Austin Wayne Cranford

Age: Twenty-Five. I will be Twenty-Six In January.

How many years have you lived in Sitka and in Alaska? Nine Years

Occupation: I work in Information technology. I’m responsible for everything from computers to ensuring our servers, network, and security policy are running and actively working as intended.

Family: Did not respond.

Community involvement, past and present:

Before joining the military, my community involvement was limited to assisting the Salvation Army and some involvement with YAS as a teenager. After the military, my community involvement increased to community events and engaging in the political process, albeit mostly indirectly.


Have you previously run for public office? When and what office?
I have not previously run for public office this will be my first time.

Previous government or other relevant experience:
As previously mentioned, I was in the military for a full term. I achieved the rank of Specialist/Corporal, with the latter being the start of the non-commissioned officer corps. Other related experiences would be the boards and teams I’ve been in within the military and the university system.


Why are you running for a seat on the Sitka Assembly this year?
I want to see Sitka thrive. Currently, our infrastructure is failing; its people are leaving because they can no longer afford to live here, and the assembly needs to pay attention to the needs of the people they are meant to represent.

The assembly rather than deal with these issues proceeds to rubber stamp proposals 6-0 without even an inch of conversation about how it may benefit or harm the community. I’m running because I don’t want to see Sitka become another Aspen, Colorado where the only ones that can afford to live there are the rich and powerful.

What are your top priorities if elected? 
Some of my top priorities, as outlined in my advocacy statement, would be to abolish the sales tax on essential services and goods such as utility rates and food. Sitka is one of the few places I’ve lived that charges sales tax on utilities.

I also plan to put forth a proposal of capping the utility rate increases at their current levels. They should not be used to feed the city’s addiction to failing to budget. If I put myself into 136,055,000 dollars of debt, the banks would have my head, and that’s just what the city owes via the Alaska Bond Bank.

With that, I’d want a full third-party investigation into the city’s budget. The audits only check to make sure they’re following the rules, not if they’re using the money reasonably and logically.

Once that is complete, we can begin to crawl out of this hole the city has put itself in and start to invest in our infrastructure and other projects, such as more housing or improved transportation while lifting the burden that has been placed on the community with continued rate increases.


Ballot Prop 2

Do you support Ballot Prop 2, which would establish a permanent 1 percent seasonal sales tax and direct the funds toward school infrastructure repairs and replacement. Why or why not? 

I do not support Prop 2. We were told that 6% was needed to pay off school bonds, which was paid off. Now they want to bring it back because the city can’t figure out that you can’t spend more money than you make. If the school needs repairs, then they should get them; however, taxing your citizens who already can’t make ends meet into the ground rather than fix a spending addiction is terrible taste if not outright immoral.

The assembly claims that the city has record savings, but I’m sure not seeing it.

If Ballot Prop 2 fails, is there another route the assembly should take to shore up infrastructure money for the school district? 

Yes, get their spending habit under control and take a budget 101 class. Current money can also be re-directed as needed per the ACFR FY-2022 page 13 education takes the largest slice of the pie at 44% of expenses we currently spend $8,827,498 per the FY-24 budget however only 150,000 of that is for school maintenance.


Ballot Prop 1 

Do you support Ballot Prop 1, which would allow municipal employees to serve on the Sitka School Board, provided they are not school district employees. Why or why not? 

As long as there are no conflicts of interest I see no reason as to why someone should not be allowed to serve their community.





What role should the assembly play in limiting cruise tourism in Sitka? 

The assembly has, unfortunately, regulated itself into an advising and mediator role. Any attempt by the city to curtail ships would likely result in the cruise lines, along with the DeGroffs, suing the city. However, agreements and plans can still be reached. Cruise ships can be staggered to lessen peaks; negotiations with both the DeGroffs and the cruise line companies can allow us to reduce the strain on our infrastructure.

The problem I’ve noticed is that there’s no in-between it is either “We want 0 tourists, period” or “We want as many tourists as possible to fund the city” and there are issues with both on one hand yes the city needs money on the other the wear and tear and lack of infrastructure is causing issues there needs to be a balance between the two and extremes help no one.

More tourism means more sales tax revenue. Where should the assembly direct these additional funds?

The assembly should direct those funds to fix our infrastructure and actual problems that the citizens face, along with paying down the principal debt instead of just the interest rather than their pet projects or pay raises.



Sitka has been using Department of Energy grant funds to research energy alternatives, including wind and tidal power. Do you feel any of these alternatives should be developed?

If the studies show that alternate forms of energy could be developed and improve the quality of life or bring revenue into Sitka, I see no issue with this idea outside of the funding question.



Sitka voters last year approved spending over $8 million on a new marine haulout at the Gary Paxton Industrial Park. Nevertheless, the funding is still far short of what’s needed to build a haul out and boatyard. How should Sitka make up the balance?

The logical answer is to take that 48,500 dollar assembly annual payout and direct it towards the haulout. However, I like to be realistic, so we’d have to attempt to pursue more grant funding or use some of that donation money the cruise lines gave to us with “no strings attached.”