Merrill Sanford

Merrill Sanford

Resident of Alaska for 64 years, born in Bellingham, Wash.


Education: St. Ann’s Catholic School, Juneau-Douglas High School Graduate 1966.

Occupation: Logger, Oil Truck Driver, Construction Worker, Volunteer/Paid Firefighter.

Family: Married to Patti Isaak. Two brothers — Chuck & Ralph; two sisters —Loretta and Mary Ann; three sons —Norman & Robert, Juneau; Wes, Florida; six grand children — Jessica, Sirena, Megan, Austin, Brooke, Charlotte.

Community Service: Volunteer Firefighter (30 years), Rotary Club-Juneau (5 years), Juneau Planning Commission (4 years), CBJ Assembly (9 years), Southeast Conference (9 years), Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year (2011).

Other Experience: United States Marine Corps (helicopters--4 years), Alaska Army Air Guard (11 years), help build the Trans Alaska Pipeline (2 years).


1. What is your highest priority for the CBJ to accomplish during your term in office? Explain why this is a priority and how you would facilitate this change.

Juneau has a wonderful quality of life and we must take steps to preserve it. To do this we need to make measurable progress in reversing our demographic decline. Additionally, we must address the high cost of living, spur responsible business development and attract both small and major businesses. (See further details below.)


2. What would you suggest to maintain or increase the year-around vitality of the downtown area, given the decreasing number of stores supplying basic needs?

The Assembly should encourage and support the restoration and addition of affordable housing in the downtown area. This will help attract businesses to support the year-round residents with goods and services, and revitalize the downtown neighborhood. We need to look at ways to give incentives to entrepreneurs or owners of our buildings in the downtown area to help them to afford those remodels. Building permits, tax incentives, and financial ideas are some of the ways to insure growth downtown. The growth of affordable housing will grow the population base, which will in turn help to spur the small business economic vitality of the neighborhoods.


3. What responsibility does the CBJ have in coordinating public health efforts for such issues as homelessness, the burden of drug and alcohol abuse, and other factors that affect public health?

The downtown inebriate and homeless issue needs to be courageously addressed. It impacts both our sales tax revenue and the willingness of people to want to live and work downtown. The Assembly has a committee looking at several options to deal with these problems. It is the Assembly’s responsibility to help coordinate the many different agencies and nonprofit’s to come up with solutions. Not one single group has all the answers and there is not one magic answer to solve these problems. It definitely takes a village to answer and to come up with solutions for these issues.


4. What is your position on the proposed five-year extension of the 1 percent special sales tax and the $25 million infrastructure bond issue, both of which are set to appear before voters in October?

I am going to vote no on both the five year 1 percent sales tax and the $25 million infrastructure bond issue. Both of these tax proposals need citizen input and more work in the coming year. We have a chance to get these issues correct and have them before the voters next year. No more should be spent than what we have. The priorities for the 1 percent need to be changed to facilitate the maintenance on our current buildings. This 1 percent equals $44.8 million. This does not even come close to meeting our basic need and priority of maintenance on our existing facilities. We should not be bonding to go into more debt. To add in five years $150 to $200 in property taxes is not a responsible burden to put on our children or grand children.


5. What is your position on reopening the AJ mine? Please briefly explain why you do or do not support this project.

After we ensure that we have a safe water supply, I support a feasibility study to reopen the AJ Mine and believe it would be irresponsible not to try to make this project work for the benefit of all our citizens. The price of gold, advancements in technology that minimizes potential negative impacts, and Alaska’s stellar record of environmental stewardship should allay the fears of those who oppose exploring this project. (See water supply below.)


6. What steps can the Assembly take to ensure that the capital remains in Juneau?

The scarcity of decent downtown housing and high rental rates charged to legislators and staffers are at the core of much of the anti-Juneau sentiment. The high rate of rental costs for our citizens is also a major problem. (See 2 above.)


7. What can the Assembly and the CBJ do to increase voter registration, voter turnout, and participation in issues of government?

The CBJ helps fund Gavel-to-Gavel for state-wide viewing of the Legislature and its committee meetings ­— why not televise our Assembly meetings and if possible, Planning Commission and other enterprise board meetings. Move our municipal elections from October to November to coincide with state-wide elections. Support all legal efforts and methods to encourage and make it easier for people to vote. Some ideas are mail ballots and computer voting.


8. What measures should the CBJ take to increase the municipal water supply sources?

In the next 6 months we need to finish the Water Supply Plan; then we need to take those recommendations and start those projects that will increase the supply of water at our current sources. The Salmon Creek Dam and Gold Creek water sheds can be better utilized by making some changes to each collection area. This will help increase our supplies. Clean water is the most important service the CBJ provides for its citizens. One thing we can do is to ensure a sufficient quality and quantity of drinking water and be able to provide for growth in consumption. We need to have a year-round water supply that will safely provide for our entire community’s needs. We can start by pursuing a preliminary planning and design of a filtration system for the Salmon Creek Reservoir water supply. We need to adopt the current resolution that is in draft form before the Assembly at this time, which is the Municipal Drinking Water Supply Plan.


9. What steps can the CBJ take to strengthen local economic diversity and stabilize the local population?

Juneau has less than 5 percent of the state’s population and we lost representation in the last redistricting — we cannot afford to present a negative atmosphere to any responsible business possibility that will promote economic and employment stability for our young families. The Assembly and CBJ should be a strong advocate for improved access to the capital including our airport, ferry system, electronic and the Lynn Canal Highway — both to enhance economic activity and diversity in the region and to show the rest of the state we want them to be able to access their capital. We need to start living within our means. When we increase our sales taxes, property taxes and add more fees for everything we do in the city, it gives us as citizens less discretionary funds to use as we wish. We are touted as the most expensive city in the state. We should be looking at every opportunity to see that we do not keep this #1 position. This is also what is causing some of our seniors to leave; also our children and grand children not making this their choice to find a job and raise their families.


10. What do you think the CBJ should do, if anything, to address housing issues in the Juneau area?

The Affordable Housing Commission is working diligently towards several possibilities to fix this problem. Hopefully within six months we will have several directions to pursue. This is a difficult issue to address and it will take all of us as a community to find the answers. Their may be multiple answers or directions that we can take. Some of our members of the commission and staff are going south to evaluate several models of housing programs that may help us in this area.


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