Forrest Dunbar is a candidate for Assembly District 5 - Seat H - East Anchorage in the 2019 Municipal Elections. If elected, he will serve a three-year term for the Assembly for the Municipality of Anchorage.

KTVA asked Dunbar, as well as those running against him, to answer a few questions about his stance on key issues in the community as part of our election coverage this year. Each candidate was given an equal amount of time to respond to these questions and informed of the set publishing date.

Here are Dunbar’s answers to those questions.

Question 1 – An alcohol sales tax will appear on the April ballot to combat substance abuse, homelessness and to increase public safety. Do you agree with the tax? Why or why not?

I voted for the tax on the Assembly and I support it now. I have been on several ride-alongs with the Anchorage Police Department and like many of us I also grew up in Alaska. We all know that alcohol is a factor in many crimes and other social problems in our city. That doesn’t mean we should be prohibitionist or drive alcohol purveyors out of business. Many of us also enjoy a responsible drink from time to time. But it does mean that, when we are looking for a source of funds to tackle some of our toughest problems, including behavioral health challenges and homelessness, an alcohol tax is one of the more equitable ways to raise those funds. A 5% tax is the same tax rate that currently exists on marijuana. It is significantly less than the hotel bed tax, and orders of magnitude smaller than the tobacco tax. We have heard many, many constituents ask us to address issues of homelessness; an alcohol tax will give us the tools to move forward.

Question 2 – Anchorage has experienced a growing problem with homelessness. What will be your approach to addressing these issues, and at what cost?

A confluence of economic, behavioral, and physical health issues drive homelessness rates in Alaska. Homelessness is a symptom of more underlying problems, and therefore we need to treat its causes before we can solve it. There are some encouraging signs; our point-in-time count showed am 18% fall in the number of people experiencing homelessness last year. But there is still much more work to be done.

The treatment of homelessness needs to be as diverse as its range of causes. I’m encouraged by the ongoing community-wide effort to address homelessness that has drawn together the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, the Municipality and Mayor’s office, as well as social service providers, health providers, and housing entities.

We also know that access to affordable housing is a necessary but not sufficient component of addressing homelessness. I am a strong supporter of voucher programs, such as the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing program (HUD-VASH), that pair housing assistance with supportive services in a scattered-site model. Rather than concentrating housing options in one place, this approach allows individuals who are experiencing homelessness to live as part of the wider community. There are more than 300 of these vouchers currently active in Anchorage, and this process of coupling vouchers with supportive services is the most effective way to get a roof over people's heads so that they can work toward self-sufficiency.

Question 3 – Gov. Dunleavy announced $1.6B in budget cuts in February. As the budget process continues in Juneau, how will you respond to the state’s budget challenges?

The Dunleavy budget is the single largest threat to public safety, jobs, and home values in
Anchorage. If his budget passes, we will see massive layoffs and cuts to services across the
board, resulting in a return to a deep recession. It will mean larger class sizes, higher costs for seniors, and more people experiencing homelessness. It includes slashes to programs like the Human Services Matching Grants, which supports the AWAIC shelter for survivors of domestic abuse, the Pioneer Home, and WWAMI (which it zeroes out). I urge Anchorage’s House Representatives and State Senators to take a more balanced approach, reject Dunleavy’s proposal, and protect the long-term well-being of this city and this state.

Question 4 – The governor’s budget will cut about $2.5M from the municipality’s budget and an estimated $146M from the Anchorage School District. How will you respond to these cuts locally?

Simply put, there is no way for the Municipality to make up for the level of cuts that Dunleavy has proposed, which are far larger than $2.5 million (Municipal revenue sharing alone is more than $6 million). We must urge Anchorage’s Representatives and Senators to stand up for Anchorage and Alaska’s interests and resist radical ideology. A 40% cut to the University, a 25% cut to public schools, and a massive cut to Medicaid and other health programs would undoubtedly push Anchorage back into a deep recession, driving out jobs and reducing the value of your viewers’ homes.

However, assuming only a fraction of the cuts go through, we have to continue with our efforts to make Anchorage more financially self-sufficient, through more efficient government, revenue measures, and the sale of ML&P (the revenues from which will go to debt retirement and the Municipal Trust).

Question 5 – Eagle River, Chugiak and Peter’s Creek residents sustained damage during the Nov. 30 earthquake. Do you support annexing residents to be part of the building safety service area? Why or why not?

We need to learn more about the causes of the damage following the November 30th
earthquake. If it was merely proximity to the epicenter that led to the destruction, then I will be less supportive of an expansion. However, if it is shown that the increased damage outside of the Building Safety Service Area was at least partially caused by those lack of standards and inspections, then I am more likely to be more supportive.

Regardless, I think the people of that area should have the right to decide, and so prefer sending the matter to a dual-majority plebiscite-- a vote of the people-- rather than imposing it from the Assembly directly.

Question 6 – There is a need for affordable housing in the municipality. How will you foster this?

Affordable housing remains an issue in Anchorage, despite efforts by the Mayor and the
Assembly to make it easier to build. In the last three years we have passed innovative policies to allow for unit lot subdivision, liberalized the city’s Accessory Dwelling Unit policy, and passed the 2040 land use plan, which calls for higher density. We are currently debating a tax credit for increased residential units downtown, and considering expanding such a policy to other areas of the city as well. I know that these proposals can be controversial, but given our land constraints, Anchorage cannot develop if we do not promote infill development and start building “up,” rather than “out.”

These efforts are sometimes portrayed as “attacks” on neighborhoods, but the truth is that
affordable housing within the Municipality is a pocketbook, quality of life, and environmental issue. Increasing density and housing stock means more young folks can live in an area and walk or bike to work. It means families without generational wealth can settle in an area they were previously locked out of. It means more seniors can age in place. It means fewer people move to the Matsu, contributing to climate change on their long commutes. It also means that Anchorage can have some room left over for the parks, trails, and green spaces we all value so much.

Meet the other candidates running for a spot on the Anchorage Assembly, in the order they're presented on the municipality website.

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