Anchorage assembly preparing to vote on 2020 budget
There are two issues the proposed 2020 budget for Anchorage is looking to address.
“We really need to prioritize public safety and how we deal with homelessness in Anchorage, and so those are really two of the top priorities that we're looking at,” said Assembly Chair Felix Rivera, who represents Midtown.
In an effort to improve public safety, the budget includes funds for several new positions at the police department.
“We've expanded the number of sworn police officers and patrol officers,” said Assembly Budget Committee Co-chair Forrest Dunbar, who represents East Anchorage. “Now we need that administrative staff. We need those dispatchers and evidence clerks to help deal with that increased amount of evidence and calls that are coming through because we have more officers on the street."
As for homelessness, the budget proposes making the Homeless Systems Coordinator, currently run through the mayor’s office, a permanent position in the Health Department. It also adds a behavioral health component to that role.
“We know that behavioral and mental health is an issue, throughout all of our populations, not just those experiencing homelessness," Rivera said.
Tuesday, during public testimony, some brought up the issue of bus routes.
“The Old Seward Highway, the previous route 60 to route 36, used to run every hour on the hour,” said Anchorage resident Carl Cancer. “They eliminated that to give other routes every 15 minutes. Something doesn't make sense."
Rivera said that wasn’t the first time the issue had been brought up.
“That's something that T think is really important, really critical to do, for a lot of folks who try to get to work," he said.
The budget also assumes the sale of Municipal Light and Power to Chugach Electric will happen. While it doesn't rely heavily on those funds, there will be some holes if the sale falls through.
With the comment period over, the assembly now discusses possible amendments to the budget before a final vote takes place. Currently that final vote is scheduled for Tuesday, November 19.