Letting the experience of the past frame his vision for the future, Carrol Martin’s reasons to be elected as the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s next mayor are to prepare peninsula residents for the next disaster.
“I think of the disasters that we need to plan to avoid,” said Martin. “One is that we will have another earthquake one day and it’s probably going to be sooner than we think.”
For a borough that brings most its food from outside sources, Martin believes preparations need to be done before a disaster the magnitude of the 1964 earthquake occurs.
“If we have an earthquake, a tidal wave that takes out our loading docks, our railroad or highways like it did last time, we’ve only got seven days of food and then we’re in dire trouble,” said Martin.
To help avoid that scenario, he supports making agriculture a part of the education delivered to students in classrooms throughout the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.
“I want to put (agriculture) in the classrooms, in all the elementary schools, put greenhouses beside schools and start teaching students how to grow more of our own food,” said Martin.
To strengthen his argument for increased food production, Martin referred to a soil survey of the world that was done by satellite.
“They concluded that the largest piece of undeveloped, number one soil in the world is the western Kenai Peninsula, so why are we sitting on the biggest piece of undeveloped soil in the world and not producing our own food?” said Martin.
Wildfires such as the Funny River Fire that destroyed more than 190,000 acres earlier this year are another disaster Martin wants the peninsula to avoid.
“We have suppressed fires and the weather has helped us for about 50 years but experts say the biomass is now so great that all we need is a wind and a spark and we would not be able to control a wildfire,” he said.
To address it, Martin proposes developing farms at strategic locations to serve as firebreaks. To encourage that, Martin wants the borough to offer a five-year tax exemption or until such a time as an agricultural endeavor becomes profitable.
The possible development of an LNG plant at Nikiski and the need to provide for the employees concerns Martin.
“The Kenai Peninsula Borough needs to buy half interest in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s fast ferry so those 3,000 construction workers can be hauled back and forth from Pt. McKenzie and Anchorage rather than build big mobile home parks,” said Martin. “I think we should be planning ahead for the impact this project is going to have.”
Another way to use the ferry would be running it between Anchor Point and Williamsport as a transportation link to the Pebble mine if and when the mine developers “find out a way to do it environmentally safe.”
“I’m telling you, if Pebble goes, Homer and the Anchor Point region will see an incredible growth rate. It will have a ripple affect because they’re the closest communities,” said Martin.
In addition to being a rancher and an educator, Martin also spent years commercial fishing.
“I can’t believe that we will let the millionaire sports people control commercial fishing,” he said. “I think there’s a place for commercial and sport fishing. You don’t have to have one at the expense of the other.”
Asked how he would address flooding problems that have plagued some areas of the southern Kenai Peninsula, Martin said, “It’s just incredible that our best experience isn’t good enough to solve the problem.”
He lays the problem at the feet of borough roads that don’t comply with borough code, “and they don’t take responsibility for correcting it. …Right now, it doesn’t look very promising.”
When it comes to representing the southern Kenai Peninsula, Martin referred to his familiarity with the area, having lived here 41 years ago.
“I would represent it better than some because I used to live down there and have friends down there,” he said. “I have cattle and there’s a number of people down there that have cattle. Thank goodness someone’s raising us a little bit of beef. And I do appreciate tourism and agriculture on the lower Kenai Peninsula.”
He keeps up on news about Homer and other areas of the borough by listening to news on the radio, he said.
His years on the peninsula — ranching, teaching, fishing, being an employer and an employee — have given Martin “a pretty broad background” that he believes would serve him well as borough mayor.
“A lot of people think I’m an old dumb farmer on K-Beach, but I’ve been around a lot longer and done a lot more interesting things than most people,” said Martin.
McKibben Jackinsky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.