In their own words: Lucas Sawyer
Council Seat D
Candidate Lucas Sawyer
NN: What is your motivation to run and what are your qualifications to run for the Nome Common Council?
Lucas Sawyer: Abraham Lincoln was greatly influenced by George Washington when the latter famously said “the immense value of your national union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it”, this reminded Lincoln that patriotism to our country would promote happiness, motivating him to run for office. For me, patriotism for our country, state and city, and my desire to promote happiness are what motivates me.
Before we talk about why I may or may not be qualified to run for the Nome Common Council, please consider the career of James Buchanan, 15th President of the United States, widely considered the worst President in U.S. history: House of Representatives; Minister to Russia; Senator from Pennsylvania; Secretary of State; United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom - all before becoming U.S. President. Most would consider him highly qualified to hold office (in fact, they did by voting him for him time and again), but history is the real judge of a person’s qualifications.
I have had the pleasure of serving on the Museum and Library Commission for the City of Nome for the last year. I’ve recently earned a MiniMBA from the University of Buffalo, New York. I have been with the same employer for four and a half years, engineering advanced technology solutions for a large enterprise (my employer is not based in Nome or Alaska, so I have no conflicts). I just bought a home on the east end of town, my wife and I are planting roots and plan on becoming an even bigger part of the community. I have been described as not just thinking outside of the box, but for me there is no box. I am a creative problem solver, it’s what I do for a living. I am fair and honest, and I truly try to want to get the best for people.
NN: What are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how do you propose as councilmember to address them?
Lucas Sawyer: Nome’s biggest challenges are housing, jobs and wasted resources. The lack of housing affects the ability for employers to create jobs and it contributes to the alcohol and homeless issues.
The housing challenges are due to several things, one being the cost of construction, which is partially due lack of construction jobs, and lack of housing for those employees. The classic chicken-or-egg conundrum. And second, the lack of quality housing. During my campaigning, one of the most repeated sentiments is about the rampant abuses from “slumlords” in town. Renting in Nome is just challenging, and often sub-par. I know firsthand of these challenges, as I’m currently pursuing litigation against a former landlord for illegally withholding my security deposit, among other violations. Alaska’s rental statutes are not friendly to the tenant, I want to fix that for our renters in Nome.
Fixing the housing issues in Nome will help bring jobs to Nome, stimulating our local economy.
I was recently informed that the windmills we have produce far more power than we can effectively use and store, so most of the windmills are not actually operating and are shut down. Financial people call this an underperforming asset, I call this crazy. We have a renewable source of energy sitting idle, and with the cost of electricity always going up we should take full advantage of every available resource - we need to find a way to use these windmills at full capacity. Other resources often going to waste are in the software space, and with my technical background I would lead a full audit of all City software assets looking for over subscriptions, and cut the fat. Underperforming assets can also include real estate, property, equipment, staff and tools.
Solving these problems would also prevent the need to raise taxes.
NN: How do you propose to stimulate public interest in attending meetings and becoming involved in city issues?
Lucas Sawyer: I think it will be a struggle for quite a while to regain the public's trust. New leadership in the city manager's office and a new police chief is a start, and younger leadership in the city council will provide a more balanced and fresh approach to problem solving. Ultimately we need to inspire people, promote happiness, and try to create a warm and inviting environment. I don't have all the answers, the same way I don't know about issues until I see them firsthand. Come talk to me if you have ideas on how to improve our great town.
I have learned a lot of things from my wife over the years, but one thing I have learned from her was when she was putting together large parties and events together for different organizations, is that people like music, door prizes and finger food. I'm certain that if the city offered door prizes and finger food at all their events, attendance would skyrocket.
NN: How do you propose to combat the alcohol and substance abuse problem in Nome?
Lucas Sawyer: There is no one solution to every problem, this one will require several solutions and incremental steps along the way. Treatment facilities are the number one way to help address this problem, but they can be costly. I have plans for getting funds without raising taxes (see answer to question #2).
One of the reasons why we are having problems addressing the alcohol abuse problem is that we don’t really know how to answer the five W’s about the problem, the ‘who, what, when, where and why’ questions. We have so far been promoting solutions to a problem we haven’t properly identified. This will only set us back, may cause further damage to public trust and should cease.
But one thing we do know, is that it’s usually out-of-towners coming to Nome for a good time, causing these problems. Fortunately, there are many towns, cities and villages in Alaska that have elected for themselves to become dry, that is they don’t allow the sale or consumption of alcohol by their residents, in that city, town or village. These are values they hold and honor for their people, and by choosing to live in that community, they choose to live by these values. But why should these values end at the borders of that town or city?
As Alaskans, we are all working together to make our communities great and wonderful place to lives. When you leave the borders of your town, you don’t leave your values behind. So we should honor the values of all Alaskan communities here in Nome, starting with their values and beliefs in alcohol sales and consumption. If a community (e.g Anchorage) allows alcohol sales to their residents, then so should we when those residents are in Nome. And if a community (e.g. Juneau) doesn’t allow alcohol sales to their residents, then we should not when those residents are in Nome.
Enforcing this wouldn’t be difficult, as the Alaska State Troopers (and USPS) maintains a list of cities, towns and villages that are dry, this list would need to be distributed to the bars and liquor stores in Nome. Store clerks and bartenders would then need to receive basic training on who not to serve - after checking ID’s, anyone from a community on that list would not be served.
NN: Please outline your proposal to restore citizens’ trust in the Nome Police Department and describe what a functional NPD would look like in your opinion.
Lucas Sawyer: A functional NPD would include boots on the ground. The officers today spend far too much time in their vehicles or in the office, and not enough time interacting with the public. Many cities in the Lower 48 have officers on foot, bike, Segway, scooter and even horse. They are around and present, patrolling or just walking the beat, being a positive presence in the community, not just rounding up the homeless or breaking up bar fights. I think the new police chief will be a great asset as he is leader and a follower. We must demand from the new police chief that he take proactive steps to increase transparency and accountability, one such method is with body-worn cameras.
About 12 years ago, I worked for the company that built the municipal Wi-Fi for the City of Minneapolis (at the time the country’s largest municipal Wi-Fi project), and the main driver for this project was so the Minneapolis Police Department could install thousands of video cameras throughout the city, and have them attached to the wireless network and always on. Nome has been blessed with high-speed fiber Internet, but no carrier offering competitive service. Nome could follow the same business model, offering a valuable service to its residents (Wi-Fi) and providing better safety and security through the strategic placement of always on video cameras.
The standards for hire needed for a peace officer need to be raised, with a two-year criminal justice degree mandatory and a bachelor’s degree preferred. No exceptions.