Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce

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A Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting turned into a debate about the coronavirus last night, when a resolution condemning vaccine mandates generated hours of conversation about unproven COVID-19 treatments and took the meeting right up to its 11:30 p.m. automatic end time.

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The Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor and several members of the assembly want to publicly denounce what they call “vaccine segregation” from the government.

Resolution 2021-067, set to be introduced at next week’s assembly meeting, says the borough encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine. But, the resolution says, the assembly and borough administration “Do not support government-mandated restrictions imposing mandated COVID-19 vaccine segregation in our community.”

Aaron Bolton/KBBI

The Kenai Peninsula Borough spent the winter sharing updated information about the coronavirus and resources for getting vaccinated.

Now, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce is using his platform to challenge local doctors and promote unproven COVID-19 treatments, on local talk radio and in public meetings.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

With five weeks remaining before summer break, the Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor is publicly challenging the school district on its COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

Mayor Charlie Pierce has long been an advocate of keeping mask-wearing a personal choice and opening the peninsula up to business as usual amid coronavirus-induced closures.

He turned his focus to the school district last week, saying in a Facebook post “The time has come for us to get rid of all Mask Mandates [sic] in schools.”

Facebook

Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce hosted Anchorage Assembly member Jamie Allard on a Facebook Live video last night, posted to the mayor’s public page.

Allard represents Eagle River and Chugiak on the Anchorage Assembly. She came under fire last month for defending Nazi terminology on Alaska custom license plates, which read “FUHRER” and “3REICH.”

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Kenai Peninsula Borough mayoral candidate Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings raised more for her campaign than Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce this election, according to most-recent campaign donation reports from the Alaska Public Offices Commission. As of today, Farnsworth-Hutchings has a total reported income of nearly $34,000, with Pierce around $26,000.

Farnsworth-Hutchings also out-spent Pierce, with expenditures coming in at around $21,000. Pierce has reported spending closer to $20,000.

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The last time Charlie Pierce and Linda Farnsworth-Hutchings campaigned for the position of Kenai Peninsula Borough mayor, in 2017, voters were buzzing about the borough’s stance on cannabis legislation and the Pebble Partnership.

The center of attention this round, unsurprisingly, has been COVID-19. At today’s 2020 mayoral candidate forum, moderator Merrill Sikorski asked the candidates about their strategies for handling coronavirus and what they thought about funding for schools and deferred maintenance projects.

The forum was part of a luncheon held by the Kenai Chamber of Commerce at the visitors’ center. Around 50 people attended.

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce was an early proponent of opening Kenai back up following state-mandated coronavirus closures, and he spoke proudly of his position at the forum.

“I was the individual that took the lead in Marchm” Pierce said. “Following the very next day, after the governor reduced some of his mandates, I was out on the streets the very next day saying that I believe we’re all essential. I believe we’re open for business and I believe that’s the best way to save our businesses is to continue to keep government out and off of the backs of individuals in the way of taxation and the growth of government.”

Generally, Pierce said he thinks he’s done a pretty good job over the last three years. But when asked about what she would have done differently, Farnsworth-Hutchings said she would have handled borough issues “in a completely different way” than her opponent.

“I work very well one on one with everybody,” she said. “I believe in having management meetings once a week so that you can deal with all of your department heads, [seeing] what’s going on in their departments, and making sure that your employees feel like they are appreciated and are doing the most that they can do.”

The assembly approved an ordinance Tuesday night that reaffirms its support for Americans’ right to bear arms.

The ordinance repeats some of the language from the Second Amendment to the federal Constitution, which protects Americans’ rights to keep and bear arms. Sponsored by borough mayor Charlie Pierce and assembly members Jesse Bjorkman, Norm Blakeley and Kenn Carpenter, the main change in the ordinance is to declare the Kenai Peninsula Borough a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.” That term comes from a national political movement by gun advocates pushing local governments to pass laws saying they won’t enforce state or federal gun laws, which gained significant attention in Virginia earlier this year.

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The borough’s addition of a vote-by-mail option, set to go into effect next year, will stand for now, after the assembly overturned borough mayor Charlie Pierce’s veto.

The ordinance allows voters to choose to vote by mail, but polling places and absentee ballots will still be available. It also extends the amount of time between an election and a run-off, and removes proposition statements from the voter information packet. The ordinance came from a stakeholder working group on election reform, following a lawsuit about equal access to voting within the borough.

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Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce has vetoed an ordinance recently passed by the assembly expanding the number of ways to cast a ballot in borough elections.

In his memo to the assembly, Pierce says such a significant change to the borough’s voting procedures shouldn’t be left to the assembly, but rather, put to a vote of the public. Pierce said that such changes would directly impact “the fundamental right to vote.” Pierce also questioned the security of voting by mail, one of the main features of the ordinance.

 

While 12 of the 19 boroughs around the state employ a manager to oversee day-to-day administrative operations, residents on the Kenai still go to the polls every three years to elect a mayor to serve in that role. But some on the assembly think it’s time for a change.

Pierce touts aging equipment upgrades

May 13, 2019

As the assembly works to put together a lean budget for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Mayor Charlie Pierce reported at last week’s meeting that his plan to bring energy efficiency to aging borough properties is seeing good results.

Assembly votes to increase school funding, for now

Apr 18, 2019

More than 100 people were at the Seward High School auditorium for last night’s Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly meeting. The assembly heard more than three hours of public testimony on two different education funding items.

The first was an ordinance that will appropriate $2.4 million in supplemental funding to allow the district to begin offering contracts to nontenured teachers. The assembly cast a 5-4 vote to approve that funding, but it will be subject to a potential veto by borough Mayor Charlie Pierce. When asked by assembly member Kelly Cooper if he intended to issue a veto, he said he wasn’t ready to speak to it. He was ready to speak to the reasons the borough and the school district find themselves in this situation, pointing to yet-to-be resolved budget drama in Juneau and his predecessor, Mike Navarre.

Pierce holds firm on budget cut strategy

Mar 12, 2019

 

Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce had a simple message for people worried about potential budget cuts. Embrace them.

Pierce supports Dunleavy budget proposal

Feb 13, 2019
ConocoPhillips

 

As promised, nearly every section of the state budget is in the crosshairs of Governor Mike Dunleavy’s proposed budget released Wednesday. One major change that doesn’t directly involve a cut in funding deals with property taxes on oil and gas infrastructure.

Quick out as governor's Administration Commissioner

Jan 25, 2019

The man who once was the former chief of staff for Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, and political consultant for Sen. Peter Micciche's re-election campaign, has resigned his position in Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration after he was accused of lying to a Senate committee this week about his work experience.

John Quick was named as the state’s commissioner of the Department of Administration in late November. 

John Quick's resumé scrutinized in Juneau

Jan 24, 2019

A member of the Dunleavy administration is accused of lying to the state Legislature during a recent confirmation hearing.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy appointed John Quick as the state's new commissioner of the Department of Administration in late November.

Quick claims on his resume he was an owner and investor in a number of businesses in Washington state.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough began its budget process Wednesday, with managers and directors meeting to discuss departmental finances. At the borough assembly meeting Tuesday night, Mayor Charlie Pierce warned that there are some complications going into this budget cycle.

For one thing, he doesn’t expect any extra help from the state.

It's been just over a year since Borough mayor Charlie Pierce took office. On this week's episode of the Kenai Conversation, we talk about what he and (outgoing) Chief of Staff John Quick have learned and what Pierce plans to tackle in 2019.


Validity of borough mayor's online poll questioned

May 21, 2018
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An increased presence on social media has been a cornerstone for borough mayor Charlie Pierce since he took office. His administration has posted videos and updates and now, a poll. While online polls might be interesting or entertaining, rarely are they valid.