In the race for Assembly, Alexander Allison is training his focus on the maritime sector of the economy. Specifically, he wants to construct a full-service marine haul out at the Sawmill Cove Industrial Park.
The middle school teacher and former charter fisherman wants the city to be more proactive in pursuing revenue opportunities like the haul-out, but also be more transparent in it’s day-to-day operations.
Alexander Allison came to Sitka from Portland in 1998. For the past 15 years, he’s taught 7th grade language arts at Blatchley Middle School. He’s also leads the school’s chess club and the game is ripe with metaphor for how he views Sitka’s financial position.
“Sometimes in chess you have to trade pieces. You have to make trades that are equal or better. You can’t trade, for instance, a bishop that’s worth three points for a pawn that’s worth one point. If you make a trade like that, you’re going to find yourself at the end of the game with less,” Allison explained. “Well we’re in a situation where we have to make a trade: We have to raise our property taxes by two mills, but what are we getting out of it?”
Allison plans to vote “Yes” on the ballot question. But instead of diverting one mill to the electric fund – as the Assembly has planned – Allison would rather see that money put towards something that would generate returns down the road. Or, as he put it, “Make a move where we trade up. Take that two mills and build a haulout at Sawmill Cove.”
Sitka already gas a haul-out – operated by Halibut Point Marine Services – that is 88-tons in a “Do It Yourself” style boat yard. It’s big enough for an average-sized seiner, but cannot accommodate larger vessels and long liners. Those boats are often forced to leave town for bottom work.
Many are going to Wrangell, where the city owns a 300-ton lift and leases out the uplands to private contractors. Allison – who is a former charter fisherman and served a term on the Port and Harbors Commission – has been intently watching the events in Wrangell.
“[The haul out] created jobs, it brought in a lot of Sitka boats, it brought all those limit seiners that got those $50,000 paint jobs done. We need to revisit our reasons why we’ve been sitting on our hands for so long out there. I think a model like Wrangells’ would work for us,” Allison said.
Wrangell’s haul-out was built largely through legislative grant money, which no longer exists. This is why Allison wants to see those 2 mills, or any future revenues, support a project that leverages what he considers Sitka’s most vital asset – its fishing fleet.
“Sitka has the number one fishing port in Southeast Alaska. We land more fish by poundage than Petersburg, than Juneau, than Ketchikan, than Cordova. We need to be doing more to help them,” he said.
And it’s not just boat work. Allison is a fan of the budding marijuana industry. He said, “Look at Colorado. They have millions of dollars coming in now. Which are going directly into their schools from the marijuana industry. I think that we need to unfetter that industry as much as possible.”
Allison also reiterated a desire to hold city government – from the finance department to the police department – accountable for their actions.
In October of 2015, Allison obtained copy of a video that showed the tasing of Franklin Hoogendorn, an Alaskan Native teenager, by three police officers while under custody in the Sitka Jail. He decided to leak the video online.
“When that video was provided to me, most the people in the city offices, most of the people in the court, knew all about it. And were willing to sweep it under the carpet. And to me that was morally untenable. And so it had to be done. It had to be brought out. I wasn’t going to be just one more person who was going to pass the buck and let that go on,” Allison said.
The video generated public outcry and conversation over use of force within the Sitka Police Department. In the months since, the department has made it’s operations manual public and held conversations about police-community relations.
These actions are heartening for Allison, but not enough. “The process has been good in terms of how open it is, but we really need to make sure the rubber meets the road. We need to make some of these suggestions and ideas into policy. And so if I get on the Assembly, that’s what I’m going to try to do. I’m going to try to bring policy to the forefront and get things written down,” he said.
Policy of course, requires, compromise. KCAW asked Allison if leaking the video would affect his ability to work with the city.
KCAW: One could say that put you in an antagonistic position to the city.
KCAW: If you’re elected to the Assembly, you’ll be working with them.
KCAW: What do you expect of yourself with that relationship?
Allison: To go back to my teaching roots, I’ve taught debate. The cornerstone of my debate is that you have to regard ethos, pathos, and logos. You got to be respectful, you got to be honest, and you got to be logical. And if you can keep your discussions within those frameworks, even people who might be antagonistic or perceived as antagonistic can be incredibly constructive.
When you’re on the Assembly, some of that antagonism comes from the outside too – from citizens who are unhappy with what’s happening at the table. Allison said he’d feel comfortable managing those challenges as well.
Allison said, “I’m used to sticking my neck out on things. And I’m still alive. So maybe that resiliency will see me through whatever happens. I think we have some to lose but I think we have a lot more to gain, if we can see ourselves through this really challenging time with a positive game plan in mind.:
To take part in the game, he’ll first need to win the minds of voters when they turn to the ballot box on Tuesday, October 4th.
Click here to read Alexander Allison’s candidate statement.