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What's happening in the Anchorage city election? Here's what you need to know.

  • Author: Devin Kelly
  • Updated: December 2, 2017
  • Published January 29, 2017

Steam rises from buildings on a cold morning in downtown Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Anchorage's city election is about two months away, and more candidates are starting to knock on doors. Filing for Assembly and school board seats opened Friday, but some candidates have been campaigning for weeks ahead of the April 4 election.

Here's a primer on what we know now about the evolving mix of candidates for local office and ballot propositions.

ANCHORAGE ASSEMBLY

There's a race in each of the six Assembly districts. Four seats are open. Two incumbents, Tim Steele and Pete Petersen, are running for re-election.

Assembly races are nonpartisan. The following lists are based on paperwork filed with the Alaska Public Offices Commission that allows candidates to start fundraising. The Alaska Dispatch News also confirmed plans to run directly with candidates.

The last date to register as an Assembly candidate with the city clerk's office is Feb. 10. The last date to withdraw is Feb. 14.

District 1: Downtown

Incumbent Assemblyman Patrick Flynn is barred by term limits from running for a fourth three-year term. At least four people want to be the one to replace him: 

Christopher Constant, 45, an administrator at the substance-abuse counseling nonprofit Akeela Inc., a real estate manager and former president of the Fairview Community Council.

Christopher Cox, 49, an Anchorage businessman and former bar owner.

David Dunsmore, 31, former chief of staff to state Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, and a part-time aide to Assemblyman Pete Petersen.

Regina Manteufel, 55, who owns income property in Fairview and runs a nonprofit called the Back to Work Network. Manteufel also ran for Assembly in 1999 and 2002, and as a Democrat for state House of Representatives in 1998 and 2000.

District 2: Chugiak-Eagle River

Assemblyman Bill Starr is barred by term limits from running again. At least one person wants to replace him: 

John Laurence Brassel, 47, vice president and employee benefits account executive with an Anchorage-based risk management firm, Parker, Smith and Feek.

District 3: West Anchorage

Incumbent Tim Steele is running for a second term. He was elected in 2013.  

Steele has one challenger, based on APOC filings:

David Nees, who referred to his age in an email as "eligible for the senior discount at Denny's." Nees, a former middle school math teacher in the Anchorage School District, is retired. Nees has made unsuccessful runs at state or local office in each of the last six years. Apart from a bid as a Republican for the Alaska House of Representatives in 2016 and an effort for the same seat in 2014 that was rejected because of a failure to properly file, he's run for school board every year since 2010. Nees said he's also running for school board this year, though city law prevents elected officials from serving simultaneously on Assembly and school board.

District 4: Midtown

Incumbent Assemblywoman Elvi Gray-Jackson, the current chair of the Assembly, is barred by term limits from running for a fourth term. At least three people are looking to replace her:

Felix Rivera, a psychiatric treatment counselor at AK Child and Family and a political consultant.

Marcus Sanders, 34, a safety security specialist at Wendler Middle School.

Don Smith, 77, an anti-tax activist who is retired and served a term as a state legislator from 1967-1968 (when two of his colleagues were Ted Stevens and Don Young), three terms as an Anchorage Assemblyman representing South Anchorage between 1975 and 1985 and one term on the Anchorage School Board between 2010 and 2013. 

District 5: East Anchorage

Incumbent Assemblyman Pete Petersen is running for a second term. He was elected in 2013.

At least one person is challenging Petersen: 

Kevin Smestad, 40, account manager with Alaska Instruments and a secretary on the Northeast Community Council.

District 6: South Anchorage

Incumbent Assemblyman Bill Evans, elected in 2013, announced that he was not running for a second term.

At least one person wants to replace him: 

Albert Fogle, 37, an employee benefits consultant for Northrim Benefits Group.

ANCHORAGE SCHOOL BOARD

Two Anchorage School Board seats are in play this year. School board members are elected in areawide, nonpartisan races.

Seat C

School board member Pat Higgins is barred by term limits from running for a fourth term. At least three people are competing for his seat:

Dave Donley, 62, an attorney and former Alaska state senator.

Tasha Hotch, 38, a program administrator with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

Albert Berke, 87, a retired federal worker and advocate for the deaf.

School board candidates also have to register with the clerk's office by Feb. 10, and can withdraw until Feb. 14.

Seat D

Anchorage School Board member and former president Kameron Perez-Verdia said he is not running for a third term. His seat is open. Several people say they're running to replace him:

Andy Holleman, 63, a retired Anchorage School District teacher. He is working part-time as an independent contractor repairing medical tracking and inventory control equipment.

Kay Schuster, 45, a supervising teacher with the Anchorage School District.

James Smallwood, 38, owner of a small insurance business called Benefit Mi in the Northway Mall.

BALLOT PROPOSITIONS

There are a lot of ballot propositions this year. Many are still in flux.

Four are in the signature-gathering phase. Signatures must be returned by Feb. 1. Once the city clerk's office certifies the signatures, the initiative is approved for the ballot.  

Two initiatives are related to water fluoridation in Anchorage. One would require the city to stop fluoridating water. The other would require the manufacturer of the fluoride used by the city to provide the public with an "accurate list of contaminants and their amounts for each batch," as well as a toxicology report. The sponsors of the initiatives, Dustin Darden and state Rep. Chris Tuck, call fluoride toxic and say it's forced medication. Dentist associations and federal agencies like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say it's a safe, effective and cheap way to combat tooth decay.

A referendum circulating for signatures would repeal an ordinance passed in December by the Anchorage Assembly that is designed to increase the number of taxi permits. Assemblyman Bill Evans introduced the ordinance, which directs the city to issue more than 100 new taxi permits over the next five years. The law was fiercely opposed by taxi permit owners, who say it will ruin their livelihoods and business investments and hurt service quality. The referendum's primary sponsor is Suzanne Smith, a member of the Anchorage Taxicab Permit Owners Association.

One initiative petition was rejected by the city attorney's office.

The initiative, called "Protect Our Privacy," sought to restrict bathroom use on the basis of sex at birth; allow businesses to refuse to participate in marriage-related activities or adoption services, or making employment decisions, according to their views of marriage and premarital sex; and allow public accommodations to refuse to post any signs or messages with which the owner or operator, "as a matter of conviction," disagrees. Its primary sponsor is Kim Minnery.

It's on hold after city attorney Bill Falsey determined the initiative didn't pass the "single-subject" rule, a provision of local law designed to simplify ballot measures.

Last week, a judge threw out another ballot measure that would have amended the city charter by installing a spending limit. The city has a spending limit ordinance, but backers wanted to put a stricter cap in the charter, which is like the city's constitution and difficult to change.

• The Assembly approved one proposition for the ballot. Assemblyman John Weddleton has proposed expanding Anchorage's parks and recreation service area.

Not everyone on the Hillside pays taxes for park maintenance. Weddleton said that should change, citing rising problems with private property rights and public access to parkland on the Hillside.

BONDS

Bond financing raises money for local capital projects. The city of Anchorage sells bonds to investors and agrees to repay the money with interest.

Municipal bonds

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz has proposed a $46 million bond package for 2017. Bonds are divided into four categories: Police, fire, parks and roads.

The administration is seeking money for a number of road projects, like the extension of 100th Avenue from Minnesota Drive to C Street, and upgrading Turnagain Boulevard from 35th Avenue to Spenard Road.

Bond money is also proposed for projects related to city parks and playgrounds, including a new indoor playground for the Fairview Recreation Center and a master-planning effort for Town Square Park downtown.

The Anchorage Police Department wants to remodel its 30-year-old training center as well as its interview room. Interview room renovations will include the construction of a separate bathroom for interview subjects, police Chief Chris Tolley told Assembly members at a work session last month.

The Anchorage Fire Department wants money to replace three fire engines and install LED lighting in the exterior of fire stations, including parking lots.

School bonds

The $58.45 million school bond package, approved by the Assembly this month, would pay for about a dozen construction projects across the Anchorage School District, including roof replacements at seven schools and the student nutrition building. The bond would also fund heat and ventilation replacements at three schools and seismic improvements at West High School and Romig Middle School.

The district estimated the bond would cost Anchorage homeowners an additional $1.21 per $100,000 of assessed property — or $4.24 a year for the average $300,000 home.

During the last municipal election, Anchorage voters narrowly rejected the $49.3 million school bond.

CORRECTIONAn earlier version of this story incorrectly reported that Kameron Perez-Verdia is the president of the Anchorage School Board. He is a former president.

Tegan Hanlon contributed reporting.

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