Mark Springer is running for another term on the Bethel City Council
KYUK has been running a series of profiles on Bethel City Council candidates ahead of the Oct. 5 election. There are six candidates running for four open seats, and each seat is for a two-year term. KYUK municipal reporter Olivia Ebertz spoke to incumbent Mark Springer about his priorities for the city.
Springer has sat on city council for three full terms. He also sat for two shorter terms. He’s been in Bethel for about 20 years, and in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta for about 40 years in total. One thread in Springer’s recent city council work has been attention to Native issues and politics. During last week’s city council meeting he sponsored an ordinance to transfer the land under the ONC Multipurpose building back to the Bethel tribe. Currently the land is owned by the city.
Springer said that one piece of legislation he’s proud of is a recent ordinance to expand the city Elders sales tax exemption to include Elders not just from Bethel, but from anywhere.
“I was in this in the city office one day and this Elder was there, and he goes, 'man, they wouldn't give me a sales tax card.' I go 'what?' He goes, 'yeah.' I go, 'where ya from?' He goes, 'Kwethluk.' I said, 'Well, we'll take care of that.' That took a while, but we did it,” said Springer.
Springer said that another issue facing the city is a lack of affordable housing for young people.
“Real estate prices are red hot, rents in Bethel are red hot. And then there's other components too, you know, there's childcare. So you moved to Bethel, both of you have jobs, but you've got young children, you got childcare issues,” said Springer.
Springer mentioned an idea that the council could look into to help address the housing issues in Bethel. He said that the city could look at changing the zoning maps to include more tiny homes. He also said that he’s a "housing first" advocate when it comes to homelessness. A housing first approach is when a city or other body provides the unhoused with houses, thereby ending homelessness.
Springer said that he has been involved in other ways in Bethel through his work. Most recently, he served as the Executive Director of ONC for just over a year before being voted out of his position by the board. Prior to that, he worked at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Kuskokwim Campus. He also sits on the city port commission and previously chaired the state Marijuana Control Board.
The municipal election will be tomorrow, Oct. 5, and early voting has already begun. You can click here to listen to a full interview with Springer, and here for the entire Bethel City Council Candidates Forum.