Ivan Nance: Assembly Areadwide Candidate
Occupation: President, Strawberry Mountain LLC
Bio shared by candidate: “I came to Alaska in 1990 in the Coast Guard during the Exxon Valdez oil spill cleanup. I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and medically retired in 1997. l returned to my hometown of Prairie City, Oregon, volunteering in a variety of public service capacities until I moved back to Juneau in 2004. I advocate for improved handicapped access to government facilities, volunteer to assist young people, and am a member of the CBJ Systemic Racism Review Committee.”
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Why do you want to be a member of the Juneau Assembly?
I volunteered and actually had to apply twice to become a member of the (CBJ) Systemic Racism Review Committee. Since I’ve been there I’ve got to see the Assembly and some of the things it does, and it just got me more interested in city government. So I thought, “OK, let’s try the next step.”
I’ve seen sitting on that committee, what I think are some areas where the city government can improve, but I’ve seen some really good people working for the city who know a lot.
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.
Like I said I’ve been on this Systemic Racism Review Committee for a while and I’ve gotten to see some other areas of government. Of course, once a year at tax time I get a big, big reminder of who pays for that.
So it makes me think, what do we get for our taxes? There are a lot of services, a lot of stuff that the city does and it’s got all kinds of things under the umbrella of the city, and I think the city is right on the cusp of being able to really be great, or just good.
I think there’s a lot of things that Juneau has that are valued by businesses that potentially would want to move here. So how do you add value to what we’ve got? I just think the city needs to have more of a customer service orientation. I think, from what I’ve seen, there’s a lot of data, there’s a lot of information that it just kind of sat upon, rather than used constructively.
I’ve been taking a hard look at the budget, there’s just a lot of data, a lot of information. But what I don’t see is something which is a marketing plan. What is our business? What do we do? Who are our customers? And how do we measure our performance? I don’t really see that.
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’m in favor, barely. I think it’s a good business decision. But I’m not 100%. There just hasn’t been positive marketing of other alternatives, and the fact that it was voted down and then immediately put back up, I just don’t like the way that it feels, I think it might have been short-sighted or a mistake.
Not a bad mistake. But it’s just gonna make it tougher. It’ll make people dig in. And it’ll make people say, “hey, wait a minute, we voted on this once.” Something new needs to be there for it to be worth selling again, although I voted for it. And I’ll vote for it again — I think the only way to go forward.
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?
I can’t tell you right now in a completely defensible way.
But, here’s what I think you need to do — CBJ needs to be a customer service organization. It needs to define its products, and define its customers and measure customer satisfaction. As far as my opinion on what does my water cost too much? Do I like the streets? I’ll tell you what I don’t like — being in a wheelchair like I am.
It’s all the cracks and dangerous, bouncy spots there are right out there. There are old people, there are tourists, there are all kinds of people who have to overcome those hazards. So yeah, they need the answer. They need to define and measure the services, and the costs to customers, and know what customers think. I think a lot of people didn’t like this new facilities thing, and they threw up their hands. And the vote was no, and then somehow CBJ decided to make another run at it and spend more money on it. Right. That’s what they did.
If we get new facilities, a new City Hall, there should be some savings in terms of people. How many positions can we get rid of with this more efficient facility?
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?
Let’s say you have a five-ship limit on cruise ships — maybe you add another one for housing and have the city require it of the cruise industry.
When you bring all these ships in here you bring a bunch of employees who have lower wage jobs and they’ve got to live someplace. Well, what if they took one of these cruise ships and dedicated it for housing? I mean, I’m just saying that’s an example. What you’ve got to have is the infrastructure for it to get power and water and sewer. I think you could mandate it.
Now, there’s gonna be a bunch of lawyers and accountants and people that say no — it’s gonna be a discussion. I’m just saying, there’s a possible answer.
I spent a bunch of time over where I live, which is over in West Juneau, going up and down the street. There’s a lot of empty lots. There’s unoccupied housing around, I’m not 100% sure what the numbers are, but it’s not hard to find places for housing. It’s hard to find people who make the money to afford the housing that’s available. I don’t know what to say to fix that. But society is going to have to pay a price.
There’s a lot of billionaires, a lot of people that are really rich, a lot of stock owners are doing well. But there’s a lot of people down at the bottom that are just barely scraping by. It’s society’s duty to figure out how to make it work for everyone so that we don’t have these masses of homeless people.
We could develop some tourism going toward Thane rather than towards the glacier. And we could improve the bus service. Not only in the service it provides, but the energy usage. There’s wind, there’s solar up high, there’s tide.
Are there any substantial matters that we didn’t get around to talking about that you think is pertinent to discuss?
I think most importantly is just to look at the activities of CBJ. to present them to the public in a more understandable, business way. I have gotten the budget, those are big, long, extensive documents, and they will help you go to sleep anytime of the day. Somehow all that information needs to be condensed and prioritized so that people don’t have to dedicate their lives to understanding this stuff.
I think that’s something really important is if you can get people to understand what their taxes provide.
• Contact reporter Clarise Larson at email@example.com or (651) 528-1807.