David Morris: Assembly District 2 Candidate
Bio shared by candidate: “I worked in the USCG for 4 years after high school, was Hired by the Alaska Marine Highway 1981 served in many capacities, Deck, Engine, Purser, PSWIC, chief cook. I like to be involved in helping others and to my lifelong dedication to public service. Lived in king cove with wife Cindy who is a SPED teacher. While there l did whatever was needed in the Community. And commercial gillnet and Halibut fish. I have many talents which I use to help others.”
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you want to be a member of the Juneau Assembly?
I’ve lived here for 43 years. I’ve been wanting to join the Assembly and be part of the government for a while, but my jobs and other things prevented me from doing so. I’m retired now — I used to work at the pools teaching swimming and as a lifeguard — and I think it’s my time to give back to the community.
I have a good idea on how things should run, and I’m just ready to jump in and help the people of Juneau with the things that they need.
Describe your knowledge and involvement with Juneau’s municipal government and what you think the strengths and weaknesses of it are based on those experiences
I go to meetings, Assembly meetings and stuff. I’ve never actually been in the government here. I go in person and online, I’ve been to four (in-person meetings) in the last year.
In terms of strengths and weaknesses, one of the big weaknesses in the government that I see and I hear from talking to a lot of people is that building permits hit this one spot, and they seem to stop there and they don’t get through. So we need to figure out what that pinch point is and figure out how to fix it.
The government does good for the most part, but they spend way too much time doing things behind closed doors and in the executive sessions. There’s only a few times that you need to be in an executive session and they use it as an excuse to not talk to the public.
The city manager, the one they just had, they didn’t need to do it in an executive session. They knew who was running, but then they said, “No, we don’t want you to know any of this information.” Everybody should know who their city manager is. I don’t think that’s how the government should run.
Are you against, or in favor of the proposal for a new City Hall? What are your thoughts on the decision by the Assembly to both put it on the ballot again after it failed, and to fund an advocacy initiative?
I went to Rorie’s Chamber of Commerce talk, and before I was like, “No,” but I think the best thing to do if they’re going to do (a new) City Hall would be to tear down on the spot that they’re in and build a new one. That would be the best way to handle that situation, not repair what you really can’t fix.
As for the new place, there’d be more parking, and what I like is everything would be in the same spot. This way you could walk in and all of it would be right there, so I think it’s a good idea to have it all in one spot.
But there’s a couple other interesting places like behind Home Depot, in that big lot, they can do something there too. So there’s more options, but I’d be really interested in discussing that with the parties involved. Right now I’m not sure — I’m more in favor now than I was — but I’m still getting some more information. I haven’t made a decision yet.
What is your assessment of how much the city taxes its residents versus the amount of public services it provides to them? Specifically outline what adjustment in each of those areas you’d advocate to change as a member of the Assembly.
Everybody is upset about the taxes. I think it’s high and there are ways they can bring the taxes down by opening up what they already have in their charter — like the land lotteries and things like that. They would sell the land so that they could bring the taxes down because there’d be more of it, and also available housing for the people and everybody else.
If I’m on the Assembly I might be able to work on that. I think all the public services need to be funded at least at current levels and maybe more depending on what needs to happen, and there’s other ways to get money without raising taxes. You just got to think outside the box a little bit. Things like the land lotteries and I’ve looked at a couple others, but I’m not ready to divulge that at this point.
How can the Assembly better balance the growing cruise ship tourism industry’s impact on the quality-of-life of residents, specifically regarding affordable housing, environmental impact and overall cost of living?
I believe the cruise ships are a valuable asset to our community. But, there is a point at which it becomes a quality-of-life issue for the people that live here and I think we’re just about to that point where you can’t hardly do anything in the summer because you can’t go anywhere you used to be able to go on the water.
You got almost 40 whale watching boats, no matter where you go, you’re getting waked constantly on both sides, I mean, and then you can’t go anywhere on dry land. That brings up another point that the fire and rescue, and everything else, they can’t get through all that traffic. There needs to be lanes where they’re just fire and emergency vehicles because it’s becoming a real problem. Yeah, construction. New construction.
The cruise ships they’re probably just about at their max right now. People go “well, it’s only five ships,” but it used to be five ships that carried half the number of passengers the ones do today.
So they have to look at the number of people and not ships that come off of those ships, which is much more than it was 15 years ago, 10 years ago. I think there needs to be a limit on the amount of people that come off them.
You don’t have to build low-end housing. That’s what everybody’s going, “oh, you got to have low-end housing.” I say if you build higher-end housing, the people in the middle grade are ready to move up, they’ll move into those people from the lower housing will move over, that’ll open up low-income housing, again. It’s a shifting thing.
You could build huge houses, or you could build smaller houses, but there’s always going to be that shift in there. So I think that would generate a lot in the economy, too, then you could lower taxes by doing that, because it’d be more people that you could tax.
Are there any substantial matters that we didn’t get around to talking about that you think is pertinent to discuss?
The transparency of the current administration, I’ve heard that from just about everybody that I’ve talked to. They said, “they’re doing it behind our backs and in the corner, you know in the executive sessions.” Everybody’s really upset about that. They want transparency. They want the landfill fixed and they want their taxes fixed. I want the same thing.
That’s the reason why I jumped in, I think I can work on a lot of these subjects. I’ve been here 43 years, it’s my turn in the box, I guess you would say, and I’m happy to do it. I know a lot of history, and I know a lot of the area and I know a lot of people. If I run into something I don’t understand, I know who to talk to get the right answer.
If you’re working on a situation, you got to get both sides of the issue. I can get the information together and I can make a good decision.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651) 528-1807.