Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake . (Courtesy photo/Barbara Blake)

Get to know a candidate: Barbara Blake

She’s running for the District 1 City and Borough of Juneau Assembly seat.

Ahead of the Oct. 5 municipal election, the Empire is also partnering with the League of Women Voters, a nonpartisan organization that does not endorse parties nor candidates. Candidate bios and answers to six questions that the league developed will appear online as well as in editions of the Empire. School board candidates Thomas Buzard and Wiljordon V. Sangster did not respond to multiple messages seeking responses to the league’s questionnaire. In cooperation with the Empire and KTOO, the League will hold a virtual candidate forum at 7 p.m. on Sept. 8. This biography and questionnaire is for City and Borough of Juneau Assembly candidate Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake.

• Name: Barbara ‘Wáahlaal Gíidaak Blake

• Place of birth: Anchorage, AK

• Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: Lifelong Alaskan; have lived in Dzantik’i Heeni (currently known as Juneau) for over 10 years

• Education: MA in Rural Development (thesis on fisheries development in rural Alaska), BA in Rural Economic Development and AA in Tribal Management all from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Certificates: Stanford University, First Nations Futures; Seattle University, Tribal Business Law; Onaben, Indianpreneurship.

• Occupation: Director of the Alaska Native Policy Center with First Alaskans Institute

• Family: Of Haida, Tlingit and Ahtna Athabascan descent and belongs to the Káat nay-st/Yahkw Jáanaas (Shark House/Middle Town People) Clan; daughter of Sandra Demmert (Yahkw Jáanaas) and Kenneth Johnson (Naltsiina), granddaughter of Frances Demmert Peele (Yahkw Jáanaas) & Franklin Demmert, Sr. (L’eeneidi), Irene Johnson (Naltsiina) & Walter Johnson (Norwegian), mother of Nathaniel & Cedar, and Fiancé of Brian Fell.

• Community service: Board member of Sealaska Corporation; member of the Woosh.ji.een Dancers, Xaadaas Dagwii Dancers, Alaska Native Sisterhood, Polynesian Voyage Society, and the Heinyaa Kwaan Dancers. Former board member Progress Alaska and Defend Alaska. Obama Organizing Fellow and campaign volunteer for Robert Edwardson, Byron Mallott, Bill Walker, and Mark Begich.

• Other experience: Formerly served as Director of Native Relations and fish/game staffer for Governor Bill Walker and Lt. Governor Byron Mallott; legislative staffer for Speaker Bryce Edgmon and Senator Albert Kookesh; government affairs liaison for the Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska; technical assistant specialist for the Intertribal Agriculture Council; program assistant in the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Office of Tribal Relations; and assistant professor at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

[Blake’s entry means race is on for open Assembly seat]

Assembly Candidates’ Questions

• In the long term, how would you develop Juneau’s economy if elected?

As a member of the Juneau Assembly, I would work to support, enhance, and promote local businesses. I would support partnerships between the City and organizations that foster economic growth and support new businesses, such as Spruce Root and the Southeast Sustainable Partnership. I would work to continue to support entrepreneurs and develop policies that support small business owners, including those working in cottage industries or other home-based businesses. In addition, as a hub community, I believe Juneau should continue to enhance and develop sustainable and local food sources, and enhance food security throughout Southeast Alaska.

• What strategies would you advocate/undertake to be sure Juneau has sufficient renewable power to meet our goal of being 80% renewable by 2040?

I support the electrification of our public transportation systems in Juneau. This could include tour buses, city buses, and even ferries or other forms of transport. Such changes could enhance the justification for a second dam as it relates to dock electrification and energy for Juneau and beyond. Dock electrification would also reduce the emissions by cruise ships that have to leave their engines running while sitting in our waters.

• What more can we do to make ours a more sustainable community, in particular assuring the health and success of locally owned businesses?

As stated above, I believe Juneau should continue to enhance and develop sustainable and local food sources to enhance food security. I also believe that the City should invest in pro-actively addressing its waste problem, possibly by offering a subsidized compost option for individuals and families in Juneau. In addition, I would like to investigate possible tax incentives for local businesses and business owners to attract and maintain local businesses in Juneau. I would also request a robust review of our city ordnances to ensure they are not putting undue requirements that make starting and owning a small business in Juneau cost prohibitive.

• How would you respond to pressure to continue to increase cruise ship passengers while striving for a livable community for Juneau’s residents?

Juneau is an incredible tourist destination. Visitors from all over the world come to Alaska to breathe our clean air; view our mountains, glaciers, and wildlife; and to experience a different way of life. I think there is room to discuss the impact these visitors are having to Juneau’s traffic, environment, and the Alaska Native culture. That being said, the pandemic has been hard for those businesses that thrive on the tourism industry and we need to wait for these conversations until after we’re sure they are economically sound. I believe it’s important to develop Juneau to attract more overnight visitors and focus on revitalizing Juneau’s economy by doing what it can to support local businesses for the rest of this difficult season to make sure those businesses are still standing in the future.

• What strategies do you recommend the CBJ undertake to support the availability of affordable housing for Juneauites of all ages?

Affordable housing is a significant barrier that prevents many young families and individuals from staying in Juneau long-term. I believe the City should strive to create partnerships and identify possible solutions alongside the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Regional Housing Authority and other organizations. I also believe there may be places where City code may inhibit affordable construction and opportunity to rent. I’d like to examine these barriers and discuss whether the loosening of certain restrictions could be appropriate to open up more housing opportunities in this community.

• What issue/perspective do you have that is likely different from other candidates?

I’m a mother and proud Alaska Native woman. I believe I can offer a different perspective from other candidates based on my life experience and my extensive work history at the federal, state, tribal, and community levels. I have experience building partnerships and fostering relationships that could be of benefit to the City and the Juneau community at large.

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