Sunday, March 19, 2017

Notes On Assembly Candidate Debate And Some Voter Election Prep

The AFACT (Anchorage Faith & Action Congregations Together) Assembly Candidates' forum Sunday March 12, 2017 was very well organized and gave the audience a sense of the candidates running for the Assembly in the April 4, 2017 election.

click to enlarge and focus a bit
They made it easier for everyone by providing a chart with all the RSVP'd candidates' names and the three topics of the questions - Budget, Public Safety, Bike & Pedestrian Safety.

You can see from my lack of notes (since I can hardly read them, I decided not to try to blur them out) that some candidates weren't there.  Also, there's a back side for the rest of the districts.

For everyone who is alarmed by encourage by the November election result, voting April 4 and getting others out too, is an important step for two reasons.  You can make sure our Assembly stands up for your values and you can send a message that Americans are paying more attention to all elections.

Anchorage Municipal elections tend to be attract fewer than 20% of registered voters.  Races can be won or lost by a handful of voters.  So your vote has much more weight in these elections.

Surely, each election is a public demonstration of values.

I did notice some things as I listened to how the candidates responded to the questions.  Below are my observations.  These notes are not intended to give details of each candidate's remarks, or  guide your vote, but to start you thinking about the issues as you prepare to do your election homework.

Preparation and Organization
It's hard to focus on the key points in the one minute candidates were given to respond to each question.  But some candidates had done their homework and were able to speak to the questions with specifics while also showing their understanding of how many things were interrelated.  David Dunsmore (District 1), for instance,  linked safety issues to schools, jobs, and general community prosperity.  Chris Constant (District 1) talked about how Fairview property values are being kept low by the uncertainty of DOT's plans to connect the Seward and Glenn highways through the Fairview neighborhood.  This has also led to Fairview having none of the trail infrastructure that other parts of the city has, even though it has the highest density of pedestrians.   Suzanne LaFrance  (District 6) had prepared notes that allowed her to get a lot of content into the minute she had to answer.

Gretchen Wehmoff (District 2), when asked about public safety, pointed out that the Department of Corrections was the largest provider of mental health care.  She suggested getting people the care they need early would cut down the prison population and those heavy costs.

Other candidates seemed to talk off the top of their heads, filling in with anecdotes, or repeating the same theme with each questions.  David Nees (District 3) for instance enlightened us on the bike question by saying that no biker had been killed by a car while riding on the bike trail.

Cut the Budget
A few candidates - particularly Don Smith (District 4) and Chris Cox (District 1) - made cutting the budget their basic theme.  Smith told the group he was Mr. Tax Cap and complained about the luxurious apartments being given out to 'street drunks.'  Cox's wrap up message was that people in favor of men using women's restrooms and who like taxing and spending need to vote for someone else.  

Be A Community That Cares For Its Members
I think most acknowledged that keeping track of finances was important, but added that we needed to be a community that cares about the others in our city, which seemed to get approval from this church sponsored event audience.  They pointed out that cutting in one place, often raised costs somewhere else.

Underlying Narratives
Two competing narratives seemed to underlie many candidates' remarks.
Narrative 1:  Individuals need to be responsible for themselves, not the public.
Narrative 2:  As a community we have make sure we have physical and social infrastructures - public transportation, schools, health services - so that individuals can take responsibility for themselves.

Having grown up in a family where personal responsibility was always stressed, I agree that individuals need to learn how to be responsible.  But I recognize that  kids whose parents are substance abusers, absent, unemployed, or otherwise struggling, aren't going to learn that value without a good school system and other support systems that can help the families.  So I tend to lean toward the second narrative.

Your Homework
It doesn't require too much time to get yourself up to speed on the candidates in your district.  After the forum, I put up posts for each Assembly district with a district map, a list of each district's candidates, and links to their websites.

District 1 (Downtown) has the most candidates for Assembly anyone needs to check on -  six.
District 2 (Chugiak/Eagle River) and District 4 (Midtown) each have four candidates.
All the others,
District 3 (West Anchorage)
District 5 (East Anchorage)
District 6 (South Anchorage)  have just two candidates you need to check.

The links will get you to maps of the district, names of the candidates, and links to their websites.

You have a little more work to do - School Board seats and Propositions - and I'll get you more information on that over the next week or so.

Note:  I've added a tab on top that is indexing all these posts on the Anchorage Municipal election.

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