The Matanuska Susitna Borough’s District One presents a unique set of challenges. It stretches from the outskirts of Palmer east along the Matanuska River and Glenn Highway as far as Lake Louise, then North to the Denali Borough border. It encompasses wild and rural land, although many industrial development projects are slated for it’s as yet undisturbed fields. Incumbent District 1 Assemblyman Warren Kehoe announced that he would not run for another term of office. Now long time political agitator Jim Sykes is eyeing the upcoming vacancy. Sykes says the Boro economy is doing okay, and growth can be found in health care, travel, energy efficiency and other ways
“And we need to grow a lot of sectors that are going to complement our life here in the Valley. “
Skyes has been active in Alaska’s political scene for a couple of decades. He once ran for governor, and can point to dozens of community and state issues that he has taken part in
“I’ve been open to a lot of different ideas across my journey of trying to do something good for communities. What I have really tried to do is to make sure that people have a voice and that’s a strong voice, and that they can participate in an open, and honest, process of government.”
Sykes says it’s the contentious problems that give people the chance to come together and forge solutions. He points to his record. He has run non profits, worked for the Alaska Native Review Commission, served on the Railbelt Energy Advisory Board and as the Lazy Mt. CC president. He advocates for alternative energy, lives in a house made of straw bales, and helped establish radio stations in Talkeetna and Palmer. He says he’s got an innovative idea to monitor Borough spending, too.
“We need to put the Borough check book online, so everyone can see exactly how our taxpayer dollars are spent. And when things are put into a fund, people can see if they are transferred out and where. And I think this level of transperancy is easy to do, the taxpayers deserve it. “
But aviator, and challenger, Doug Glenn says he’ll bring new energy to the Assembly. He built up his Glenn Air business in Palmer the old fashioned way
“In high school throwing bags for Woods Air Service, just moving freight. And worked for them for quite a few years and they got me sucked into the aviation business and here I’m stuck. And I’ve been doing my thing with airplanes ever since. “
First time candidate Glenn, grew up in Palmer and is a grad of Palmer High. He has three children, two now in Borough schools. He says he’s worried about their future
“My reason for doing this is more for my kids than anything. I realize there are no decent family wage jobs around here and I know that everybody’s getting sick and tired of hearing that, no family wage job deal, but it’s a fact. You know, there’s WalMart jobs, and I’m not knocking anybody that works for a living, but these12 dollar an hour jobs just don’t cut it. It’s hard to buy a 250, thousand dollar house making twelve bucks an hour. “
Glenn’s taking a strong pro-development stance, is in favor of the Susitna dam project, the transportation initiative and a bridge across Knik Arm.
“And the traffic on Knik Goose Bay road is truly unbelievable. And anybody that says that bridge isn’t necessary needs to take a cruise out there. You know, during the morning or afternoon. Actually, any time of the day. The development’s happening out there, whether people believe it or not. They need to drive to Port MacKenzie, and take a look around, because stuff is happening. “
District one is the site of proposed coal mining projects within the Borough, projects that have divided communities and created a backlash of opposition among some Borough residents. Sykes says he’s taking a long range view
” You know, the coal industry is in a deep, economic slump, that has dramatically slowed exploration and development all over the world. And, while there are still exploration activities going on, I don’t think that anything is likely to happen for a long time, so there may be a good opportunity for more dialogue in the communities. “
Glenn , who does aerial reclamation work for Usibelli coal, says Sutton locals he’s talked to support coal mining
“Ninety percent of the people I’ve talked to, a strong ninety percent, are in favor of that mine opening up.”
Sykes doesn’t deny that development needs to happen, but, he says, representation is all about getting people involved in their own government.
“Cause I am part of this Valley. And I really will work with anybody, and that is my reputation, and I think that’s what we need more of, rather than just trying to see any problem that comes up through the lens of some particular agenda.”
On October first, it’ll be up the Valley voters to decide.