3:09 PM AKDT, March 22, 2011
Name: Mike Gutierrez
Occupation: Mountain View Weed and Seed Site Coordinator
Registered Political Party: Democrat
Last book you read: I just re-read John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath."
Favorite movie: It's hard to pick just one. Spartacus, High Noon, State of the Union, The Shawshank Redemption.
Why are you running for the Anchorage Assembly?: I'm running because I want to continue working hard to keep Anchorage the terrific place to live and raise a family that it is.
What one sentence best describes your philosophy of how city government should be run?: City government should be run like a successful business keeping in mind that all citizens are both the consumers of our product and owners of the company.
What letter grade would you give the current assembly, and why?: B. Overall I think the Assembly is doing a good job functioning as the legislative branch. However, I'm concerned that the Title 21 (Anchorage's land use code) revision process has been brought to a screeching halt.
What letter grade would you give Mayor Sullivan's administration, and why?: I would say B-. I love that the Administration is bringing the city into the 21st century in terms of technology. I'm also pleased with the level of attention and energy the Mayor has been giving to the homeless issue. But for the last two years the Mayor has raised taxes and reduced the services we get for our dollars. In other words, we keep paying more and keep getting less and less and less for the money. Yet the city has seen huge surpluses.
What are your thoughts on the 2008 union contracts approved by the Assembly? Is there a link to those contracts and the city's current fiscal situation?: There is no link between our current budget situation and the 2008 contracts. Those contracts were negotiated and approved within guidelines proposed by our current Mayor when he was Chair of the Assembly. The situation we are in today and will be in during the coming year are a direct result of a conscious choice by the Administration to reduce services provided by the city.
What are your thoughts on the budget reductions proposed by Mayor Sullivan over the past two years? Are they too much? Not deep enough? A right amount?: In some cases they have been too deep. As I said above, our taxes are still going up and yet services continue to decline while we see huge surpluses. I feel that the service reductions that resulted in those surpluses should either be restored, or the excess taxes collected by the city should be returned to the tax payers.
What city services would you like to see reinstated, and how would you suggest they are paid for?: As I said above, I feel strongly that the excess taxes collected by this administration should be used to restore services or be given back. We are in desperate need of both a police and fire academy and have been for two years. The Mayor says we cannot afford a police academy until late this year. Yet we had a $10 million surplus in 2009 and a $15 million surplus in 2010.
Are property taxes too high? What consideration should be given to alternative taxes like the tobacco tax, or a sales tax?: I think all alternatives should be on the table. As a home owner I want to keep property taxes as low as possible. At the same time, if I am paying more in taxes I don’t want to get less in services which is the current situation.
What is the most important issue affecting the city as a whole?: Energy. Our energy outlook in South Central Alaska presents some daunting challenges. Energy prices here are already skyrocketing. We have got to get our energy costs under control or no one will be able to afford to live here.
What is the most important issue facing your district more than other districts?: My district is very large and very diverse. In some neighborhoods crime and gangs continue to be a challenge. In others crumbling streets and roads are the biggest issue. Planning how we will accommodate growth and increased density in the future is a challenge for the entire district.
Incumbents -- What three pieces of legislation you authored during your current assembly term are you are most proud of? Why?: I worked in cooperation with the Administration to enact a ban on a new synthetic drug that was being marketed to children and being sold in smoke shops and convenience stores. I fought for one of my community councils and placed restrictions on a new liquor license in the area. Currently I have an ordinance before the Assembly that would require a criminal background check for ice cream truck vendors.
Should the municipality require mandatory photo identification for all customers purchasing alcohol at package liquor stores? Why or why not? Yes, they should. Contrary to what some believe, this issue has nothing to do with age verification. It is about stopping repeat drunk drivers. The state of Alaska issues a restricted identification to people who are under a court order not to purchase alcohol. These people have committed multiple alcohol-related offenses and clearly cannot drink responsibly. However, if they are obviously of age and no one checks their ID, they are easily able to purchase alcohol and continue the destruction on our streets and highways. Many restaurants do 100% ID checks and even some bars are moving toward a universal ID check system that will allow them to share information between locations.
Should an agency other than the Anchorage Police Department be allowed to issue parking tickets to vehicles parked downtown? Why or why not? Maybe. There were serious abuses in the past and no one wants to go back to the bad old days of the parking authority. However, it doesn't make sense to have some of our most vital employees checking parking meters instead of fighting crime.
Should the city extend the disabled veteran property tax exemption to widows and widowers? Why or why not? That's not the question before voters. The city already extends those benefits to some widows and widowers. The question before voters is whether or not to extend those benefits to widows and widowers UNDER 60. Yes, we should. I have heard some argue that it is a shifting of the tax burden to the rest of us. But the widow or widower of a disabled veteran has already given more to our society than most of us will give in a lifetime. Giving them a small property tax break really is the very least we can do.
The last municipal election had the lowest voter turnout in at least 20 years. Why should people head to the polls and vote on April 5th?: To me, voting has always been a duty. As a boy I was taught by my parents and my teachers that a great many of my fellow countrymen had sacrificed everything over the course of a couple of centuries to preserve my right to cast a ballot. To not vote would be disrespectful. On a more pragmatic level, local elections have the most impact on our day to day lives. Local elections impact us right in our own neighborhoods.
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