Petersburg voters have a choice of four candidates for two seats on the borough assembly this fall. One of those is a former city council member and frequent candidate for the assembly. He’s run for a seat in 2014, 2016 and last year and his message hasn’t changed – he wants to cut borough spending if he’s elected this year but fill a vacant job in the police department.
The 59-year-old Martinsen does road and trail work for the Petersburg Indian Association. He’s also worked in commercial fishing and on harbor and dock projects with the family business.
He said a lot of people have asked him to run again this year.
“A lot more than normal,” he said adding, “feel kind of obligated. It’s kind of flattering too. Another reason, you keep hearing the borough, people claim there’s no money here no money there for this, no money coming in and probably because the citizens don’t have that much money anymore yet what do they do, they raise the taxes raise the budget. It just doesn’t make any sense.”
Martinsen was on the city council for three years in the 1990s as well as a stint in 2002 through 2003. He came in fourth out of six candidates seeking two seats last year. He was odd man out in a three-person race for two seats in 2016 and also in 2014.
If elected this year he wants the assembly to give the OK to fill a vacant job in the police department. The assembly agreed to put that position in this year’s budget but voted against hiring over concerns with state budget cutting. He thinks spending can be cut in other areas.
“Well everybody of course when you want to cut theirs it’s tough,” Martinsen said. “It’s not an easy thing to do. It’s easier to raise taxes. But you do have to, I mean you have to look at the motor pool. There’s a heck of a lot of vehicles there. I know a crane truck that gets used once or twice a year and some vehicles that probably don’t need to be there. Manager salaries I think have got out of control for this little one horse town. We had more people in 1980 than we do now so. There’s things like that. I haven’t really looked at the budget in a while but I guarantee you it probably hasn’t changed much in 15-20 years. I know there was a lot to cut then there’s a lot to cut now.”
One area Martinsen said he doesn’t want to cut is in Parks and Recreation. His priorities also include fire and EMS service, maintaining the harbors. He doesn’t expect he will vote in favor of rate increases for local utilities, regardless of any recommendations from rate studies this year. And he’d like to look at privatizing any borough services, including the recycling and garbage services.
“I was never for that recycling program, it was good when a private person was doing it,” he said. “The garbage, I mean everywhere else in America I think it’s a private business. Why don’t we look at that. Some enterprising young man might say hey I could make a go of this, make it slim and mean and privatize it. I mean that’s, could save a lot of money right there, there’s a lot of money out there in the trucks and employees and everything else.”
The assembly this year raised property taxes to make up for the loss of half of the state’s debt reimbursement for school projects. That was an annual payment to Petersburg of over 460,000 dollars. And the governor has signaled that he’d like to cut spending further next year. Martinsen wants to make up for that money by reducing spending.
“I mean the governor has done what nobody else has had the cohones to do, is we’ve gotta cut too,” Martinsen said. “It’s gotten out of hand. It’s just too much. We can save 400 grand in a lot of places. I have no doubt about that.”
Voters will choose from two of the four candidates for three year terms on the assembly. We’ll be featuring the other challengers in the next few weeks on local news.
KFSK plans to broadcast a forum hosted by the Petersburg Chamber of Commerce on Thursday September 12 7-9 p.m. in borough assembly chambers featuring all the candidates for assembly and mayor.