Ready or not, candidate forums signal municipal election season

A political candidate forum at noon today at the Carlson Center will focus on business and the economy. A second larger forum tonight at the JP Jones Community Development Center will spotlight issues such as climate change and equal rights.

The two events kick off a series of forums involving candidates for Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly, the Board of Education, Fairbanks mayor, the Fairbanks City Council and the North Pole City Council.

Local candidate forums are scheduled just about every week leading up to the Oct. 1 municipal elections beginning with a forum hosted by the Greater Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting three lunch-time forums starting today.

“This is a great opportunity for the community to come out and get an opportunity to hear from the candidates about what is important to business and our economy,” said Marisa Shara, president and CEO of the chamber. “Budget is going to be a hot topic this year.”

Today’s forum will feature candidates for the Fairbanks and North Pole City Councils.

The chamber also is sponsoring a Sept. 17 forum for Borough Assembly candidates and a Sept. 27 forum with candidates for Fairbanks city mayor. All of the chamber forums are scheduled at noon at the Carlson Center, 2010 Second Ave. Members of the public can attend for a $5 listening fee. Lunch is $25.

Candidates will answer prepared questions, and the chamber will solicit questions from the audience, Shara said. She asks that anyone planning to buy lunch register on the chamber of commerce website, so they know how many people to expect.

Tonight’s “Climate, Jobs and Justice Candidate Forum” is being hosted by multiple community organizations and coalitions, including The Alaska Center, based in Anchorage. It starts at 6 p.m. at the JP Jones Center, 2400 Rickert Ave. Water and tea will be provided. Attendance is free though attendees are asked to bring their own mug. All candidates running for local office were invited.

“We’re definitely going to be asking a question about climate change,” said organizer Alyssa Quintyne, who is with The Alaska Center, a nonprofit organization focusing on clean water, clean energy, healthy communities and democracy.

“We are going to ask questions about land acknowledgments. We are going to ask about the nondiscrimination ordinance,” Quintyne said, referring to a city of Fairbanks measure from last winter that extended equal rights protections for employment, housing and public accommodations to members of the LGBTQ community.

The Fairbanks City Council approved the measure, and Fairbanks Mayor Jim Matherly vetoed it.

Quintyne added that local candidates will be asked about de-escalation and mental awareness training for first responders.

Two moderators will lead the forum in which audience questions will be solicited. Other groups hosting the event include the Fairbanks Climate Action Coalition, the local chapter of the NAACP and the Gwich’in Steering Committee.

The Interior Taxpayers’ Association Inc. is planning its annual local candidate forum Sept. 10 at the JP Jones Center. It’s a new location for the forum, which has traditionally been held in the Mona Lisa Drexler Borough Assembly Chambers.

Moderator Lance Roberts, who served on the Borough Assembly, said questions will come from the audience who will be permitted to query all candidates or specific candidates. Hopefuls for the City Councils, Borough Assembly and Fairbanks mayor have been invited. Members of the public may attend the free event in which a potluck supper will be provided.

After the forum, ITA members vote on who to endorse with endorsements announced the night of the forum or the next day.

The League of Women Voters of the Tanana Valley is hosting a municipal candidate forum at 6 p.m. Sept. 20 in the Borough Assembly chambers. The event will be broadcast live on KUAC 89.9 FM, according to the league’s website, Candidates running for City Council, Borough Assembly and Fairbanks mayor have been invited. The forum is free, and members of the audience will be allowed to submit questions.

Explore Fairbanks and the Fairbanks chapter of the Alaska Travel Industry Association are hosting their candidate forum at 11:45 a.m. Sept. 25. The location will be announced. The event is free with lunch available to purchase. Candidates for Fairbanks mayor, Borough Assembly and City Council were invited.

What we try to do is make it educational for both of us — for the candidates and the industry,” said organizer Kathy Hedges, president of the Fairbanks chapter of the ATIA. “The format is that we educate, we ask them questions and they can do a round of questions for us.”

By Amanda Bohman

Originally posted in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

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