The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage Assembly in the 2020 election to answer a series of questions, many of which were based on suggestions from readers. Find all candidates and their answers here. (We also surveyed candidates for Anchorage School Board.)
Note: This survey was sent and candidates’ responses were collected in February, before the first confirmed case of the new coronavirus was reported in Alaska.
Candidate: Christine Hill
Occupation: Owner of Alaska Auction Company and Duane’s Antique Market
Why are you running?
I am running because I believe that my background and experience as a long-term resident, homeowner and business owner in Anchorage is needed. The current Assembly and mayor seem to be operating in a bubble that does not let them see what is needed to set this city on a path to success.
What is your overall vision for Anchorage?
My vision of Anchorage is the best of old and new. The old first: This used to be a place where people felt safe and felt a strong sense of community. Many of the people that I have spoken to while going door-to-door and at events tell me that they are considering leaving because they no longer feel safe and that Anchorage has lost its way. I want to focus on returning the streets and parks to the people of Anchorage. The “new” part is transforming Anchorage into a much more business-friendly community that creates new jobs and new opportunity. We really need to take a fresh look at regulations, and the total burden of overhead created by a City Hall that is mired in their desire to imitate other West Coast cities. Let Anchorage be Anchorage, not Seattle.
What specifically should the city do to offset the decline in revenue from the state? Are you in favor of new taxes or revenue? If so, what specifically?
The city must take in the revenue that is required to efficiently deliver essential services. Having said that, I would ask the reader to ask themselves if they feel that the municipality has been a good manager of the money that they are already taking in. When the occupiers of City Hall nearly bankrupt the city with a $2.7 billion accounting fiasco and are forced to pay a negotiated $16 million settlement, something’s really gone wrong. Let’s not forget the streetlights they paid for that didn’t exist, the parking meters that don’t work when its cold out and the ongoing saga of the failed SAP system which is at over $80 million in implementation costs and still counting! When I look at all of this, I can only say no new taxes until we stop the bleeding, see where we are at and become much more accountable with our spending and focus.
Should the city cut its budget? If so, where specifically would you cut spending?
See my answer above. The way that this city is being run now, who can honestly say where we can cut, other than cutting waste? What is clear is that Anchorage has been mismanaged for a long time and we desperately need some commonsense business experience to cut through the noise and find out what in the heck is going on with all of the failed projects, cost overruns and $2.7-billion-dollar errors.
What specific steps should the city take to address homelessness? If your vision requires funding, where would the money come from?
The current direction of the municipality is to follow in the ideological footsteps of Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland and Seattle, which have become sanctuary cities for lawlessness. By following this ideology these cities have made themselves targets and only made a bad problem much worse. The homeless situation can be improved with efficiently managed programs to address the broad spectrum of problems that are commonly referred to as “homelessness.” The problem is really a mixture of poverty, mental illness, substance abuse, criminality, vagrancy and a certain percentage that could honestly do other things, but they, for various reasons, choose to live that way. To bundle all of these people and problems into one group and declare that we need to provide them with taxpayer-funded apartments so that they can live in safety and comfort ignores the actual problem while wasting tax dollars and making the problem worse. Along with services, there have to be firm steps taken to discourage some of the casual lifestyle park camping, which is very destructive to our community.
What is the biggest issue facing Anchorage, and how would you address it?
I believe that the biggest problem that we face is poor management. When you look at Anchorage and think of what it could be, you start to wonder: What is holding it back? We have world-class recreation, we’re a nice-sized city, not too big, not too small, we have everything you could possibly need, an incredible hospitality industry, all the wonders of Alaska and we are strategically located. So we have all of that going for us, and yet the city seems to have been stuck for a decade at least. During that time, the rest of the nation has boomed and we’ve been in a self-inflicted funk. Why have we been sitting on the sidelines of one of the greatest financial booms of all time? It is clear that the problem has been the decision-making processes and lack of focus within our city management.
What specific steps should the city take to address crime in Anchorage?
I believe that a comprehensive and coordinated plan is needed. Much of the property crime and some of the violence that we see is driven by people living in our streets and parks. Another big piece of it is gang related; this includes drugs, organized theft rings and human trafficking. One of the first things that I would like to do when I get elected is to try and get a citizens’ task force to take a hard look at key points of failure in our city and to propose improvements to address actual root causes.
2019 was the warmest year on record for Alaska. What should Anchorage do to address climate change?
Anchorage at last count is a city of around 300,000 people, maybe less, because as noted, people have been leaving. We’re a fairly clean city, we burn mostly natural gas to produce electrical power and heat, not coal or wood. Being compact, our commuting times and related fuel usage are quite low if one looks at the big picture. For example, look at average commuting times and vehicle usage in Los Angeles, Houston, Seattle etc. and there is no comparison. Speaking of the big picture, China has about a billion-and-a-half people and burns mostly coal for power and heat generation. So in the face of all of that, and in terms of actual carbon dioxide production, Anchorage could disappear from the Earth and the big picture would hardly change. I think that good old efficiency in all things can get us to a much better and more efficient future, but I am concerned that the initiatives that are being implemented are driven more by ideology than they are by actual cost-benefit analysis.
How is the current Assembly doing? Are there any issues you would raise if elected?
Poorly. See my previous answers for details. My focus will be upon pursuing rational fiscal policy and applying lessons learned in 30 years of business administration.
Do you support the governor’s budget cuts?
The Port of Alaska needs at least hundreds of millions of dollars to modernize. How should port modernization be paid for?
This is an exceedingly complex problem that requires detailed analysis to answer specifically. All that I can say at this point is that we cannot continue to throw money at problems and then dodge responsibility when the next big failure to manage rears its ugly head. That said, I believe that this sort of area is where 30 years of balancing books and successfully managing a business will be a real asset. I know how to get a dollar for every 50 cents that I spend and I want to bring that common business sense to the city that I love.
Describe an ordinance or legislative issue you plan to bring forward as an Assembly member, and any funding it might require.
As I said above, I want to enable a team of informed citizens that can go through the city’s books and take a good hard look in every unlit corner of the municipality. There are many talented people in this town that I have known for years, and some that I have met during my campaign. There are people with backgrounds in corporate finance, marketing, accounting, risk management and other disciplines. Just imagine what a small army of very well-informed citizen volunteers could do. Some of them have experience in performing forensic, process and system audits. Who knows what they could uncover?
There is a movement in the Eagle River/Chugiak district to secede from the Municipality of Anchorage. Where do you stand on EagleExit?
I think that a better question is to ask why they want to leave. Think about it. If the municipality was a responsibly managed and generally beneficial institution, would anyone want to leave? It’s not just Eagle River that wants to leave, there are similar movements in Girdwood, and there are lots of citizens in other parts of Anchorage that are leaving or thinking about it. The job of municipal governance is to make Anchorage an attractive place to be. That large chunks of it and many individuals are trying to break away and leave is just proof of my point that something is really wrong and compelling issues are being ignored.
What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
This survey is quite slanted. I was forced to respond a question without the ability to convey my thoughts. I want to elaborate on the question posed if I support the governor’s cuts to the budget. My full response is: If you are asking if I believe that cuts were needed, I will answer yes, because state spending has gotten out of control over time. If you are asking if I agree with every single line item and every specific dollar value, I will have to say no.