Aaron Swanson wants the City of Sitka to cut back on its spending. The 30-year-old resident is one of five people running for Sitka Assembly in this October’s municipal election. He says he had been thinking about running for at least a year.
Aaron Swanson was born in Sitka, spent part of his childhood in Ketchikan and Wisconsin, and then moved back here about 9 years ago. He has two young children, and works for Arrowhead Transfer.
“I started out as a delivery driver, and worked my way up to propane truck driver, and now I’m driving propane truck and the tractor-trailer,” he said.
Swanson says he wants to stay in Sitka for the rest of his life, but that it’s not easy.
“It is pretty difficult for a young family to live in Sitka. I’m living paycheck to paycheck,” he said. “One of my paychecks goes to rent. The other goes to bills and whatever I have left goes to food.”
Swanson says he’s dissatisfied with the way the Assembly approaches city issues. Take, for example, a recent – and so far, dormant – proposal to raise vehicle registration taxes to pay for road repair.
“It’s kind of the same thing: Do you expect pedestrians to get taxed on their shoes for walking on the sidewalks, to pay for new sidewalks? No,” Swanson said. “I think if you have traffic officers doing their routine stops and ticketing, the traffic violations, I think that’ll generate some funds for the infrastructure to pay for the roads.”
The city has a lot of financial needs, including funding questions around the Blue Lake dam and how to repair roads. Any government achieves its financial goals by positioning itself along a spectrum, from cutting services to raising taxes.
“I’m more on the cutting services side, as far as the way things need to go. I don’t like raising taxes,” he said. “I know how hard it is to live in this town. Raising taxes takes a lot of toll on a person.”
The belt tightening, he says, needs to be accompanied by ways to improve Sitka’s economy.
“The economy needs to take a step up. It’s down right now. The only money coming in is tourism and fishing,” he said. “We need to find ways to get more people to come to Sitka, whether it’s getting a deep water dock or advertising, getting more people here in town.”
Swanson says he’s got mixed feelings about a downtown dock. It could bring more people to spend money at area businesses, but he’d like more of a commitment from cruise lines about whether they’d send additional ships to town.
Still, when it comes to tourism, Swanson says Sitka should consider taking things a step further.
“Maybe some kind of new attraction to attract more visitors, more boats,” he said. “We don’t always necessarily need to go with the boats. I think maybe the independent traveler – they need to be targeted more heavily than they have been in the past.”
He says an elected representative – such as an Assembly member – needs to find a balance between heeding the will of the constituency and using his or her own judgement.
“Well, it’s the people that put you in office. My thought is that you should listen to the people and see what they want. If that’s in the best interest of the city, then, yeah, that’s what you do,” he said. “If it’s not in the best interest of the city… then you’ve got to balance the perspective – whether the citizen’s idea is correct.”
Aaron Swanson is running for Assembly against Matt Hunter, Phyllis Hackett, Michelle Putz, and Dallas Peavey. There are three open seats – two three-year terms, and a single one-year term. The election is Oct. 2.