Here’s how we’ll keep putting our values into action.
Let’s do this.
The COVID pandemic will look very different by the time the new mayor takes office in July 2021. But Anchorage will still be dealing with the economic fallout. After more than a year of high unemployment, low oil prices, a challenging state fiscal climate, traumatic restaurant and small-business closures, and a new work-from-home culture that will permanently change the commercial real-estate market, targeted support will be critical to getting our economy back to full strength, and preventing a hollowing out of downtown. We’ll encourage new development, a more vibrant downtown, and position Anchorage to thrive: in a post-COVID, Zoom-capable world, Anchorage’s comparative advantage is—as the world has increasingly discovered—that we’re community where workers and families want to be. Playing to our strengths as a headquarters city and a hub for tourism, we’ll remain the vibrant place we know and love—a city of unrivaled community, beauty and opportunity.
The Port of Alaska is a critical economic and national security lifeline. Much of what we eat, buy and wear, the vast majority of the cement used in Alaska’s construction projects, half of the jet fuel used at Ted Stevens International Airport, and substantially all of the fuel used by JBER comes across its docks. Replacement of the first facility is well underway – on time and on budget. But the work is not finished—and we’re racing against the clock. The main docks are over 50-years old, and are failing. To keep Alaska safe and in business, we can’t stop making progress—this one has to get done. I’ve worked intently over the past several years to get the Port rebuild underway; I know the ins and outs of the Port, and its stability and longevity are a top priority for me.
More resources need to go to early childhood education, easing the burden on working parents and leveling the playing field for all children from the very beginning. The hard numbers show pre-K makes good economic sense. Study after study show the long-term benefits: positive brain development in a child’s early years means a child is more likely to succeed in school, find steady, meaningful employment, enjoy better health, and stay out of the prison system. By not investing in our youngest, we’re 'saving ourselves poor.'
Quality childcare exists in Anchorage, but it’s wildly expensive. Because our university system is subsidized, it can cost more to send a 3-year old to preschool than it does to send a young adult to UAA. We’re still running a system that, for most families, all but forces one parent to drop out of the workforce.
An obvious place to start? The Anchorage School District currently uses federal funds to run pre-K programs in areas that are more socioeconomically challenged and where schools offer free or reduced lunches. About 700 kids are on the waitlist. We can get them into the classroom.
Public safety is the first responsibility of local government. As municipal manager, I strongly supported the Anchorage Police and Fire Departments. I worked to restore law enforcement to the Seward Highway, and to Girdwood, after the Alaska State Troopers left the municipality. I helped move the Police Department back downtown and supported commonsense, customer-service improvements—equipping officers with cell phones and turning on 311. I helped establish new ambulance service for the Anchorage Fire Department—which fights 900 fires a year, but which annually responds to 24,000 emergency medical calls—and outfitted the department with state-of-the-art EMS equipment and maximally COVID-protective PPE. As municipal attorney, when the city saw spikes in “spice” consumption and joyriding cases, we adopted innovative new local laws to combat each—and saw results: spice cases and vehicle thefts dropped significantly, and have continued to fall, year over year. As mayor, I'll continue to strongly support our first responders, and preserve our public safety gains.
Homelessness is a highly visible and growing problem.
In Anchorage, homelessness should be brief, one-time and rare—and no one should be sleeping on our street corners or in our greenbelts.
After years of largely leaving the issue to our local non-profit and religious organizations to solve, homelessness in the Municipality is now off the charts—we have nearly 400 people living in the Sullivan Arena; another nearly 50 in the Fairview Recreation Center; and more than 100 in other settings around town.
We need a comprehensive solution—one that reduces the inflow of people into homelessness; involves a safe and appropriately sized shelter system; a rapid, more effective camp-abatement program that connects people to services; and housing-first investments that get folks up and on their feet again.
Anchorage needs better quality, more affordable housing. We should incentivize both new construction and rehabilitation of our existing housing stock. Growth in affordable housing must be targeted and smart, with revitalized neighborhoods that are walkable and connect residents to transit and workplaces.
Adding solar power to Anchorage’s energy mix can save taxpayer dollars, makes critical services more resilient, and boosts energy security for all by conserving local natural gas.
Solar panels have made Fire Station 10 in Bear Valley completely self-sufficient for several hours a day. If the station loses power, rooftop solar will keep the backup generators running longer, ensuring that the station can function in an emergency. We’ve also installed the state’s largest rooftop solar array at the Egan Center downtown. The city has many more rooftops with the potential to host solar. We’ll find the projects that make sense and get them done.
Working with community partners, Anchorage has been laying the groundwork to deploy a crisis-intervention team to take the place of law enforcement when responding to individuals in mental-health crisis. Anchorage Police are highly effective at protecting our community, but responding to non-violent individuals in crisis shouldn't be their job. Anchorage needs to join communities across the nation by investing smarter, not just more, in public safety and community health.
We can improve quality of life for Anchorage residents and drive tourism dollars to our community by focusing on one of our city’s best features—our world-class parks and trails.
Anchorage’s trails connect our city, ease traffic congestion, and keep our minds and bodies healthy all year long. They’re a key part of what makes Anchorage a great place to live, work and play. Investments to ensure that our parks and trails remain clean, safe, and welcoming are critical.
With creative marketing, our parks and trails should also become signature attractions, unlocking additional tourism dollars by encouraging visitors to Alaska to stay an extra day or two in Anchorage.
Maintaining and spotlighting one of Anchorage’s best assets is an easy win to improve the mental, physical, and economic health of our community.
All thriving cities in America have at least one world-class university. We should foster greater innovation and stronger alliances between UAA, APU, and our city government.
UAA has been a key part of Anchorage’s COVID response. Our new and continuing partnerships with UAA are helping the municipality make smarter, better decisions. And the data we’re sharing with UAA is opening new research frontiers, while expanding opportunities for students.
Creating a permanent and more formal research and policy relationship with our local universities is an all-around win.
Smart financial-reserve policies and balanced budgets have earned Anchorage a AAA bond rating from Standard and Poor’s, and a AA+ rating from Fitch. Those ratings allow Anchorage to finance capital projects at the lowest possible rates—saving taxpayers money and making each tax dollar go further.
As mayor, I’ll insist on responsible budgeting and maintaining fiscal discipline.