Voters on Tuesday, October 5th will be choosing from a slate of eight candidates for two seats on the Petersburg borough assembly. Seven of the eight voiced their opinions on a variety of topics in an online forum hosted by the Petersburg Pilot and KFSK Monday, September 27. They had a range of reasons for running for office and a range of opinions on whether the local government should have a role in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.
One candidate Marc Martinsen served on the council for the city of Petersburg and he’s run for assembly for each of the past five years. He’s has worked in commercial fishing and marine construction. He’d like to repeal a revision of the borough’s emergency ordinance passed by the assembly a year ago.
“I totally disagree that any government should have the ability to shut down a private business, do what they want in their own house but private business to me that’s just wrong,” Martinsen said. “I mean we had 500 people sign the petition against that ordinance, the emergency ordinance that passed. They did it anyway.”
The version of the ordinance passed by the assembly last September requires assembly approval for any business closures and it dropped language on curfews or limitations on gatherings.
Martinsen does not think the virus will be stopped and does not think it’s that deadly. He also cited other reasons for running.
“I think we should start a discussion of how to keep working with day care costs,” Martinsen said. “I had four kids in day care. I know how expensive it is and necessary. We need to get back to regular school sports. Little league, I mean kids are resilient. What’s wrong with healthy people testing positive for COVID despite little or no symptoms? Isn’t that the way the miracle we call the human immune system is supposed to work?”
Electrician Brandi Thynes was on the assembly for a three-year term but fell short in her reelection bid last year. She’s also served on the school board. She doesn’t think there’s a role for the local government in COVID response.
“I think that people can take the precautions that they feel that are necessary for their health and their families and to either avoid it or many of us have had it and now have even a stronger immunity and vaccines available to those who want it,” Thynes said. “So at this point I do not think that the borough needs to be involved in the fight against COVID.”
While she was on the assembly Thynes voted against the revised emergency ordinance, which drew many public comments both for and against. She said she enjoyed her time on the assembly and wants to get back on.
“I would like to be somebody that will actively listen to everybody and I feel that there is several people in town, many people in town that feel like there’s not anybody that’s willing to listen on the assembly,” she said. “That’s been a huge motivation to run again.”
Attorney and musician Tom Fine-Walsh said he doesn’t want to force anyone to do anything but he thinks there is a role for government in the pandemic.
“It seems like they’re heavily involved in dealing with aid money or dealing with grants or programs that have to do with government money coming into the community and I mean if they’re not doing it who is? I mean it seems like there’s plenty for the borough to be handling, somebody’s gotta do that,” Fine-Walsh said.
Fine-Walsh said he’s running to listen to others as well.
“My experience as a lawyer will make me really well suited for this position,” he said. “You know not necessarily because I spend a lot of time reading legal documents but because a big part of my job is listening to people. You know being a good service provider for your clients is really about listening to people, really actively listening not just thinking about what you’re going to say next.”
Fine-Walsh said he’s interested in some zoning changes to encourage more affordable housing options and keep up affordable electricity and telecommunications.
Lars Christensen has worked in commercial fishing, logging and construction. He’s been on the parks and recreation advisory board and is now on an advisory board for the Salvation Army in Petersburg.
“I think the borough should take an active role in helping stop the spread of it but I believe everybody should be vaccinated but I don’t believe in forcing people to be vaccinated,” he said of local response to the pandemic. “You can’t mandate this away because it’s like the flu, I’m afraid it’s here for awhile.”
Christensen said he’s got no personal agenda in running for office.
“I just want to see this town prosper,” Christensen said. “I’m born and raised here and I spent a few years outside of town but I love this town and I have so much family here I just want to see this town prosper.”
Christensen said he’d like to take steps to help out Petersburg’s aging population and also encourage younger people to move back.
Paul Anderson is retired from the U.S. Army and was on the city council for two decades. Worked on maintenance for the local drug store and has a home heating repair business. He’s also served on a Resource Advisory Committee for federal funding, Thomas Bay Power Authority and several other boards and commissions.
“I was quite perturbed at watching some of the actions going on with the assembly,” said of his reasons for running. “Basically when someone makes a motion and it doesn’t get a second it dies. Back in our 20 years on the council when that was city, we always seconded motions for purposes of discussion, whether you like it or not. You got public out there trying to listen to this and they want to take action, they’re dead in the water.”
Anderson would also like to end daytime meetings of the assembly. He said he wears masks where they’re required and has had the vaccine and even a booster shot. But he also was upset when someone reported him for not wearing a mask in the Post Office. He does not think the borough should take a role in COVID response.
“I guess I say no, I don’t think the borough should be involved in that anymore,” Anderson said. “I think that’s going to be up to the individual stores and businesses. The borough’s already got it for theirs.”
Dana Thynes agreed that people should be allowed to make their own choices. She challenges the effectiveness of the COVID vaccine and questions their safety. She also wants to repeal the borough’s emergency ordinance.
“The only role I really think maybe the city could’ve taken and could still take is assist people who can’t afford supplements like vitamin D,” Thynes said.
Thynes has been mayor and councilor for the city of Kupreanof and likes others does not think the current assembly is listening.
“I wish to be an advocate for people who’s concerns are being ignored,” she said. “In Petersburg two fears face us daily, fear of the virus and fear of oppressive government. I don’t fear the virus as I know that it is not very deadly even for people over 70. I respect the virus but don’t fear it. I do fear governments seizing this crisis to tighten control over their citizens as we have seen.”
Thynes would also like to see the borough take steps to encourage community gardens for more food security.
Bob Lynn, retired from a long career in the U.S. Forest Service, is the only incumbent. He doesn’t want to mandate vaccination but thinks government should be educating local citizens. He thinks there are roles for government in pandemic response.
“First of all is in education of what it is, what the virus is and can do,” Lynn said. “I think there’s a role for research. I think there’s also a role here for funding. If you look at our hospital here for instance, they’ve received a tremendous amount of funding to do testing, to do whatever and to keep the doors open so to speak. And I think that’s necessary and I think that needs to be a continuing role of government.”
Besides COVID Lynn listed a few of the pressing issues he’s hoping to work on if he’s reelected.
“To mention but a few of the issues that we’re going to have to face is the borough land selections, budget, upgrading our utilities, harbor dredging, funding for our schools, completion of the work at our pool facility,” he said.
Lynn also wants to pursue taking over the dock at Papke’s Landing and complete renovation of the hydroelectric plant at Blind Slough.
Candidates said they’d comply with a mask mandate in borough buildings to attend assembly meetings, but several said they’d only do so if the assembly voted to approve that.
An eighth candidate Jim Vick did not respond to requests to take part in the candidate forum or interview with KFSK.