Alaska in Brief

Q&A with Alaska House District 17 candidate Zack Fields

By: - July 28, 2022 12:37 am

The House floor on April 22, 2022, in Juneau, Alaska. (Photo by Rashah McChesney)

The Alaska Beacon asked Alaska’s legislative candidates to answer a 15-question survey about their positions on a variety of issues. Read all of their responses here. Answers have not been edited.

Zack Fields, Democratic candidate from Anchorage

Yes/No questions

The Alaska Constitution allows legislators to call a constitutional convention at any time. Are you interested in calling a convention?

No

Would you be willing to join a coalition majority in which the opposite political party controls a majority of seats?

Yes

Should new public employees have access to a pension?

Yes

Should the state take over the federal permitting process that regulates construction in wetlands?

No

Should Juneteenth be a state holiday?

Yes

Open-ended questions

How should the state of Alaska set the amount of the Permanent Fund dividend each year?

By assessing how much funding is available for public services and dividends, without exceeding the 5% POMV draw that protects the principal of the Permanent Fund. The benefits of each incremental dollar appropriated to dividends should be weighed against the value of each incremental dollar appropriated to public safety, public education, services for kids and seniors, capital investments, need to capture/maximize federal match, and other core services. Spending on dividends also should be weighed against the benefit of growing the Permanent Fund’s principal. I believe we should be willing to have more modest dividends for the next 5-10 years in order to grow the Permanent Fund to $100 billion (present value) and fully insulate the state against the vagaries of oil prices. This would allow us to sustainably fund services and dividends, and when oil windfalls materialize we could either strengthen our endowments and/or make one-time larger investments such as deferred maintenance, energy relief checks, or some balance thereof.

What’s the biggest need in your district, and how would you address it?

Our district has two pressing needs that are equally important: Reduce homelessness and drug-related vagrancy (vagrancy and homelessness are not the same, though the drug epidemic has exacerbated both), and re-invest in public education so we have functioning school buildings, small class sizes, and can recruit and retain great teachers.

What policies and laws should Alaska follow with regard to abortion?

Our Constitution protects Alaskans’ right to privacy, which includes abortion access. I do NOT support infringing on individuals’ Constitutional rights. Furthermore, from a moral perspective, it is unconscionable to take away women’s access to health care that in many cases can be life-saving. And it is absurd to think that legislators or judges could in any way anticipate the myriad nuanced and rapidly-evolving medical situations that pregnant women will face, each in their own circumstances. I just can’t fathom how any policy maker could even contemplate taking away women’s rights to make their own health care decisions when politicians (or judges) won’t even have the least idea of what those circumstances will be for each individual woman.

How should the state reduce the threat of gun violence and mass shootings?

I strongly support “red flag” laws so people who have a demonstrated risk of violence have less access to weapons that facilitate mass murder. It’s also clear we need to consider how law enforcement agencies assess risk and intervene to prevent mass murder.

How much should a legislator’s faith or religion determine state law and policy?

I think it’s important we value human life and human rights, and that can and often is informed by lawmakers’ religious beliefs. If religion drives us to value one another, and we balance that with a respect for the personal autonomy of all people, and a humility about ourselves, I think each of us can be driven to do good work and also respect the laws (intrinsic to democracy, I belief) that preclude any one religion from superseding laws that protect civil rights. In summary: Let faith drive us to do good works, and serve one another, while respecting that theocracy is poisonous to democracy and individual rights.

What should the state do to improve retention of public employees, including teachers?

Alaska has the worst retirement benefits for teachers, police officers, and troopers in the United States. As a result, we are losing much-needed public safety and public education professionals. We need to restore defined benefit pensions and ensure we adequately fund operations of both our public schools and our police departments, Troopers, and VPSOs. At a time of challenges and uncertainty in these important professions, let us be clear: Alaskans support our police, and Alaskans support our teachers.

What does an ideal state ferry system look like?

The ideal ferry service provides adequate, reliable transportation to coastal communities for which road access is either non-existent or insufficient, ensuring the long term economic and social prosperity of our coastal communities. It’s important to recognize that a strong ferry system is not merely a parochial issue for coastal Alaska, but part of our statewide transportation system, because strong coastal communities strengthen Alaska’s economy as a whole, and because coastal economies are closely linked with towns on the road system.

What, if any, changes does the state need to make to ensure voting is equitable and secure?

The witness verification requirement for voting by mail has disenfranchised far too many voters, and that requirement should probably be eliminated.

What do you intend to do about the poor returns of salmon in the Yukon and Kuskokwim drainages, and what are the main causes of the problems?

Climate change and ocean acidification are wreaking havoc on fisheries from Southeast to the Kuskokwim. As fish populations (and game) continue to shift north, though irregularly, the state as a whole needs to invest in scientific monitoring (including at the level of ADF&G monitoring, but not limited to that) so that fishermen can adapt to climate change as much as is possible. In addition, we should support aggressive enforcement of laws to prevent illegal Russian and Chinese fishing that threatens our well-managed fisheries in closer waters. Finally, we should engage in reductions of global warming pollution ourselves (e.g. through a cleaner, more reliable electric grid) and by supporting national and international standards that mitigate the worst effects of climate change (e.g. a Border Adjustment Tax to make sure Chinese and other third-world manufacturers can’t undercut cleaner American production and good jobs).

What constitutional amendments, if any, do you support?

We already have the strongest Constitution of any state and I think it would be a profound mistake to attempt re-writing the Constitution at a moment of extreme vitriol, partisanship, violence, and misinformation.

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James Brooks
James Brooks

James Brooks is a longtime Alaska reporter, having previously worked at the Anchorage Daily News, Juneau Empire, Kodiak Mirror and Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. A graduate of Virginia Tech, he is married to Caitlyn Ellis, owns a house in Juneau and has a small sled dog named Barley. He can be contacted at [email protected]

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