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: Rick Castillo
Why are you running?
I am running to deliver a voice that would restore balance to the Assembly, restore the people’s trust in government and slow the progression toward big government.
What is your overall vision for Anchorage?
My vision is one that is shared with the members of South Anchorage and those within the business community. A city that competes with major markets across the West while staying congruent with the core values of safety for family, strong education and a pioneering spirit that resonates among the homesteaders and pioneers. As companies work rapidly to deploy unprecedented technological infrastructure, we must work toward fostering an environment that is safe, healthy and innovative. Only then can we expect external agents, innovators and entrepreneurs to invest in our city.
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 Anchorage Assembly and mayor should work with state legislators in their districts to advocate and construct dialogue that would restore revenues rather than oppose state policy and budget, and to refrain from subscribing themselves to recall efforts that undermine a democratic process. We cannot forget that voters at the municipal level often vote differently in policies at the state level. For that reason, I will work tirelessly to ensure that all stakeholders are represented. Our citizens are deserving of a local government that will bridge the gap and effectively find solutions rather than resort to immediate taxation policies upon its citizens.
Should the city cut its budget? If so, where specifically would you cut spending?
I support a flatline budget as we move toward reallocating funds and finding efficiencies. The city’s budget has continued to increase over the years and many citizens report an unsatisfactory return on their investment of property tax dollars. Anchorage has a net position, (assets – liabilities), of roughly $3.6 billion. Our position should allow us to leverage our financial health to reallocate revenues in managing our city government effectively and efficiently.
What specific steps should the city take to address homelessness? If your vision requires funding, where would the money come from?
There is no simple answer, but we must begin by enforcement of the law, empowering officers and having the available resources to rehabilitate through confinement. I believe there is a small fraction of the population that are homeless due to having no shelter. Homelessness is not an affordable housing problem, and the answer is not the implementation of tiny home villages — as some of the Assembly members have campaigned on — which reflect failed policies of cities like Seattle. Our current policies have created an epidemic where we continue to passively permit the indulgence of troubling behaviors while illicit drug use goes unchecked as a permissible social norm. The negative externalities have real costs on our city. Currently, Seattle has now allowed 3 grams of illicit drugs on one’s person as they can no longer sustain the burden of resources in responding to these issues. We must use caution in addressing these matters when thinking about growth and its effect on our own city. Our city has discussed taxing the population to create rehabilitation centers and/or behavioral health centers. However, it would be irresponsible of us to construct mental health institutions with no way of holding the patient accountable to their sobriety and recovery without being court-ordered or under confinement. Self-admitting rehabilitation centers have high relapse rates. Also, due to recovery being different for each person, there is no dollar figure that we can ascribe these services to as taxpayers bear the burden for services with little to no transparency of what success looks like.
What is the biggest issue facing Anchorage, and how would you address it?
That our message of “Live. Work. Play.” has become hollow. Citizens can’t live under cumbersome taxation. We can’t work without strong jobs. And we can’t play when the trail systems are plagued with hypodermic needles.
What specific steps should the city take to address crime in Anchorage?
We must utilize our due diligence in removing the homeless population from the streets into temporary facilities. i.e. modular temporary structures that provide security through an agency. Those who live among the streets become a market for criminals who act as opportunists to exploit the vulnerable. Unfortunately, the homeless population is preyed upon as their ability to make rational decisions is distorted by substance abuse, desperation and despair and severe trauma. Criminals and organized gangs will continue to use the homeless population to peddle their drugs and insert women into their sex trafficking rings.
2019 was the warmest year on record for Alaska. What should Anchorage do to address climate change?
I believe the carbon footprint and greenhouse effects that Anchorage emits, and what plastics might enter the Pacific Ocean, are minuscule in comparison to major cities around the world. I believe for the immediate future, we should apply revenues toward clearing up debris and trash from our city and focusing on children’s education. In doing so, we would see less waste in our waterways and prepare our next generation in becoming better equipped for a more sustainable and economical way of life.
How is the current Assembly doing? Are there any issues you would raise if elected?
I often witness our Assembly acting as a uniform body when looking to pass or fail ordinances or sign on to resolutions. I believe that discourse and dialogue is needed in addressing the complex issues we see today.
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?
I believe the only path forward must include the port’s stakeholders on what modernization looks like and what is needed to ensure that the port be sustainable and future-proofed. With conversations buzzing of the deep-water port expansion in Nome and the Alaska to Alberta railway, it will take multiple agencies to address the growing expansion of not only our city, but our state.
Describe an ordinance or legislative issue you plan to bring forward as an Assembly member, and any funding it might require.
I am coming into this campaign with no agenda. There is nothing I want more for the people of Anchorage than to work in resolving the matters we see in our city today. I intend to work with the current Assembly members in making this happen while finding opportunities and optimizations over the next several years while serving the people.
There is a movement in the Eagle River/Chugiak district to secede from the Municipality of Anchorage. Where do you stand on EagleExit?
I take no stand. I leave this to the will of the people. It is solely upon the residing members of Eagle River, Chugiak and the governing community councils to charge the effort in forming a new municipality.
What other important issue would you like to discuss here?
To elaborate on my “yes” in supporting the governor’s budget, I believe the sense of urgency in addressing our fiscal crisis was imperative in finding resolve on the services and resources that were important to Alaskans. However, budget reductions are only a single component to finding efficiencies and addressing the deficit. We must have a multi-pronged strategy in addressing these issues such that we continue to have an employed workforce, focus on education and optimize government. For these reasons, if I am chosen to represent District 6, South Anchorage, I will approach our own fiscal challenges in a manner that is surgical.