Anchorage Mayor's "Aggressive" Plan to "Take Back Public Spaces"
Mayor Dan Sullivan discusses an education summit, alcohol ID checks, homeless camps and dog parks.
McAllister: "Now you just announced a mayor's education summit. Let's talk a little bit about that and let's start with why that's an appropriate thing for a city administration to take on. You usually think of education policy as being a combination of the school district, the state funding, the federal oversight. Why take it on as a municipality?”
Sullivan: “Well, we really are, I think, responding to what we heard from the community over the last year or so, as we have been going through our budget challenges. We had community dialogues last fall to ask the public what their priorities were, how they felt we should deal with the challenges, and the school district kept coming up in the discussion. They said well if you're going to be tightening your belt, why aren't you taking a look at the school district. And so we thought, well, usually there is a separation, but in this case when you are faced with tough budget issues, it probably makes sense to look at all areas of government and to see if there are ways you can improve. …
"We did this recently with our police department. We brought in an outside professional group to look at how we were deploying our forces and they made some very, very valid suggestions, which we're implementing. And so the same thing with the school district, I think, is probably appropriate. We're going to try and bring in some of the best and brightest minds in education, not only from around the country but from around the world, and see if there are some ideas there that might be implemented by our school district. With the ultimate goal -- I've been asking three questions: Are we the best school district in the nation? Do we want to be the best school district in the nation? How do you get there?"
McAllister: "Obviously Superintendent Carol Comeau was here. I'm just wondering if there's any potential turf conflict, though. I mean, anything that you come up with in this process that's going to go through next May, as I understand it, will have to be implemented in some fashion through the school district and probably through the Legislature. Is this the most efficient way to get it done?”
Sullivan: "I think so. I mean, again, I think oftentimes it takes an outside entity to truly get an objective viewpoint on an institution, particularly government institutions, which aren't usually self-correcting by nature. And this is by no means any sort of a criticism of the school board or the administration or our school district itself, because quite frankly, compared to most of the country, we're in pretty good shape. …
"To me it made sense to maybe look at our Pacific Rim neighbors that we trade with. I think those are who we should be competing with, not only economically but in the education world as well." 3:49 "And just a cursory study of those other countries -- they set the bar higher, they go to school longer, they have more rigorous standards for teachers, and I think those are some of the things that we need to look at locally, as well."
McAllister: "OK, now the deadline has passed for you to veto the ordinance implemented by the assembly regarding a mandatory offering of identification in order to purchase alcohol. I'm just wondering about the trend here. I mean, I assume there's some blowback from some people who complain about a nanny state and so forth. Obviously, you're comfortable enough with it not to veto it. But what would you say about how this is going to work out, whether any other sort of measure along these lines might be forthcoming?”
Sullivan: "I think the assembly probably did the wise thing and backed off of implementing it in restaurants and taverns, and just focused on the package store, where you have only that one opportunity to check an ID. And the goal, of course, is for those folks who shouldn't be buying alcohol to make sure that they're not making purchases. I think it's still a little questionable about whether or not this will be effective or not. I think people who have the red stripe license, for example, probably can obtain other forms of ID, whether it's a passport or something else -- an out of state driver's license -- or have their friends buy their alcohol for them. So I'm not sure it's really going to stop anybody from purchasing alcohol. But you know, why not give it a try."
McAllister: “Bring us up to date on the homeless situation and whether you've identified an entity that can take possession and store items that are removed from some of these camps.”
Sullivan: “We've been working with Salvation Army, and we've been going back and forth on trying to work out proper terms of an agreement with their legal people in California. And it's not so much the details, it's just time, it's taking more time than we thought. Which is fine. Because if it's going to be an agreement that's going to be a long-term partial solution, we want it to be a good agreement. …
"In the meantime, we have posted the camps, over 100 camps, with 15-day notices. Which means we don't have to get into the storage business when we go in and clean out those camps. And we're going to be very aggressive this summer. We're taking back our public spaces for the public. No one has the right to co-opt public spaces. And certainly don't have the right to deface them and despoil them, which is happening in a lot of these areas. We've also been very aggressive about panhandling so far. And the results have already been pretty significant: Far fewer panhandlers on the corner in just a couple week period. So most of that money that goes to panhandlers buys alcohol, a lot of that alcohol ends up in the camps. So it's all connected."
McAllister: "Above the fold on page one of today's Daily News is an article about dogs and parks. What's the administration view on how those things go together?”
Sullivan: "Well you know, we know there are a lot of dog lovers in Anchorage, and I myself growing up as a kid, I think we had, gosh, half a dozen different dogs. But there's a responsibility that comes with owning a pet. And one of the things I would like to see is more designated dog parks that aren't multi-use parks. Because there are conflicts. We get calls all the time about a guy was riding his bike, a dog off leash came running up, scared the guy, he fell off his bike. Or a kid got run over by a dog off-leash."