Benjamen Miyasato filed to run on Tuesday (7-24-18) for Sitka’s Mayor, a race also entered by former City Administrator Gary Paxton. Miyasato’s one-year-term on the Sitka Assembly comes to a close this fall. (Emily Kwong/KCAW photo)

As elections for the Sitka Assembly near, two more individuals have filed to run for local office. Ben Miyasato will run for Mayor and Brinnen Carter for the Assembly. At age 55, Miyasato is a career military veteran with nearly a decade of experience on tribal council and the municipal Assembly. He ran for Mayor in 2016, but lost to Matthew Hunter

Downloadable audio.

KCAW caught up with Miyasato before last night’s Assembly meeting to discuss his history of public service and preferred direction for Sitka.

KCAW: Why are you running for mayor?

Miyasato: Why am I running for mayor? That’s a very good question. I heard someone signing my petition say I’m a glutton for punishment. I think the other answer to that is I feel highly qualified to help us change direction and turn things around. That’s one of the reasons I want to run. I felt two years ago when I ran for mayor, I was not aggressive enough. This time around, I do want it.

KCAW: What will happen if you are not elected mayor? Will that mean you are off the Assembly?

Miyasato: That will mean I’m off the Assembly, which I’m fine with. I’ve taken a one year break. This is the one thing I tell people: it takes a lot of time and effort and a lot of energy to devote yourself to public service.

KCAW: [After five years of budget cuts], Sitka will likely still have a deficit this upcoming fiscal year. Do you think there need to be more cuts? More sources of revenue? Both?

Miyasato: I would like to see bulk water sales start being successful. I say this because I’ve also heard there are also other countries that have expressed interest. We did the land disposal ordinance earlier this year, which will hopefully be able to attract business and open up land for affordable housing. (In June, the Assembly eliminated voter ratification of land sales and replaced it with a non-binding advisory vote of the people to approve sales of land over $5 million or leases over $7.5 million)

I serve also on the Baranof Island Housing Authority (BIHA) and I know they have some upcoming houses to be built in the future. I think there are things we can do hopefully reduce some of those utility rate increases. If elected mayor, I would like to see a roll back or utility rate freeze. We need to let the people know, ‘We hear you. We understand you are economically going through some difficult times,’ especially for the past two years straight where the [state] cut the PFD. The one thing I will say: Taxes and utilities [rate increases] are regressive. It hurts the economy when you have to pay more for things because that means you have less to spend.

KCAW: Anything else Ben?

Miyasato: I’m hoping at some point see the senior sales tax exemption back.  I would hate to see [seniors] go to outside community, such as Juneau, or outside businesses such as Costco or Walmart or Amazon, to shop. They need to be shopping locally and that helps our economy when they keep the money here in Sitka.

Gary Paxton has also filed to run for Mayor. This week, Brinnen Carter joined Sheila Finkenbinder and Kevin Mosher in running for two open seats on the Sitka Assembly. Carter is out of the country and could not be reached for comment by press time.