ANCHORAGE, Alaska—Dozens of Anchorage residents attended the 2011 legislative session's first constituent meeting Saturday for Midtown's University-Medical district, speaking up on a variety of local issues.
The district's state lawmakers, Sen. Bettye Davis and Rep. Lance Pruitt, stood before a dense crowd of their constituents at the King Career Center, all waiting to be heard on concerns like higher education.
"We're going to have between a $6 to $10 million shortfall, I believe, this coming year," said University of Alaska Anchorage professor and U-Med resident Diane Hirshberg. "What's happening with that funding is, we have a thousand or more new students and we aren't going to be able to serve them."
Other local educators brought up the Anchorage School District's budget shortfall, as well as a bill that would repeal the exit exam that high-school students are currently required to pass.
"Having seen the tests, and experiencing the tests firsthand and knowing special-education students, this test in no way benefits them," said special-education teacher Kern McGinley. "It holds back kids who deserve to have an opportunity in the world with a high-school diploma."
Across the room, the Filipino Assisted Living Homes Association of Alaska says it wants due process. The group claims that state agencies are making unannounced visits to assisted-living homes and forcing them to shut down -- without saying why.
"What we want is to stop these aggressions that's happening right now in assisted-living homes," said Mike Ocampo, the CEO of Assist Adult Care.
The meeting was a wide-ranging exchange between the district's constituents and their lawmakers.
"It gives us an idea of what our constituents are concerned about," Davis said. "I like face-to-face as I see the people; it energizes me because I see they're concerned about issues. I know I'm going to be supported or not supported, and we need to hear both sides of the issue, and that's what happens in gatherings like this."
"They're important and everyone's got their own thoughts, and it's bringing them all together for a good solution to Alaska," Pruitt said. "This is an opportunity for them to come be a part of the process."
Rep. Sharon Cissna was also involved in the planning process for the meeting, but was unable to attend due to medical concerns.
The next constituent meeting for District K is set for March 19.
Contact Christine Kim at firstname.lastname@example.org