Assembly candidates debate community issues

With elections taking place on Oct. 3, several substantial matters sitting at the forefront of student voters’ minds were discussed at a debate organized by student government.

The debate, held last Saturday in the Reichardt Building provided candidates for assembly seats D, E, and H with an opportunity to voice their stances on a variety of community concerns, including Proposition 1.

“Cannabis: where they stood on it and if they disagreed about it. What were their concerns about it,” said junior Courtney Snodgress, regarding what she most wished to hear about at this Saturday’s debate.

Marijuana legalization is not the only issue present on the ballots this October 3, though. Elected assembly members will be handling an assortment of critical local matters over the next three years. Key issues covered at the debate were how to decrease wood-burning in order to provide cleaner air to Fairbanks and the potential ramifications that the arrival of F-35s presents to Fairbanks’ population and infrastructure.

The incumbent for seat D, Assemblyman Christopher Quist-D, held starkly contrasting views to his opponent former Assemblyman Hank Bartos-R over such topics as cannabis legalization and the role which the assembly should play in the lives of community members.

“Legal cannabis is the future. Prohibition does not work. A legal, safe, regulated market prevents access to minors and generates tax revenue,” said Quist.

Conversely, Bartos said that cannabis had unjustly invaded residential neighborhoods, and thus believed that the substance should be once again banned, provided that help of some means would be offered to the legally operating cannabis business owners.

Other differences include Quist’s belief that the assembly was operating efficiently, whereas Bartos said that he would be examining the cost-benefit analysis of the assembly’s activities if elected.

Also guiding the debate was the concern of how to improve air quality within the city. Many homes in Alaska are heated purely through burning wood, either because they lack the capability or the money to seek alternative sources. According to Leah Berman Williams, a statistics professor at UAF and candidate for seat H, 50-70 percent of the worsening air quality comes from such wood smoke.

The candidates running for each seat voiced support for clean air initiatives; however Robert Shields, also a candidate for seat H, said that the wood-burning was merely a “red herring”, meant to draw attention away from the new coal plant, which he believed to be the greater source of air pollution. The third candidate for seat H present at the debate, former realtor Aaron Lojewski, is happy about the new coal plant, and hopes to join in the efforts to reduce air pollution through minimization of wood-burning.

Competing for seat E are Ryan Smith, with twenty years of management experience, retired UAF professor Jerry McBeath, and military veteran Angela Major.

The third major issue discussed throughout the debate was the impending arrival of F-35s to Eielson Air Force Base, which would cause an estimated 40,000 new residents to join the Fairbanks community. All candidates agreed that this surge in population will benefit the city in providing jobs to locals and boosting the economy.

Students wishing to vote can go to the Patty Center lobby on Tuesday, Oct. 3 and cast their ballots.

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