Another former assembly member is running in this year’s municipal election. Thor Christianson filed his paperwork with the municipal clerk on Friday afternoon (8-2-19).
Christianson previously served three terms on the assembly. His last term ended in 2013.
He says experience is needed this year, when potential state budget cuts could affect the city’s budget and Sitka’s economy.
“I think right now is a time we really need experience on the assembly. It’s gonna be rough. I think the assembly’s main job in the next few years is gonna be holding things together.”
Christianson is optimistic that Sitka can weather the storm, but he says that may require sacrifices. In other years, he’d likely have projects to propose, but that may not be possible this year, when he says the assembly may have to consider more cuts to services — and even a reexamination of taxes. He says you can’t do it in one broad stroke. Each aspect of the municipal budget needs to be examined, and the assembly needs to establish priorities and use “sharper pencils” this time around.
“I think it has to be targeted. If you’re going to have to cut, figure out which services. You have to have a priority list, and say, ‘what is our job as a city government? What are our top priorities?” he says. “For me personally, public safety and education are at the top. Those are why people started cities in the first place- to teach your kids and to keep people safe.”
But he knows that that can’t happen without consensus and community support. And he says the process has to be collaborative on all fronts.
“That was one of the things I learned earlier on the assembly. It’s really tempting to say ‘Okay, I see a solution, we’re going to go do it.’ That doesn’t work. You have to get everybody on board,” he says. “You have to have lots of meetings and realize that no, you’re never going to get everybody to agree to it, but you can get a feel for how the community feels and say, ‘Okay. We can live with this.'”
Overall, he’s optimistic. It just may not be a period of massive development or big city projects.
“This is going to be the time for calm, don’t panic, just get to work. It’s a little different than previous years when we were maybe trying to do new things,” he says. “Now it’s going to be ‘It’s time for work. Don’t panic. We can work this out.’ As a community we will get through this.”
Christianson is the fifth candidate to run for the Sitka Assembly. He joins assembly member Kevin Knox, former assembly member Ben Miyasato, Loyd Platson, and Steve Lee, all running for two open seats on the seven-member body. Candidate number six, assembly member Aaron Bean, filed to run Friday afternoon.
In addition to the assembly race, three candidates have filed to run for one open seat on the Sitka School Board. They are former school board member Cass Pook, Jim Rogers, and Paul Rioux, who filed Friday morning.
Current school board president Jenn McNichol will not seek re-election this fall. She told KCAW that extended family issues were behind her decision to leave the board.
The filing period closed at 5 p.m. Friday. The 2019 municipal election is Tuesday, October 1.
KCAW will provide continuous coverage of the 2019 municipal election, and will host several candidate forums, leading up to the election on October 1.