Friday, February 15, 2013

Anchorage 2013 Assembly Races Set; Eagle River And Midtown Elections Will Be Hotly Contested

Update April 3rd: Municipal election results discussed in this post.

On Friday February 8th, 2013, filing closed for Assembly and School Board candidates in the Anchorage 2013 Municipal Election to be held on April 2nd. Twelve candidates will compete for six different assembly seats, while five candidates will compete for two school board seats. This post will focus on the assembly candidates; the school board candidates are discussed in a separate post. The Anchorage Daily News has already published one preliminary story and on March 16th, published responses from candidates as to what three things they would change about city government.

Additional References:

-- Municipality of Anchorage Voter Information Page
-- Municipality of Anchorage Candidate Page
-- APOC Municipal Candidate Page (lists campaign contributions)

Major Issues:

-- Mayor Dan Sullivan's proposal to amend AMC Code Chapter 3.70 to update labor relations with public employees. In his separate memo to the Assembly, Mayor Sullivan notes that AMC 3.70 was originally adopted in 1969 and substantially amended in 1977 and 1989, and is now out of date in regard to current municipal operations and modern effective management techniques. He also maintains that the current code does not fully recognize the Assembly’s ultimate responsibility to the citizens of Anchorage to effectively budget and control spending. The result is an amalgamation of nine collective bargaining agreements CBAs), excessively complex and inconsistent personnel management systems, and rapidly increasing labor and administrative expenses, out-stripping inflation and revenue. The most critical changes proposed include maximum contract lengths of three years, elimination of longevity pay, performance pay increases and step increases, elimination of arbitration, and elimination of "right-to-strike".

Already the mayor's proposal has attracted strong opposition from public employee unions. During the February 12th Assembly meeting, as many as 1,500 public employees showed up to register their disagreement with the proposal (the Anchorage Daily News estimated that 750 showed up). One of the primary objections was that the proposal was crafted behind closed doors with no pre-coordination with labor groups. Another objection is that the ordinance would combine eight different work groups into one, which some union members believe will take away their bargaining power. Although the Anchorage Education Association (AEA) is not one of the eight unions that would be affected, they are supporting the unions. However, one commenter to the KTVA story, David Denholm, wrote "According to the Bureau of National Affair's 'Union Membership & Earnings Data Book' public employees in Alaska earn 12.3 percent more than employees on private payrolls", so it is questionable just how much hardship public employees would experience as a result of Sullivan's proposal. Assemblyman Paul Honeman filed a motion to postpone the rewrite indefinitely, which would essentially kill it, but it was rejected by a 7-4 vote. Efforts to delay the hearing until March and April also failed. Candidates will be peppered with questions about their stance on this proposal during the campaign, and labor endorsements will hinge on their answers.

-- Municipal Bond Package: The bonds have now been finalized, and there are four revenue bonds which could tally as much as $80,470,000, adding anywhere from $12.19 to $20.09 per 100,000 assessed value to the tax bill of the Anchorage property taxpayer, depending upon availability of state debt reimbursement for the school bond. The background is available in this previous post.

-- Petitions to change assembly districts and school board composition: Four separate petitions are being circulated; if approved, they will be on the ballot in a future municipal election. Two of them call for changing the assembly composition to single-member districts, and the other two call for expanding the school board to 11 members and have board members represent geographical districts.

-- Proposed transfer of F-16 assets from Eielson to JBER: This is an issue that we should question assembly candidates on. The strikes against this proposal are that it puts too many of our eggs in one basket, the Anchorage housing market is too tight to accommodate the people, and it could make Anchorage's airspace too crowded.

Critical media stories:

-- On March 16th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates to name three things they would change about city government.
-- On March 17th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates if they agree with the direction the mayor has been taking the city.
-- On March 18th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates to give a letter grade to the current assembly.
-- On March 19th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates if they agree with the mayor's proposed labor ordinance.
-- On March 21st, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates if the city has struck the right balance between services and revenue.
-- On March 22nd, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates what could the city do to spur desirable economic development.
-- On March 24th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates their positions on the Title 21 zoning law rewrite.
-- On March 26th, the Anchorage Daily News asked all assembly candidates if city law should prohibit discrimination in housing or employment against gay residents.

Assembly race and candidate profiles appear after the jump:



Eagle River/Chugiak Seat 2-A: The incumbent, Debbie Ossiander, has served three terms and is term-limited out for the Assembly, although she's running unopposed for Seat C in the Chugiak Fire Service Area. Pete Mulcahy, Amy Demboski and Bob Lupo are competing to replace her; Mulcahy and Demboski are considered the strongest candidates, although at this point, it's probably a tossup between the two. Alaska Teamsters Local 959 has awarded its endorsement to Pete Mulcahy in this race.

-- Amy Demboski: Demboski has a glittering resume which includes a record of building two successful businesses, and she's served as Chugiak Community Council President and Budget Advisory Commission Chair. Being a former military brat, she understands military issues from the dependent's perspective. She believes the fundamental role of government is to provide public safety, build and maintain infrastructure, and provide our children with the opportunity for a quality education. But she also believes we must have a fiscally sustainable budget which accounts for every dollar spent. When asked what three things she would change about city government, Demboski said she would make it smaller, more efficient and more transparent. Demboski generally agrees with the direction the mayor is taking the city, and says he's putting the city on a stable and sustainable path. Demboski agrees with the mayor's proposed labor ordinance because she finds that the cost of labor is rising at a rate that outpaces the rate at which the tax cap can rise. She gives the current assembly a letter grade of B-. Her supporters include Mayor Dan Sullivan, Assembly Members Bill Starr, Cheryl Frasca, Chris Birch, and Adam Trombley, and the Municipal Taxpayers League.

-- Pete Mulcahy: Mulcahy also has a strong resume; he capped his military career as the Post Commander from Fort Richardson in 2002 and is currently business development manager for URS Corporation. Mulcahy currently serves as President of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chamber of Commerce, as a member of the Board of Supervisors for the Chugiak Volunteer Fire Department, and is the current Commissioner of the Planning & Zoning Commission. Mulcahy's major priorities are fiscal responsibility, quality education, and public safety; he's also a strong proponent of the local service areas. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Mulcahy said he wants to get expenses under control by containing costs and streamlining services. While he generally agrees with the direction the mayor is taking the city, Mulcahy sometimes disagrees with specific paths taken. Mulcahy conditionally agrees with the mayor's proposed labor ordinance, although he thinks there are still many parts that need to be amended. With his military background, Mulcahy's opinion about the proposed transfer of F-16s from Eielson to JBER will be of particular interest. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of B-.

-- Bob Lupo: Lupo is a perennial candidate who's run unsuccessfully for elective office several times in the past; he's retired U.S. Army, with service in U.S. Air Force, U.S. Navy, and Alaska Army National Guard. No campaign website as of this post, but provided some insight into his political perspective in this campaign profile from 2011. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Lupo said don't cut emergency services to resolve a budget deficit, allow Eagle River to govern itself, and don't allow elected officials with conflicts of interest to participate in decisions which will enrich themselves at the expense of the public. Lupo generally agrees with the direction the mayor is taking the city, except for any decisions that cut public safety. Lupo has mixed emotions about the mayor's proposed labor ordinance, although he salutes Sullivan for his courage. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of A. Lupo appears to be overmatched in this race.

West Anchorage Seat 3-D: Ernie Hall is the incumbent and originally was running opposed. This was a sign of the fundamental respect people in the district hold for him; any disagreements were insufficient to trigger competition. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Hall said he would push for more community involvement, more participation in community councils, and better interaction between mayoral administrations and the Assembly. He agrees somewhat with the direction the mayor is taking the city, but believes Sullivan could have a more personal relationship with municipal employees. On the mayor's labor reform ordinance, Hall simply states it depends upon the final version. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of A-. Voted for AO 2013-37(S-1).

Update March 20th: Nick Moe has now jumped into this race as a write-in candidate. Moe said the catalyst was the recent decision by the assembly to terminate public commentary on a measure that would change the way unions negotiate with the city. "Really, the breaking point for me was when Ernie Hall for the first time in assembly history refused to allow people to speak on an issue in front of the assembly", Moe explained. In summer 2012, Moe worked with the Mayor's Office to demonstrate public support for glass recycling. Moe is also the Sustainable Communities Coordinator for the Alaska Center for the Environment. He ran unsuccessfully for Mayor of Anchorage in 2006, earning 2.48 percent of the vote. Anchorage Daily News reporter Julia O'Malley has written a worshipful puff piece on Moe. Alaska Teamsters Local 959 has awarded its endorsement to Nick Moe in this race.

West Anchorage Seat 3-E: Cheryl Frasca, who was selected by the Assembly to replace Harriet Drummond in January 15th, 2013, is running for election in her own right. She's being challenged by Tim Steele and Phil Isley. Frasca and Steele are considered the most viable candidates, but Frasca has a clear-cut edge. Alaska Teamsters Local 959 has awarded its endorsement to Tim Steele in this race.

-- Cheryl Frasca: An entrepreneur whose company specializes in government relations and policy analysis. Most recently served as the Municipality's Director of the Office of Management & Budget, and was a senior policy advisor to Mayor Dan Sullivan. She wants to bring her financial expertise to the Assembly to ensure we taxpayers get the biggest bang for the buck. When asked what three things she would change about city government, Frasca said she would provide a more deliberative process for how the Assembly reviews legislative proposals, provide a way in which to engage citizens in constructively discussing difficult public policy issues, and use a system of performance measures to evaluate effectiveness of programs in delivering results in making budget decisions. Frasca generally agrees with the direction the mayor is taking the city, but would like to see more attention to examining effectiveness of how well services are being delivered, particularly in regards to the permitting process. Frasca supports the amended version of the mayor's labor ordinance, which includes a number of changes as a result of meetings with the unions and public testimony; items of special concern to many employees, such as wages, seniority, pay enhancements, benefits, shifts will continue to be negotiated. She did not give the current assembly a letter grade. Voted for AO 2013-37(S-1). Among those listed as sponsors for her kick-off campaign event (which could be considered implicit endorsements) include Mayor Dan Sullivan, Assembly Members Bill Starr, Adam Trombley, Jennifer Johnston, Debbie Ossiander, and former State Senator Ralph Samuels.

-- Tim Steele: Currently retired; once worked for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Better known for his three terms on the Anchorage School Board, where he served on the Audit, Legislative, and Policy Committees. Steele says his experience outside of government has given him the ability to make a difference within government, although the bulk of his experience was with NOAA, a government agency. As a former school board member, Steele knows first hand what it takes to build strong schools and support both teachers and students. Otherwise, there's nothing particularly fancy about this guy; his primary goal is to make our government work for us, defining government as filling the potholes, plowing the snow, maintaining public safety, and improving education. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Steele said he would restore effective checks and balances between our executive and legislative bodies, improve local support for public education, and increase the respect and attention paid to individual citizens by our elected leaders. Steele supports the mayor's efforts to inspire real budget discipline in our community, but decries his failure to communicate with stakeholders prior to introducing cost cutting proposals as shortsighted. Steele opposes the mayor's proposed labor ordinance primarily because he objects to the process by which the ordinance was introduced. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of C-. Steele seems like a standup guy, except he's eclipsed by Cheryl Frasca's budgetary experience. Mark Marion seems to prefer Steele over Frasca, though.

-- Phil Isley: Isley is a perennial candidate who's run unsuccessfully for mayor and the assembly in the past. He believes elections are dominated too much by corporations and unions. He wants Anchorage and Alaska to become less dependent upon government and more dependent upon free enterprise. According to an Anchorage Press story, Isley says he probably would have voted in favor of AO 2013-37, because he believes there are plenty of people who would be willing to work for less than current public employees. Isley is also critical of a 2011 Assembly vote which he claims extended too much protection to bicyclists; he believes bicyclists get “a freebie” while motorists pay a gasoline tax. Isley would take a laissez-faire approach to city planning, particularly when it comes to private property. He said he has never seen a government regulation that didn’t harm the economy in some way. The land use codes look good on paper, but they are not as important as building better streets. Is not a member of a political party at present, but is thinking of either joining the Republicans or Libertarians. Commendable sentiments, but appears to be overmatched in this race. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Isley said the planning department, the bonding process and the way our school system teaches children. Isley thinks the mayor is taking the city in the right direction, but sometimes disagrees with the specific path. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of C.

Midtown Seat 4-F: Dick Traini is the incumbent and is running for re-election. Challenging him once again is Andy Clary, who lost to Traini by a narrow margin in 2010. Clary could defeat Traini this year, albeit by a narrow margin. Alaska Teamsters Local 959 has awarded its endorsement to Dick Traini in this race.

-- Dick Traini: Traini is a veteran, and is retired as a family consultant for the military. He teaches college history and political science classes part-time. Traini tends to be a moderate swing voter on issues. He earned the gratitude of most Anchorage residents by leading a campaign to kill the oppressive IM vehicle emission testing program, but then offset this by relentlessly trying to liberalize Anchorage's fireworks law, only reluctantly throwing in the towel late in 2012. Traini also has a reputation for being owned by the public sector unions, and burnished this reputation on February 12th when he was one of four Assembly members who voted to kill Mayor Dan Sullivan's labor reform ordinance altogether. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Traini said the relationship between the Assembly and the mayor, exemptions mandated by state law on real property, and unfunded liabilities. Traini disagrees with the direction the mayor is taking the city, decrying the lack of participatory management. Traini also disagrees vociferously with the mayor's labor ordinance because he considers it defective in design and thinks it should have been negotiated rather than ramrodded through the Assembly. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of C. Voted against AO 2013-37(S-1).

-- Andy Clary: Clary is a computer programmer and analyst, and works for GeoNorth, LLC. He's also a member of the Budget Advisory Commission. Although his father, Glenn Clary, is an associate pastor at Anchorage Baptist Temple (ABT), Andy is a member of Changepoint Church. This is mentioned only because some people wrongfully state that Andy is also a member of ABT for the purpose of trying to discredit him. He bills himself as an independent conservative whose top priority is maintaining fiscal discipline. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Clary said he'd make sustainable budgets, simplify the process for developing land to spur the creation of more affordable housing, and implement more effective uses of technology to better serve the public. Although Clary doesn't agree with every decision the mayor has made, he thinks the mayor has done a good job of making sure we can deliver essential services with available revenue. Clary opposed the mayor's original labor ordinance, but supports the amended "S" version. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of B. Clary has been endorsed by a veritable Who's Who of Anchorage politicos, including Mayor Dan Sullivan and Assembly Members Chris Birch, Adam Trombley, Jennifer Johnston, Bill Starr, and Cheryl Frasca, as well as former Anchorage Mayors Tom Fink, George Wuerch, and Rick Mystrom. Former State Senator Ralph Samuels has also endorsed Clary.

East Anchorage Seat 5-H: Paul Honeman is the incumbent and was originally running unopposed. During his unsuccessful mayoral campaign, Honeman successfully shook off accusations of mishandling the Anthony Rollins situation while he was still working for the Anchorage Police Department. Honeman is strong on public safety and wants an optimally-staffed and funded police department, but also burnished his reputation as being owned by the public sector unions on February 12th when he was one of four Assembly members who voted to kill Mayor Dan Sullivan's labor reform ordinance altogether. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Honeman said eliminate either the city manager or the chief of staff position because he believes it duplicative and expensive, place our public safety department heads and budgets under a public safety commission that is not directly answerable to the mayor, and develop a more user-friendly public transportation system, with collaboration and a regional commuter plan that is adequately funded. Honeman firmly disagrees with the direction the mayor has taken the city, saying that this mayor has no long-term strategic plan to present the Municipality as being welcoming or inviting to anyone. Honeman opposes the mayor's proposed labor ordinance not because he says it is not well thought out, not well planned, and is an overreach of administrative power. He believes it tilts too far away from what is considered fair, good faith collective bargaining. He gives the current assembly a letter grade of C. Voted against AO 2013-37(S-1). Alaska Teamsters Local 959 has awarded its endorsement to Paul Honeman in this race.

Update March 12th: Lynette Moreno-Hinz has now mounted a write-in campaign. She has been a cab driver for over 35 years in Anchorage. She believes infrastructure is important and keeping our roads maintained, especially the neighborhood streets. She also tends to support AO 2013-37, stating that municipal employees should earn pay raises by performance and not be handed longevity raises. Moreno-Hinz was crushed by Pete Petersen in the Democratic primary race for the House District 25 seat in August 2012.

South Anchorage Seat 6-J: Jennifer Johnson is the incumbent and is running for re-election. James "Jim" Cottrell IV originally filed to challenger her, but has since withdrawn from the race. He still has a campaign website.

-- Jennifer Johnson: According to her Assembly profile, Johnston is completing her second term on the Assembly. She is past chair of the Chugach State Park Advisory Board, Hillside East Community Council, and the Anchorage Center for Families. She tends to vote with the more conservative contingent on the Assembly. In 2010, she stirred up some anger among constituents when she chose to run in the Republican primary for a State Senate seat against two other Republicans after being freshly re-elected to the Assembly; it looked opportunistic. But she got smacked down hard in the primary election (which ultimately led to Cathy Giessel's election), and the resentment has receded. When asked what three things he would change about city government, Johnston said she would improve shared services with the Anchorage School District, develop an improved form of crowd sourcing to bring the municipality's services into the forefront of the 21st century with improved technology and services, and bring more user-friendly technology to the Assembly chambers. Johnston agrees with the financial direction the mayor is taking the city, but wants more time spent on the permitting process. As the original Assembly sponsor of the mayor's proposed labor ordinance, Johnston says she saw areas needing improvement, and by working with union leaders, says she has come up with a replacement more centered on the Assembly's approach. She did not give the current assembly a letter grade. Voted for AO 2013-37(S-1).

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