Improving public transportation in and out of the Chugiak-Eagle River area headlines the candidacy of the second local to enter the Anchorage Assembly race for the position Bill Starr terms out of in April.
Officially, it is Assembly District 2 – Seat C – Chugiak/Eagle River that Gretchen Wehmhoff of Chugiak filed for with the municipal division of elections on Jan. 30. She joins Eagle River’s John Brassell on the April 4, municipal ballot. She also submitted out her paperwork required by the Alaska Public Offices Commission on the same day.
“We can’t exactly have a race with just one candidate,” Wehmhoff told the ECHO News with a bit of whimsy regarding her decision to run. “I’ve been asked by a lot of people since the beginning of the year to consider a run for Assembly.”
All kidding aside, Wehmhoff said her concerns regarding public transportation issues including the Municipality’s move to eliminate the People Mover route 102 serving Chugiak and Eagle River prompted her decision.
“Our transportation services here have been cut back so much that people that don’t have a vehicle cannot do just the most simple things,” Wehmhoff said.
Other than retaining the People Mover service, Wehmhoff also wants the Municipality to provide geographically-specialized cab licenses for operation in the Chugiak-Eagle River area only with the exception of having to make trips to the international airport in Anchorage.
She notes that local residents needing a cab have to wait for one to come from Anchorage and pay the additional travel time.
“I believe the Municipality should support another licensing opportunity for three cabs to be out in this area serving this area only,” Wehmhoff said. “It might take a bit, but word would quickly get around to people who simply need to get to the store but don’t have their own car.”
Wehmhoff cites home-bound senior citizens, teens and single moms as potential regular clients of a local cab service.
She also believes the Anchorage Municipality should renew past discussions with the Mat-Su to create a light rail service between the two that would serve points in between.
In light of the proposed high-density housing for the Carol Creek area located between the Eagle River Fred Meyer store and the Harry J. McDonald Center, Wehmhoff said public transportation in Eagle River is not sufficient to serve the needs of lower-income residents that most lightly will be attracted to the less expensive housing option.
Wehmhoff also said she will push for additional police and fire services in the local area.
“I know the Anchorage Police Department has already increased its service here and is looking at ways to do even more and I will certainly be highly vocal about making that happen,” she said.
Wehmhoff has lived in Chugiak since 1995. Prior to that, she lived in Anchorage from 1965. She is a retired Anchorage School District teacher.
She thinks her time living in Anchorage and teaching in Anchorage prior to moving to Chugiak and teaching at Chugiak High School gives her a unique perspective in understanding and advocating for the Anchorage Bowl as a whole while maintaining loyalty to the local area.
Reach Wehmhoff via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editor’s Note: Gretchen Wehmhoff is a member of the ECHO News team. She is a long-time Chugiak resident and a former journalism instructor at Chugiak High School. During her candidacy for Anchorage Assembly, Wehmhoff will not be covering issues the Assembly votes on.