Thursday, February 19, 2015

Halcro's Key Issues Seem Pretty Close to Coffey's

I'm only a week late on this, but the mayoral election isn't until the beginning of April, so we're ok for
now.  But if I'm going to get some video of some of the major names among the other candidates (I was told there are 12 in all), I'm going to have speed things up.

Overview here, and in depth transcript (and soon the video) below

Halcro's three main reasons for running for mayor were pretty close to what Dan Coffey said were his reasons a couple of weeks ago (see that interview here). There does seem to be a difference in how they might approach these though.  Coffey comes from a career as an attorney who's represented developers and the alcohol businesses and he served on the Assembly.  Halcro has been involved with his family business (Avis)  and been in the state legislature and has run for governor. Halcro is smart and I think he sees things more boardly than most.  He's certainly very sure of himself.  I think choosing the colors yellow and black for his campaign sign makes that point. 

I'd also note a real contrast in the two meet and greet evenings.  Halcro's was in a huge warehouse like room that was industrial cold, in the back of the TriGrill on 76th off of Old Seward.  While he probably had as many people at his event as Coffey did at Don Jose's (near the very busy intersection of Lake Otis and Northern Lights), the room was ten or twelve times the size as the cozy restaurant setting at Don Jose's and it looked like there was nobody there.

1.  Deal with the budget deficit.  (Actually this was a secondary issue for Coffey, but the first one that Halcro raised.)  He said he's been through this before in the legislature when oil fell to $10 a barrel.  He knows the conversations and the exercise, so he knows how to respond.

2.  Inebriates and homeless people.  And like Coffey he pushed the idea of Housing First (getting housing for this group).  Like for Coffey, this was a biggie for Halcro.  He said inebriate (or inebriation)  and homeless five times each.    Both candidates seemed to be interested in this issue because of the nuisance factor, though Coffey at least said we need to have compassion for these people because addiction is a disease and he mentioned that many of these folks were mentally ill, Halcro never raised that point.

3.  Developing Fairview.  Actually Halcro was broader on this issue.  He identified three areas near downtown that are undervalued and underdeveloped - east downtown, Fairview, and Mt. View.  He foresees cool neighborhoods for millenials who want to be near the restaurants, bars, and downtown in general.  He also saw this as a way for Anchorage to keep growing.  When I asked him if this development would help people living there or simply be gentrification forcing the current residents out, he strongly said it wouldn't be gentrification.  He wants, he said, everyone living there now to be able to stay if they want to.  This development was also one of the reasons he wants to get the inebriates and homeless out.   But if the point is to make this an area that developers want to go in, exactly what will they do there if they don't buy lower priced properties, tear them down, and put in more upscale property?  And as the price goes up, so will property taxes.  People who sell because the offers seem attractive, won't have any place else to move that they can afford.  He may not want people to move out, but I don't see how that won't happen.  And he wants the city to give developers incentives to do this.  (OK, I'm juxtaposing his words and my words, but he does want the city to give developers incentives to develop there - by making it safer (getting rid of inebriates and homeless) and with tax incentives.)

He also mentioned strengthening public education.  I'd note Halcro was the only member of the State House Sustainable Education Task Force who did not vote to approve their report which did appear to be the aim of key members from the beginning:  push for public money to go to private schools. 

A second major initiative of his presidency of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce he discussed was his diversity initiatives.  

I asked him about the gentrification potential in Fairview - I didn't get a chance to ask Coffey - which I've addressed above and I asked about the extension of Bragaw through the university lands, despite overwhelming community council opposition, and despite the fact we have a budget problem and this would be an easy $20 million to recover since it hasn't been spent yet.  He acknowledged that he doesn't know this issue well, but his response also shows he doesn't know the university neighborhood well either.  At one point he said, " UMed district really hasn’t changed since I was a kid."  That's completely wrong.  In the last five to ten years there are four new roads that connect 36th and Tudor between Lake Otis and the new sports center.  And since Halcro was a kid, Providence and Lake Otis have become four lane roads, and DOT made a molehill out of mountain to punch 40th through from Lake Otis east to just past Dale Street.  And Bragaw (now Elmore) became four lane, and was pushed through to Abbot and MLK Blvd was added south of Tudor.  He talked about the growing University, but apparently he forgot he mentioned the State's budget problems at the beginning and the University's budget cuts being submitted right now.  Options for getting to the University include all people on campus with a university id card get free People Mover passes.  There's a campus shuttle bus that even takes people to the University Center where the University has expanded.   But I'm getting off the interview now to my own pet issue.  And Halcro acknowledged he hadn't studied this.  But he did say there hadn't been improvements in roads to the campus since he was a kid and that's flat out wrong.  And he implied, when he said the local folks couldn't be against progress, that progress means roads.  In education progress means more and more opportunities to attend class without driving there - like through online classes and audio conferencing and even Skype.

[As I prepare to post this, I realize that I'm comparing Coffey and Halcro here - which makes sense because they both emphasized the same issues.  But I'm thinking ahead of posts on other mayoral candidates and if I continue to do it this way, the posts are going to get longer and longer.  So I'll probably not do this in the future posts on individual candidates.  But I can link to here and eventually have some posts on all the candidates.]

So, here's the transcript I wrote up.  It's pretty close, and I think it captures the meaning if not the literal words.   I'm not sure you can call it an interview.  I did get a couple of questions in.  Andrew talks so fast, that even in 50% audio speed I had trouble keeping up with him to write these notes. [Video's up.]   It's taking its time to upload, so I'll post this tonight and tomorrow, the video should be ready to embed.  I'll put it here:  

Transcript of video:
Steve:  Andrew, you’ve got a good life, why would you want to run for mayor?

Andrew: Well,  That’s exactly why I want to run for mayor. There are three reasons.  One, I think the economy is going to be uncertain in the next few years  with the state in a $3 billion budget deficit and You need somebody in the mayor’s office who understands  how to contain the cost of government, not to mention I was in Juneau, I served in the legislature 15 years ago when they were going through the same thing. Oil was $!0 a barrel and we had a $1billion budget deficit. In fact we spent a lot of time looking at solutions.  We also spent a lot of time talking about where to cut the budget.  So as the next mayor, I know exactly what those conversations are and therefore I know how to plan  and how to contain costs. 

The second thing is,  I really want to make the community healthier and safer, my last couple of years as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce, we’ve really had an issue with downtown public safety, certainly the crime rate, the chronic inebriate problem, the homeless problem

We have to take the long view of these problems.  From the management standpoint we like to nibble around the edges  or we like to adopt what we think are going to be these silver bullet programs.  We have to realize we’ve got to have a comprehensive approach.  With public safety you have to put more officers on the street,

We’re 50 officers short  …..  They’ve decimated the   gang  task force, they’ve decimated the sexual assault task force because they want more officers in patrol cars.  And that has really hurt our ability to go out and be proactive.  Addressing the gang issue and some of these criminal issues that are now percolating to the top

The communities does need to get healthier the chronic inebriate problem, the homeless problem    needs to finally be addressed.  We need to look at expanding things like the housing first model that works, it really works.  Not only does it get people off the street, it makes them safer, but it also reduces public safety calls to that area.  Police will tell you that it’s been a success.

And the third thing is really to just continue to grow the economy and  manage the cost of government.    Growing the economy in the sense where we get where we get in and doing that    should have been done a long time ago.  I think some of the greatest areas of our town are the most underdeveloped and undervalued.  

I’d like to see huge redevelopment downtown and East Anchorage.  I’d like to see us go into Fairview and clean up the area.  And provide a just really cool part of town for people to live in.  The demographics are changing.  We have 82,000 millennials that live and work in this city and they have different needs than I do or you do. It’s a different generation.  They want to live downtown, near to bars and restaurants.   They want easy access to  downtown.      In order to attract that kind of investment, you have to address the public safety concerns and you have to address the chronic inebriation and homelessness problems. Because those Developers aren’t going down there to redevelop unless those areas are ripe for development.

So really those things are why I’m running.

My last two years at the Anchorage chamber, we’ve done some groundbreaking work,  Our education initiatives to strengthen public schools.  I’m chair of the 90% by 2020.  I have been for two years which seeks to strengthen public school outcomes by promoting 90% graduation and 90% attendance by 2020 

I’ve also been very active in the community with diversity,  One Anchorage One Economy has brought in all types of diverse groups.  Sitting down and talking about how the business community how we can integrate them into the business community.  Talking about how work all one Anchorage, we all live in the same economy and go to the same schools and have all aligned concerns and the same goals.  We all want a successful and happy and healthy city.  And that’s really why I want to be mayor.

I think, I've lived here for 50 years in the community.  Its been stagnant in some places I think we need to move forward on.  There are some intractable problems that we haven’t addressed that we really need to address.  But by and large, this city has been amazing to me and amazing to the people I love,  and I just want to make it stronger for future generations.

Steve:  You talked about Fairview, and when I talked to Dan Coffey, he also talked about redevelopment of Fairview.  My concern is whether development the people who live there now and get their neighborhood cleaned up and they get to stay there making their lives better, or are we talking about gentrification, and we get rid of the poorer people so the wealthier an move in?

Andrew:  No, in my view, redeveloping Fairview is keeping people in their homes who want to stay there.  Be more aggressive on the chronic inebriation and homeless problems.  Here’s an example,  years ago they went into Fairview and they created these neat little parks and put up all kinds of accessaries, then within a year or two they had to take them out because they became gathering places for crime and inebriates and the homeless.  I want to see a time when people who live in Fairview today and tomorrow have little pocket parks, I want to see when it’s safe to walk to the store at 11 at night.  I want to finally look at 13th and Gamble and say how do we clean this up.  This has been a problem since I was 16 years old.  It’s not about gentrification, it’s about cleaning up the neighborhood.  I want people to stay there.  I don’t want anybody to move out of their neighborhoods.  I want to use the city’s leverage with tax incentives   to tax deferral credits to get in and make the area safer, make it more of a great little community.  I mean, they really have a good community council, the Fairview community council the Fairview business association.  They’ve done an amazing job and what they need is a little more help from City Hall  They have overlays, they have development plans, and they need   leadership from city hall, because when I look at this city, there are three areas - there’s east downtown, there’s Fairview and Mountain view.  They have the greatest promise, because they are three of the oldest areas of town that are really ripe for people who want to live in cool little neighborhoods.

Steve:  Let me ask another question.  There’s $20 million sitting out there to build a road through the university campus.  All the community councils around there have protested and don’t want the road. Where do you stand on this?

Andrew:  I haven’t really studied this project.  But I will tell you the area is growing and we need to have better access in and out.  Whether that means adopting that road plan I can’t say.  I do know  is you have a growing University you’ve got a hospital that’s growing fast, if there are ways we can improve access without cutting the road through the CC areas, we should do that.  But there’s no question that area needs better transportation access.  The road system in the UMed district really hasn’t changed since I was a kid.  I access from Northern Lights to 36th to Providence Dr.  None of the roads in that area have matured.  Maybe instead of doing the road through the university, maybe we should look at approach roads that get people into the university district.  As a former community council president, I’m very sensitive to the wishes of community councils, they work hard, they get their people out every month, they have the best interests of their community at heart.  We went through the same things at Sand Lake when they wanted to build homes in a gravel pit.  So I understand the frustration.  It does require some collaboration.  You can’t just show up and say we’re going to build a road in that area.  But you also can’t just say we’re not going to have progress, because that area is going to continue to grow and it’s continue to be served by underdeveloped roads. 

Steve:  Any other critical issues you want to talk about?

Andrew:  No, thanks. 

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