Assembly Race Pits Three Locals For One Seat
A relative newcomer to local politics bringing extensive accounting and economic policy experience he is eager to share, a statesman with a long political resume including previous Assembly service as well as terms in the state house and senate and a two-time state house candidate with a solid track record of local involvement at the community council level each vie for the Anchorage Assembly seat being vacated by Eagle River’s Bill Starr on April 4.
Meet John Brassell, Fred Dyson and Gretchen Wehmhoff.
They each want your vote in this year’s municipal election.
Early voting began on Mon., March 27 at the Chugiak-Eagle River Senior Center and continues until Mon., April 3 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The senior center will not be open for voting on Election Day, according to the Municipality of Anchorage elections webpage.
The ECHO News asked the three Assembly candidates the same three questions regarding this year’s election:
- In your opinion, what is the most pressing issue for this Assembly election?
- What qualities would you bring to the Assembly that your opponents do not?
- As the state faces this current fiscal crisis and local governments work through what some are calling a pending recession, what can Anchorage – the state’s largest local government – do to demonstrate leadership and model a how-to for the rest of the state?
Here are their answers to each question:
My answer to that question includes a 1) and a 1a): When I walk around and meet people and go door knocking, the first concern I hear from them is the high level of crime that Anchorage is experiencing that is overflowing to Chugiak and Eagle River. We need sensible good ideas to re-strategize how to bring back a safe community. On a smaller scale, but similar to what the Birchwood Community Patrol does, a neighborhood perspective on community observation has proven in other states such as Florida and North Carolina to be an effective method to deter crime. Law enforcement can conduct classes on how to create and maintain a robust neighborhood watch program. My 1a) answer to this question is we need to make sure that we have a balanced budget and that we are not spending and living outside of our means as municipality.
The most pressing issue in this Assembly election that is affecting people is the significant uptick in property crimes – primarily the breaking and entering of homes and the stealing of cars right out of people driveways and yards. As I understand it and am told by our local police, this is largely being fueled by people’s needs for drugs as the primary motivations. This ties in to the other major issue for the city and the municipality regarding its finances. We are heading in to a recessions and the city does not have enough money to do all the things this current mayor wants to do. We have some tough decisions to make about decreasing costs and maintaining services and this uptick in crime is only adding to the problem.
As we face the decline of revenue sharing from the state, the Municipality needs to continue to creatively seek new means for revenue and budget shortfalls. This Assembly will be taking on challenges looking at possibilities of changing tax revenue. Our property owners have carried an enormous share of financing the community. Finding new revenue sources and reprioritizing our revenue base will not be a simple task.
I bring a background in leadership and in finances and a little bit more energy to be able to address some of the situations that are being presented to us today whether that is in Chugiak-Eagle River specifically or throughout the entire municipality. I bring that background of showing leadership in economic policy and finance to the table and I have a conservative approach in my ideals and my philosophy regarding balanced budgets and economic growth. I also want to punish criminals and not be soft on crime. That combined approach that I bring to the table has not been demonstrated from some of my opponents.
My experience. That is what I bring that the others do not. In this public process of picking a policy maker to be the public’s representative on the Assembly, experience counts. I have served on the Assembly before, I have served in our state legislature in both the house and the senate representing our community and I have been in the midst of making major decisions not only for our local community, but for our state. Plus I am an engineer and I understand a lot of the technical issues having to deal with power generation and distribution, water and wastewater infrastructure, roads and bridges and how that all related to budget management.
I am a collaborator. Working together with the community is the absolute best way to find solutions while enabling residents to voice their ideas and concerns. I believe that my dedication to communication with the residents of District 2 and my practice of listening to as many points-of-view as possible when seeking answers and solutions will be invaluable.
It comes down to the basics of being financially responsible. Even at state level, we have seen irresponsibility in spending beyond our means and not really look for alternatives statewide. Anchorage has to do that: be financially responsible and look for alternatives. We have to begin to make decisions not based on the previous safety net that oil and gas provided. We have to be in a position to not cause panic when oil and gas are hitting the low mark. Anchorage needs to build reserves and cut unnecessary spending and make sure we are doing the basic functions of government and doing that well. We want other local governments to look at Anchorage and be able to say there is not a whole bunch of pork spending; that Anchorage is doing things pretty lean and correctly and not wasting money. Doing so will set an example that can trickle down as a role model to other local governments and more importantly, to our families as we look at every opportunity to apply financial lessons to our own lives. I want to stay true to the reasons why I ran for Assembly: to make sure that my kids inherit a community that is safe and fiscally responsible.
Right here in Eagle River we already have some good examples of how to make it work. Our road clearing (the Chugiak/Birchwood/Eagle River Rural Road Service Area which is funded by a special mill rate for residents in its service area only) is a great example of how to get that service delivered in an effective manner in terms of getting the snow moved at a cost-efficient rate. We have the best run senior center in the state. Others could learn from that. Our local university campus (UAA Chugiak-Eagle River) is the most efficient in the state. We know how to do it smarter than most areas of the state and Anchorage and the rest of the state can learn from us.
Anchorage is in a better position to find a path through this fiscal situation and create a new direction for how we design revenue sources than many communities. Our most valuable resource is our people. We have set a strong example by engaging a more diverse population than many parts of the country. Helping our residents get to work through a robust transportation system, tackling the longer distance commutes of our residents in Girdwood and Eagle River, as well as those of our neighboring communities, will be an important step towards more effective transportation infrastructure in Southcentral Alaska.
Local polling places are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Election Day, April 4. Find your local polling location online at: //muniorg.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=eedd379e6d974577a3f4e5ea2fe21298.
Election Day absentee and in-person voting is available at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport at the lowest level entrance from the parking garage leading to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame hallway and at the University of Alaska-Anchorage Student Union. Learn more online at https://www.muni.org/Departments/Assembly/Clerk/Elections/Pages/AbsenteeinPerson.aspx.
Editor’s Note: Each of these three candidates have purchased advertising from Eagle River Printing, which is the parent company of the ECHO News. All purchases were made in adherence to Alaska Public Offices Commission requirements. Gretchen Wehmhoff is a member of the ECHO News staff and during the campaign has been prohibited from writing about Assembly activities or the election. Learn more about each candidate at the Municipality of Anchorage Elections website at: