Three candidates are running for two spots on the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly. The trio of contenders engaged each other at KRBD’s candidate forum over community issues including energy and housing.
David Landis is the borough’s incumbent mayor, but term limits prevent him from running for re-election. So he’s running for a three-year term on the borough assembly. He summed up his qualifications this way:
“I’m the guy with experience,” Landis said.
He’s the only candidate that’s been elected before. In addition to his current role, he served six years on the assembly, along with stints on the planning commission and the borough’s board of ethics.
The other two challengers are political newcomers who say they want to shake things up.
Austin Otos is under 30, while his competitors are in their mid 40s and 50s. He says he says his time working in hospitality and the nonprofit sector brings a ground floor perspective on tourism and planning.
“As a younger person, I definitely want to get younger people involved in government and I see the different perspectives that people bring, and I definitely bring that new perspective,” Otis said.
Jeremy Bynum says he also brings experience from outside. He’s a manager for the city-run Ketchikan Public Utilities. Before that, the engineer worked for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on hydropower plants.
“And working in those facilities all over the country, you have to learn how to understand the needs of that local community,” Bynum said.
He says that gives him ideas for Ketchikan’s current and future energy needs.
“Through that planning, and zoning and process, we can help them come up with solutions on how they can utilize maybe pro property to come up with a solution,” Bynum said.
Fellow challenger Otos says Ketchikan’s drought has caused the region to rethink its reliance on hydro.
“I mean, right now we’re kind of in an energy crisis,” Otos said. “It’s raining, but during the summer months, it’s not.”
He says he wants the borough to study wind and tidal energy.
“New infrastructure takes years to build,” Otos said. “So I think we should look at alternative energy sources to avoid a crisis in the future.”
Otos has made affordable housing a focus of his platform. He says Ketchikan is too expensive for many younger professionals and families.
“As a young person, you know, I want to invest in community and buy a home eventually and settle here and help pay property tax to our education system,” Otos said.
He says he wants the borough to establish a housing commission and give tax breaks to developers and consider selling off surplus borough land to developers.
Landis says the borough did that to create the Waterfall subdivision north of town. He sees potential for other affordable housing projects along those lines, albeit with smaller and higher-density lots.
Jeremy Bynum suggested Ketchikan’s seasonal tourism economy creates extra challenges.
“If I’m trying to get a house that’s affordable in the wintertime, not a problem,” Bynum said.
Bynum says the borough should allow more density on existing lots to add things like granny units.
“The borough can do changes within its planning powers to let people put alternate dwelling units on their property,” Bynum said.
Summing up, Landis again leaned on his experience at the podium.
“I know the issues. I’ve been here for many years and understand the issues and the people. “
The three candidates are vying for two open seats. Election Day is October 1. Absentee voting is already underway.
For full disclosure, Austin Otos hosts a volunteer program on KRBD.
Tourism, taxes, and state budget cuts were also addressed during Tuesday’s forum. The entire one-hour exchange can be streamed here.