ANCHORAGE (KTUU) — Crime, education, and the governor's proposed budget are just a few of the issues that candidates for Anchorage Assembly hope to tackle if elected.
Crystal Kennedy and Oliver Schiess are the two candidates vying for District 2, Seat A representing the Chugiak-Eagle River area, currently held by Gretchen Wehmhoff, who chose not to run after being appointed to the position following Amy Demboski's departure.
Kennedy served three terms on the Anchorage School Board, was legislative staff to former-Rep. Lynn Gattis, and an aide to the Alaska State House Education Committee. She says her main focuses are a safe community, protection for the tax cap, and to restore and rebuild schools, businesses and infrastructure.
Schiess works as a substitute teacher for the Anchorage School District, and is a former Marine Corps Combat Veteran. He says crime and public safety are a top priority, along with efficient municipal spending, and getting public transportation routes back to the Chugiak-Eagle River area. We asked both candidates what they believe are the most pressing issues facing their community.
Kennedy says there's still a lot of work to be done in the area following the Nov. 30 earthquake.
"We have some businesses that are still not open yet," Kennedy said. "We certainly have people who are displaced from homes, so that's going to be an ongoing issue for quite a while, and now with breakup coming up, we're seeing even some other issues starting to surface, so it's really kind of an ongoing problem. We're not out of the woods yet, and so we still need to focus on things to rebuild our community."
Schiess said the unemployment rate, property crime and homelessness are areas of concern he'd like to address.
"You can go down any street and somebody has had their car broken into, several times in some cases," Schleiss said. "Also, tackling Dunleavy's budget proposal. That's going to have some very serious impacts to our community in terms of people losing their jobs through those budget cuts, and when the unemployment rate goes up, crime goes up."
Meg Zaletel, Christine Hill, and Ron Alleva are the three candidates vying for District 4, Seat F, the Midtown area of Anchorage. This seat is currently held by Dick Traini, who's reaching his term limit.
Zaletel is small business owner, and attorney who who's spent her career representing those with disabilities, or who can't afford representation. She believes in an inclusive community, prioritizing infrastructure, and addressing homelessness.
"I think the issues on everyone's mind are crime and homelessness," Zaletel said. "Not that they necessarily go hand in hand, but that's what we're hearing at the doors. I've knocked on over 2,000 doors and it's either crime, or homelessness, or concerns over the proposed Dunleavy budget quite honestly. How is that going to play out in the municipality?"
Hill is a small business owner who has served on the Mental Health Advisory Board and volunteered at Hospice of Anchorage. Hill says she values smaller government, lower taxes, and education.
"The school is very very important as far as the children getting a good education, and unfortunately we're spending a lot of money, and I don't think we're getting a bang for our buck with the education," said Hill. "As far as crime, this is not the same place Anchorage was 10, 15 years ago. There used to be little pockets around town, and now it's just widespread. We need to enforce the laws and support our officers."
Alleva is a real estate auction business owner. You might have seen him on TV before speaking out about homeless issues. He says is passionate about education and the university, as well as hospitals, and public safety. He also values efficient government spending.
"You have to have two things, efficiency and be effective with the money you have, and then look for other revenues without taxing," Alleva said. "Make sure that people are paying their fair shares, or institutions, and that's why I think that in reviewing exemptions, especially property tax exemptions throughout the city, it should be looked at, re-evaluated, and everyone should pay their fair share."
Candidates for the West Anchorage seat, and uncontested candidates will speak at the chamber's meeting on March 25.