism seasons.
3. What can the Assembly do to help lessen the economic impacts of COVID-19 on the Juneau community and move Juneau forward in economic recovery?
The Economic Stabilization Task Force has put a lot of work into this question, and we’ve been fortunate to receive a large portion of the CARES Act money. We’ve developed a couple of paths to put this money into the community via business grants, loans, and rental assistance and developing new short term jobs to employ workers. Going forward it will be important to balance factors that promote growth like childcare, housing, and career opportunities without drastically increasing the cost of living. The proposed bonds are an example of ways we can move forward with infrastructure investment and economic recovery by sharing the cost.
4. What can the Assembly do to help alleviate the critical shortage of child care options for Juneau families?
We adopted the Childcare Task Force’s recommendations in this year’s budget. This has created a program that will make the business plan better pencil out for providers and aims to increase the available labor pool by making better wages possible for child care workers and incentivizing increased training and professional development. This will decrease turnover and enable providers to retain staff and potentially expand their offerings. I’m excited and optimistic to see how much if any that budges the needle on our current imbalance between demand and availability.
5. What is the most important community need the Assembly must address?
Our growing unsheltered population has come up in a lot of discussions and is not something the city has taken ownership of the way I’d like us to. We’re failing those members of our community experiencing homelessness right now, who people frequently forget are members of our town and who are vulnerable in ways that are often overlooked. We’re failing the businesses in the downtown core when we don’t make any material change, because we force them to clean up the refuse and waste left after their storefront has provided shelter for the night. We’re failing the first responders who spend a lot of time responding to wellness calls and acting as a shuttle. It’s time to tackle this.
6. What is the most significant Assembly accomplishment in the last year?
I think our most significant accomplishment was our response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We worked closely with Public Health early on to gain an understanding of the science and we took practical policy steps to keep the community safe and healthy. We spent a lot of hours hammering out the details and, thanks to the community and the city staff, so far our results have been great. From sensible restrictions for travelers arriving in our isolated community to the Hunker Down to the mask ordinance, we tried to balance what was necessary for public safety while minimizing the effects felt by businesses and individuals — which we did by keeping the mill rate flat and issuing grants for businesses and nonprofits.
• These questions were developed by the League of Women Voters. Candidate’s supplied the biographical information.