Fairbanks Chamber hosts candidate forums for municipal elections

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 9:50 AM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - This election season, three seats are open on the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly as well as three on the school board and two on the Fairbanks City Council.

Candidates for these seats found themselves in the hot seat on Wednesday and Thursday, as the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce grilled them on the issues facing Interior Alaska.

Questions from the Fairbanks Chamber mostly focused on economic issues. Topics discussed included the tax cap, employee shortages, affordable child care, and the Manh Choh ore hauling project.

Those running discussed issues important to them.

Aaron Gibson, candidate for Borough Assembly Seat H, said. “I grew up here. There’s not many people that graduated high school the same year I did that wanted to stay here. I think part of that’s due to property tax issues. I think we need to figure out a way that we make homeownership a priority for people.”

His opponent, Scott Crass, talked about the local school system, saying, “Education has not been fully funded to the local cap. We have the ability to do that, and we owe it to our children to support them in their education. We’re failing our kids right now.”

Meanwhile Tammie Wilson, running as an incumbent for Borough Assembly Seat D, elaborated on the borough’s budget. “If we’re going to take money out of the budget, we need to figure out how do we make it easier for you to do what you need to be able to do, and that comes from anywhere from zoning to building to any kind of business upgrade,” she said.

Liz Reeves-Ramos, who is challenging Wilson for the seat, explained, “When families are looking on where they want to live, they want a robust school district, which is what we don’t have. I personally have friends who left the state this summer and took their family with them because they were unhappy with the education their kids were receiving.”

Prospective lawmakers then took questions from the audience, and even from each other.

Shoshana Kun, candidate for Fairbanks City Council Seat F against incumbent John Ringstad, asked her opponent, “How will you ensure the safety of Fairbanks streets and residents with these large, commercial Kinross ore mine trucks?”

Ringstad asked Kun, “What did you do to try to resolve the issue of our police officers just slowly but surely leaving the Fairbanks force?”

Forums included a speed round, where candidates answered a series of “yes or no” questions.

Election day is Tuesday, October 3, with early voting beginning on Monday, September 18.