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.
Benjamin Fletcher | Non-affiliated | Occupation: Currently unemployed due to Covid. | Age: 34 | Residence: Anchorage | Relevant experience or prior offices held: I’m a fresh new face. | Fletcher4StateHouse.com
Why are you running for office?
To make the world a better place, and bring respect and decency to politics.
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.
Initiallly, I think Alaska did fairly well in responding to the pandemic. We focused on quarantining and testing people traveling from out of state. I think the mandates in Anchorage were an effective step to protect us from a major spread of Covid. We are lucky to have lower population densities than most places in the world. The real test will be how we bounce back in the years to come. Wearing a mask in public is a small and short term price to pay. Getting our economy roaring again will be the true test. We have a lot of work ahead of us.
What role should the state play in repairing economic damage in Alaska from the pandemic?
The economic recovery is going to be a mixed endeavor between the private and public sectors. I believe the role of the state is not just to fund projects that provide jobs for Alaskans, but that when the work is complete there is a lasting benefit to the State thereafter. There are a lot of options in regards to this. Natural gas pipelines that would eventually pay for themselves could be an option.
Describe two pressing issues facing your district. What do you plan to do about them if elected?
Covid response. We need to secure funding so that when it’s ready, anyone that wants the vaccine can get it free of charge. In terms of the economy as well as lives saved, the return on investment will be huge. I will work to help us move past this so we can get on with our lives again.
Air BnB is taking over our small towns. When I travel, I like to meet and mingle with the locals. Air BnBs are turning neighborhoods into hotels. Residential areas should not be opened up to commercial purposes like this. Not to mention the issues we have with travelers who are unaware of proper bear safety in regards to trash. We need to explore ways to regulate this to find a better balance.
How would you create a sustainable state operating budget that doesn’t borrow annually from the state’s savings to meet shortfalls?
I think passing proposition 1 is a big start.
What is your vision for the Alaska Permanent Fund and the future of the dividend program?
We need to find a path back to a fully funded PFD.
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 think that adjusting the taxes on oil revenues from billion dollar companies makes a lot more common sense than taking it from every single citizen in Alaska.
What are your ideas to improve Alaska’s elementary and high schools?
I think we all have a heightened appreciation for teachers since Covid came around. Once students return to full-time in person education, they will be at a wide range of comprehension levels. Providing more counselors or a lower teacher per student ratio to help our kids catch up to standards is a good place to start. School can also be an escape for students who are experiencing economic troubles at home. Having enough support from teachers and counselors is important.
What is your vision for the University of Alaska?
I would like to see cost come down. It’s 2020. Most of college courses are taken hybridly online at some level, which is less expensive and takes less manpower. Why then, do we continually raise the price of education? The number one reason students don’t go to college is because they can’t afford it. We can do better.
What would you do to reduce high rates of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska?
This is a hard one because it happens behind closed doors. I think advertising organizations that can help people in these difficult situations is a good start.
What are your ideas to stabilize, grow and diversify Alaska’s economy?
Protecting our State Parks as they are a primary driver of tourism, new energy initiatives, and investing in education.
What’s your position on the proposed Pebble mine?
Food chains over gold chains. Unless something drastic changes to their proposed plan, my position is a firm no.
What other important issue would you like to discuss with voters?
Abolish political parties. Look how shady D28 already has gotten:
Democrat Adam Lees WON the primary election. AFTER the publicly funded primary election WHERE ADAM WON, Suzanne LaFrance (claiming non-partisanship) announced on Facebook that she decided to run for office on the Democratic Ticket. They gave no explanation. The deadline to join the race had long passed. Many people took time to vote; but, it didn’t matter.
Republicans voted out Johnston with Kaufman in the primary, but they put Beiling on the general ballot as a petition nominee to fall back on in case Johnston won. Once Kaufman won, Beiling withdrew to consolidate Rep. votes for Kaufman.
The rules are NOT the same for all candidates. They favor those representing parties. The rules work against those that solely aim to represent their district. It’s wrong and it’s obvious. I hit the street myself, talked to the public, and put my name on the ballot honestly. Why didn’t they?