Farmer's withdrawal reshapes city race

Posted: Friday, September 29, 2000

The remaining mayoral candidates are now paying more attention, says ex-candidate Mark Farmer which was the point.

Farmer withdrew from the four-way race Thursday and endorsed Sally Smith's candidacy.

"Politics is about making deals," Farmer said today. "If I'm going to fall on my sword for the good of the city and prevent the assembly from being stacked which it would be, by business interests, if Jamie (Parsons) gets elected I need something for it."

That something could take the form of a mayor's task force to study the garbage-bear problem, Farmer said.

"One of the reasons I made this switch is the strong possibility of bringing me and people like me into the decision-making process," he said.

Farmer said over the years he had applied for appointment to the Eaglecrest Ski Area board, the Bartlett Regional Hospital board and the Planning Commission about 15 times. "I never got mentioned, never even got a call back. Now I think I have the ear of more people on the assembly," he said.

Earlier in the campaign, Farmer proposed a garbage-bear control plan for the city that included compulsory use of bear-proof garbage containers and hiring a year-round, state-trained bear-control community service officer. The plan also offered property tax credits to property owners and developers to offset the cost of containers and secure collection points.

Smith conceded at the time that "bears are a problem, of course, but ... I don't think you can talk about property tax reduction until you're thoroughly entrenched in what the priorities need to be."

Smith said Thursday she believed Farmer's withdrawal will help her candidacy. "People need to know that negotiation is good, if we're going to bring Juneau into accord with itself," she said.

She is now willing to consider Farmer's bear proposal, she said.

Not everyone is convinced the endorsement is beneficial.

"I think it's a toss-up," said Clive Thomas, professor of political science at the University of Alaska Southeast. "It works on the national level, where there are strong ideologies, such as with McCain and Bush Republican and Republican."

But the local, nonpartisan races are more issue-oriented, he said, and there could be a public backlash from the withdrawing candidate's effort to bind the surviving candidate with his position as with Farmer's garbage-bear proposal.

Smith and Farmer have the same views on the ballot propositions support for the two sales tax renewals, school bonding and enhanced ferry service. Both are against the flight noise initiative and convening a city charter commission.

And although both consider transportation and tourism issues priorities, Smith takes a more moderate and measured view of the problems, she said.

"I would not advocate a cap on tourists, for example. I would move to fold the Planning and Policy Committee's tourism plan into the comprehensive plan for the city," Smith said.

Candidate Jamie Parsons said Farmer's announcement took him by surprise.

"I don't think that's what voters want," Parsons said. "I would never think of urging someone to back out and make a deal."

Though Farmer had never discussed anything with him about making a deal, Parsons said, "he talked with me a couple of times about being left out of the system. (Farmer) kept hammering away that he represented a different generation from the affluent one Sally and I represented."

Parsons said if he is elected, he would like to appoint Farmer to a committee. "It would be a good message if we find something he likes to do and represents the younger generation."

Candidate Patty Zimmerman congratulated Farmer after his announcement at a UAS forum Thursday, she said. "As mayor I will probably appoint Mark to some position something involving the garbage-bear problem or as public liaison with education and youth."

Farmer's withdrawal from the race did not change her priorities, Zimmerman said. "My principal issues are still public safety, realigning our spending, and the promotion of publicly owned assets to produce revenues."

Publicly owned assets would "put the city on track for a municipal dividend," she said.

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