New members bring differing views to Anchorage Assembly
As well as certifying the results of the city’s second vote-by-mail election at Tuesday’s meeting, the Anchorage Assembly admitted three new members. They all have differing views on how to move the city forward.
According to Anchorage Assembly member Chris Constant, three new Assembly members were sworn in on Tuesday night: Meg Zaletel for District 4 – Seat F in Midtown Anchorage, Kameron Perez-Verdia for District 3 – Seat D in West Anchorage, and Crystal Kennedy for District 2 – Seat A in Chugiak/Eagle River.
Before the election, KTVA asked the candidates about their views on key issues, including the growing problem of homelessness in Anchorage and Gov. Dunleavy’s proposed budget which cuts about $2.5 million from the city.
Regarding homelessness, Zaletel said Anchorage should coordinate with nonprofits to help underserved populations. “That means providing mental health support, addiction treatment services, & help to find jobs," she said.
In dealing with budget challenges, Zaletel said that the city needs be looking at what’s necessary and find ways to do those things for less money. “We need to figure out how to build a sustainable budget that supports a long-term vision of our city,” she said. “The budget needs to have the flexibility to be reactive to uncertain state and federal funding.”
Perez-Verdia said there is no one cause of homelessness and so there’s not just one solution. “A multi-pronged approach that includes measures like increasing affordable housing options, mental health crisis stabilization, rapidly-rehousing folks and supporting housing first initiatives, more rapid camp abatement, and increasing our mobile intervention team is a good way to start,” he said.
He said the city needs to push back hard against the governor’s proposed budget, but also prepare to work within its constraints with creative and practical thinking. “The Municipality cannot rely on funding from the state—from the Port, to fighting crime, to addressing social services, the Municipality is working to adopt measures for when the state slacks in their duties,” Perez-Verdia said.
Kennedy called homelessness a very complicated issue with many causes. But, she says, it’s not necessarily the government’s responsibility to solve it. “We have various services offered by non-profits that address the specifics that are based on individual needs,” she said. “They can help people build a plan for moving out of homelessness and encourage the personal responsibility necessary to follow that plan.”
When considering budget cuts, Kennedy says it’s too early to respond since the budget isn’t finalized. “We have to know exactly what we are dealing with though before we do anything. That won’t happen until the Legislature’s work is done."
In addition to swearing in its new members, the Assembly chose Felix Rivera as its new chair and Suzanne LaFrance as vice-chair.
The next regular Assembly meeting will be Tuesday, April 23 at 5 p.m. at the Loussac Library.
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