ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Crime, taxes, and the governor's proposed budget topped the list of hot topics for Anchorage Assembly candidates outlining their visions for the city at a candidate forum Monday.
Kameron Perez-Verdia, Liz Vasquez, and Dustin Darden are all vying for District 3, seat D — the seat currently by Eric Croft, whose term expires this year. The three candidates had a chance to explain their visions at the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce 'Make it Monday' forum.
Perez-Verdia is currently President and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum and has an extensive background running non-profits. He's running on a platform of 'leadership matters' and says he believes in beefing up the police force to address public safety.
"There's a lot of concern because crime is feeling higher than it has been in a long time," Perez-Verdia said, "but this is a great city, and when I knock on doors, not only do I hear people who are concerned, I hear people that are proud of where they live."
He says he supports the proposed alcohol tax to address mental health, and addiction.
"Whether that passes or not, it's still a priority," he said. "We need to make sure where we're looking at how to abate camps. We need to make sure that we have a strong mobile unit to be able to help with those that are out there that need help. We need to make sure that we're focusing on housing."
Vasquez, a former state legislator and prosecutor, is running on a platform that emphasizes the need to address crime, the economic recession, and education.
"The administration and the assembly are going in the right direction in hiring more police," Vasquez said. "However, you need to have more prosecutors, both on the city level, and on the state level. You also need to look at what's going on with the rehabilitation services."
She says she believes rehabilitation should be addressed, but says the city's proposed alcohol tax is not the way to go. She says the money should come from the state alcohol tax that is already in place.
"Back in 2002, that tax was enacted," she said. "The promise was the monies will be used for rehabilitation, and we certainly need that money for rehabilitation, but that's never been done, so why not? I would argue we need to advocate for something like that, more strenuously than I see."
Darden currently works for the city as a maintenance worker, and holds a position at Costco. He believes in justice for all and lowering, or cutting taxes.
"The taxes that we pay for living inside of the municipality of Anchorage are tremendously high and are only ever increasing at the highest rate ever in the last three years," Darden said. "So it's unprecedented the amount of taxation that's a burden on the people. The beautiful thing about America is we can turn this around."
Darden also believes using the Alyeska Pipeline to its full potential could help alleviate budget woes.
"Another thing we can do is build," Darden said. "We can build that dam that the governor just put back on the table. That put a lot of construction jobs, that put a lot of energy that can power Anchorage, that can power Fairbanks for years to come, and then you got to maintain it, that's a lot of jobs."
Candidates for District 5 were on hand Monday as well. Forrest Dunbar is running for District 5, seat H, and John Weddleton is running for District 6, seat J. Both Dunbar and Weddleton are current members of the Assembly and are running unopposed.
"It's really about continuing to invest in Anchorage, continuing to work to believe in this city," Dunbar said. "The next three years will be challenging, but I really believe in this place."
Weddleton expressed disappointment at the fact that he's running unopposed, saying there are plenty of people in South Anchorage who would do a remarkable job on the Assembly. Regardless he says, he is running a full campaign.
"I think it's in part for me to get to know constituents, and also for constituents to get to know me and connect with their government," Weddleton said. "What I find when you're running, it's not just about harvesting votes, it's about making those connections."