Audience members packed city hall for last night’s Bethel City Council Candidate Forum. Candidates spoke on Bethel’s most important issues, like alcohol, open positions in city government, and relations among council members. If you missed last night’s broadcast, you can listen to the full candidate forum online.
Some of the biggest issues in front of Bethel are the local option questions on this year’s ballot. There’s one to limit alcohol sales to restaurants, and another to prohibit all marijuana establishments. None of the candidates chose to share how they would vote on either of those options.
“There’s a reason there’s a curtain on the voting booth,” said candidate Mark Springer. “I’d rather not say how I’m going to vote than lie about how I’m going to vote. People vote however they want to vote.”
All of the candidates said that they would support whatever decision Bethel residents make this October. The discussion heated up when KYUK asked candidates what they felt were the best and worst decisions that the city council made this year.
“The worst decision council made this year is pretty obvious,” said candidate Alyssa Gustafson-Leary. “The way the city manager was fired during his quarterly evaluation. I think that was really detrimental to city council, but that might have gotten more people to throw their hat in the ring to be candidates.”
Candidates Mark Springer, Cece Franko, and Haley Hanson all agreed that the way former Bethel City Manager Peter Williams was fired was the worst decision made by the council this past year.
Candidate Raymond “Thor” Williams, who voted to fire the previous city manager, talked about poor relations between council members last year.
“I think one of the hard issues that have come in front of city council is a lack of communication between council,” Williams said. “When council members don’t talk to each other, they tend to get into their little forts, their little enclaves."
That wasn’t the case at last night's forum, though. Communication flowed freely between candidates. They agreed on many issues, like hiring a city manager with experience in Alaska. On other matters, like how to retain city employees for longer, they disagreed. But at the end of the night, candidates said that civility during the forum remained high.
“I think everyone was cordial,” said candidate Cece Franko. “I just went and shook everyone’s hands, and that’s wonderful, and I think that was positive, and that’s the most we can hope for.”
“I think because that’s been an issue with this last council, and I think people are recognizing the community wants something different,” added candidate Haley Hanson. “Whether that means electing people who are going to carry that out better, or people who have been on and see the need for more cordiality.”
Mark Springer, Alyssa Gustafson-Leary, Raymond "Thor" Williams, Cece Franko, Haley Hanson, and Fritz Charles are running for Bethel City Council. Charles was absent from the forum last night due to work conflicts. Four of those six candidates will represent the city of Bethel for the next two years. Elections will be held October 1.