Candidate profile: Mary Becker (Assembly D1)

Place of birth: Florida

 

Length of residency: I have lived in Juneau 50 years.

Education: I graduated from Sitka High School and have a BA in elementary education with many more credits from UAS.

Occupation(s): Juneau school teacher for 30 years.

Family: Jim and my three children: Rob, commercial fisherman; Carolyn, attorney; and Kristy, vice-principal at Dzantik’i Heeni Middle School.

Community service: AK-REA state officer; president of Association of Alaska School Boards; Juneau Board of Education for nine years; Juneau Assembly for two terms; CBJ Social Services Advisory Board; State Poetry Out Loud Board; Kids Vote Board, Northern Light United Church Elder.

Other experience: Grand Marshall of Douglas Parade; MacKinnon Education Excellence and Human Recognition Award; Who’s Who in American Education

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

I believe that equal pay for equal work is important to all Alaskans, whether in the private or public sector. In Alaska Labor Law, this issue is under the purview of the state through the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, Division of Labor Standards and Safety. They have the means and expertise to deal with any discrimination in hiring and wages. With CBJ’s limited resources, it is not appropriate at this time to duplicate state activities and responsibilities.

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.

While a “comprehensive public health plan” would be both helpful and desirable, CBJ’s staggering $4.8 million budget deficit precludes us from spending any money on additional plans. When our state and municipal financial outlooks improve, we can certainly look at this idea, but for the near future we need to focus on maintaining basic services, especially public safety and education. CBJ should continue to support our local hospital. Medicaid expansion and the Affordable Care Act have expanded health coverage to many citizens. SEARHC also provides excellent health services. These entities have the experience and expertise not within CBJ to address such a plan.

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

CBJ already provides crossing guards to enhance pedestrian safety, but there may be need for more cross walks. The Assembly has been discussing the possibility of a downtown circulator bus, and more upland staging areas for tourism buses. We need to coordinate package delivery and garbage pick-up more efficiently. If the issue continues to be a challenge, the Assembly and the Planning Commission should investigate a park-n-ride option. The Downtown Business Association and the Downtown Improvement Group have made considerable contributions to improve the downtown business district.

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.

Juneau has historically provided the maximum amount allowable under the law in support of K-12 education. I support the Assembly continuing to fund the local share for education funding to the “cap,” and above that amount where legally possible. I also support addressing the maintenance of city facilities, including buildings, streets, water and sewer, docks and harbors, Bartlett Regional Hospital, Capital Transit, airport, and parks and recreation facilities. We have a continuing responsibility to protect our existing assets and quality of life in Juneau.

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

When I was president of the school board, I supported starting a gun safety program in our middle schools that is now provided to all sixth graders. In addition to hunter safety programs that are already offered by various entities, I support any appropriate gun safety education for the general public. This would include frequent reminders to all adults to keep firearms in locked cabinets or other options that assure that weapons are kept out of the reach of children.

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?

Alaskan voters set the minimum wage and provided that it be increased with inflation through an initiative in 2014. It is currently set at $9.75 and is adjusted annually based upon the cost of living index. The state law now provides for an entry wage for unskilled workers, mostly under the age of 25, and provides the base for growth into higher paying jobs as skills are developed. Few remain at that level for more than a year. This does not preclude individual employers from paying a higher wage as market or personal preferences dictate. Our schools can help provide skills through vocational programs to better position our young people entering the job market.

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

CBJ opened Jackie Street for home building by the JDHS Construction Program and by AHFDC. Phase one of the Volunteers of America project is complete. The private sector responded to community demand. Pederson Hill is being developed for subdivisions. Senior housing at Vintage Park has been permitted. The North Franklin Street parking lot is being considered for apartments. CBJ employed a housing officer and we have a land management plan. A mobile home down payment program is under consideration. The Assembly evaluates city land for housing. I support ongoing evaluation of housing supply and demand to assure that our community stays on target in meeting our housing needs.

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