Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly Q&A

On Tuesday, Oct. 5, elections will be held for Homer City Council, Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly District 9 and the Kenai Peninsula Borough Board of Education District 8. To help inform voters, the Homer News will introduce the candidates, show their answers to a group of questions and give them an opportunity to make their pitch on why you should elect them. This week, we share the candidates’ responses to questions formulated by the Homer News.

Borough Assembly, District 9

With Assembly member Willy Dunne no longer able to run for re-election because of term limits, the District 9 seat is up for grabs. That area generally covers the district around the city of Homer and Kachemak City, including Anchor Point, Diamond Ridge, Fritz Creek, Fox River, Seldovia, Nanwalek and Port Graham. The candidates are:

Ashton Callahan

Dawson Slaughter

Mike Tupper

1. Given the increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations and positive cases, do you think anything has been lacking in the borough response to the pandemic? If elected, what suggestions do you have for addressing the ongoing challenge of the pandemic?

Ashton Callahan: Even with increased cases I do not think the borough has been lacking in any form of response to the pandemic. The borough has no elected authority over health-related matters nor are qualified to make such important decisions. If elected I see education to the public being the most effective way to address ongoing and future matters so individuals can make informed decisions.

Dawson Slaughter: I think we need to understand the role our borough has. The borough is a second-class borough and doesn’t have health or policing powers. I think the borough’s emergency management department has done a great job providing information to our residents as well as the hospitals and incident command teams working tirelessly to provide testing and vaccination sites.

Mike Tupper: Public health goals require public policies that mitigate risk for the group. This is problematic when our leaders emphasize personal liberties over civic responsibilities. At this time the healthcare system in Alaska is in critical condition. Which means we are now and may see more harm just from lack of access. When we share spaces in schools, businesses, or public offices we consent to a shared civic responsibility. The borough assembly should support and promote policies that allow us to achieve public health goals by holding everyone accountable to that responsibility.

2. If elected to the assembly, what do you see as your role in helping the borough recover economically and in other ways from the COVID-19 pandemic?

Ashton Callahan: Economic stability is within borough responsibility and I want to see this prioritized. A community can’t prosper without this stability. I would love to see tax burdens lifted on businesses struggling to stay open for the public as well as for the residents struggling to pay bills. Beyond the economy our kids need to recover from this pandemic more than anyone. Energy should be put forth in utilizing funds or borough owned property to offer outlets for kids for even something as simple as having a little bit of fun.

Dawson Slaughter: I would encourage folks to be responsible and respectful with one another and stop the shaming game. The cities within the borough have really worked to keep our businesses open safely during tourist season and left the decision of being open to each individual business. I support this approach. There has been a large amount of dollars infused into our economy through the state and federal government. We need to keep moving forward to keep the economy thriving through the winter.

Mike Tupper: Local businesses were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic’s economic effects. The erosion of small business is dangerous and represents consolidation of power in larger corporate entities without any ties to our local community. We must address recovery in a way that prioritizes and values the people who live and work here. Another lesson from the pandemic is that of a disrupted supply chain. We should focus on sustainable local production of essential products and services like food and energy.

3. What problems do you see the borough facing in the next five years, and as an assembly member, what would you do to address these problems?

Ashton Callahan: In the next five years I see a few main issues becoming more prominent. I’m passionate about food security, which is why we grow and raise most of our own food. Developing more local food sources would give us that, and create more diverse economy. Solid waste will always continue to be an ongoing hurdle. The greatest combatant is not just properly disposing of the waste but incentivizing decreasing the waste to dispose of. And of course, the ever-looming budget that needs to be kept under control so we can stay not just operational but prosperous.

Dawson Slaughter: Predictions into the future are always unknown. Best guess is we will be having financial issues as the economy continues to rebound and the borough may be looking at increases in mill rates. I would have to look at all the information before making a decision and talk with my district constituents. I know the borough has a land plan they have been trying to implement and I would like to see more land be available for lease or purchase for agriculture to assist with food sustainability.

Mike Tupper: The fallout from COVID and the existing State budget issues will continue in the coming years. We need to find ways to build the economy instead of cutting back on the available physical and social infrastructure. We will continue to see the decline in value of extracted resources like oil and gas. While also enduring the damage of a changing climate. We need to support sustainable energy production. We need to attract and keep younger working families in the area. We need to fully fund our schools to ensure they continue to provide quality educational services.

4. What current issues do you think you should be addressed?

Ashton Callahan: The current issues we need to deal with unsurprisingly happen to be the exact same as the previous question, that of food, waste and budget. Beyond that I do recognize the constant sore subject of road maintenance and winter road care which is a huge safety issue as increasing amounts of traffic head into homer daily for work and school. I also believe our property tax structure needs to be reevaluated. I’ve heard discontent from most every resident I’ve talked to on this subject.

Dawson Slaughter: Our issue in the borough will always be manageable mill rates. We need to make sure we can still provide the essential services and keep our rates down. Working together and not pointing fingers will help make this happen. I’m looking forward to visiting with residents to see if they’re satisfied with the current level of service that is provided.

Mike Tupper: Covid is not done with us yet. We need a better plan to balance public safety, individual liberty, and economic stability; now and into the future. We need to recognize the overwhelming return on investment from a strong school system. Schools should always be a top priority for funding. Healthcare providers should be free to practice medicine commiserate with their extensive education and training, without political interference.

5. What qualifies you to be elected to the assembly?

Ashton Callahan: Being that the borough responsibilities lie heavily on making sure budgets and operations move smoothly, a general contractor is highly qualified and does exactly that. I will continue to familiarize myself with all the innerworkings of the borough itself but the concept of planning and adhering to a budget and smooth operations when executing that plan remain the same. I also on a daily basis have to work with many customers, sub-contractors and vendors and recognize the importance of networking and communication in the midst of it all.

Dawson Slaughter: I have been serving my community on multiple boards such as the Advisory Planning Commission, Fire and EMS Service Board and the Anchor Point Chamber of Commerce. I also serve as a first responder. I have a good conception of what’s going on in the local area. I’m out in the public and interact with various people with different backgrounds. When you can talk through issues with people and find solutions, that’s the kind of representative we need. I have the ability to do that and my track record has proven this on the boards I’ve served.

Mike Tupper: I’m a passionate, engaged member of our community and I pursue excellence in everything. I graduated with honors from the Army Medic program, Air Assault School, and UAA. My experiences have fostered an ability to work effectively with people from many different backgrounds — including leading a team of Medics to first place in competition with other medic teams from the 101st Airborne division while in Mosul, Iraq. I stepped up as President of the Board for Sprout Family Services during a leadership transition and pandemic. I am capable, driven, community oriented and have proven grace and success under pressure.

6. Have you received any of the COVID-19 vaccines?

Ashton Callahan: I will admit to being disappointed out of seven questions to inform the public on assembly candidates one is wasted on a question that is both private and unaffiliated with doing one’s job on the assembly. Medical choices are a private matter not appropriate for public forum, respect for such privacy should be shown to all individuals.

Dawson Slaughter: As a first responder in my community, I did receive the vaccine. I have a daughter under 12 and interact with many vulnerable people within the community. I encourage everyone to do their research and consult with their physician.

Mike Tupper: Yes, I am fully vaccinated.

7. Have you ever been charged with a crime? If so, what was the result?

Ashton Callahan: Beyond traffic tickets, I have been charged with a hunting violation as a teenager, and paid the fine I was given. My intention was for consumption but my younger self did not recognize the value in rules established for proper management of a resource. Much needed wisdom is learned when growing older and living life.

Dawson Slaughter: I was cited quite a few years ago and fulfilled my obligations. It’s a matter of public record and I encourage all to look up each candidate.

Mike Tupper: No.

Mike Tupper

Mike Tupper

Dawson Slaughter

Dawson Slaughter

Ashton Callahan. (Photo provided)

Ashton Callahan. (Photo provided)