Candidates offer experience, youth, zeal: David Summers

Summers hopes to represent the business community

Posted: Sunday, September 25, 2005

At-large Juneau Assembly candidate David Summers lets people know where he stands, and generally that means with business.

Summers, who became president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce in 2004, supports building a road out of Juneau. He has been vocal in advocating the chamber's policies, ranging from opening city land to private developers and raising the business personal property tax exemption.

At a Juneau Chamber of Commerce candidates' forum Friday, Summers told members that their issues are his issues.

"The business community doesn't have a great representative on the Assembly now," said Summers, 35. "I would fill that role."

When Mayor Bruce Botelho presented his capitol design competition at a chamber luncheon in December, Summers waved a copy of the chamber's resolution supporting a proposed road out of Juneau, and asked Botelho to take a stand.

"Keeping the capital in Juneau is a top priority at the chamber," Summers said. "It is important for us not only to look for opportunities to create infrastructure like a new capitol complex but also to increase access for all Alaskans to the capital city."

Alvin "Blue" Bergmann, owner of Alaskan Fudge Co., said Summers is a hardworking and honest young man who wants to improve the city.

"In terms of politics, whether you believe in his politics or not, you know where he is coming from," said Bergmann, who has been Summers' fishing and hunting partner. "For that level of work, that's a big plus."

Mike Story, who owns a civil engineering company, said Summers has clear ideas about how to boost Juneau's economy, create more affordable housing and keep the capital from moving.

"I look forward to seeing Juneau grow in a positive way. David could make it happen," Story said.

Summers came to Juneau from North Carolina in 1996 to work as a kayaking and hiking guide. When the tourism season was over, he worked for the Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau.

After leaving the bureau, Summers started a business arranging travel packages. He bought a cutlery shop downtown in 2000 and said he worked at least 60 hours a week, demonstrating Alaska-made ulus.

Summers said he is passionate about economic development for Juneau because the city needs it to keep and attract young people.

"We have a brain drain right now," he said. "Without a combination of good jobs and green space, we will continue to lose population."

Summers says his experience as a small business owner will help him bring consensus to the panel.

"There is too much partisan politics at the Assembly level. I like to see more working together," he said.

Summers describes himself as a moderate, though some who know him point to evidence they say indicates otherwise.

When Summers served on the board of directors for the Downtown Business Association, he protested the association's plan to hold an Assembly candidates' forum at the Silverbow Inn in September 2003.

In an e-mail Summers sent out to other board members, he called the Silverbow "a well established left-wing, liberal-supporting business often hosting events for politically radical anti-business figures." One of the recipients provided the e-mails at the Empire's request.

"I, like some other members who have come to me in the past few days, refuse to spend my money at a business where the ownership makes political choices that are contradictory, in fact detrimental, to the mission of the DBA," Summers said in the message.

The association held the forum at Silverbow despite Summers' protest. When Summers took office as president of the Juneau Chamber of Commerce in 2004, the Silverbow Inn withdrew its membership.

"We are offended that retrograde world views such as that of David Summers could be validated by an organization as prominent and community-oriented as the Juneau Chamber of Commerce," said Jill Ramiel and Ken Alper, owners of the inn and bakery, in a letter dropping their chamber membership.

Ramiel said she didn't want to comment more about Summers' protest of her business, though she said in an e-mail to Summers this month that his past actions prove to her that he is not fit for public service. Summers had asked to meet with Ramiel and offer an "olive branch" before discussing the issue with a reporter.

Although some board members of the Downtown Business Association confirmed that they received Summers' e-mails, he said he is not sure that the wording is his exact language.

"The board did have communication about this issue by e-mail," Summers said. "But these e-mails are so old I may or may not be able to confirm if I had sent out the e-mails."

In a recent interview with the Anchorage-based ABC SuperStation, Summers said the Glory Hole homeless shelter should move away from its current location on South Franklin Street, to the northern part of downtown. He said the Glory Hole is a major contributor to problems such as the congregation of homeless and drunken people downtown.

"It's not such a good formula to realize your sales tax revenues and provide social services at the same area," Summers said in the television interview.

He said in a later written statement that he would never use eminent domain to ask the Glory Hole to leave, though. He also said he supports its mission. "I believe the Glory Hole provides a much-needed service to the good people of Juneau who need it most - they are our brother's keeper," he wrote.

Jetta Whittaker, executive director of the Glory Hole, said offering homeless people emergency shelter doesn't contribute to the problem of drunken people congregating. She said she would work with business owners to find out how businesses and a homeless shelter can get along better.

•I-Chun Che can be reached at

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