From September 2013

Kenai Mayoral Candidates See Differences In Role

The two candidates for mayor of Kenai have many years of experience in public service, and even more years living in Kenai. The differences between incumbent Pat Porter and her challenger, city council member Bob Molloy, are subtle, yet distinct.

Listen:

:http://www.kdll.org/wp-content/uploads/130918.kenai_.mayor_.mp3|titles=130918.kenai.mayor

Molloy and Porter have worked together through the city council for nearly a decade, and the things that separate them don’t do so to a huge degree. Both share concerns about the dipnet fishery, recognize a need to continue to support the oil and gas industry and broader economic growth in general, while keeping Kenai’s sense of rural community intact. But it’s how they would address these things as Mayor that shows where the differences lie.

Porter, who is seeking her fourth term as Mayor, says a hands-on approach is what has worked best for her.

“When I get complaints from citizens about the condition of…whether it be the Rec Center or the Fire Department or the Senior Center or any of those kinds of things, I feel it’s my responsibility as a council person to go see for myself. I think we have a responsibility to know our buildings, to go inside and look at them and see where repairs need to be made, and also to answer to the citizens when they have a concern,” Porter said.

Molloy says the role of the city’s mayor isn’t to drive policy debate or spending decisions or micromanage the city’s departments. That’s what the city manager is for. He says one of his biggest concerns is with the confidence residents have in the Mayor and council, or the lack thereof. He says the fact that the city’s comprehensive plan is again on the ballot this fall for repeal, suggests that lack of confidence in the actions of the council.

“I’ve heard people express that they feel shut out of the process, that we don’t reach out to them enough. One difference between us is the formalization of work sessions. I spoke against that. People are not happy with that, and particularly felt shut out of the comprehensive planning process because the format kept changing,” Molloy said.

Both Molloy and Porter recognized the unique challenges Kenai faces in terms of growth. There’s a lot of land for it, to be sure, but it’s kind of spread out, and hasn’t always been developed with thoughts in mind of what the rest of the city might look like a decade or two down the road. That makes concentrating business in just one area a tall order. Porter said she would vote No on the ballot question asking to repeal the city’s recently-passed comprehensive plan. Molloy says he doesn’t have his mind made up, yet. He voted for comp plan as it sits on the books now, but says he’s got more questions to answer before he makes up his mind in October.

While the city’s comprehensive plan tends to be a source of contention every decade or so, the statewide personal use fishery comes under scrutiny every single year. Both Porter and Molloy agreed that this year went pretty well, and there’s been continuous improvement in handling the thousands of visitors each year, but there are always things that can be done better. Like conveying to the state, in no uncertain terms, what the city’s concerns are.

“One of the good examples of that is that the Kenai city council took a really hard stand on not having our fishery opened 24 hours a day. It doesn’t allow us to clean it the way we should, it’s not what our residents want. So we try really hard to work with them, but we don’t want our residents in the city of Kenai to have to pay for one cent of what that dipnet fishery costs our community. It should be the users who come down to the beach to do the fishing,” Porter said.

Molloy says the fishery needs to be approached from a different angle at the state level, by using stamps to denote fishers taking advantage of the dipnetting opportunities on the Kenai River.

“That would have a lot of effects if it happened. We could potentially reduce city fees, we could reduce the impact of people who are avoiding the fees by going along the river bank and things like that cause some damage. It would also reduce the financial risk to the city. If, for some reason, there aren’t enough fish and they close the fishery, you know, we’re already set up to rock and roll for that period of time,” Molloy said.

Kenai voters will also be choosing from three candidates to fill two open city council seats. Porter and Molloy made their comments on this week’s edition of the Coffee Table, which aired on KDLL.

-Shaylon Cochran/KDLL-