Name: Kenny Solomon-Gross
Date and place of birth: Chicago, Jan. 10, 1963
Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: Moved to Juneau at age 17 for eight years before leaving and returning in 2008 to join the family business.
Education: High school diploma, certificates in management, training, crisis management.
Occupation: Vice president of operations for Gross-Alaska Inc.
Family: Married with three children
Community service: Currently serving on the Bartlett Foundation board, CBJ Board of Equalization, Vice President of the Downtown Business Association, President of Glacier Valley Rotary club.
Other experience: Extensive experience in training/mentoring young people entering the workforce, and in crisis management. My position on the executive committee of the Bartlett Regional Hospital Board has expanded my CBJ procedural experience. That position and being a business owner gives me experience in analyzing budgets and making essential fiscal decisions.
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 CBJ must carefully manage its reserves to carry us through the changes in state revenue sharing and school debt reimbursement challenges. I do believe that utilizing the bonding capacity of the CBJ to develop needed infrastructure projects to stimulate economic activity is appropriate. However, it is
important to balance the economic impact on taxpayers during these difficult times while building and maintaining Juneau’s infrastructure, such as school roof repairs.
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?
The recommendations of CBJ’s Visitor Industry Task Force should serve as the starting point for managing tourism going forward. Managing the impact on the community is important, but tourism is an essential part of Juneau’s economy. Like our mining industry, tourism is a significant contributor to our economy and the CBJ budget; tourism is more than 20% of CBJ revenue. We need to protect and grow both responsibly. Diversifying our economy continues to be an ongoing effort. Supporting expansion of business with appropriate incentives and regulations that promote growth of the seafood industry, remote workers and light manufacturing is important.
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?
CBJ must invest in local, advanced rapid testing equipment to support critical groups of people that are important to the economy, mine employees, state legislature, fishing, state employees, UAS and the visitor industry. In addition, reopening our schools is important and will require effective rapid testing. Strong economies revolve around strong university systems. We need to do everything we can to protect and grow UAS. We need to continue a strong safety protocol, including mask mandate, hand washing and social distancing until the pandemic is under control. Masks should not be politicized.
4. What can the Assembly do to help alleviate the critical shortage of childcare options for Juneau families?
The assembly should push for change to state and local regulations and ordinances that impede the opening of daycare centers to meet the needs of parents during the pandemic and beyond. The importance of available daycare for school age children is critical for the community. 700-1,000 children are impacted by the lack of daycare for working parents while the schools are closed. As an example, a local daycare in Douglas has been denied a permit for operation only because of permitting issues that should have been solved by granting a variance.
5. What is the most important community need the Assembly must address?
The community has faced an unprecedented amount of uncertainty in recent months. The assembly must listen to the community’s concerns and lead Juneau forward without being driven by fear. The CBJ’s budget has been hugely impacted by COVID and must be a top assignment for the assembly. Sales tax has been reduced by over 20% because of COVID. CBJ needs to meet community needs without raising property taxes.
We need to have a more objective response, driven by the assembly, to systematic racism. I would like to see the assembly hire an outside, independent, auditor to review all ordinances and policies for systemic racism to give us a solid base to move forward.
6. What is the most significant Assembly accomplishment in the last year?
The pandemic demanded that the assembly conduct all of their meetings virtually which has allowed and encouraged more public participation in the business of local government. The mayor’s economic stabilization task force has been a driving force in finding solutions to move the economy toward recovery.
• These questions were developed by the League of Women Voters. Candidates supplied the biographical information.