By Chaz Thomas Rivas
Alaska 2018 has been full of election news, gossip, and blunders. With the governor’s race taking up much of the media spotlight, and the multiple primaries that are taking shape across the state, I wanted to take some time and address an *additional* election that has been added to specifically West Anchorage voters in Assembly District 3, Seat E.
On June 6th Assemblyman Tim Steele announced that he would resign from his seat due to health reasons. With the election taking place by vote-by-mail on August 7th, and ballots hitting mailboxes starting on July 18th, many people are probably wondering a few things things:
- Why in the world are there people campaigning for Assembly in the summer?
- Who are they, and why are they running?
I reached out to what appears to be the three leading candidates: Austin Quinn-Davidson, Sam Moore, and Nikki Rose. Only Austin was available to sit down for an interview. Sam Moore and I did try on many occasions to meet, however Nikki Rose never responded to my request (kind of makes you think what sort of assemblywoman she would make).
On July 15th I sat down with Austin at The Writers Block on Spenard to discuss why she is running for the West Anchorage Assembly seat. However, before I go into the depths of municipal policy, I have to give a shout out to The Writers Block. The live music, great selection of books, and awesome beverages were amazing on a hot Alaskan day.
Now, since I confided in Austin that she was my first ever interview for the high energy Alaska Landmine, I felt that she took it easy on me. When I asked her the first and most basic question for a candidate, “Why are you running?” she did not hesitate to answer. She began by speaking about how her family was rooted in the working class, always working and just getting by with what they had. From there, she attended law school in the lower 48, and came back to Alaska at the first opportunity. She said that her personality, and approach of being an independent, will allow her to move more smoothly in an already heavily progressive leaning Assembly, currently chaired by Assemblymember Forrest Dunbar. We then discussed what she would like to do if elected to the Assembly.
Austin believes that the cause of much of the crime committed in Anchorage is drug related. Current APD reports do show that the increase in car theft, robbery, burglary, and domestic abuse are mostly drug related. In order to combat this she wants the city to “fill in the gaps” left by the State in their recent blunders in trying to do judicial reform legislation (Senate Bill 91). “Filling the gap” means the city establishing more mental health clinics and drug treatment programs. She did not expand as to how the city would pay for this, but that it was a step that needs to be taken.
Economy and the Budget
Austin agreed with Mayor Berkowitz’s ten cent gas tax throughout the municipality as a way of lowering property taxes. She works with the Municipal Budget Advisory Commission and has personal experience with devising a fiscal plan for the Assembly to consider. In our conversation, Austin mentioned that she does want the City to be on a path of fiscal security as well. When I asked her what some of her ideas were on growing Anchorage’s economy, she stated firmly that Anchorage needed to rebuild the Downtown area in order to attract younger and enthusiastic entrepreneurs. Her plan would change how people travel around Downtown via public transportation, and would increase the scenery of the area.
I asked Austin quite bluntly towards the end of our conversation, “Given all the issues that our conversation has brought to attention, are you optimistic about Anchorage’s future? Or do you think we are far from being where we need to be?” She responded, “I am very optimistic, and I will tell you why.” She proceeded to tell me how the City of Anchorage was by far one of the most supportive communities she had lived in. The people of Anchorage may be polarized and divided on certain issues, but at the end of the day we are still neighbors and have not lost that community feel. She does believe more needs to be done in terms of community activities and bringing people together, but felt that overall the people of Anchorage are good and caring people.
While I was not able to sit down with the other candidates, I recommend everyone contact Austin, Sam, and Nikki to ask them questions and bring forth your concerns. Election Day is August 7th, but you can mail in your ballot earlier. I encourage every West Anchorage resident to vote.
Chaz is a born and raised Alaskan. He recently graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with a B.A. in both Political Science and History. He has two cats and enjoys kayaking in the summer.