Thanks to City Council candidates for taking the time to answer questions about important issues for downtown. Municipal elections are Tuesday, October 1st.
1. Would proactive maintenance and snow removal in the downtown core be consistent with the city’s mission “to provide quality essential services to all City residents to ensure Fairbanks is a vibrant place to live, work, thrive, and visit”? Please explain.
Charles Foster III: I would like it to be, especially if it’s feasible within the city’s budget to do so. Snow removal is important during the winter months to provide better safety on roads and sidewalks. As someone who works for a large property management company, JL Properties, I can relate as part of my duties involve preparing for the season by keeping various properties stocked with the necessary supplies such as shovels, scrapers, traction sand and ice melt. During weekends of heavy snowfall, I have also been enlisted to help clear the sidewalks and entryways surrounding Courthouse Square and Northward building. The need is certainly there, not that I’m complaining about getting paid overtime.
Valerie Therrien: Yes I agree that proactive maintenance and snow removal in the downtown core is consistent with our city’s mission. I will make it a priority to make sure we have good snow removal this year for not just the downtown but all parts of the city, especially for our sidewalks where many people have a hard time walking on the sidewalks or using wheelchairs when the snow isn’t removed.
Aaron Gibson: The city core should be near the top of the list for snow removal after major thoroughfares are cleared. I personally have been impressed at how the city works with the Downtown Association when there are events such as the Midnight Sun Festival to ensure the streets are swept and clean before and after the event.
Julie Smyth: As a single mother who uses the sidewalks and public transportation, I believe snow removal is essential to providing quality essential services, especially for citizens who use the sidewalks with strollers and wheelchairs. This issue is especially important as the amount of snow we are getting each year increases.
2. Now that the city owns the Polaris building, will you support the city making the necessary financial contributions along the way to its demolition?
Charles Foster III: Yes. I was at the recent committee hearing in regards to such and agree that Fairbanks is in need of a strategically located events/convention center that has sufficient nearby stay/hotel options (if not directly attached) along with surrounding interesting features and attractions readily accessible by foot. I have attended conventions in Pittsburgh, Reno, Dallas, Chicago and am staff for one in downtown Seattle (Anthro Northwest) as a vendor lead. Provided that there is a constant demand for events in such facilities it would play a contributing role in further revitalizing the downtown scene. All that said, the costs to remove the Polaris building (~$10 million) and to construct the new structures (~$130 million) need to be taken into consideration as to how it should proceed. One example that I’m aware of is that Anchorage temporarily increased their bed tax in order to accommodate the construction costs of the Dena’ina Center.
Valerie Therrien: The city owns the Polaris building and City Council member David Pruhs is working very hard to find resources to help with that project. Unfortunately, the source he hoped to use was not funded. I would hope we have a solution to this eyesore in the next few years. Our budget is going to be really tight this year due to the cuts from the Governor and we have so many needs, like funding the Emergency Services Patrol which I feel we need to fund at the city level.
Aaron Gibson: I believe the city of Fairbanks should pursue the same course of action that was taken with the land Marriott now sits on with the request for proposal process to maximize any opportunity that would enhance the business environment of downtown Fairbanks.
Julie Smyth: Yes. I look forward to helping with this project.
3. In what way(s) do you agree or disagree with this statement? “Downtown Fairbanks is characterized by small parcel development, mixed uses, public places, large numbers of people and activities that requires the city’s focus and priority to keep it clean and safe.”
Charles Foster III: I agree with the above as the downtown area is certainly a hodgepodge and that services such as the Emergency Service Patrol are vital in maintaining a clean and safe environment. It is certainly an issue (safety) that my employer has dealt with a number of times at the Northward building and can further relate.
Valerie Therrien: I agree that Downtown Fairbanks is composed of small parcel development, mixed uses, public places, large numbers of people and activities that needs our City’s focus to keep clean and safe. I voted for the new Chief of Police and I think with her focus on community policing, that we can hope to have a better presence in downtown, especially in the summertime and when we have special activities. Again, we can’t lose the community service patrol, as it’s vital to saving money for the City, and is a better use of our police resources and helps keep downtown safe.
Aaron Gibson: I agree with many aspects of the statement especially the emphasis of public safety. I also believe the stakeholders of downtown need to continue to contribute their fair share by keeping sidewalks in areas clear.
Julie Smyth: I fully agree with this statement. I believe we have so much potential and can figure out ways of working together to solve many issues. Also, our garbage collectors help keep our city clean which helps keep disease and sickness down so this also helps everyone.