Luke Hopkins and Tammie Wilson, both Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly members, are vying for the borough mayor’s seat in a runoff race on Tuesday.
Candidates spoke singularly in timed sequences, stating their views, asking questions and making rebuttals to each other’s statements.
Hopkins started the debate stating his reasons for running for mayor; his vision for the community he has lived and worked in for 43 years; his experience managing a large, diverse work force; and working with family, neighbors and the community in various capacities.
Hopkins said he wants to see an Interior air quality plan written in Fairbanks by Fairbanksans, not by the EPA or the state. He also said he wants to bring low-cost energy to Fairbanks in the near future.
Wilson said she would not support taxes of any kind nor the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation, which the borough supports with $400,000 in funding. She said the borough has its own in-house economic development position.
Wilson said she would demand the state give the Interior affordable energy options as they have done for both Juneau and Anchorage, although she offered no specifics.
In his rebuttal Hopkins backed FEDC, calling it “one more tool in the the local government toolbox,” which created 12 new jobs in the past year and brought $3 million into the borough related to cold weather testing.
The pair tangled on how the Alaska Gasline Port Authority, which Hopkins has been involved with as a board director, might impact competing projects.
“As mayor, we need to leave all options open,” Wilson said. “I am very concerned if you work with the Port Authority you might not look into other areas.”
Hopkins said his involvement with the Port Authority would not keep him from reviewing another project that comes along. He said the Port Authority, which is semi-independent financially, does not have to go back to the state and seek permission before moving ahead with a viable project.
Hopkins said he expects to see natural gas here in two years.
In the final two-minute round, Hopkins criticized Wilson, saying he didn’t understand why she made public comments about land use issues saying if people didn’t like what was on her land “let them pay for my property taxes, let them pay for my land and let them do what they want.”
Hopkins said, “As a mayor (candidate), that seems not to be the attitude to have.”
He was referring to Wilson’s stance on junkyard land-use rules.
Wilson responded that some of the vehicles (10) on her screened, 10-acre property were stored for “military boys” who fought in Iraq, and she was happy to do so free of charge.
The debate, sponsored by the Tanana Valley League of Women Voters, was aired on KFAR Radio with Steve Floyd serving as moderator.
At a university student-led forum Wednesday night, Hopkins said the borough and university should do more to work together when seeking help for construction and operating from state lawmakers. He said the university is a key part of the borough’s economy, citing the Tanana Valley Campus’ work force development programs as an example.
Hopkins said assembly members have stayed below their annual spending allowances and generally held recent budget growth to match the rate of inflation.
“That to me is responsible budgeting,” Hopkins said.
Wilson told university students Wednesday the public school district’s $230 million-plus annual spending plans are “unsustainable.” The borough government provides one-fifth of that budget, and Wilson said the mayor’s office carries a role, partly through dialogue, of ensuring more of that money makes its way into the classroom.
Wilson said she has knocked on 6,000 doors during her campaign. She said most people she meets say they want to see budget cuts, and she has responded by proposing cuts to FEDC and at least a partial end to government landscaping along Airport Way, which costs $70,000 annually.
“Volunteers used to plant those flowers,” she said.