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Dillingham's municipal election is on Oct. 4. KDLG is hearing from candidates about why they are running and what they want to focus on in office.

Dillingham Elections 2022: City council candidate Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett.jpg
Courtesy of Michael Bennett
Michael Bennett and his wife, Katie. Bennett is running for city council Seat B.

Ahead of Dillingham’s Oct. 4 municipal election, KDLG is talking to candidates about why they’re running and what they want to focus on if elected. Incumbent Michael Bennett is running for city council Seat B against challenger Ronald Johnson.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.

Michael Bennett: My name is Michael Bennett. I'm a local business owner, we do trucking. And I'm running for going on city council Seat B.

Izzy Ross: You were appointed to the city council in January after a former council member retired. Why do you want to run for election this cycle?

Bennett: I want to see some changes made in city policies. I want to see some more development going on. We have a lack of housing in this town. We have plenty of jobs available, but there's no housing available for people move here and fulfill those jobs. Also, I'd like to see city wages continue to improve and get them on a competitive scale.

Ross: What are some of your thoughts on how to address the housing issue on the city level? Obviously, the school is thinking about grants and things like that, but what are your thoughts in terms of what the city council might be able to do?

Bennett: The city has got 1,600 acres. I don't know if it has been surveyed or not, but they're in the process of identifying that acreage. And I'd like to see them get some more housing development going. And I'm not sure that's all been identified — I know that in the October meeting, they're supposed to go over some of the property that's been identified that's part of that 1,600 acres that the city owns.

Ross: You also mentioned wages. It's a delicate balance, because the city needs to stay in the black while also offering competitive salaries for workers. So along with having housing available for people to work here, there also needs to be competitive wages. I also understand the city council doesn't have control over some of that, but as a council member and having been on the council for several months, what are your thoughts on trying to balance the budget?

Bennett: Tough question. There definitely needs to be — for me, I own a business, so everything's from business perspective. If my business is lacking in one area, I see what I can do to improve the services that we provide. So there's definitely the housing demand in Dillingham. If the city decreased the housing demand, supplied property and got people in positions to buy houses then the city could collect property taxes, and in turn, the population would grow in Dillingham. And that would generate more city sales tax revenue for the city.

Ross: Not a vicious cycle, but a cycle. With a lot of these discussions, getting the ball rolling is the most difficult part of that process, just because it takes a certain amount of momentum, whether that's financial or political on the local level — people wanting that or seeing the need for that and supporting that — to then move forward into something that's concrete and actionable.

I'm curious: As someone who was appointed to the city council, what have you learned over the past several months of working there?

Bennett: Just the city policy on how the council works and what the council is there for. Not necessarily there to go fix city streets, but when we get a number of citizens that contact us and would like the city streets fixed, it kind of becomes alarming and we need to let the managers know and get that taken care of. But it has a lot to do with city policy, not so much the operations of the city.

Ross: I know that road repair has been a hot topic in Dillingham for many years and it's come to the fore again. What would you like to tell people about where the roads are at and what the city council's role is in addressing that?

Bennett: If you have a complaint about potholes in the road, you should contact the city manager or public works director. If you don't get anywhere with that, I would encourage you to come to a city council meeting and let the council know what's going on.

Ross: Thank you for taking a few minutes to talk today, Michael, I appreciate it.

Bennett: Thank you.

Get in touch with the author at izzy@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.

Izzy Ross is the news director at KDLG, the NPR member station in Dillingham. She reports, edits, and hosts stories from around the Bristol Bay region, and collaborates with other radio stations across the state.
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