As all of you should know, but some of you may not, the Anchorage Mayoral Race is underway. On April 7th, the city of Anchorage will elect a new mayor, who will serve the city, for better or for worse, for the next two years.
This race is an especially interesting one. We have a vast field of potential mayors, with 11 people running for the city’s highest office. While 11 candidates gives us a nice variety of choices, it also leaves us feeling overwhelmed. 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 Dan Coffey.
Coffey, who threw his hat in the ring before any of his opponents when he announced his candidacy in the fall of 2013, currently serves on the Anchorage Rotary, the Mayor’s Homeless Leadership Task Force, the Community Advisory Committee, Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline, and he chairs the Mayor’s Energy Task Force. In the past, he served six years on the Anchorage Assembly and served on the Board of Fish. Coffey is a part owner of the Alaska Aces, a partial owner of express lube, a commercial property owner, and practices law in Anchorage.
I asked Coffey why he decided to run for mayor. He responded that he wanted to run because he loves Anchorage: “the impetus is basically the fact that I’ve been here and I’ve had a very fine life…..I care about this place a lot.”
Coffey told me that politics isn’t a career for him, it’s service to the community. He said: “when I look around the city and I see the nature of the challenges we face, I believe that I am uniquely positioned to address those from experience, knowledge and experience.”
Coffey told me that since he declared his intent to run in 2013, he has been speaking with people about the challenges that face the city and how those challenges might be met. “I call it Coffey’s continuing education in things municipal,” he said.
What are the challenges that the city of Anchorage faces? Well, finances, for one, according to Coffey. He told me that about 61 percent of the city of Anchorages operating budget comes from property taxes, which he said puts a significant burden on home and business owners. While a sales tax might alleviate some of this pressure, Coffey says that people don’t trust the government to keep the percentage of tax at a reasonable level.
Another challenge Coffey sees the city facing is a housing crisis. He says that work-force housing, or housing for people who work for wages, is “crumby.” Coffey explained that part of the problem is that there isn’t very much build-able land left within the Anchorage bowl. A solution for this issue? Well, there’s some land available through the Heritage Land Bank, which the city has access to. There is also State owned land that Anchorage could get, although not too much of it, according to Coffey, and Federal land, which Coffey doesn’t think the city could get very easily. But, he said, that to the degree that those lands can be made available, the city can increase its tax base and at the same time provide more work-force housing.
Another way Coffey says that building costs might be reduced is through deregulation: “To the degree that there are regulations that are an impediment to development and provide little or no benefit to the community, we don’t need those kinds of things,” according to Coffey.
He also suggested that the city should provide tax incentives and deferrals for developers working in certain areas of the city.
On the social side of things, Coffey thinks a lot of changes can be made. One big issue? Chronic public inebriates. Coffey says the issue has never really been addressed and that it is a serious detraction from the quality of life here in Anchorage.
Coffey said that once you’ve accepted that the issue needs to be addressed, the question becomes, how? “Housing First works,” Coffey said.
One way to come up with needed resources, Coffey said, may be another tax on the liquor industry.
In light of the recent legalization of recreation marijuana in Alaska, I asked Coffey what he thought about the measure and how the city should handle it.
“I voted no,” Coffey said. He said that he thinks the city will have a lot of options, but until the states hand down their legislation, local governments don’t have too much to work with.
On the subject of public safety, especially in the light of the recent spike in gun violence in the city, Coffey said that the solution to mitigating this issue is increasing the number of police officers on the street. To fund more officers, Coffey told me that negotiations with the police department over fiscal issues are critical.
The Anchorage mayoral race is a non-partisan one. If you’re like me, you’re a little confused about what that really means. Essentially, the charter of the race says that candidates will not be listed under their various party-affiliations on the ballot.
Coffey said that although he is a fiscal conservative, he believes that how individuals chose to live their lives is their business. “Who your partners are, who your friends are, I don’t have a problem,” Coffey said. “That’s your business.”