Getting to Know Lance Ahern

As all of you who tuned in to the show last week know, the Anchorage Mayoral Race is underway.  On April 7th, that’s just a month away, the city of Anchorage will elect a new mayor, who will serve the city, for better or for worse, for the next two years, starting in July.

There are 11 candidates running for the city’s highest office, which gives you, the voter, a lot to choose from: which is good!  But, how do you know which candidate is right for Anchorage?

To help you solve this question for yourself, KRUA has set out to speak with all the mayoral candidates and to give our listeners the chance to get to know what the candidates stand for and who they really are.

This week, on Getting to Know You, we’re going to hear from mayoral candidate Lance Ahern.

Courtesy of Lance Ahern

Courtesy of Lance Ahern

Ahern, who originally hails from New York, has lived in Alaska for the last 30 year.  He lives in Anchorage with his wife, Tammas, and their youngest child.  Ahern attended UAA and UAF and currently two of his children go to UAA.  Ahern has been employed by the city as the Chief Information Officer, or CIO, for the municipality, for the last four years.  Before that, he spent five years as the Information Technology Director for the Alaska Department of Public Safety, where he worked closely with the Alaska State Troopers.

Ahern says some of his goals as mayor would be to support economic growth, build stronger ties  between the city and the University, and to consolidate and streamline the city’s technological infrastructure.

To help support economic growth in the city, Ahern says we need to look away from traditional construction-oriented projects, and towards the technological future.

“I’m not trying to be negative when I say this, but often a lot of the discussion in Anchorage about economic development is about buildings and it’s about contracting and it’s about kinda big projects like that.  But in the world I come from, you know, what’s going on in Silicon Valley and other places, what we need here is more of a information industry.”

Ahern says that with a more information-centered industry, people who might otherwise leave the city after completing their education, might be more motivated to stay.

“People who go to UAA wanna come out and have a job,” Ahern says.

Helping to foster ties between the business community, the city, and the University will help everyone, Ahern says.  Anchorage and UAA have a lot in common, he explains, including many of the same goals and the same challenges.

“Basically one of my core beliefs is that Anchorage is the size of a…you know…it’s a city that has..kind of..um…may have problems but it’s very fixable.  When you look at things at the national level, when you look at things at the state level, it’s it’s almost incomprehensible.  You know, how you get out of some of those situations.  But here in Anchorage, we have all the tools and skills we need to fix some of these problems.  And so, I’d like to be part of that.”

One of the problems Ahern thinks he can help fix is a problem of inefficiency.  He says it’s a problem a lot of people recognize and one that’s formed over a long period of time.

Courtesy of Lance Ahern

Courtesy of Lance Ahern

“I’ve seen a lot about how government works and doesn’t work, and I think a lot of people see that from the outside, but I think everybody who sits in a chair in city hall understands exactly what I’m talking about…So, one example I always talk about with people is in the city we have 18 different systems that we use for what we call ‘asset management,’ so police cars, buses, you know furniture, buildings, whatever you want to call it.  We have, that I know of, at least 18 different systems that do that.  And, you know, so there’s lots of low hanging fruit in terms of do we, maybe we don’t need one, we could probably get by with two or three.  And the other side of that is, you know there’s direct costs, but then there’s all the indirect costs, because with 18 different systems, you have 18 different procurements that you go through, you have 18 different maintenance contracts, so all of this supporting infrastructure, to keep all this stuff going, training people to run 18 different systems, 18 different sets of, uh, standard operating procedures.  Whatever you want to look at, you know, we found a way to do it 18 times.  And, and that’s one thing.  You know there are all kinds of other systems that, you know, I’m aware about, just coming form the IT side where we have five or six or ten of these different things.”

Ahern says he thinks the city needs to be operated more cohesively and that a lot of choices that are now made at the departmental level should be made in a collaborative way instead.  He says that by streamlining things, the city can hugely reduce long term costs.

One area Ahern would like to see improved is Public Safety.  He says the Fire Department and Police Department need to be encouraged to work better together and that ideally, the two systems would share one dispatch.  He says that the city can expect some huge developments in the technological side of public safety over the next few years.  Right now, Ahern says, you can text police in Chicago.  Why can’t we do that in Anchorage?  According to Ahern, there’s no technical reason why we couldn’t and he’d like to see the city embrace the possibilities of this technological advancement.

“A lot of this makes a lot of sense to a lot of people, but it just doesn’t get talked about enough and maybe it doesn’t get talked about early enough in the process where it can actually influence a change.  That’s part of the reason I’m running is that there are a lot of major investments that we’re going to be making over the next few years that are really based around technology and that is a core strength I have.”

As far as party affiliations go, Ahern says he falls on both sides of the line.  He says that while he believes government plays an important role, he thinks that people should essentially be allowed to do their own thing.  I asked Ahern his stance on marijuana legalization and how Anchorage should regulate it within the municipality.

“To me it’s really simple: in our political process we kind of there are naturally a lot of barriers to change, right?  And the community has gone through a huge effort to get through some of those barriers, get a proposition out there, get it voted on.  I mean–it’s really simple, if that’s the will of what people want that’s what the law should reflect.  And as we go about and take the time to figure out you know what the regulations are gonna be and all that kind of stuff, it shouldn’t, the goal shouldn’t be to make it as difficult as possible for people to simply behave lawfully.”

Ahern says that being the Mayor of Anchorage is a job that he feels he’s uniquely qualified to do.

No person does this one thing.  What you have to do is bring a team to the table that’s capable of working together, understanding the goal and executing a plan.  And I think that’s something I’ve done over and over and I think it’s something I’d like to try at the next level.

You’ve been listening to Lance Ahern, candidate for Anchorage mayor.

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