City Council Candidates Forum: Nicholson, Gregory Discuss Unalaska's Housing, Budget, And More

Oct 1, 2019

Councilor Dave Gregory (left) is running unopposed for City Council seat D. Darin Nicholson (right) is running unopposed for council seat C.
Credit Dave Gregory and Darin Nicholson

Voters asked City Council hopefuls Darin Nicholson and Dave Gregory about Unalaska's housing, budget, and more during last week's Candidates Forum.

Nicholson is running unopposed for council seat C, which would be his first public office. Asked about city spending on nonprofits and capital projects, especially during leaner times, Nicholson said he's planning to learn about the budget after he's elected.

"I'm not too familiar with where the monies are being spent," he said. "But if I do get elected, I will be well-versed and study up on all the financials and stuff like that. But as it stands now, I can't really say where the monies are going."

Nicholson also declined to comment on the local effects of state budget cuts spearheaded by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, saying, "I haven't followed up on any of that. I don't know about that one."

He did say he wants to help address Unalaska's housing shortage. He argued the city should consider ways to make development easier so the community can grow.

"There's a lot of land here. We just need a little bit," said Nicholson. "Even the companies that are here have a hard time finding housing for their employees. Housing is a big issue that I see, and that's something that I personally would like to get involved with. That's something that would not — I don't feel — be a conflict of interest, because you can buy land and do that at any given time you'd like to."

Nicholson said he supports Unalaska's growing cruise ship tourism and its exploration of alternative energy sources. Asked whether he believes in climate change, Nicholson was noncommittal and said, "I do believe there are things that we can do to lessen our carbon footprint."

Meanwhile, at City Council seat D, Councilor Dave Gregory is running unopposed for reelection. He also said Unalaska should focus on housing, and his idea centered on small units called "tiny houses."

"Encourage development of those tiny houses on lots that already have houses on them, because they have utilities," said Gregory. "Maybe we need to look at tweaking our zoning code so that [if] you have a lot zoned as a one- or two-family dwelling unit, you could add a tiny house without having to go through a bunch of different regulations. That exception would allow you to make a third dwelling on your property. We wouldn't get 100 units. But if we can get five or 10 that way, that would be a start."

Asked about the budget, Gregory said he'd work to minimize the impact of any future funding cuts to local nonprofits. At this point, though, he said he isn't sure where he'd cut first.

"There's such a great need in the nonprofit realm because of the loss of state funding, so it would be pretty hard to do to cut," he said. "I don't know — if we lose funds — if it's just an across-the-board cut or if we have to come up with some mechanism or matrix to see which ones provide critical needs and which ones perhaps aren't quite this critical. Depending on the magnitude of the cut, it would be a discussion the council would have to have, and we'd certainly get community input. But I don't look forward to that."

Gregory said he supports the idea of a larger, permanent military presence in Unalaska. He also defended his "no" votes on a proposal to allow the UniSea fish processing plant to participate in a state-run work release program for qualified inmates. The program was later dropped by the Dunleavy administration.

Election Day is Tuesday, Oct. 1. The polls are open at City Hall from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Unalaskans can find more on the mayoral candidates here, as well as the school board candidates here.