The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for the Alaska Legislature in Southcentral Alaska to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
James A. Canitz, Sr. | Democrat | Occupation: USAF Officer, Pilot/Commercial Pilot/Retiree | Age: 68 | Residence: Eagle River | Relevant experience or prior offices held: Bachelor of Science , Political Science, major. USAF Officer. Life. No prior office.
Why are you running for office?
Provide the people in my District (13) a choice of representation.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed life in Alaska. In addition to ongoing public health threats, the state has seen serious, long-term impacts to its economy and jobs, education system, tourism and the ability for residents to travel. Have state leaders handled the pandemic effectively? Explain.
I don’t believe that state leaders, namely the governor, have been proactive enough in addressing the concerns of COVID-19.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The state needs to take the lead in addressing the people issues first, health, education and welfare, to the maximum extent possible.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
There is a new local housing design issue that will impact the cost of new construction, when housing costs are already 200-300% above normally expected costs of construction in the state. There is a movement to exit Eagle River from the Anchorage Municipality. These are both local issues that probably should not be addressed from the State Legislature.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
We need to diversify the state’s economy. Right now besides local service and retail concerns, we have a economy that basically has three legs: 1) Taking of natural resources, Tourism/Visitors to our state, Government (Local/State/Federal).
Perhaps we could venture into energy projects such as tidal generators or geothermal.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
The Alaska Permanent should ideally be protected for the use of present and future Alaskans. However, at this time, our people and the economy are in crisis. I would like to see the fund used to aid both those issues, without causing harm to the health of the fund.
The state is projecting a $2.3 billion deficit for the next fiscal year if the Permanent Fund dividend is paid using the traditional formula in state law. If no dividend is paid, the deficit would be about $300 million. Do you support cutting services to pay a larger dividend? If so, what services would you cut first?
I would support every effort to support the people of Alaska with a robust Permanent fund check this year. However, since my term would not start until 2021, it will not be possible to affect that for 2020. I would look to delay any capital projects that could be with the understanding that when this action is taken, it usually increases future costs.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
I would like to see our Alaska State public education system incorporate pre-K, preschool and Headstart type programs. We are trailing behind much of the nation in the results of our students test scores in reading and math. Perhaps a look at the Florida system of education would be worthwhile as they have increased their test scores significantly in the past decade.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
We need educated professionals to live in our state. We can either attract them here form outside or educate people who desire to remain in the state. There are arguments on both sides of this question but Alaska is an acquired taste. It suits me and obviously most of our residents, but we need a vibrant economy and access to choices. We must find a way to keep our brightest youth from leaving the state. One way to do this is to give them a reason to choose to stay in state for their education. This will require continued support for our state university system.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
Social issues require social solutions. Access to counseling for substance abuse, family issues and personal mental health issues needs support. This is a necessary part of a robust health care program. Early identification so families and individuals can obtain care and to address these issues before they escalate into criminal acts.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
I would think that a look into energy production and clean products and projects would provide one path to a future economy that is not tied to oil.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
To my knowledge, almost every earthen impoundment dam used to contain the harmful waste byproducts of precious metal recovery that the Pebble project is proposing, has failed, causing irreparable harm to the environment, requiring long term reclamation and cleanup situations. The mine location is area is geologically unstable. The consequences of a Pebble Mine spill affecting the Bristol Bay salmon fishery and watershed area are incomprehensible. Until sufficient guarantees and engineering safeguards are in place, it doesn’t seem prudent to take a chance that “nothing can or will go wrong”.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
This year, the state’s economy is in crisis. Legislators will be tasked to make hard choices, weighing what is necessary to be done with what is possible. I don’t believe there are sufficient revenues to provide solutions to every need. Your voices as constituents, will be essential in communicating with your representatives so we can meet the challenge to address as many critical needs as possible.