In their own words: Sarah Jane Swartz
Nome Common Council Seat D, three-year term
Incumbent Stan Andersen is not running again.
Candidate Sarah Jane Swartz
NN: What is your motivation and what are your qualifications to run for the Nome Common Council?
Sarah Swartz: I am proud to call Nome my home for the last 10 years. My qualifications lie within my life experiences and work history as an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Army and nurse of 18 years. Just being female is not enough reason to put a woman on the Council, but for me as a parent, spouse, aunt, homemaker, active community member and friend to many, my voice is bold enough to speak out when needed to represent the people of this town. Nome has been lacking a female voice on the Council for many years now. As your next City Councilwoman, I want to ensure the voice of the people and their concerns are heard. I strive for positive and constructive solutions to issues we all face here in Nome today and into the future. I will do this with empathetic objectivity and keep in mind how my decisions affect my fellow citizens.
NN: What are the biggest challenges facing Nome today and how do you propose as councilmember to address them?
Sarah Swartz: 1. Public safety and the health and welfare of families is my highest concern. After losing my mother-in-law in the Polaris Hotel fire last year, it has come to my attention that fire safety codes are not being met or are being ignored. We need to look into all fire codes within the City to ensure every large building and business is up to standard so that no other family has to experience the pain of losing a loved one to a completely preventable fire.
2. Our roads and seawall are unsafe. We need to find somewhere within our budget to ensure they stay well maintained. The Middle Beach seawall needs better access. Residents and visitors are injured frequently trying to climb these walls. I would like to see more entrance points to our beaches for easier access — not just for recreation, but for the selfless volunteers who do regular clean up and safety checks.
3. Our cost of living is too high. I recommend work sessions to find solutions for our city taxes to work more effectively. We need to solve budget deficits other than raising MIL rates and property taxes. Homeowners are dissatisfied with home assessment practices and believe they’re being unfairly appraised to raise their property tax. This is a serious concern as all homeowners need to be taxed equally and fairly. Speeding up the abatement process will also open doors for new revenue streams for the city.
NN: How do you propose to stimulate public interest in attending meetings in becoming involved in city issues?
Sarah Swartz: We live in an age where people communicate better from their devices than in person. I propose creating a means to connect with the public via platforms like Facebook or Twitter to make announcements regarding when Council meetings will be held, topics to be discussed, and for the public to address the Council by having easier means to privately make requests for City consideration. People do not feel they have enough information regarding council proceedings and agendas, nor are many educated on how city government functions. Placing announcements in the Nugget and radio stations could increase awareness and inform the public on a broader spectrum. I would also like to see a KNOM talk format where city council members can be on the air to recap meetings and answer questions for callers. This would help create conversations and garner interest in people attending the meetings in person.
NN: How do you propose to come about the alcohol and substance abuse problem in Nome?
Sarah Swartz: There is no magic bullet answer to this question, but it does begin with identifying the root cause of any substance abuse issue. It’s going take a collaborative effort within the community to tackle this issue. We have Behavioral Health Department with NSHC, clergy outreach and tribal programs in place that already work tirelessly within our communities to assist those struggling with substance abuse and their families. Nome at large needs to be more informed what these programs are and how they can be utilized. The City alone cannot handle the issue by restricting liquor purchase hours. We need to enforce our current codes and follow our state liquor laws. People violating local laws by selling to intoxicated persons and those locally selling it illegally need to be fined and held responsible. I propose all Nome alcohol sellers enforce a strict ID check code upon the attempt to purchase alcohol. I am in favor of coordinating with NPD and AST to provide bars and liquor stores a “no sale” list for persons currently on probation alcohol restrictions. I believe through my own personal experience with loved ones fighting alcohol abuse and having provided medical care over the years to intoxicated patients at NSHC that I have an experienced insight into helping this current problem we face in Nome.
NN: Please outline your proposal to restore citizens’ trust in Nome Police Department and describe what a functional NPD would look like in your opinion.
Sarah Swartz: I have great hopes in NPD with our new chief. There appears to be a good reception in welcoming this new leadership, which I happily support. Serving with the Council, I aspire to maintain a collaborative working relationship with our new Chief and NPD with a goal of keeping the welfare of our citizens as highest priority.
We need more police officers and community service officers in Nome. We have been understaffed for too long and our current officers are burning out. This puts the safety of the public at risk by not having enough officers to respond to calls as well as their own personal safety for working too many hours.
I propose a program be put in place to encourage qualified women and Alaska Natives to pursue law enforcement careers. In order to run a healthy and effective police department, we need to be looking within our own community and build future leaders.
Urgently, we need to find a means within the city budget to provide officers continuing education and training with emphasis in handling sexual assault and DV cases efficiently and in a timely, culturally appropriate manner. I look forward to working with other council members and the police department to find ways to help the people of Nome gain more confidence in our officers and feeling safe within the community.