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Candidate profile: Arnold Liebelt (Assembly D1)

Posted: September 17, 2016 - 11:04pm
Arnold Liebelt  Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Michael Penn | Juneau Empire
Arnold Liebelt

Place of birth: San Francisco, CA

Length of residency in Alaska and Juneau: 32 years in Alaska, 23 in Juneau

Education: Sheldon Jackson College, Sitka, Associate in arts with science emphasis; University of Alaska, Fairbanks, Bachelor of Science, applied mathematics; University of Alaska, Fairbanks, econdary Teaching Credential, mathematics

Occupation(s): Policy analyst, facilities manager

Family: Married to my wife, Molly McCormick, for 23 years. Daughter Leah (19), sons Ryan (17) and Greyson (15).

Community service: Board member and president, Juneau Douglas Ice Association (2008–2014); Board member, Douglas Advisory Board (2016 – Present); Volunteer youth hockey coach, Juneau Douglas Ice Association (2005-2014); Meals on Wheels (1993-1995).

Other experience: Senior policy analyst — analyzed bills for fiscal impact, tracked data, infrastructure projects, energy, worked with university, Denali Commission, The Trust, AHFC and local governments to advance legislation.

Facilities Section Chief — Coordinated capital budget, maintained 1 million square feet of space, testified at House and Senate Finance committees, secured funding for planning, design and construction.

What steps can the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly take to ensure equal pay for equal work in the private?

Over time, the wage gap between males and females has decreased, but unfortunately women are still paid less than their male counterparts for similar work, and women of color suffer from this inequity even more so. People should be paid according to their work ethic and ability, not their gender. The city has recently amended the Equal Rights (non-discrimination) ordinance that includes the prohibition of discrimination based on sex. To ensure equal pay, we must vigorously enforce existing laws that protect against discrimination, and provide resources to those who are not being treated fairly. We can also make positive examples of businesses that are treating their employees correctly, showing how pay equality leads to better morale and increased productivity.

Would you be in favor of developing a comprehensive public health plan for the CBJ? What components of the public’s health should be included? If you would not support such a plan, please explain why.

I am open to looking at methods to improve access to health insurance for the members of our community, especially if this can reduce costs for Bartlett Regional Hospital. Public health is critical to people’s ability to lead happy and productive lives, and insurance is a necessity in today’s world. Access to insurance has dramatically improved as a result of insurance reforms and Medicaid expansion, but challenges remain. In Juneau, we still have residents that lack access to health care, particularly those in need of mental health or drug and addiction treatment. Opiate addiction is a pressing problem, tearing apart the lives of addicts, families and friends. Such a plan would help identify gaps in our current system, but it would need to be a coordinated effort with other organizations including DHSS and SEARHC.

What can be done to improve the bus and pedestrian traffic in the downtown area during the tourist season?

This is a safety issue as well as a functionality issue. With the increase in the size and number of cruise ships, a greater number of pedestrians and buses occupy downtown. This is complicated because our downtown area is relatively small and is the only passageway to Thane Road, where residents and commercial marine businesses exist. Projects like the sea walk allow for spreading of crowds, thus improving people’s experience in Juneau, but they are not enough. Some potential ideas include circulating bus routes, improved bicycle access, and modifications to traffic lights and crosswalks. Downtown needs to remain accessible to local traffic and local businesses. I will work with residents in the area to ensure their voices are heard.

If you had to rank spending priorities for the CBJ, what would be your top two items requiring adequate funding other than public safety? Explain your choices.

Education and Infrastructure. We must support our youth and our educators, and provide the best education possible. We also need to shore up what we have. It’s the responsibility of local government to provide safe water, sanitation, public transit, facilities, snow removal and other services so that residents can participate in their daily routines in a safe and secure environment. One percent of the 3 percent sales tax that voters will be asked to extend this year is specifically directed to infrastructure projects. This funding keeps our infrastructure maintained, and our construction industry at work, and our private sector operating at peak efficiency.

What measures would you suggest to improve gun safety in the CBJ?

The key to gun safety starts with responsible gun ownership and education. By partnering with local firearm associations, we can work together to increase knowledge and awareness to protect the community while ensuring no one’s rights are infringed upon. Some ideas for education would be better locking and storage best practices, and online training courses and apps.

What do you consider to be a living minimum wage in the Juneau area? What measures could the CBJ take to raise the minimum wage?

Living in Juneau is expensive, and a minimum wage job is often not enough to support an individual, let alone a family. The living wage for Juneau is calculated at $12 per hour. I am open to hearing more to see if efforts to implement this make sense. It’s important to make sure we are not unintentionally causing other problems by addressing the disparity between a working wage and minimum wage. We don’t want to see the cost of living here increase even further, and increasing the financial burden for our small local businesses.

What progress has been made on increasing the availability of affordable housing and what still needs to be done?

The Housing Action Plan is a good start for “unsticking” the market through limited land disposal. We have a high percentage of seniors in our community that are in need of assisted living homes. The development of an assisted living home in the Valley will help bring more housing on the market by freeing up existing units as elderly residents move from single family homes into assisted living. We could also encourage development of empty lots by giving incentives through property tax exemption for a limited period of time on the structure (not the land). The Walmart location has great potential for vertical housing. CBJ, Housing First, AHFC, Tlingit-Haida Regional Housing Authority, and private developers all play a role in creating more housing opportunities.

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