The filing period is more than halfway over, and so far only two Sitkans have filed for office this fall. On Wednesday, 55-year-old Benjamin Miyasato threw his hat in the ring to run for one of two open seats on the Sitka Assembly.
“I was born and raised here in Sitka. I might not look old but I am old,” says Miyasato. “I graduated from Sitka High in 1982, I served 20 years in the Alaska Army National Guard and I retired out as a staff sergeant.”
He says he wants to see more candidates from diverse backgrounds, more representation from the Alaska Native and Filipino communities, and more women. But while he’d like to see more diversity on the seven-member body, there’s one thing he says any candidate needs — experience. He cites his own: Two terms on the Sitka Assembly, a couple of campaigns for the mayoral seat, and several years on the Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council.
“There is a steep learning curve,” he says. “The issues that you deal with are very complex. A lot of them have to deal with issues of finance. It helps to know what you’re doing when you serve in public office.”
He says without that experience candidates can make mistakes. He says the current assembly has made a few. Miyasato is unhappy with the degree of infighting he’s observed, and the general tone of public discourse.
“If it offends them that’s fine, because I’m not the first to say it. But it just seems like the current assembly is toxic. It really, it’s not pleasant.”
He says a supporter told him he’d be a calming influence on the assembly.
He also wants to prioritize affordable housing in Sitka. He served on the Baranof Island Housing Authority board, and during his time on the assembly, he supported a resolution to transfer the old city shops property on Halibut Point Road to the Sitka Community Land Trust for a cottage neighborhood project. But he says we need to make more room in Sitka for people to squeeze into the housing market.
“Have a designated area for tiny homes. You’ve gotta get people to buy into Sitka, to get where they’re more inclined to stay. That’s how we’re going to grow and that’s something we need to do.”
He says he’d like to see a local boat haul out built for the fishing fleet. And he also wants to support Leo Jimmy’s effort through “Leo’s Hope” to bring a residential drug and alcohol treatment program back to Sitka.
“It’s been lacking here in Sitka, we’ve got people who have drug and alcohol problems and they need a program here for them to attend to that locally.”
The filing period to run as a candidate in the 2019 municipal election closes Friday, August 2 at 5 p.m.
KCAW will provide continuous coverage of the 2019 municipal election, and will host several candidate forums, leading up to the election on October 1.