At this past Thursday’s borough assembly work session, the very big news was an Alaska housing developer’s request for the assembly’s support (endorsement) for he and his partner to build a 20-unit affordable housing complex along Mill Bay Road.
Because the project would be financed under a national tax credit program, the approval of Alaska Housing Finance Corporation is required; and AHFC can only approve four such applications this year (out of 16 applications so far). Thus, the request for assembly support before the AHFC.
The developer, John J. McGrew, showed up at the meeting with ample paperwork: resumes for both him and his partner, a list of dozens of Alaskan multifamily and commercial properties that they have built and managed over the past 21 years, and location drawings for the Kodiak site along with architectural renderings. The guy came prepared. And Mr. McGrew was more than happy to answer assembly member questions regarding financing, construction, or other specific and sometimes detailed questions.
To say that assembly members were enthusiastic about this proposal would be an understatement. “Overjoyed” would likely be a better descriptor. In this case, though, maybe such enthusiasm is warranted. For looking forward, if this project does indeed come about, it will be to the assembly’s credit, for they have been working diligently to provide affordable housing around Kodiak for some time now, and this would be a significant step forward for our community.
This project, then, may be in Kodiak’s future? But as I look to future projects, as the end of the year approaches I also find myself reflecting back on 2016. It has been a busy year for the assembly. By year’s end we will have installed a new borough manager, borough mayor and three out of seven new borough assembly members. Which is a lot of change. And during all the incertitude, assembly members have been steady on their course and persevered — something in which they and those who elected them all can take pride.
Also, I think much of the assembly’s work has been productive. For example (from my perspective) there are four basic, human rights: the right to adequate food and water, the right to adequate shelter, the right to medical care, and the right to education. To which we all are entitled by virtue of being human beings. And I believe the assembly should work towards providing these birthrights to our community. So, using these measures as a standard, how has the borough assembly done?
My thinking is that the assembly has done reasonably well on the latter three items. Medical-wise, we have both a fine hospital and a community clinic with sliding-scale fees. Education-wise our schools have some outstanding college-prep programs and solid vocational-technical (CTE) offerings. Housing-wise, the assembly has been all-in in this area; and if there is an idea that might prove productive, the assembly has been quite willing to consider it. In my book, they get an A in this area.
This leaves food security, in which area the assembly has paid attention. But we still have individuals and families in our community going hungry. The assembly does have a Solid Waste Advisory Board that primarily focuses only on the end of the food security chain, when foodstuffs (and other refuge) are disposed of in the landfill. And right now, they are looking for work.
Would it not make sense, then, for the assembly to ask SWAB to expand its charter to cover the entirety of food security? From growing food, making food available for all, and then disposing of food as animal feed or composting. Perhaps something for the assembly to think about, as supporting efforts to feed the less well-off in our community should be part of their charter?
All of which, of course, is just my opinion.
Jeff Stewart is a retired project manager and former member of the KIBSD Board of Education.