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Wrangell voters reject sales tax reduction

 

Brian O’Connor

Wrangellite Beth Black, holds a sign against the sales tax proposal on the ballot and converses with Assembly woman Julie Decker. The proposal would drop the sales tax to 5.5 percent from a state-highest 7 percent. Voters selected a mayor, school board and port commission members and voted on a controversial sales tax proposal.

WRANGELL — Wrangell voters insurmountably rejected a proposal to lower the sales tax, retained their sitting mayor, and removed one member of the assembly in municipal elections Tuesday, officials said.

The unofficial results, read aloud shortly after the polls closed at 8 pm, put the vote tally for the contentious tax proposal at 451 votes against lowering taxes from 7 percent to 5.5 percent, and 172 votes in favor of the change. Sitting mayor David Jack tallied 455 votes while Kipha Valvoda scored 118. Maxlyn J. Wiederspohn garnered 364 votes to Ernie Christian’s 212 votes and Billie Younce’s 38 votes to retain her seat on the council.

The vote means Ernie Christian, a sitting assembly member and sponsor of the sales tax proposal, will likely not be among the faces when the assembly next convenes Oct. 8, pending today’s review by the board of canvass.

The combined number of uncounted absentee ballots (103) and special needs ballots (estimated at less than 10) wasn’t enough to make up Wiederspohn’s 152-vote lead, according to Borough Clerk Kim Lane.

“We don’t expect this one to change,” she said.

A few voters gathered to hear the results read out in the Nolan Center, with at least one shout of excitement over the tax proposal vote, which saw a vocal and concerted effort to defeat it led by some citizens picketing street corners near the Nolan Center in the afternoon.

The expected gain in the wallet from the sales tax cut wasn’t worth the program cuts that would occur, said picketer Susan Haggard.

“On the surface, it looks like a good deal, but once you really look into it … is it worth it to cut all that money?” she said.

Julie Decker, interviewed as she took down a “Don’t Mess With Success” sandwich board and stuffed it in the back of her car, was thrilled by the vote, judging by her immediate reaction

“Yes!” she said, and performed a happy dance.

The tax proposal vote means the Borough’s contributions to the school system, senior center, chamber of commerce and other community groups will presently remain intact. Officials had said funding to those programs would be reduced or eliminated if the proposal passed.

The winners of the respective elections said they were grateful to voters for the opportunity to serve.

“I do appreciate the people who voted for me,” Jack said. “Actually, I’m grateful to all the people who came out and voted.”

Maxlyn Weiderspohn – who also currently sits on the assembly -- said she had initially taken a vacant seat as a way to maintain her civic engagement.

“I’ve been in the seat for the last year, and I’ve learned a lot, ” she said. “It really keeps your brain going. I thought I’d try one more time.”

Decker, who was also re-elected Tuesday, albeit in an uncontested race, said she was eager to focus on the issues ahead.

“I think we can continue on with getting back to talking about planning and development,” she said. “That’s what I want to talk about.”

Calls to Ernie Christian’s cell phone went unanswered Tuesday night.

 

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