The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage Assembly in the 2019 election to answer a series of issue questions. Many of the questions were based on suggestions from readers. Find all candidates and their answers here. We did the same thing with candidates for Anchorage School Board.
Candidate: Crystal Kennedy
Occupation: Paralegal, School Board Member, Legislative Aide
Current employer: N/A
Previous public offices held or sought/community leadership positions: Anchorage School Board, three terms (2003-2012); current Chair of Chugiak Birchwood Eagle River Rural Road Service Area Board of Directors; Eagle River Valley Community Council Board of Directors; Chugiak Eagle River Chamber of Commerce
Education: BA, Anthropology, Wright State University, Dayton, Ohio; B.S., Legal Administration, University of West Florida, Pensacola, Fla.
What steps have you taken to prepare for this job? What strengths do you bring to office, and what in your life demonstrates those strengths?
I’ve engaged with my community for 25 years. I arrived in 1994 with my Air Force husband and family and began investing my time and energy into the community. I’ve since gained a depth of experience, knowledge and connections starting with 3 terms as PTA president and various task forces and nonprofit boards to 3 terms on the Anchorage School Board and two statewide boards. I now serve as chair of our local road service board, our Chamber of Commerce board, and my local community council board.
Describe an ordinance or legislative issue you plan to bring forward as an Assemblymember, and any funding it might require.
I’ll bring forward any ordinances that will protect and maintain those policies that support the Chugiak Eagle River Comprehensive Plan.
What is the largest budget you’ve managed? State the amount, length of time and your level of responsibility.
As one member of the 7-member Anchorage School Board from 2003-2012, I dealt with budgets in the hundreds of millions that were derived from local, state and federal funding sources. It funded several departments with thousands of employees, over 100 facilities, educational materials and a vast array of equipment. The board is responsible for reviewing and evaluating the administration’s budget, amending it accordingly and then approving it before it goes to the Assembly for its final approval.
Describe your position on policies that affect the way Anchorage grows in the coming years.
All policy development needs to be about doing the greatest amount of good for the most people and avoiding unintended consequences. Good policy development regarding growth takes into account the uniqueness of various areas of the entire Municipality and the comprehensive plans that have already been developed by community input. My focus will be on what’s best for Chugiak, Eagle River, Eklutna, and the JBER area. The key is good public processes that rely on public input and engagement.
Do you support the alcohol tax proposed by the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz? Why or why not?
No, it’s irrational to me to tax the responsible people to try to make the irresponsible people more responsible. Though the motive for trying to help people is admirable there is no scientific connection between taxing a certain behavior that actually results in eliminating that behavior. And there’s no guarantee that a tax for a specific use will actually go to that use. It simply tends to be a way to raise revenues that eventually ends up being used for other general unspecified uses.
What should the city do to alleviate the problem of illegal camps in green spaces in the city?
Property rights of others need to be respected and the city will have to continue to enforce those laws. There are multiple nonprofits working on these issues in dealing with the people involved and the city should cooperate with these groups, allowing them to provide the services they do without undue governmental oversight or interference. And certainly residents should feel free to support these efforts as their own personal financial capacity allows.
The cost estimate for modernizing the Port of Alaska recently doubled. What do you think the city should do?
We need to look at long term solutions instead of short term reactionary fixes. It’s more responsible to put our resources toward increasing the potential for future development while addressing our current needs. The constant battle we face in the current port site requires we at least look fully at alternative sites that may have long term lower maintenance costs, better sustainability, larger capacity and could open up new opportunities that have yet to be explored.
There could be tough budget times ahead with state cutbacks. What can the city do to make up for those cuts?
We have always had budget concerns and of course those tough times will come again. Being concerned is a good thing, keeps us vigilant and helps keep out-of-control spending in check. We have a tax cap for a reason and that fundamental check needs to be protected. We should always be looking at where to make savings and there may be times when cuts are necessary. The taxpayers have to be involved in any discussion or approval of any potential tax increase.
What did you think about Alaska’s efforts at criminal justice reform, which began in 2016 with Senate Bill 91?
We have new challenges that require new approaches and the Governor’s efforts toward replacing SB-91 are focused on making that happen. The Muni has to adapt to any new legislation. Regardless, I think we all agree that one basic function of government is to provide effective public safety. Responding appropriately will need constant attention.
Describe your position on crime in Anchorage.
All of us can play a role in helping stop crime. Again, it is one of the few things that muni government has a responsibility to do effectively. I very much appreciate the recent progress that APD has made in reducing car thefts. And as a resident of Eagle River I appreciate the officers who live in my community and who indirectly help patrol our streets just by driving to work and home everyday having the effect of a greater sense of their presence.
How do you feel Anchorage performed in the recent 7.0 earthquake? What can the city government do, or what would you do on the Assembly, to improve seismic safety or emergency preparedness?
Many Chugiak/Eagle River families, hundreds of students, and several businesses are still affected. We’ve known for decades that our weaknesses were the bridges and a single highway out of Anchorage and this was the second event that highlighted our need for alternative transportation modes and routes. We can partner with DOT in taking that challenge seriously as solutions are researched and designed to better prepare for any emergency. Regardless, emergency preparedness starts at home.
What do you think of the job Ethan Berkowitz has been doing as mayor?
In Chugiak/ Eagle River we appreciate the mayor’s responsiveness to our request to assign an additional police officer to patrol our vast area from Hiland Road to Eklutna. Our community would like to see even more engagement between the mayor and our residents to bring greater awareness to our large population (over 35,000) and our unique issues especially as we deal with earthquake repairs.
Overall taxation in Anchorage is....too low? Too high? Just right? Explain. If taxes are too high, what would you cut? If taxes are too low, what would you raise?
In my district I never hear that taxes are too low. Most taxpayers will tell you they are too high and some, particularly those on a fixed retirement income or those living on a large old homestead, recognize that it actually negatively impacts their ability to keep their home and their current lifestyle. If any new taxes are implemented it should only be by voter approval.
Tell us your ideas about transit and infrastructure in Anchorage.
The Eagle River-Chugiak area has already lost a great deal of transit access and it is certainly a sore point for many of our residents. My district would most likely want to see the current plan revisited.
What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
As a member of the Eagle River Chugiak community, and as one who frequents JBER, it is often surprising that the rest of Anchorage doesn’t recognize that as a municipality we are made up of more than one city and several small towns. We each have our own identity and in some cases, we have our own road board, Parks and Rec board and a volunteer fire department, all functioning with a great deal of autonomy. We can’t lose sight of that as we address the issues within the greater municipality.
What is the most pressing problem facing your district?
Crime, earthquake repairs and infrastructure needs.
Would you support a law allowing on-site consumption of marijuana?
Retail sales are already prohibited in my district.
What three places would you pick when highlighting Anchorage to tourists?
Eagle River Nature Center, Thunderbird Falls, Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Would you take steps toward reversing Anchorage’s plastic bag ban?
I would rethink the ban and its consequences.
Do you support the Berkowitz administration’s efforts to create a climate change action plan?
No, not without knowing its impacts or costs.
If you were asked to cut the city budget by 10 percent in the coming fiscal year, in which three areas would you recommend cuts?
Travel, muni vehicles, services consolidation.