Mayoral Candidates Forum: Robinson, Tutiakoff Talk Unalaska's Economy, Military Potential, And More

Sep 30, 2019

Vince Tutiakoff Sr. (left) and Dennis Robinson (right) are vying to be Unalaska's mayor. Election Day is Tuesday, Oct. 1.
Credit Hope McKenney/KUCB and Dennis Robinson

Voters asked mayoral hopefuls Dennis Robinson and Vince Tutiakoff Sr. about Unalaska's economy, environment, and potential as a future military base during last week's Candidates Forum. 

Both candidates said they support development, including the island's growing cruise ship tourism and the possibility of an increased military presence by the U.S. Coast Guard or Navy.

To the first point, Tutiakoff said, "I encourage tourism. I think it's a next-generation possibility of small businesses making a living here." Robinson said, "People are coming to Alaska whether we like it or not. So it's best, I think, to look at ways we can embrace that and benefit from it."

To the second point, Robinson said, "The encouragement is to have a military base of some sort — a military presence of some sort — on this island." Tutiakoff said, "I'll be a supporter to bring them into this community. I think it's a great, great project." Still, both candidates said they were not working on any "specific plans" to develop a greater military presence at this time. 

Despite the prospect of industry and federal dollars, Unalaskans pressed the candidates about the potential impacts of growth, especially to the local environment, cost of living, and city services like utilities.

"I hear you both talking about the issues of housing, pollution, and infrastructure," said Carlos Tayag, a school board member and employee at the city's Department of Parks, Culture, and Recreation. "This community can't wait another five years for those to be addressed. What are you going to do immediately to address these issues?"

In response, Robinson and Tutiakoff argued that the city needs to make development easier for the island's major landowner, the Ounalashka Corporation. Both candidates serve on OC's board of directors.

They also endorsed greater investment in alternative energy and recycling.

To the first point, Robinson said, "To address the housing immediately, what the city can do is pass a resolution exempting the undeveloped lots from taxation until the time that they are developed." Tutiakoff said, "We need to get to the point that OC and the city are at the table and say, 'We're going to develop a tract of land, put in 200 housing units or whatever.' We've had plans like that and we had to push them to the side because of the cost of just putting in water, sewer, and electric."

To the second point, Robinson said, "Any move towards green energy is a move I'm going to support." Tutiakoff said, "Wind generation and solar power is an investment into the future." 

Although they agreed on most issues they discussed, the candidates also touted their different perspectives. Robinson pointed to his long tenure on the City Council, while Tutiakoff presented himself as an alternative to current leadership.

Tutiakoff said, "One of the reasons I'm running is that I believe that people have to have a choice. They need to have a choice. And I'd like to be the next mayor." Robinson said, "My record is proven. I would like to be mayor of this community as it moves forward into another phase of success — much like that that we've enjoyed in the fishing industry."

Election Day is Tuesday, Oct. 1. Unalaskans can watch a full rebroadcast of the 2019 Candidates Forum on Monday, Sept. 30 at 4 and 8 p.m. on Channel 8 TV. They can also find more on the school board candidates here.