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Anchorage community councils provide sounding board for neighborhood concerns

By Kirsten Swann 6:40 PM October 16, 2013

Changes to council rules could open participation to teens

ANCHORAGE – Anchorage Assembly members are considering an ordinance amending the rules governing community councils.

“It doesn’t give them any more power, it just tries to reinforce how vital they are to this town,” said Assemblyman Dick Traini, co-sponsor of the ordinance. “The basic level of government we have in Anchorage are community councils.”

From Portage Valley to Eagle River, Anchorage communities are represented by 38 community councils, which are open to all comers, hold elections annually and meet anywhere from twice a year to every month. They provide public forums for residents to discuss neighborhood concerns, and for Mountain View resident Diane Mead, they’re an effective way of spearheading community change.

“I didn’t know how to get involved,” Mead said, who’s now the vice president of the Mountain View Community Council. “I saw problems, and it was endlessly calling the police saying ‘There’s a problem here, there’s a problem.’”

Mead said her work with the Mountain View council facilitated an ongoing dialogue with her neighbors about issues facing their entire Northeast Anchorage community. They’re currently battling a growing public inebriate problem Mead says stems from a neighborhood liquor store. After meeting about the issue Monday night, she said her council is preparing to take its findings to the Assembly and request it reconsider the liquor store’s conditional use permit.

Councils across Anchorage handle neighborhood concerns ranging from public safety to property issues, and Mead said there’s one guaranteed way to improve the process: more public involvement.

“We’re all volunteer, so when people say there aren’t enough patrols, that’s because the person doing the patrol has a job,” she said. “If you have a concern the best thing to do is to step up, and we will help get people involved.”

Traini said changes to the community councils’ governing ordinance could encourage increased public involvement. By dropping the age of participation from 18 to 16, he said councils could encourage civic participation from local teens looking to pick up an extra school credit or get a jump start on future political aspirations.

The Assembly is also looking to improve its own communication with Anchorage community councils. Traini said the ordinance would require councils to send their capital project requests directly to the Assembly rather than City Hall so the Assembly could vet projects and include them in its own legislative request list.

“Like tennis courts,” Traini said.

Click here for a map and contact information for Anchorage community councils.

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