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: Kameron Perez-Verdia
Occupation: President and CEO of the Alaska Humanities Forum
Current employer: Alaska Humanities Forum
Previous public offices held or sought/community leadership positions: Anchorage School Board, 2013 to 2017. Appointed to the School Board in 2013, ran and kept my seat in 2014. I served one term as President, 2016-2017. Anchorage Downtown Rotary, current member; National Alliance on Mental Health Alaska, current member; MOA Vote by Mail stakeholder group, current member; Food Bank of Alaska Board of Directors, past; Alaska Imaginarium Board of Directors, past; Smithsonian National Science Resource Center Advisory Board, past; Alaska Native Women Sexual Assault Committee, past; UAA College of Education Advisory Board, past
Education: MBA, University of Denver, Denver, CO; BA Communications, University of Puget Sound; Tacoma, WA
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 have spent the last 25 years leading non-profit organizations: building teams, balancing budgets, resolving conflict, and finding innovative solutions to complex challenges. My work has strengthened communities by addressing some of our most difficult challenges including homelessness, mental health, addiction, poverty, and education. The strengths I bring to the office are my open mind, desire to listen and find solutions, practical problem solving, and commitment to the people of Anchorage.
Describe an ordinance or legislative issue you plan to bring forward as an Assemblymember, and any funding it might require.
The number one issue I am hearing about when knocking on doors is theft and petty crime. I would like to see improved community policing through better coordination and support of neighborhood watch programs.
What is the largest budget you’ve managed? State the amount, length of time and your level of responsibility.
Anchorage School Board, 4 years, $850 million.
Describe your position on policies that affect the way Anchorage grows in the coming years.
Smart development that combats urban sprawl is a challenge for Anchorage: not only are we spread out as a city, which is an impediment to good and efficient public transportation, but we also do not have enough housing near downtown or midtown. I support policies that seek to increase housing density in Anchorage, especially affordable housing.
Do you support the alcohol tax proposed by the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz? Why or why not?
I am generally not a fan of taxes. However, in our current fiscal environment, this seems to be a reasonable method to address public safety and homelessness, our most pressing issues as a city. The biggest question I have heard talking to voters at the doors is about the allocation language of the funds. I look forward to learning more about the proposal, especially how specifically this revenue will be used and what results we can expect.
What should the city do to alleviate the problem of illegal camps in green spaces in the city?
There is no simple or quick fix to homelessness. I think the city is headed in the right direction by addressing this problem on multiple fronts through measures like more rapid camp abatement, increasing our mobile intervention team, and investing in housing first efforts.
The cost estimate for modernizing the Port of Alaska recently doubled. What do you think the city should do?
This should be a top priority for the Assembly over the next year. This is a serious problem that, unfortunately, the Municipality of Anchorage has to solve because the state has failed in its duties to do so. We need to continue to research how to update the Port while remaining as cost efficient as possible. Half of the cargo that enters AK goes through the Port, and we need to take the steps to ensure that the Port of Alaska can remain a resource for not only Anchorage, but the rest of Alaska.
There could be tough budget times ahead with state cutbacks. What can the city do to make up for those cuts?
My primary concern for Anchorage is how these cuts are going to impact our schools. After serving on the School Board and raising my children in our school system, I know well the challenges that our district faces. And it’s not just our School District: this is a complex, state-wide problem, and I don’t believe there’s any simple solution. On the School Board, I combed through the budget to make sure that we put all of our funding to the best use possible, and advocated for more when necessary.
What did you think about Alaska’s efforts at criminal justice reform, which began in 2016 with Senate Bill 91?
I think that Senate Bill 91 was flawed, but I look forward to seeing our legislators improve this issue on the state level. Locally, I have learned from APDEA [The Anchorage Police Department Employees Association] that they need more support in addressing addiction and mental health.
Describe your position on crime in Anchorage.
Rising crime rates will be a top priority of mine on the Assembly, and concern about crime is the number one issue I’m hearing in door knocking, phone calls, and my life as a father and community member. It is clear from my ride-along with the Police Department that this is not a simple issue. Crime is interrelated with homelessness, mental health, prison reentry, poverty, and addiction, among other issues, and we need a comprehensive strategy that tackles multiple social and systematic issues.
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?
Anchorage performed well responding to the earthquake. My primary concern are the many families that are dealing significant damage to their homes and neighborhood schools.
What do you think of the job Ethan Berkowitz has been doing as mayor?
I believe the Mayor and Assembly are on the right track on many of our most important issues, particularly in addressing crime in Anchorage. Increasing the police force was necessary and essential, and the proposed alcohol tax is a creative option to generate desperately-needed revenue for public safety.
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?
While I do support the tax cap to increase trust in government, that doesn’t mean that we don’t need to increase revenue in order to provide essential services. I am generally not a fan of taxes, however I do think we need to explore revenue sources for Anchorage especially during this time when our state budget is so constrained.
Tell us your ideas about transit and infrastructure in Anchorage.
I want make Anchorage a great place to live and work--I believe in our city. Even in difficult financial times, we need to continue to invest in our infrastructure and work to improve our city transit. The People Mover has recently changed their structure to be more efficient. I know that in my community, it has made access more difficult for some--but I’ve been encouraged by recent increases in ridership.
What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
Did not answer.
What is the most pressing problem facing your district?
Would you support a law allowing on-site consumption of marijuana?
Undecided —I need more research on this.
What three places would you pick when highlighting Anchorage to tourists?
Kincaid, Westchester, Spenard restaurants.
Would you take steps toward reversing Anchorage’s plastic bag ban?
Do you support the Berkowitz administration’s efforts to create a climate change action plan?
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?
None until more research.