Charlie Pierce is no stranger to the goings on of the Kenai Peninsula Borough. He served on the Assembly from 2008 to 2014 and now, after retiring from Enstar last year, he’s looking to serve as Borough Mayor.
Like the other two candidates for Borough Mayor, Linda Hutchings and Dale Bagley, Charlie Pierce is relying on his business experience to show voters he’s most fit for the office.
“I managed a gas utility on the Peninsula for 26 years. Prior to that I came from the management in Anchorage. 1983, one of the largest construction seasons we’ve seen in Alaska. Building boom. Oil was at its peak. Remember, ‘85, oil went to $9 a barrel. So not only have I been able to manage resources and staff and assets for a large company, I’ve dealt with some of the more restrictive times as well.”
With oil hovering around fifty bucks a barrel, and no expectation that price will go up any time soon, this might count as one of the more restrictive times. And we see that in the borough budget, which has been a central issue in this race. A $4 million deficit isn’t causing a lot of heart burn right now, but that’s a number everyone agrees isn’t sustainable. For Pierce, the answer lies in the spending side of the ledger.
“We have a spending problem in our borough. And yes, some of it has been a shift in costs from the state level back to the local level. We have to be prepared to react and to respond to those types of situations. We could have long predicted, forecasted and looked out at the futures and as oil started dropping we could have done some forecasting and some planning and said wait, yes we have $120 oil now, but the futures market is predicting that oil is going to go down in six months. That’s a plan you put together, and you adjust your plan every six months. A budget is a moving target. It is a document that describes your spending plan for the year. That’s what a budget is and budgets can be adjusted.”
Piece has little appetite for addressing the problem with any new revenues, though he says he does support one of the ballot propositions dealing with sales tax that could raise about $3 million dollars annually. But even that move, adjusting the sales tax cap from $500 to $1,000 get his support with a caveat.
“That’s a tax policy that, if there there’s any policy that’s been offered to date, I could support that premise. But let me back up. Prior to supporting that initiative, I think that a more genuine approach would be to go in and actually do an evaluation of what we’re currently doing and look for a cost savings. My experience has been to find savings and avoid expenditures. That’s how I’ve been schooled and so I’m comfortable in that arena. And it doesn’t have to hurt. It doesn’t have to be ugly. It can be over a period of time. You move things and you make decisions in government and things happen pretty slowly. In the private sector, things move pretty fast.”
Pierce, like his fellow candidates, is taking a neutral stance on Proposition 1, which asks whether or not to ban cannabis businesses in the borough outside the cities. Pierce made his comments on the Kenai Conversation.