Legislative candidates answer questions during a forum sponsored by the Juneau Empire, along with the League of Women Voters of Juneau, Juneau Votes! and KTOO at KTOO on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. From left: Senate District Q candidates Don Etheridge and Jesse Kiehl, House District 33 candidates Chris Dimond and Sara Hannan and House District 34 candidates Jerry Nankervis and Andi Story. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Legislative candidates answer questions during a forum sponsored by the Juneau Empire, along with the League of Women Voters of Juneau, Juneau Votes! and KTOO at KTOO on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. From left: Senate District Q candidates Don Etheridge and Jesse Kiehl, House District 33 candidates Chris Dimond and Sara Hannan and House District 34 candidates Jerry Nankervis and Andi Story. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Issues of childcare, senior care stand out at legislative forum

Legislative hopefuls examine childcare regulations, retirement benefits

During Tuesday’s forum with Juneau’s legislative candidates, the candidates spoke in particular about Alaska’s youngest and oldest residents.

Issues of daycare, education funding and services for retirees came up repeatedly throughout the forum, which was put on by the League of Women Voters of Juneau, Juneau Votes!, the Empire and KTOO.

Empire state reporter James Brooks moderated the forum at the KTOO building, and asked the six candidates what they thought were the most essential services the state provides. All of them mentioned education as one of the state’s most valuable services.

Multiple candidates said that from talking with people around town, they’ve heard that the state’s regulations have been too strict for some local childcare providers.

Both candidates in the District 34 race, Republican Jerry Nankervis and Democrat Andi Story, agreed that it’s important to closely examine the state’s regulations when it comes to early childhood care. Story — a 15-year member of the Juneau Board of Education who attended her final meeting as a board member just before Tuesday’s forum — also said childcare workers need to have competitive wages.

District 33 Democratic candidate Sara Hannan, a former teacher in the Juneau School District, said multiple times that the state needs to start early in an attempt to better prepare children for school.

“I want the state to have a state-operated preschool program,” Hannan said. “Not mandatory, but I want 3-year-olds and 4-year-olds who currently arrive as kindergartners and first-graders without the skills to succeed to have the opportunity to get them if they don’t come from a home that can.”

District 33 independent candidate Chris Dimond said he’d like to see the state pursue more grants for education as well.

Senate District Q independent candidate Don Etheridge said twice that the state can’t forget about vocational training as well as more traditional education. Democratic Senate District Q candidate Jesse Kiehl and Nankervis both said it’s vital to produce Alaska-grown teachers through the University of Alaska’s College of Education.

After talking about how best to get Alaskans started in life, the candidates moved on to talk about how best to make sure Alaskans’ later stage of life goes well.

Alaska’s population is getting increasingly older, and Etheridge and Dimond both said retirees deserve credit for the work they’ve done to build the young state. Dimond said people in the workforce should shoulder more of the burden than those who are on fixed incomes.

“(Retirees) should have a reduced tax system in the state,” Dimond said. “The infrastructure we’re all utilizing should not fall on those that have charted a path in this state and paid for the services we grew up on. It’s now our turn to take care of those services on ourselves and not depend on retirees to be paying out of their limited incomes to fund services for us, who are capable and able to work.”

Providing better retirement benefits can pay off on multiple levels, many of the candidates agreed. Better retirement benefits can encourage people to come to Alaska and stay, multiple people said, and they especially talked about benefits for police officers. Police chiefs, including Juneau Police Department Chief Ed Mercer, have said the state’s poor retirement packages are a key reason why departments have had a hard time recruiting and retaining officers. All of the candidates said they would make competitive retirement packages a priority.

The hour-and-a-half forum was wide-ranging in its topics and covered everything from oil tax philosophies, budgetary priorities, how the state could respond if Roe v. Wade were overturned and more. You can find it archived on JuneauEmpire.com and the Empire’s and KTOO’s Facebook pages.


• Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at @akmccarthy.


Legislative candidates answer questions during a forum sponsored by the Juneau Empire, along with the League of Women Voters of Juneau, Juneau Votes! and KTOO at KTOO on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. From left: Senate District Q candidates Don Etheridge and Jesse Kiehl, House District 33 candidates Chris Dimond and Sara Hannan and House District 34 candidates Jerry Nankervis and Andi Story. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

Legislative candidates answer questions during a forum sponsored by the Juneau Empire, along with the League of Women Voters of Juneau, Juneau Votes! and KTOO at KTOO on Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018. From left: Senate District Q candidates Don Etheridge and Jesse Kiehl, House District 33 candidates Chris Dimond and Sara Hannan and House District 34 candidates Jerry Nankervis and Andi Story. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire)

More in News

Even as coronavirus numbers are going down and vaccines are being distributed, pandemic-related facilities like the testing site at Juneau International Airport, seen here in this Oct. 12 file photo, are scheduled to remain for some time, according to city health officials. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire file)
Vaccines are coming, but pandemic facilities will remain

Testing sites and other COVID-19 operations will continue, officials say, but infections are trending down.

After violent protesters loyal to President Donald Trump stormed the U.S. Capitol today, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, left, and Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., join other senators as they return to the House chamber to continue the joint session of the House and Senate and count the Electoral College votes cast in November's election, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
Murkowski on impeachment: ‘I will listen carefully’ to both sides

As for timing, the senator said, “our priority this week must be to ensure safety in Washington, D.C.”

Has it always been a police car. (Michael Penn / Juneau Empire)
Police calls for Sunday, Jan. 17, 2021

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

Juneau City Hall. The City and Borough of Juneau has distributed nearly $5 million in household and individual assistance grants since October. (Peter Segall / Juneau Empire)
All housing and most personal assistance grants processed

About $5 million in aid is flowing to households and individuals in Juneau.

A child plays at Capital School Park. The park is in line for a remodel that will fix the crumbling retaining wall, visible in the background. (Dana Zigmund / Juneau Empire)
A new life is in store for Capital School Park

Public input is helping craft a vision for the park’s voter-approved facelift.

White House, tribes joined to deliver Alaska Native vaccines

The initiative has treated Indigenous tribes as sovereign governments and set aside special vaccine shipments.

Expected heavy snow and high winds Thursday evening prompted Alaska’s Department of Transportation and Public Facilities to issue a warning of increased avalanche hazard along Thane Road. (File photo)
Avalanche risk increasing along Thane Road

Be careful and plan for the possibility of an extended road closure.

This 2020 electron microscope image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases - Rocky Mountain Laboratories shows SARS-CoV-2 virus particles which causes COVID-19, isolated from a patient in the U.S., emerging from the surface of cells cultured in a lab. On Monday, Oct. 5, 2020, the top U.S. public health agency said that coronavirus can spread greater distances through the air than 6 feet, particularly in poorly ventilated and enclosed spaces. But agency officials continued to say such spread is uncommon, and current social distancing guidelines still make sense. (NIAID-RML via AP)
COVID at a glance for Friday, Jan. 8

The most recent state and local numbers.

Most Read