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Anchorage Assembly moves on from rushed Project ’20s sales tax proposal

Up against a tight deadline, the Project ’20s sales tax proposal wasn’t introduced at Tuesday night’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, so it can’t get a public hearing by the Jan. 28 deadline for a shot at the April 7 ballot.

That means the proposal is dead for now.

The Project ’20s plan to revitalize Anchorage’s downtown, among other goals, created a buzz and spurred community members to weather the cold to support the idea at public meetings.

“It started a rapid-fire, interesting conversation," Assemblyman Chris Constant said.

Constant, who represents downtown, was the proposal’s best hope. He had the concept drafted into an ordinance and said he got another member to support it, but declined to say who it was. But to get a public hearing, he needed three votes.

“We haven’t vetted closely all these ideas. They came too late," Constant said. "I couldn’t get the support.”

Project ’20s was a proposed 3% sales tax that would expire after it raised $375 million. It would have funded nine projects, with about 40% of the money going to infrastructure projects downtown, like a Ship Creek promenade and heated sidewalks to make the city center more walkable in winter.

Another 40% would go to upgrading the trail system and combating homelessness. The remainder was earmarked for an Eagle River fire station and fire evacuation roads on the Hillside.

Constant thought the optimistic nature of Project ’20s -- up against other tax proposals that largely would fund more law enforcement and public health services to address homelessness -- would make it more enticing to voters, he said.

“This is the only revenue proposal that had at its core some hope about the future, rather than cleaning up messes," Constant said.

The other proposals — two versions of an alcohol tax and a sales tax to fund public safety — will continue to be debated at the Jan. 28 meeting.

Constant said Project ’20s wasn’t without flaws. He didn’t like the idea of building new infrastructure while existing buildings still need maintenance. He said that while the backers of Project ’20s worked on the project since spring, the Assembly had just got its hands on the plan.

In December, campaign director Moira Gallagher declined to say who the proposal’s strategic and financial backers were, but said the staff was all-volunteer. Project ’20s has since published the names of its advisory committee members on its website, which include Gallagher and six others: Seth Andersen, Larry Cash, Jaime Fink, Andre Horton, Dante Medema and Geoff Wright.

He wants to continue working on a similar proposal over the next year.

“It has to have enough time to percolate through the internal functions as well," he said.

Clarification: An earlier version of this story did not include the names of Project ’20s advisory committee members.



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