Empire Editorial: On Election Day, these candidates deserve your vote

  • Sunday, October 4, 2015 1:03am
  • Opinion

It was just a few weeks ago when this newspaper made a plea for Juneauites to step forward and run for municipal office. In case you haven’t attended one of the nearly half-dozen debates and forums hosted in recent weeks, a proud few accepted the call. Thank you for running.

We’ve been able to get to know these candidates for Assembly, school board and mayor well from their written responses to candidate questionnaires to their appearances at public forums. We’ve listened to them answer every relevant question one could think to ask, and through it all have learned where candidates differ from their opponents on issues and where they agree. Still, these endorsements are difficult for us to make.

Each candidate obviously cares about making Juneau a better place to live and work, and we thank them for making personal sacrifices by attending public events, knocking on doors and everything else that entails running for public office. It’s a thankless job to serve in public office, and even more so to run. Our hats are off to each and every one of them.

Fisk for Mayor

Juneau couldn’t ask for two better candidates competing for mayor, and we’d be happy with either candidate being elected. For this endorsement, however, we favor Greg Fisk. Fisk’s involvement with Juneau has primed him for this seat. We knew about Fisk before his candidacy for mayor, back when he first pushed the idea for a downtown circulator, then when he helped bring together a consortium of residents to provide a solution when Alaskan & Proud announced it was closing, and again when he made a push to relocate 175 NOAA jobs to Juneau. His public service and board experience runs deep, with time spent on the CBJ Docks and Harbors board to the Juneau Economic Development Council board, among others.

Fisk is 100 percent committed to growing Juneau’s economy, and he brings with him fresh, new ideas to do just that. Our endorsement of Fisk is in no way a slight to current Mayor Merrill Sanford, who has served the city well since 2002 as an Assembly member and then mayor. Sanford is a Juneau as they come, and we have no doubt of his love and inside knowledge of the city. But if reelecting Sanford for another term means missing out on what Fisk offers, we don’t believe the city can afford to let Fisk go. Juneau needs economic growth and diversity more than ever, and Fisk is the strongest choice to see that happen by galvanizing others toward a common cause. Sanford has done well in helping Juneau prepare for the state’s budget storm; now it needs someone like Fisk to find growth wherever possible to act as an umbrella for what happens next.

Jones for Assembly District 1

Without an opponent, Loren Jones is destined for another term on the Assembly. And that’s fine by us — he’d likely have won again anyway. Jones will continue to play a key role in the Assembly as state and municipal marijuana laws come into play. As a member of the state Marijuana Control Board, he has insider knowledge that will help Juneau navigate a budding industry the right way. There are many pot holes the city could fall into if retail marijuana sales isn’t done right. We trust Jones to help navigate the Assembly in a way that ensures the city remains in compliance with state laws while minimizing the nuisance of pot shops on residents.

Nankervis for Assembly District 2

Jerry Nankervis is a no-nonsense, straight-shooting pragmatist — and that’s precisely why he’s getting our endorsement. The Assembly needs someone like Nankervis to keep it grounded in reality. He also doesn’t shy away from making the difficult decisions required of an Assembly member. During the Juneau Votes forum held at the University of Alaska Southeast, Nankervis impressed us. He’s committed to addressing Juneau’s housing shortage, believes alcohol abuse to be public enemy No. 1, and acknowledges that legalized marijuana and the commercial sale of it will be easier for youth to get their hands, not harder. Candidates Dixie Hood and Jason Puckett represented themselves and their views well during the race, but Nankervis is one incumbent who needs to stay in office.

Keaton, Mackey and Story for School Board

No Juneau Board of Education candidate impressed us more on the campaign trail than Josh Keaton. As important as what Keaton said was how he said it: clear and concise every time. The school board needs effective communicators if it’s to change public perception that the board neither listens nor talks to the community when making decisions, something even incumbents have acknowledged in recent years. Keaton mentioned this problem several times and we believe he personally can help fix it. Keaton’s support of K-2 learning, advocacy for STEM teaching district-wide and knowledge of current issues (bullying, banned curriculum, increased class sizes) will be a boon to the school board.

Emil “Robert” Mackey also deserves your vote. Like Keaton, Mackey also is articulate and has specific ideas about how to improve education for students. During forums and debates, Mackey appeared to be the only candidate willing to look at redistributing the student body (we heard consolidation, but he says it’s not quite like that) to maximize the use of space. The school board needs some outside-the-box thinking to deal with the budget cuts ahead. There is no low-hanging fruit left in the budget — all that was cut years ago. Mackey also focused on college AND career readiness during the Juneau Votes debate, saying that Alaska offers more than just a university system beyond high school graduation, but Juneau’s students need to be ready for positions in vocational and technical trades.

Our final endorsement goes to incumbent Andi Story, who has 12 years of experience on the school board already. Story has the institutional knowledge needed with so many newcomers signing on this year and last. Story knows how the board operates better than anyone, along with which ideas have already been tried and failed. Her presence should help ensure Juneau doesn’t make the same mistake twice. We provide this endorsement with one concern, however: that Story will continue to push the agenda of past board members now gone and a former superintendent no longer working in Juneau. Juneau’s public education landscape is rapidly changing due to year-after-year budget cuts, and trying to maintain the status quo won’t work for much longer. Some believe it’s already stopped working and more revolutionary, wide-scale changes are needed to create a new model for future years. We hope Story will be open to embrace change. It appears all but unavoidable.

Thank you again to all candidates and don’t forget to vote Tuesday, Oct. 6.

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