By Heidi Zemach for SCN
The three Seward City Council incumbents, Jean Bardarson, Marianna Keil and Ristine Casagranda were the top vote getters for three two-year seats in the unofficial count of Tuesday’s municipal election. It appears that local voters are pretty content with the way their council members are representing their interests. But with 45 absentee, question and special-needs ballots yet to be counted by the City of Seward Canvas Board on Thursday afternoon, the outcome of the third candidate seat could change. Casagranda is only six votes ahead of Kenny Blatchford in the unofficial vote count. Bardarson received 231 votes, Marianna Keil got 210 votes, Casagranda got 181 votes, Blatchford got 175 votes and Tim McDonald trailed in the last place with 89 votes.
The two ballot propositions initiated by the council were passed by fairly wide margins. That means the citizens have elected to continue with the trash service provider that they have rather than seeking another one, or having the city provide the service. The vote also means that the city will revert to personal financial disclosure requirements for the mayor, manager, council members and planning and zoning commission members or candidates that are deemed less intrusive or detailed than the existing ones are. The move to simpler requirements, requiring that the candidates reveal the identities of only those from whom they recieved $5,000 or more, (rather than $1,000 or more) may help encourage more people in the private sector to get involved in local politics, or at least that was the idea behind the change. Prop 1: to Opt-Out of APOC Financial Disclosure Requirements and Adopt City Forms and Guidelines had 204 yes votes, and 120 no votes.
Prop 2: to enter into seven-year franchise agreement with Alaska Waste – Kenai Peninsula, LLC for the collection and disposal of garbage and refuse won 219 to 107. The vote comes despite the company stating in its application that it would increase customer rates by 20 percent next year, and would tie annual fee increases to 140 percent of the CPI, or Consumer Price Index, which refers to the fluxuating cost of daily essential living items. But Alaska Waste also had promised to offer more services, including renting bear-resistant trash cans and dumpster lids for a low fee, and large item curbside pickup.
The election had an abysmally low turnout, with only about 19 percent of those registered actually voting. In recent years the number has been around 30 percent. For this election, 689 (city and Lowell Point borough election) ballots were cast, so approximately 344 people voted in the city election. There were approximately 1,828 people registered to vote in the Seward Precinct last year. Some registered may have died, or moved elsewhere, while new voters may have been added, said City Clerk Johanna Kinney.
SCN reporter Heidi Zemach stood outside the K.M. Rae polling station Monday afternoon and questioned the voters who were leaving on how they had voted, and why they had voted the way they did. The answers were taken anonymously so that voters would be more free to be more honest with their answers. All but two of the voters appeared to be over the age of 50. Generally, the knowledge expressed about the candidates, and ballot measures was limited. The exercise provided an eye-opener to this reporter about the lack of interest in local politics in the community generally, why so few people attend council meetings or run for office, and perhaps also why so few bother to vote.
Here’s a sample:
A man voted for all three council incumbents, who he knows. He said he knew “who the other two are, and don’t really agree with their views.”
A man said he voted “for all the ladies.” His reason was that he didn’t know any of the candidates running, so when in doubt, he just votes for the women.
“You can’t trust anybody in the city, so I voted the new folks in,” said a woman.
A man said he “voted for Kenny,” because he knew him. He was among several who only voted for the candidates that they knew, but did not specify.
“I’m a very positive person, and I only voted for one,” said a woman.
“I’m not happy with what we’ve got,” said a man. He did vote for Casagranda however.
“I give Ristine credit for standing up against fluoride. Now, I wish we could get rid of the chlorine.”
A woman who stated flatly she is “Republican all the way,” although not asked, quickly added that she “voted for the new people” for city council.
“Ask me about the Presidential, I know all about that, not the local (politics),” said a man. “He watches CNN all the time,” said his partner. “He never reads the paper.”
On the propositions:
A woman said she voted for Prop 1, but against Prop 2 because she did not believe that the city should charge her garbage fees when she doesn’t even receive the service.
A man voted against Prop 1 and 2 saying; “They got too much control anyway.”
Another voted for extending the contract with Alaska Waste saying, “What are you going to do?”
“It seemed like a better idea to vote for a long-term contract,” said a woman who voted in favor of the Alaska Waste contract, and the financial disclosure proposition.
Another voted against Prop 2, the Alaska Waste contract because he didn’t like the sound of an annual CPI-related fee increase, and he didn’t know what that is. He voted against the city adopting new financial disclosure laws because he had no idea what that meant either.
The City of Seward Canvass Board will tally the absentee, by-mail, challenged votes Thursday afternoon.
In the KPB Election:, Incumbent Assemblywoman Sue McClure, running unopposed, won another term on the East Peninsula Assembly Seat 6 with 317 votes. There were four write-ins. Bob Reisner and Randy Stauffer were both elected to the Seward Bear Creek Flood Service Area Board. Randy Stauffer got 281 votes, Reisner got 273 votes. There is still a one-year seat open on that board, available to all residents living either inside, or outside of city limits. It is an appointed seat, so you don’t have to campaign.