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North Slope Borough mayoral candidates weigh in on issues

September 22nd | Shady Grove Oliver Print this article   Email this article  

Six candidates are in the running to become the North Slope Borough's next mayor. Voters will choose their next representative in the general election on Oct. 3. The Sounder spoke with each of the mayoral candidates about their thoughts on some of the more pressing issues facing the borough, along with their hopes and goals for the position. The Sounder will run these interviews in two parts, this week and next week:

Q: The storm two summers ago put some of Utqiaġvik's critical infrastructure at risk. There are parts of the coastline losing dozens of feet per year to erosion. What are your plans for protecting and upgrading infrastructure on the North Slope, especially in light of worsening storm and seasonal damage?

Harry Brower Jr.:

"I think the infrastructure needs have been identified for quite some time. First of all is our utility system in the Utqiaġvik area, where I reside, [which] has been something that's been of concern where coastal erosion has been encroaching onto the infrastructure right off of the coast near the road system in Utqiaġvik. That's something we've been communicating to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers about, to see what it would take to put corrective measures in place like coastal erosion protection. That's something we continue to talk with the Army Corps of Engineers about today in identifying some potential funds to do an assessment for that coastal erosion. The biggest infrastructure is right there along the coastline in Utqiaġvik because of all of the shops — the mechanic shops, the maintenance shops that we have. The gas station is [there], as well."

Ned Arey Sr.:

"My priorities will be to make sure that emergency action is taken by working with the state of Alaska, the federal government, which is FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], and seek out some emergency funds to start repairing and protecting the shoreline that is immediate within the communities along the coast that are impacted and affected by the storms and also finance jointly to use the borough's procurement process with the capital improvement projects to get it started [for] the protection of these immediate areas."

William Hopson:

"That would be a priority to protect all our infrastructure on the North Slope. It seems like there were some concrete blocks that worked down south. That would be one of the [things to try] for a trial basis, in Utqiaġvik. That would be a beginning. To protect the coastline, you know, we've got a lot of people we can work with like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Navy, and the Army, which have already stepped up to protect our coastline because of national security. They're stepping in to give us a barrier out there that will work because of national security. That's kind of in the works already, but we need to speed it up and work with those folks to continue to protect our coastline in all of our coastal communities."

Delbert Rexford:

"The first thing I would do is bring back the beach erosion revetment program to assure the North Slope Borough has the funds to protect infrastructure critical to life support systems in Utqiaġvik or the villages. Having said that, the priority issues for Point Hope, for Wainwright, for Utqiaġvik, are erosion control because we're pumping millions of dollars into having to rebuild roads that are critical to subsistence use and access in some of the communities, specifically Utqiagvik. So, we need to be more prudent for how we address erosion control to look for a permanent solution versus a temporary fix."

James John Martin:

"We do have a lot of coastal issues to deal with right now. Just like you said, the polar ice is melting, allowing our oceans to rise and the waves to cause the erosion to take our coastal communities and what they have been doing in the lower 48 is using those big concrete wave decreases. It looks like a big skating park device. What I was thinking of trying to do up here is situate those along our coastline. The only problem I foresee with that, though, is the Arctic conditions, of course. So, we've got to come up with a mixture of concrete that can withstand our Arctic conditions and then we can utilize that. However, the way they are currently made they may not withstand our conditions. I would like to go and see what they are doing down there with those and see if they can add something for the Arctic conditions up here. That way, we're not just piling sandbags on the beach, which is a temporary fix, maybe, but as those storms wash all those bags up, we have seen they're definitely not a permanent fix, so we have to come up with something a little more concrete, so to speak."

Frederick Brower:

"From my past experience as former disaster coordinator and emergency manager and being promoted up to risk manager, and for the last 10 years dealing with this specific issue not just for Utqiaġvik but all the coastal villages on the North Slope, if elected mayor, [my idea for] dealing with those situations and scenarios would be to identify potential federal and state funding that could assist the North Slope Borough with their current investment of the sea walls in the coastal villages. In 2008, we had a severe coastal storm in Wainwright and I had to fly down and deal with that situation where it tore down the sea wall there. In response, we were able to get it declared on a state declaration with Gov. Sarah Palin at the time. During the same situation, there was severe flooding in the Interior. They were immediately able to include it into a statewide declaration because it was two different weather patterns that were happening within the state. With that, they were able to get a FEMA declaration and work on the FEMA declaration process with the federal grant and were able to secure funding to replace the money that was invested by the borough due to the failing of the system that was currently in place. The way it works with FEMA, is they replace with like kind. Obviously, because the like kind didn't work, we had requested to do an enhanced rip-rap, basically a rock wall, and due to the enhancement, the borough had to invest an additional $9 million, on top of the $10 million investment to do the enhancement, which we felt was for the benefit of the community to go that route for the long-time protection needs of Wainwright. I know for the Utqiaġvik area, where there's significant erosion, such as the 2015 storm where we did get it declared as a disaster, I believe the state and FEMA were able to get it declared, and we worked with FEMA and the state and were able to replenish the money we had invested for the protection of the community of Utqiaġvik. It turns out the road system that goes from the airport, down Ahkovak Street to the gas station, to Stevenson Street, to the DEW Line site, is a federally-recognized road. So, there was an interest on the federal level of protection of the road and investment to rehab it back to its original state. That was our key shoe-in for the mitigation efforts that were conducted. If elected mayor, I would continue to work through that process. There is an established process through the Incident Command System with the borough's emergency operation plan. In such a response, the borough risk management division has close ties with the state Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management and I would encourage the continued efforts of keeping those close ties for when the borough is in danger, and through communication of the department and the borough, we would have the ability to work with the state to find a solution and deal with the problems."

Q: How do you plan to balance your duties to both the outlying villages and Utqiagvik if you are elected to ensure everyone is equitably represented?

Harry Brower Jr.:

"I think that's something we've been working on communicating on in terms of our self-sufficiency and self-determination within the borough. I think that's something we have to continue building. It can't happen overnight; it's going to take some time and [working with] folks that are in the villages to be able to sustain themselves in making decisions on their own. That's something we continue to work on today."

Ned Arey Sr.:

"What I have in mind is to have inter-tribal and intergovernmental agencies be involved with important issues that deal with what's going on from the state of Alaska's point of view and the federal government's point of view to make sure we work together to come up with solutions to solve some of the problems that are ongoing in our communities."

William Hopson:

"That was a very good question. If I get elected mayor, I've been managing projects for the North Slope Borough for the last 26 years. I've managed $450 million in capital projects for the North Slope Borough. I know the communities and their people. The question you asked is a very good question. If I am elected, I will have one village person — there are a lot of talented people out there — in my staff. I want to have one person from each village in the high level of management. My father was Eben Hopson. He was the founding father of the North Slope Borough. When he was mayor, he had village people in high levels. You're balancing everything. You have a representative from each of the villages in the administration."

Delbert Rexford:

"The office of the mayor is representative of every man, woman, and child in the North Slope Borough, from Utqiaġvik to Anaktuvuk Pass, from Kaktovik to Point Hope, from Wainwright to Point Lay, from Atqasuk to Nuiqsut. Every community is represented by the office. Town hall meetings, one-on-one meetings with leadership, having committees and roundtable sessions on prioritizing the needs of the communities, taking and tackling those critical issues that are important to the communities. Housing is one. When there is adequate and safe and sanitary housing, people become healthy. They become productive members of society because there's that high sense of home security that allows them to continue to protect their vested interest in the home. On the flip side of that is social ills that may occur due to substandard housing. Now, in order to address those issues, the mayor has to be a leader that gets out there, that listens to the people, and takes back what needs to be done to correct them. I've been in that role at the housing department. I've been in that role at the mayor's office, working and uniting and identifying how to tackle those issues that need to be resolved without putting them on the shelf."

James John Martin:

"Well, that's why you have a staff. My biggest focus will be actually the villages because they're hurting a lot worse than Utqiaġvik is. Our housing needs are great, however the villages have even greater needs. So, re-implementing a program that one of our ex-mayors had started several years ago with getting six houses into each community every three years — I want to re-implement that program and try to get that going back up again and procure the money to keep that alive even after my tenure would be over. There's another program that I'd like to reinstitute back in Utqiaġvik and the villages and that's the upgrade loan program. That allows the homeowners to upgrade their homes, their structures, even build new construction with a 0 percent payback to the borough. With those programs alleviated, the only ones that are allowed to build up here are the rich people who have the money in the bank accounts. That seems to help the rich while the poor keep getting poorer, so let's try to turn that around and get those programs re-instituted back into our villages so they can take advantage of the 0 interest loans for those purposes to make their houses healthier for their Elders and their children."

Frederick Brower:

"That's a good question. So, the North Slope Borough was created after Richard Nixon signed the ANCSA [Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act] act in 1971. It enabled the borough the opportunity to form local government and also the opportunity for local corporations within each community to form, such as ASRC [Arctic Slope Regional Corp.], UIC [Ukpeaġvik Inupiat Corp.], and so forth. With that creation [there were] minimum requirements needed to have the minimum communities within a jurisdiction. What the inhabitants of Nuiqsut and Atqasuk [had to do] and the continued efforts of moving Point Lay, or Kali, from where it formerly was to where it's currently at, and enabling them through the ANCSA act to incorporate as city governments, such as the city of Nuiqsut, [made the borough possible]. In Point Lay, it's kind of unique because they're still a Native village. They're not incorporated. But, they were able to move over and still keep their recognition as a federally-recognized tribe but still be able to be part of the borough within our responsibilities. Shortly after that, due to the duties and requirements of maintaining a community, such as public services, like sewage disposal, water delivery, power generation, etc. ... were too much for a small local city government to pay for, to maintain within the communities, the understanding and the direction that was given was if they could relinquish their rights of the municipal services and turn that over to the borough, which was completed, [they could] through that process, enable the borough to utilize its capacity and funding resources through taxation of the oil industry for property tax, enable the cash flow to deal with the ability to create power plants, the ability to create water treatment plants, sewage treatment plants, to put up power poles, basically create roads, infrastructure, homes, through the bond capacity, through the capital improvements management process. Through that brief history of the creation of the borough, the transfer of powers from the local government within each community to the borough, there's that close tie. It's not a perception nowadays for local communities that it's "North Slope Barrow." Each community, through its formation, enabled the opportunity for the borough to be created, by the residents, formerly from Utqiaġvik, moving back to their ancestral hunting grounds such as Nuiqsut and Atqasuk, inhabiting and incorporating themselves gave us the power to be what we are today. There's a sense of loss, I guess, of that history and the close ties to the reason why we do services for each community on the North Slope. It would be my goal as mayor, if elected, to reassure the communities why they are there, why we do things for them, and bring it back to and be thankful that they did what they did and be thankful that Eben Hopson Sr. and his administration at the time identified a way to tax oil industry different than the way the state of Alaska taxes the industry. Obviously, with the recent decline these last few years of oil production here on the North Slope, the state has a decline in their services to the point now that they've stopped doing tax breaks for the oil industry. Through those tax breaks with the oil industry, they have to actually pay for something now. It's quite unique, but then getting back to your question [what is important] is going back to history of why we were created and how we were created and ensuring that we're providing the public service that we should be doing for each resident of the North Slope and every community of the North Slope."

Q: Over the last few years, oil and gas industry involvement in the region has had its ups and downs. Shell pulled out of the Arctic, but there have been a few recent discoveries of new prospects. What do you see as the future of natural resource development on the Slope?

Harry Brower Jr.:

"I think we look to those new findings and there's a little bit of a dilemma in terms of access to those new areas where these large prospects [have been found]. I think the access to getting there is something we will continue to work with industry operators on and our federal government that has some of the titles to the land where the findings are — I'm referring to the NPR-A [National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska] — so, that's something we'll continue to work on, along with the state, as well, in terms of building relationships to build access into these areas and the communities on the North Slope."

Ned Arey Sr.:

"Ninety percent of the income of oil revenues come from the state of Alaska and then 98 percent of the tax base funding comes from the industry for the borough services that are provided throughout the North Slope that deal with education, health, and all the infrastructure the borough currently maintains as professional services. That's where we can be able to utilize some of those funds to continue to provide those services. Despite the decline of the oil revenues and the state's deficit, the borough is currently financially stable and I plan to keep it that way as long as I am the mayor to continue to provide the services for the communities across the Slope."

William Hopson:

"NPR-A is opening up and we need to support oil development. This is from me and this has been in my heart forever — we need to support oil development on land only. I 110 percent oppose any offshore activity out there. I know in the North Slope there are other resources that are yet to be found. But, when you talk about oil development, I support new development on land only."

Delbert Rexford:

"We've been dependent on taxation of oil and gas properties and infrastructure since the inception of the North Slope Borough. That was the basis for creating the North Slope Borough in that we had substandard housing. We weren't in control of our education. We weren't totally in control of our destiny. The Bureau of Indian Affairs and other entities were in control of who we are as a people. However, under the home rule charter of the North Slope Borough, we have been given a great opportunity to exercise home rule so that we can continue that relationship. Now, in terms of the oil and gas industry, the current infrastructure there will continue to be taxed. The Smith Bay discoveries and other areas — that has potentially a high probability of development. Once they get onto land, there will be new infrastructure that will be needed to transport the oil and gas, whatever product it is, to market. I served on the North Slope Borough Assembly Alternative Energy Committee when I served for six years on the assembly. We have alternate resources that we can tap into, however, they have been cost prohibitive. We have to find ways to make them cost effective and deliver that natural resource development, and at the same time protecting our subsistence resources to assure that development is not detrimental to our access and use of our traditional land use areas. I just want to point out that for two years, I worked with the tribal village corporations, city governments in addressing fundamental guiding principles that are important to the Inupiat people in all of the villages on how development should occur by involving each community, specific to their needs."

James John Martin:

"I think we have a bright future for our development. We have found more pools of oil that they can utilize. However, I am in alliance with ICAS [Inupiat Community of the Arctic Slope] on this where we would love to keep the oil industry off our ocean because whaling is so prevalent up here and has been for a very long time. We want to keep our whaling activities alive and our culture, as well. So, if I am lucky enough to be voted in, during my tenure, I would keep them off our oceans and on our lands. On our lands is easier to clean up. We're able to cordon off an area that they've damaged and we can start slowly fixing it up. We can't do that with our ocean. My biggest concern, of course, is just when the oil goes all over our ocean and our animals do not want to give themselves up to us. We believe that's the way we survive up here. We are not able to share those feelings with the oil community because they are in it for the money. They don't understand that that is our food source. When Shell Oil came up to Barrow, way back then, I was working for ICAS as the natural resource director. When he came up to me and said, 'What is it going to take for us to drill in your ocean?' I said, 'a contract.' He said, 'Excuse me.' I said, 'Yes sir, a contract between each one of our citizens on the North Slope that says when you're going to mess up our water, not if, but when, you will pay each person what they're losing out of their ocean.' In other words, if that's their food source, you feed them. If that's their income, you give them money. There was no way they were going to agree to something like that, so they decided that the only way to get up to Utqiaġvik is to hire enough people that one person in each household is a Shell employee. But that won't work up here. It's about our whaling. As long as they stay off the water, I'm good with them."

Frederick Brower:

"Obviously, based off the recent discussion of how the North Slope Borough receives its revenue through taxation of the property, on the cultural side, I could see it from the perspective of being a hunter myself, of worrying about industry having to industrialize our Native hunting grounds. On the flip side [there's] the opportunity to flush a toilet, to receive services of trash. It plays hand in hand that the borough should be encouraging industry to develop. Based off of the recent decline of private industry or oil companies looking to invest, it could be detrimental to the borough and its future. I am for responsible and safe development. From my past experience as an emergency responder, disaster coordinator, and also being the chairman of the local emergency planning committee for the last 10 years, due to the Tier 2 reporting, we have the opportunity to see what exactly is out there, who has the extremely hazardous substances across the Slope, and identify what's out there. But, it would be concerning for the borough to take a stance that we were against development. Essentially, at the end of the day, if all production of oil and gas stops flowing from the North Slope, it would be detrimental to the state of Alaska and all the services and revenues they receive through that process, but it wouldn't hinder or have a negative impact to the borough because we get our revenue through the taxation of property, so until they remove the pipeline, until they remove the facilities, the borough is going to tax that industry to receive its revenue, even though it's not flowing oil. Probably, at that point, it would be a big fight from the oil industry as to our current process and with the development of the port authority in Charlotte Brower's administration, being an economic driving force, the ability to create emergency management plans in association with development of potential construction of roads, potential construction of port authorities, any type of economic driving force that could benefit the North Slope and its residents. Recent news activity from the current administration, Harry Brower, in discussion of a road from Prudhoe Bay to Utqiaġvik, I remember when that first came out, it's been talked about, there are residents that travel to and from Prudhoe Bay, driving their personal vehicles on their own time, and due to the inherent danger of that process it was kind of raising the question of why can't we create a road to Prudhoe Bay so we could have access to help reduce the cost of fuel, the cost of dry goods, fruit, milk, to the recent news of the potential lobbying efforts in working with the administration of Gov. Walker, I believe they were able to get through his plan funding to look into a feasibility study. So, what stemmed out from a single road, to what we've recently seen on the news is roads that connect to every community. Through that development, obviously industry is not going to pay for a road through the middle of nowhere to a community, but if that's created, there's a potential opportunity through proper management of the duties, responsibilities, development, local communication, that's an area where industry could thrive in developing their resources by an investment either by the state, or in combination with the borough, or the borough solely, or through the port authority, give that one opportunity for future development an avenue of a road system that they could use to develop their pipe system to connect over to TAPS. In that same process, through a modest investment either at the state or local government level, [it will] ensure our future because what will the borough be doing? It will be taxing the property of that potential construction."

Q: The Arctic Strategic Transportation and Resources, or ASTAR, roads project was recently granted $7 million for a preliminary study. How would you like to see this project unfold?

Harry Brower Jr.:

"I think that's something we [need to] continue to work on with our administration and building relationships with our state Department of Natural Resources and Department of Transportation and getting agreements to work in the permitting process for the ASTAR project. That's something that's very much needed on the North Slope — building that relationship with the state and looking at seeing how we can plan these roads to gain access onto the North Slope."

Ned Arey Sr.:

"I go back to the same question that we were dealing with earlier regarding the oil and gas. You know, with the continued exploration and gas developments within our region, we want to make sure we continue to coordinate and collaborate with industry and the state and the federal government, and to minimize the footprint within the Slope by using the best available technology they have and continue to protect our whale and our subsistence resources, and to have mitigation in place for that matter with all the impact that's going on with this industry."

William Hopson:

"Careful study of environment and what the possibilities of damage may be. I support a road infrastructure to our communities because without the road infrastructure, the prices of everything are going to remain high. I support that in terms of today's prices. Everything is flown in and the prices are outrageous, so I support that kind of development."

Delbert Rexford:

"When I was employed [in the past], the North Slope Borough Environmental Department called on me to accompany them on the haul road. There was wanton waste of caribou on the road. We counted 56 caribou. If there are going to be interconnected roads, we have to ensure maximum protection of the resources we depend on. You've got Nuiqsut, Utqiaġvik, Wainwright, Atqasuk, or any other community that gets interconnected roads that will be affected. When the haul road opened up to the general public, that's when we had an influx of sport hunters up and down the Dalton Highway because it was publicly funded. We need to ensure maximum protection for those affected communities is put into place through our management capacity and policy and home rule charter, because not everyone has a job. They are dependent on the natural resources — wildlife — to supplement their annual nutritional needs. That's very important — subsistence."

James John Martin:

"Well that's a new project to me that I'm not familiar with, so I would have to look into it and see what it can do for our villages and Utqiaġvik. With the permafrost melting and our roads buckling, any long road would have constant maintenance to do at this point."

Frederick Brower:

"So any administration, as it currently resides within our ordinances, is termed at three years. There have only been a few handfuls of mayors since the borough's inception 45 years ago. I can only imagine that every mayor would like to leave their footprint of, this is what we've created or developed. The borough is a revolving area, not just that we're the only local jurisdiction within the U.S. that is within the Arctic region. In recent years, there has been the development of the Arctic Council, the Arctic Waterways Safety Committee, to ensure that the borough, if given the opportunity to have a seat at the table in discussion, can ensure our communication. Communication is key to success. Once communication starts failing, it's a guessing game. People start reacting. By not having the proper information, there's the potential to make the wrong decision. With that $7 million, we can ensure that feasibility studies are identified, because we're now looking at putting roads into ANWR [Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] and into the NPR-A, which were set aside for a reason, for a potential reserve. In today's day and age, with our current president, Donald Trump, who is a very good businessman—it depends on which side you look at it—that by his reduction of restrictions of the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], lifting restrictions to Pebble Mine, there's an opportunity for development within the NPR-A, or ANWR. For years, there's been discussion as far as environmentalists within not just Alaska but also the lower 48, probably including other continents that are concerned about America in general as far as development within pristine areas. I've seen TV ads in Obama's administration of why we're trying to protect this. During that same time, the cost of oil was up, so you could say stuff like that and protect it. Getting back to the reason why those were set aside, NPR-A and ANWR, were to be reserves when the nation is in crisis, which we probably currently are, as far as economics and development. It all plays part of the bigger picture of world dominance in oil production. As risk manager and acting on behalf of emergency management of the borough, I was able to sit in meetings in the Arctic Council and they identified the world's levels of who has the most oil and gas by percentage. When it showed the North Slope region, we had roughly 30 percent of the Arctic's oil and gas in the world. It's great to know that information. If the world got to the point that it needed to really get down to a Mad Max scenario, where the world had gone to turmoil, to run what we need to run, and it came down to knowing the information that within our region is the most Arctic oil and gas capacity, that would be a target for industry, a target for nations to attack. In this day and age, with issues going on in North Korea and their intercontinental ballistic missile tests that are going on, who knows what could happen? Looking on the ground level, if I'm walking down the road and I see a puddle, I'm going to walk around it so I don't get my feet wet, looking at a 30,000-foot view of every community, knowing the infrastructure and who is responsible for that, looking at the 100,000-foot view of the North Slope Borough, who is responsible for those communities, the development of industry within that area, as far as the control within our planning department, working with ADEC ensuring there's compliance from industry in situations where there's a spill. By utilizing those current resources and establishing processes with that $7 million, is ensuring that it's done correctly and it's done only once, because that's a significant amount of money. What decisions are made moving forward, I would request that they review history — why is there ANWR? Why is there NPR-A? Obviously, there's a general concern of being a Last Frontier — Alaska's current motto, "The Last Frontier"—and the borough is the last great Arctic frontier and in that sense, there is a pride by Natives here in the region that this is their ancestral hunting grounds. They want to ensure that they have that ability, not just today, but the future generations the opportunity to do traditional huntings. By way of the creation of the ASTAR project, it really starts Westernizing that. By making that connection it does give an opportunity for future development by the oil industry. There is a benefit to the borough and to the state of Alaska by the ASTAR project. Ensuring that $7 million is used in a way that identifies all concerns at a local level, a statewide level, a national level, and an international level, is vital to the existence of that project."

Q: For years now, there's been a serious lack of available and affordable housing in the borough, which has sometimes led to overcrowding and other issues. What do you think can feasibly be done within the budget and available space to fix this?

Harry Brower Jr.:

"With our administration, we've been looking at ways to see how we can continue to find the right solution to build affordable homes, working with our corporations to identify what homes they have that would be affordable on the North Slope, working with our city and tribal governments gathering their information, as well, to identify affordable homes that would be beneficial to our communities on the North Slope."

Ned Arey Sr.:

"There's general obligation bonds that I plan to use to get started with the housing development and I would submit other general obligation bonds to continue on with the housing development initiative. That can create jobs for local residents and also provide homes to the communities and help the families that are overcrowded. That's when we can work together with the intertribal municipal governments and corporate landowners to make it happen. Without working and collaborating and working together, there's not much that can be accomplished unless we come to agreement and meet the needs of the community to solve the problem."

William Hopson:

"That problem isn't the borough's problem alone. We have our other Native organizations that are getting grant money from state and federal [outlets], and for myself, I support building more houses. But, I think we need to partner with those other entities to get more housing. It's a big problem. Housing is something we need to prioritize because so many of our children are growing up and having their own families. The housing that needs to start up, you need to build 300-400 houses maybe just to have everybody have enough room. When you travel in the villages, there are some places where there are 10 living in one house. That would be a priority."

Delbert Rexford:

"One of the biggest topics of creating the North Slope Borough after taxation, one of the biggest economic development projects was addressing substandard housing and dilapidated housing conditions of the residents of the borough in 1972. Now, we have a lot more units with the [Housing and Community Development Act of 1974] and the Native American Housing Assistance [and Self Determination Act of 1996] (NAHASDA). The issue is to identify funds, to strategically plan safe and sanitary and adequate housing. When I say adequate, [I mean] it doesn't have to cost $360,000 to build a home. We should build them so that we can afford to build those houses in numbers, versus building them at a high cost of construction. What are the limitations? How can we partner with TNHA [Tagiugmiullu Nunamiullu Housing Authority]? How can we partner with the tribes to get federal funding into housing projects that are direly needed? When there's families up to 15 occupancy in a two or three bedroom home, there's overcrowding and infectious diseases that do occur. In some cases, there's child mortality. These are known facts by the World Health Organization (WHO) across the world. These are issues that we're confronted with. They were issues in 1972 and they are issues today. They are a valid concern to each and every man, woman, and child across the borough."

James John Martin:

"Let me just reiterate that I want to reinstate a program that one of our ex-mayors started and that is to get six houses in each community every three years. That definitely allows the contractors to get those ordered, to get them started, and then reorder on the next project. That way we have a constant influx of new housing into our villages. We are losing a lot of our children — our growing children. They go to college, they get their careers that they want, and then they have no place to come live on the Slope if they don't want to live with their parents, and at that age, how many people do? This is a huge problem and it's been a huge problem for years and years that one mayor tried to address and I believe it was the next mayor or the following that took it away. Let's keep the good projects going and do away with the ones that are costing us, and we'll be able to save some money. Housing is a big issue. That's going to be my platform, as a matter of fact. Every mayor has said housing is their biggest issue and yet zero mayors have done anything about it since that mayor that instituted this. I'd like to go back to the good days and procure that money for those people to have six houses in each village, including Utqiaġvik, every three years. This mayor was back in the early 1990s. Can you imagine if we had six houses every three years from that point, where we would be? That would be amazing. We wouldn't be losing our children to the other communities like Fairbanks and Anchorage that have housing available. That is going to be my biggest push if elected. I am going to thoroughly reinstate that program and the Upgrade Loan Program as well and get the much-needed housing into our communities."

Frederick Brower:

"In the past, and I want to say back in the 1970s and 1980s was the creation of the housing department in Section 8 of our municipal code. That enabled the borough to utilize bonding capacity to create housing and the ability to address that initial concern that we're also seeing in today's age — right now. There are homes that are overcrowded. I've had people come up to me, knowing I'm a candidate, saying I've got not just my kids, but their kids, and now their kids, four generations all in one home. Recent development in Utqiaġvik regarding the Native Village of Barrow and UIC, these are single-family dwellings, two to three bedroom residential houses, at a cost of about $400-$450,000 apiece. Taking that same kind of investment for an individual and put that in anywhere else than Utqiaġvik, down to Anchorage or Texas, you can get a five or six bedroom house, two-car garage, with a pool. As mayor, I would like to know why. I know, as a former plumber being involved in construction and project management, identifying what it actually costs to finish a home, I know it doesn't cost $400-$450,000. This is from private industry, private corporations, for-profit organizations. They may have that buffer in there for their profit margins, but that doesn't help North Slope Borough residents who may have a modest income that can't afford $400-$450,000 for a house. Construction of housing here in the Arctic is significant and yes, it is costly, I will admit that, but we shouldn't be holding our residents and bending their arm so that these organizations can succeed, obviously, for the best interest within those type of organizations and not into the best interest of North Slope residents. Section 8, the housing authority, was removed [in a previous administration] and it was due to lack of funding, oil revenue, the bigger picture as far as kind of where we're at now. The housing authority enabled the creation and construction of homes here within our jurisdiction, but then also the arm of that department — the division — that did home maintenance. These were homes that were constructed by the borough, so there was an interest in ensuring that those were maintained, the boiler was running, the water heater worked, the lights stayed on. But, with all those costs are additional costs to the operating budget. Due to that time frame of when it wasn't the best interest to have that type of department, it went away. By revitalizing Section 8 of the Housing Authority within our municipal code, the key is to ensure that once that's created, it's done responsibly and in a way, that benefits all residents. In a sense, on a borough responsibility level, the homes that are being constructed here in Utqiaġvik, all these probably 30 homes that I've seen being constructed in the area, as a former plumber, we were working for UIC, we installed all of the underground Utilidor System. Who paid for that? The North Slope Borough did. All these costs associated with development of housing, puts a tax on a structure that is already existing at capacity. So, as you grow, you need to grow your infrastructure to produce water, to produce waste, and to produce power. All that is the cost associated with the responsibility of the borough. Creating complex-style apartments, examples would be we currently have a 32-unit here in Utqiaġvik that was owned by the borough and turned over to TNHA. That provided 32 apartments. It had its own little utility room and it had a central area where you could do your washing and your drying for your clothes. Once that was created, it enabled 32 different individuals the opportunity to be housed and move from their current overcrowded spaces, but what that didn't do for the borough is, if you figure you're putting 10 homes on a block, it didn't create three blocks. It didn't create that flow of water that is needed, the process of sewer and the process of power. Going back to that concept of apartment complex styles, you're given the opportunity for more people to be housed in a smaller footprint. It's only one connection to the facility for power, for water and sewer, and you're not having to create three blocks. That's the mindset that I have as far as an individual, mindful as far as the land and the situation, and that would be my solution. At the end of the day, the borough has to do some sort of investment for housing in this region by creating a home or the infrastructure that makes that home viable."

Next week, the Sounder will run the second half of the North Slope Borough mayoral candidate interviews.

Please note, a few of these answers have been minorly edited for clarity or space. Additionally, some candidates used the terms "Barrow" and "Utqiaġvik" interchangeably. The city's name has been edited in these cases to reflect its current legal standing as "Utqiaġvik".

Full transcripts of the interviews will be posted to the Sounder's website [www.arcticsounder.com] before Election Day.

Shady Grove Oliver can be reached at sgoarctic@gmail.com.

 

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