Name: Derek R. Dzinich
Date and place of birth: Dec. 5, 1997, Juneau
Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: 22 years
Education: Juneau-Douglas High School; Elon University (North Carolina): Bachelor of Arts, Cum Laude (majors: Political Science, International Studies — minors: Spanish, peace/conflict studies, leadership studies)
Occupation: Civil Clerk, Juneau Trial Court
Community service: I have served as the student body president of Juneau-Douglas High School, and also spent one year as a student representative to the School Board.
Other experience: I am multi-lingual, and have a minor in Spanish language/literature. Prior to my current position, I worked at Auke Bay Labs for five years as a seasonal lab technician. I am also a classically trained pianist.
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?
I support general obligation bonds as an effective measure to combat the negative impacts of shortages in municipal funding created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the sparse economic climate at the state level, the burden of ensuring the provision of quality public services has fallen increasingly more on the shoulders of communities and municipal governments. As far as methods for raising funds for community projects go, I believe that the Assembly’s ballot measure will be effective in stimulating the local economy, and I plan to vote for it.
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 new normal?
Juneau’s economy is heavily dependent on the cruise ship industry for annual revenue. The ongoing pandemic, and resulting suspension of large cruises, highlights the community’s dependence on this source of revenue. Additionally, over the past several years Juneau has seen tremendous growth in the amount of cruise ship passengers we receive, which has resulted in certain undesirable repercussions: overcrowding, noise, and environmental impacts. While it is crucial to maintain our tourism infrastructure, Juneau must move toward a diversified economy that is less dependent on a single industry for revenue. The future is full of uncertainties, and by investing in consistent industries such as technology, renewable energy, and fisheries, our city will be able to more independently sustain its local economy.
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?
My approach to the current pandemic can best be described as “safety first.” This means that we need to take the necessary precautions to adequately screen all new arrivals, continue regular testing of the local population, implement swift and comprehensive contact tracing (especially when responding to workplace outbreaks), and bolster our local testing capability so that Juneau residents can get their results faster. Additionally, we all need to do our part to stop the spread of the virus. I support the mandatory wearing of masks in public places where proper ventilation isn’t optimal and social distancing cannot be maintained, and believe that such policies are fully within the purview of local government.
4. What can the Assembly do to help alleviate the critical shortage of child care options for Juneau families?
There’s no question that Juneau faces a crisis regarding affordable childcare. This issue will only become more pronounced as we transition to online learning. Juggling work and childcare is extremely difficult, and we must come up with alternatives to provide struggling parents with childcare alternatives. I support the Assembly’s decision, made in May, to provide extra funding for local childcare providers. This extra assistance is crucial during the ongoing pandemic, and we must continue to support local parents throughout this period. If elected, I will advocate for extending the Assembly’s support of local childcare providers even after we recover from the current pandemic.
5. What is the most important community need the Assembly must address?
The circumstances caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are obviously dire, and addressing the health and safety of the community is of the utmost importance. That being said, times of upheaval and change are often the most opportune moments to take action and foster long-term change. Regardless of the pandemic, Juneau is faced with a need to diversify its local economy. This means supporting the growth of our local small businesses while simultaneously offering incentives to bring new investment and business opportunities to Juneau. Part of local economic growth is also dependent on keeping people in town, both old and young, and I believe that the Assembly also has an important role to play in this respect.
6. What is the most significant Assembly accomplishment in the last year?
As a nation, the U.S. is facing considerable challenges. In light of the human losses and economic difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the ongoing national reckoning on racial justice, I feel that the CBJ’s most significant accomplishment is two-fold. First, the Assembly and city government has done a good job of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic in a manner that takes into account Juneau’s unique situation as a semi-isolated community. Generally, I believe that Juneau’s proactive response has yielded significant results, especially when compared with the rest of the country. Second, I believe that the Assembly’s creation of a racism review committee is an important step towards ensuring that our community is truly inclusive of all Juneauites.
• These questions were developed by the League of Women Voters. Candidates supplied the biographical information.