Sanford unchallenged in bid for third term

Incumbent wants to focus on job creation, affordable housing

Posted: Friday, October 03, 2008

Assembly member Merrill Sanford is running unopposed to retain his District 1 seat and serve a final term on the Assembly.

He was first elected to the board in 2002, and would be term-limited after a third term.

A 60-year resident of Juneau, Sanford grew up in the city and raised a family here while working for the fire department. After retirement, his position on the Assembly became a second career, he said. Because he enjoys serving the community and being engaged in issues, he is interested in retaining his seat, he said.

Sanford's main goals in a third term involve job and affordable housing creation.

He supports the road out of Juneau and opening the Kensington Mine north of the city to help bring hundreds of new, good-paying jobs to the community.

"That's five hundred to eight hundred jobs right there," he said. "If we can figure out a way to get beyond the lawsuits, it will be an uplift to the whole region."

After the timber industry decline, the Southeast region is experiencing up to 76 percent unemployment in some of its smaller communities, and Juneau is the only one "holding its own," he said.

With his involvement, the city has implemented new ordinances that provide developer incentives and the infrastructure needed to increase density and support more housing in Juneau. Additional units in the rental and home-buying pools could decrease costs and address Juneau's housing problem, he said.

Sanford also supports tax relief, and was supportive of an effort to significantly reduce taxes on private businesses by stepping up exemptions. The exemption was raised recently to $60,000, and will be raised again in January to $80,000. An eventual goal will see the exemption raised to $100,000 and help 91 percent of the businesses in Juneau, Sanford said.

"It allows that money to become available for the business owners to put it back into the business, by hiring new employees" or into other investments, he said.

With the city completing or close to passing several new plans for topics such as trash, transportation and future development, Sanford said the Assembly will have to make important decisions in the next few years regarding how the plans will be paid for and implemented.

"We have several options and need to figure out what direction to go without driving people out with costs," he said.

The transportation plan offers a range of choices, from keeping the same service to an "optimum" alternative that would cost $6 million a year. Sanford supports putting the city "somewhere in the middle" of the spectrum, and said improvements to bus service should be paid for by riders and the public, through the city's general fund budget.

The city currently puts about $1 million into Capital City Transit service annually, while fees are relatively low, and Sanford called that payment structure "balanced."

Sanford does not support mandatory recycling at a time when the city is working toward implementing a curbside program that would require participation by every household at an undetermined cost.

He supports recycling, but said he would have to see details before voting for a new program.

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