Q&A with Paul Honeman

'It's time the CEO of our government be changed out'

Anchorage Daily NewsMarch 31, 2012 

Daily News reporter Kyle Hopkins spoke with mayoral candidate Paul Honeman on Thursday, March 29. Here are excerpts from the interview:

Q. More than 10 percent of your contributions have come from some form of organized labor. How would that affect your ability to be a tough negotiator on behalf of the city on union contracts?

Paul Honeman: That's a good question and the answer is that I'm a tough negotiator anyways. I've been at every level of government. I was a non-represented employee manager. I was represented at the machinist union when I worked for the city at the People Mover, my first job at the city.

And then I worked at APD which had its own association and served six years, nearly, on the executive board. I was very tough as a manager and supervisor and at the same time I was very fair in the way issues and directions were given. So I'm not going to be an emotive-based manager and I'm certainly not going to blame, if you will, or throw at the feet of labor, (the charge) of being too costly and expensive and we can't afford them and at the same time expect the workforce to have high morale and high motivation and (be) dedicated to performing day in and day out the services of the city.

The mayor doesn't shovel the snow, the mayor doesn't pick up an inebriated person off the ground and doesn't go to a fire. And clearly doesn't help in the parks and rec department. It's the day in, day out labor that we need to be respectful of and at the same time, they need to know who the boss is and what we're here for and that's to serve the community and serve the citizens.

Q. Do those contributions come with an expectation that you'll be more lenient in negotiations?

A. I don't believe it's expectations of being more lenient. But definitely to be more fair and to be more open in the dialogues. This mayor has one speed, and that's 'my way.' Everybody knows that negotiations are supposed to be done in good faith and fairness, and this mayor has not shown a propensity to have that.

Q. You plan to vote 'yes' on Prop 5. Why?

A. It is, in my opinion, the equal civil rights movement of our era.

It is a shame that we can't in 2012 acknowledge that equal rights apply to everyone. We know that through the history of our country, we've had to make legislation to disallow discrimination ... (on) race, religion, age. And all the LGBT community is asking for is, 'listen, we're being discriminated against and we just want to be defined and recognized as a group that should not be discriminated based upon our life.'

And to me, it's very simple and very clear. It's a very respectfully written ballot initiative, it exempts religious institutions.

I think that the (Anchorage Baptist Temple) and Jim Minnery's group displaying these ads that are going on right now are way outside the bounds. They're basically saying that, 'We don't want to hire a Sunday school teacher or a teacher in our Christian schools or a janitor that doesn't fit and conform with our faith and our belief and our teachings,' and this ballot initiative exempts them from that very thing.

To go out publicly and say we believe we would be forced to do so is disingenuous. It's wrong, it's incorrect.

Q. Give me one example of how you feel the city is being mismanaged.

A. We've pointed it out to some degree, and this mayor likes to laugh it off and act like it's silly, is our snow hauling and snow removal and how we've responded as a government.

The mayor would like to think that I'm blaming him for Snow City USA and blaming him for all the snowfall we've had. And clearly, we all know it's Mother Nature that's delivered extra snowfall. The two things that I know that happen every year in Alaska, in particular here in Anchorage, we get snowfall. We just don't know how many inches we will get. In Florida, Mississippi, Alabama. Every year they get a hurricane season. They don't know how many hurricanes in the season, if any ... but the similarity between both is you better have a good response. You better have strategies, you better have resources available to respond appropriately and accordingly, and this mayor has failed in that case.

Q. Should there be an external investigation into how police handled the complaints against officer Anthony Rollins?

A. If you look at what's in the best interest of the municipality and its citizens and the state of Alaska, the answer clearly falls in 'yes."

Should it be an independent investigation by another agency, another entity? Not sure that it needs to go that far. However, we need to find someone who clearly has the credentials, is unbiased, and could come in and take an actual look at what are the policies and procedures in place, what were they at that time. Were they followed and if there were any anomalies that say, 'Well, something was dropped here or there or here.' Point that out. I believe the department has done that. ... Once the case is closed, if you will, on the civil side, some of that information will likely be released.

Q. How was a police officer able to commit sexual assaults over multiple years without getting caught?

A. How did Ted Bundy charm his way to the many victims that he did? We're very fortunate that in this city at that time, we didn't have a homicidal sociopath. In my opinion, it's sociopathic. He demonstrated sociopathic activities in his, I guess, actions. How do you explain why a person or adult molests a child and understand it?

Q. What I'm asking is why he wasn't caught sooner.

A. Obviously he's very good at being conciliatory. He's sociopathic. And so the actions that he took, it's beyond what we believe to be normal. How could someone who believes normally or acts normally recognize abnormal behavior? People would say, 'well, you guys are professionals and you train to look for those kinds of things. And certainly we do. There may have been opportunities that were lost. I won't say that there wasn't. But I believe that the department is very well managed. I believe the department trains very well, and to the extent possible and within the resources. That's where it's dangerous to start cutting resources on the front end.

Q. Your critics would respond that when you had a chance to confront Anthony Rollins (when Honeman found Rollins with a woman under suspicious circumstances at police headquarters) you did not ...

A. The difference is I did. And he didn't. The difference is the facts are, and the facts show, that we wouldn't be talking about the incident of the desk situation in the public affairs office had I not told both deputy chiefs and reported it later to IA within three or four days. So we wouldn't be talking about it because no one would have known if I had just shut the door and done nothing.

Q. There's a video uploaded to YouTube by your campaign that accuses Sullivan of drinking a pitcher of beer with an employee at the bar he co-owns, McGinley's, and standing by as the employee leaves and later becomes involved in a drunken-driving collision. The clip has a description that asks viewers for funding to help run the ad on the radio. Do you have proof of that accusation?

A. Sure. ... The late (downtown Assemblyman) Allan Tesche actually discovered this either right before or right after Eric Croft had run against the mayor in 2009. ... It was kind of late in the day to get the information out and we were able to research it and find out there was some truth to it.

We've done nothing in our community and our state if we haven't put out over and over and over again that we have an off-the-road program that's a free cab ride home if you're too inebriated to drive and friends don't let friends drive drunk. And be responsible when you see someone that shouldn't be driving. That's not responsible. Particularly if you're a partial owner of the bar.

Q. You said in the 2009 race you wanted a seasonal sales tax to reduce property taxes. Is that something you're still interested in?

A. If we are wanting to, as a city, as a community, reduce our property taxes, we need to explore revenue outside the property tax. But that should stay under the tax cap and also should offset our property taxes.

The sticking point, and it always has been and I believe and support it, is it takes 60 percent of the voters at any vote, at any election, to approve any new revenue stream. And it should.

Do I believe in a seasonal sales tax approach? I believe it's a great way to start in our diversification. May 1 through Oct. 1. Two to 3 percent. We could throw in an exemption on July 4. Call it an Independence Day break. Clearly we could exempt out groceries and prescription items so people are able to get to those expenses without having to spend extra. ... First, what we need to do is fight more, fight harder for our fair share of the state revenue.

Q. Yes or no: As currently proposed, should the Knik Arm bridge be built?

A. As currently proposed, no.

We're looking at over $1 billion and we're looking at a toll authority that was supposedly largely private in enterprise and design. They were supposed to build and factor in a toll to maintain and operate the bridge. And we're finding that that doesn't pencil out.

Tolls in excess of $10 each way? How many people are willing to pay that? ... Having the access to Point MacKenzie and driving down KGB Road, to get to greater Wasilla or out into Palmer, it's just as long if not a longer a commute. So I would drive for free on the Glenn Highway rather than pay $20 round-trip on KABATA.

If the community and this state, both Mat-Su and in Anchorage, if we believe that infrastructure is that critical and that vital to the health and the growth of our communities, then we should request it and we should fund for it at the state level.

I believe that the location from Government Hill over to Point Mac isn't the best location. ... If we're really truly going to expedite road travel and reduce costs on energy and look at access? Why not 'T' out a bridge out off the west end of Northern Lights over to Fire Island and 'T' back, one portion going toward Kenai and the Peninsula, reducing public safety risks and hazards and also reducing the congestion, (while) also going across Fire Island to Point Mac in that direction.

Q. How do you reconcile criticizing Sullivan for having a fundraiser at the home of former Port Director Bill Sheffield and subsequently giving Sheffield what you termed a "sweetheart" $60,000 contract with the fact that you also asked Sheffield for financial and political support?

A. It's an easy answer. There are only so many people in Alaska. If you go to the APOC and find out how many people contribute to political campaigns, you'll find it's a shockingly low number. I went to the folks who donated and contributed to my campaign (in the past).

Bill Sheffield I believe gave $100, and I can't remember if it was my 2009 mayoral campaign or the 2010 Assembly campaign. Bill Sheffield was a previous contributor to my campaign.

And the very first calls I made was to prior contributors and that was in either September or October. Now, I made two (fundraising) calls ... I contacted him as a citizen, prior donor, at his home residence.

I did not get a return call for either of those messages that I left.

Neither of those calls were returned. That's OK, because I'd made thousands and thousands of those calls. And some of those calls have not been returned. I haven't called for people's resignations for the other thousand calls I made. Bill Sheffield, as later became apparent to me, had been mismanaging the handling of the timelines (of the Port project). Of the process, of the building. And essentially setting aside what is known to engineers, to quality control inspectors, to people in the building community that build ports, that drive pile, every one of them voiced concerns. And it got back to Bill Sheffield, fell on deaf ears and all he ever wanted done was work on that port.

Other people unfortunately weren't strong enough to stand up and say, 'We cannot do this. It doesn't make sense.' They did what he directed. And now we have the problem and the boondoggle that we see.

Q. There's a school of thought that a mayor has to build something to cement a legacy. Any capital projects you'd want to build?

A. Let me tell you, if the money fits and it pencils out, and this is where my public safety hat comes in. If there's any one project to me that seems to make sense, we could take (a portion) of Kulis Air National Guard Base that was retired and closed ... and we could build a combined public safety center for training, for airplane control and storage and security and for our emergency operations and dispatch.

This could be federal dollars, state dollars and municipal dollars in a very good collaborative effort.

Q. Why should voters hire you for the job of running the city?

A. I just want good government. Government that responds to all of us and works for all of us. We're certainly paying good money in our property taxes to get services and programs. I believe they're being mismanaged. And I think it's time the CEO of our government be changed out. Upgrade.

There are three primary reasons for running at this time. The first is to restore the public process. I believe that's been shut out. Doors closed in several areas.

The second is to restore the confidence in the budget and the finances of the city. If you listen to this administration, we're broke and we can't afford our labor, that it's too expensive. And that's just not true.

We balance our budget every year because the law says it. And we have a tax cap that provides some protection for our taxpayers.

And lastly, we can manage our programs and services much, much better. We must do better and we have plans and strategies to do just that.

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