Anchorage assembly candidates participated in a forum hosted by the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce on Monday. While all candidates were invited, not everyone showed up. Eight candidates, representing four out of the five contested Assembly seats, shared their vision for Anchorage and touched on issues such as municipal spending, education and Anchorage's controversial labor law, AO 37.
Each candidate was asked if the municipality is spending too little, just enough or too much. Pete Nolan and and Bill Evans, two of the three candidates running for the District 6 seat representing South Anchorage, said the city's spending is too high. However, Bruce Dougherty said Anchorage schools are in crisis right now and that it is important to advocate for a strong education system.
"That eventually leads to a vibrant economy, a workforce that's prepared and a city that is a great place to live and work," said Dougherty.
The South Anchorage race is the only one without an incumbent since current assemblyman Chris Birch has served the maximum of three terms. When the candidates were asked about their thoughts on a repeal of AO 37, Anchorage's controversial labor law rewrite that prohibits unions from striking and eliminated binding arbitration, Nolan said he supports a repeal so the law can be rewritten. Evans said it should stand.
"I don't support repealing it. I'd much rather prefer us to have an argument abut what the merits of that ordinance are and try to convince voters of why they should be supporting it," Evans said.
Candidates for the East Anchorage assembly seat also weighed in on city spending. Challenger Pete Petersen said municipal spending is in the right range since it takes money to make money.
"We have facilities that have to be maintained and roads that have to be maintained so that our economy can continue to grow. Those take investments," he said.
But incumbent Adam Trombley disagrees.
"The city does things that would be better done by the private sector," he said.
A portion of the forum also focused on education. West Anchorage incumbent Tim Steele said the municipality should focus on investing in children -- its future.
"We are not spending enough on education. It's criminal that our schools are suffering the way they are with three years, four years of flat funding," said Steele.
Challenger Phil Isley, who said Anchorage needs a more conservative assembly, said the school budget is too high as it is.
"I think we could probably decrease the school budget by some. I don't know why we need a teacher with a masters degree teaching elementary school," he said.
In the Anchorage Assembly race, current assembly woman Elvi Gray-Jackson is running unopposed to maintain her hold on Midtown Anchorage's Seat G. Hers is the only race without a challenger.
The Anchorage Municipal election is Tuesday, April 1.