Islanders express what they expect from council
Jamestown voters went to the polls Tuesday to determine which candidates were the best choices to move the town forward. The Democratic primary pitted four Town Council incumbents against a five-person slate of challengers.
Voters expressed concern about an array of issues including taxes, the ongoing debate over the future of Fort Getty, the now discontinued plans to erect a wind turbine at Taylor Point, maintaining the current level of quality education in Jamestown’s schools, and civility in the town’s political discourse.
“We definitely have to think green,” said voter Mary Jo Braisted. “I’m fairly new here, but I love it. I just hope that everybody can come together and actually get things done.” Braisted also expressed concerns about the balance between growth and the environment when it comes to building on the island.
Pierre Pages is a former member of the United States Coast Guard in Alaska who has recently returned to Jamestown with his wife and 6-year-old child. There is another child on the way, and he is training for a job with the Police Department. He expressed concern about Fort Getty, and satisfaction that the wind turbine project is on the back burner for now.
“I think Jamestown financially is in a decent spot and it will continue to be that way as long as they operate with a clear mindset that they have had in the past,” Pages said.
Walter Boll was a poll worker at Lawn Avenue School for Tuesday’s primary. “I think one thing I would like to ask at a Town Council meeting is why they let the two diesel generators go years ago. There are only four main ways to make electricity. My maternal great-grandfather worked for Edi- son, so I know what I’m talking about.” Boll also said that water supply issues are critical for the island.
“My main concerns are with the schools because I have two young children,” said a voter who did not wish to be identified. “My main concern is that there is proper funding for the schools, and that we can continue to be one of the best schools in the state.”
Ann Marie Pemantell expressed the hope that the Town Council will conclude its discussions about Fort Getty. “That would be a big plus. I think we’re in pretty good shape, but I think this business with Fort Getty and the wind turbine needs to be addressed and put to bed.”
Robert Smith summed it all up in one word: taxes. He went on to say that he hopes that the council will keep taxes under control, and that he was satisfied with the town’s fiscal condition at this point.
“Right now I would like to see them do something with the Fort Getty area,” said Al Bowder. “I think they have to keep the budget under control, and keep the school system going the way it’s going now, which I think is good. I would like to see that continue, and I think that most of the people we have on the Town Council now seem to be doing a pretty good job.”
Lou Berschad also spoke about the importance of keeping the school system up and giving a quality education to Jamestown’s children. “I think that’s the main thing.”
Another voter echoed concerns about the only town-owned park. “I think that Fort Getty is something that needs to be worked out.”
Ken Littman is a past president of the Town Council. According to Littman, the election was about how the council handles the issues that they have to deal with, and their approach to those issues.
“The way they approach issues is not done with the utmost courtesy and civility towards people,” Littman said. “It leads people with a bad taste in their mouths about how the governing of the town is being handled.”
He continued, “The way the town is being administered by the council seems to be what motivated the challengers in the primary, more than any specific issue. There are specific issues that have triggered people to challenge the incumbents, but I think it’s the tone of the way they’ve handled their responsibilities.”
Robert Salk made it clear that in his opinion the main issue facing the town is Fort Getty. “I think that we have to use it for the town, and the people who pay taxes in the town. I have nothing against the campers. I’ve met quite a few of them and they’re nice people, however the amount of dollars that they bring in minus the expenses is so limited that we shouldn’t be focused on the dollars, we should be focused on the usage of the land.”
Terry Lanza also mentioned the Fort Getty issue as one that she would like to see resolved. “I think it should be a democracy. I think we should all vote as to what happens.”
Affordability was on the mind of Anna Hutchings as she went to the poll at Town Hall. “A big concern is the pricing issue, whether people who have lived here for a long time can continue living here. I hope that the people who are elected can address that.”
At the end of the day, Jamestown voters did their loudest talking at the polls, where, in a display of democracy in action, the entire incumbent slate was defeated by the challengers. This result means that no matter which candidates prevail in November’s general election, Jamestown will have at least four new members of the Town Council going forward.