Donna (Walsh) Schantz was born and raised in New York and graduated from Providence College with a BA in fine arts. After college, she lived in New York City and worked for an advertising agency. In 1990, Donna visited her sister in Alaska and decided to stay. She settled in Juneau and worked for Coeur Alaska on environmental permitting and public outreach to promote the Kensington gold mine project. In 1997, Donna and her husband Tom moved to Valdez after winning 20 acres of land in Jack Bay through the Alaska Homestead Lottery Program. Donna worked for the Valdez Convention and Visitors Bureau and for the City of Valdez at the harbor before joining the Prince William Sound Regional Citizens’ Advisory Council (or RCAC) in 1999. Donna currently serves as the Director of Programs for the RCAC, a non-profit organization that provides public input intended to ensure the environmentally safe operation of the Valdez Marine Terminal and associated oil tankers. Donna and her husband have two children, Timothy “Eider” and Ellie, ages 8 and 7. Donna and her family enjoy boating, hiking, spending time at their cabin, skiing and generally enjoying everything the local area has to offer.
- What are three main challenges for the City of Valdez in the next five years? As a potential council member, how do you plan to address them?
Another challenge facing the City of Valdez is to properly manage our existing investments to ensure that they are working for us and will be there for us in the future. The City of Valdez currently has more than $300 million dollars in investments (over $140 million in the permanent fund, and over $160 million in other investments some of which are unrestricted and some that are restricted due to legal challenges). If elected I will promote more transparency and local decision-making on city finances. For example, I will promote adherence to the Valdez City Code that requires a report of all city monies and investments to be provided to the Council and members of the public each month. I will promote a vision for the permanent fund that goes beyond accumulating wealth to be invested in perpetuity in big banks in far off lands. I will also strongly advocate that more time be dedicated to managing and simplifying the overly complex City investments to ensure that decisions are made in the best interest of the citizens of Valdez.
Another challenge is to ensure that our future operating expenses can be covered by declining tax revenues. If elected, I will work to ensure that the annual budget is developed to capture only those expenses required to efficiently operate and maintain the City infrastructure and provide services by well trained staff. I will also oppose incurring debt for future generations to pay back with interest, and will do what I can to ensure that long term operation and maintenance expenses are considered and that they are sustainable. I will encourage an open process whereby City employees, the general public and Council members are comfortable and have the opportunity to express their views so that there is adequate information to make balanced decisions. I will push for fiscally responsible decisions to be made at the most local level. I will only support initiatives that I believe are in the best interest of all residents and taxpayers. I will also be a strong proponent for levying taxes based on need rather than greed. The City of Valdez has been so focused on maximizing taxes such that a significant portion of our tax revenues are dedicated to challenging the tax structures in court or cannot be spent by government or taxpayers because they are being challenged. A better balance of effort and investment is needed. It seems that some of our money could be better invested closer to home, in our own community, at a lower risk.
- The City of Valdez has put considerable effort into strategic planning in the last few years, do you feel the current level of planning is lacking, adequate or excessive? Please explain.