The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage mayor to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
DAVE BRONSON | Occupation: Retired | Age: 62 | bronsonformayor.com
1. Why are you running for mayor?
I’m running for mayor because the city that I’ve lived in for 30 years, where I’ve raised my kids and where I intend on growing old, has become unrecognizable. I can no longer just sit on the sidelines and enjoy the benefits of living in this great city as it deteriorates. It’s time for me to get involved and change the direction of Anchorage.
2. What in your background or experience sets you apart from the other candidates and makes you suited to be an effective mayor of Anchorage?
I know how to build and lead teams, and it will take an exceptional team to bring Anchorage back to prosperity. With over 24 years of military experience, retiring as a Lt. Col., I have managed small teams and led organizations with over 200 people. While serving in the Air Force, the Air Force Reserve, and the Alaska Air National Guard and the airlines, I have worked under both great and not-so-great leaders, and I know the difference. All of this leadership experience makes me well-suited to understanding the importance of establishing a vision, setting goals, and working as a team.
3. What’s the biggest challenge facing city government and how would you address it?
The immediate challenge is to end the closure mandates and allow everyone back to work. I will end those mandates immediately upon taking office on July 1st. Beyond that, one of the most pressing issues is that of our homeless crisis. As mayor, I will aggressively and compassionately work to reduce the homelessness problem in our city. We will form a team to work with the Brother Francis Shelter, Anchorage Gospel Rescue Center, Salvation Army Clithroe Center, and others to increase services and capacity. Return Sullivan Arena to its intended purpose as a sports and events venue, not a homeless shelter.
4. Describe how your administration would approach the coronavirus pandemic.
Coronavirus infection rate has significantly decreased in Anchorage over the past few months and continues to decline. My approach is one of common sense and personal responsibility. We would end the current mandates on small businesses and our citizenry. While we would encourage personal hygiene to include the use of hand washing and the public use of hand sanitizers, I would not compel, by force of law, the wearing of masks or the forced shutdown of small businesses. My team would evaluate remaining COVID funds and disperse to those individuals and businesses in need.
5. What’s your assessment of how Anchorage’s city government has responded to the pandemic over the past year? What, if anything, would you have done differently? Be specific.
When the pandemic first happened, and the lockdowns started, it was quickly apparent that small businesses were unfairly suffering while large box stores were thriving. The economic heart of our city is the small business community. First, I would not have shut down our Assembly, our small businesses, or our churches. I would have focused on those who were most susceptible to serious complications, those who had multiple comorbidities, like our elderly. I would have encouraged safe social distancing, the wearing of masks and staying home. Our larger share of our Federal COVID funds would have been awarded to small businesses, instead of purchasing hotels.
6. What role should city government play in repairing economic damage to individuals, businesses and community organizations from the pandemic?
First, we must end the devastating closure mandates. We must allow our small business and the entrepreneurs that own them to direct their own affairs. We need to revitalize our economic efforts through private sector growth, not government expansion. One of my first actions as your mayor will be to support the ongoing efforts of the Roadmap to a Vital and Safe Anchorage and implement the recommendations outlined by business leaders in our community.
7. Downtown Anchorage has been hit especially hard by impacts from the pandemic, with tourism, gatherings and events greatly reduced and many businesses and organizations struggling as a result. Another difficult summer with greatly reduced tourism appears likely. What’s your vision for downtown, and what specifically are your short-term and long-term plans for repairing damage from the past year?
Downtown is losing major retailers which serve as anchors for our small businesses. Vagrancy and crime are causing shoppers to avoid downtown. Our first goal will be to restore downtown to a safe and vibrant location. For our long-term goals, we will work to attract new businesses to downtown. While simultaneously focusing on efforts and activities to encourage locals to shop and enjoy all that downtown offers.
8. Would you make changes to the Anchorage Police Department and policing policies? Why? Please describe in detail.
As mayor, I will hire the best Chief of Police that I can and then I will allow him or her the authority to pursue those policing policies which best reduces crime without compromising officer safety. I will certainly monitor our policing policies, but I will not meddle in policing matters.
9. Is the Anchorage Police Department adequately staffed?
No. Historically, Anchorage crime is 142% greater than the national average and 45% higher than the Alaska average. We have a higher violent crime and property crime rate than both the national and Alaskan average. Every type of crime has increased in Anchorage each year since 2014. Our crime rate is higher than 93% of all American cities. We have an “F” rating for crime control. This must change. We must increase the number of APD officers and focus on reducing violent and property crimes.
10. Do you support the bond issue on this spring’s municipal ballot that would fund public-safety technology upgrades, including body-worn and in-vehicle cameras for police officers? Explain.
Yes, I absolutely support the bond issue that would fund public safety technology upgrades. Though as we move forward, we must consider the costs associated with these upgrades regarding the storage of the data collected via these cameras.
11. Describe, with specifics, how you would expand and diversify Anchorage’s economy.
First, I will end the shutdowns on my first day in office. In doing so, we will allow all our entrepreneurs to do what they need to become prosperous. Then I will work ceaselessly to end our vagrancy crisis making Anchorage, especially downtown, an attractive development opportunity for developers. They will invest once they realize we have made our streets safe and vagrant free. Investment in development is the key to economic diversification.
12. What’s your vision for Anchorage’s economy in the future?
My objective for Anchorage is that it becomes a place that people want to live, work, and play. We do this, in part, by reducing the costs of doing business. We must make building the homes that we need less expensive and time-consuming. We always remember that the business of Anchorage is business. When our businesses are prosperous, our economy thrives. Attracting quality workers is also key to a prosperous economy. We will launch a remote work initiative to connect prospective job seekers with jobs and interns with companies.
13. Is taxation in Anchorage too high/about right/too low? Explain.
Specifically, property taxes in Anchorage are too high, and they are increasing far too fast. Many of us, especially the elderly, are being taxed out of the homes we’ve built and lived in for decades. These increases are being driven by our municipal spending. Without dealing forcefully and effectively with our spending, we will simply not be able to manage this ever-increasing property tax burden. To sustain a balanced budget without increased taxation will require reducing costs and streamlining services. This is my goal.
14. Do you have ideas for alternative sources of city revenue? Explain.
We are not considering any new taxes, but believe that a prosperous economy will invariably increase city revenue without increasing taxes. We will develop a comprehensive tax incentive program to attract new businesses. We will launch a supply chain and a new business recruitment effort with the private sector to capitalize on shifts in the Alaskan economy. We will divest unused city lands and properties that are not planned for future government activities to create a broader private sector tax base.
15. Are there city programs or services you would cut? Explain.
I have no plans to eliminate any programs or services. I will always consider reductions in spending and streamlining functions where appropriate, even as we maintain critical and necessary functions. My team will streamline the building process by consolidating economic and community development, planning, project management and engineering, and inspections in a single agency to facilitate new construction and improved community development. This effort will be laser focused to provide centralized efforts to support businesses navigating the economic development process.
16. Are there city programs or services you would expand? Explain.
I believe that some of our problems stem from too much government, which drives spending causing increases in property taxes. We must streamline our government services, not expand them.
17. What’s your view of current Anchorage land-use plans? Would you push for changes?
I support current land-use plans. As our need for housing increases, I would support reconsidering those plans with local and neighborhood input.
18. Homelessness remains a persistent, significant problem in Anchorage. What specifically would you do differently from previous administrations?
In the simplest terms, I would first ensure that, while we provide those necessary rooms and meals for those in need, our measure for success is the number of people no longer living on the streets. I would work to enhance those public-private partnerships which continue to serve Anchorage. There are many very skilled and motivated people striving to end our homeless and vagrancy crisis. I will work with them.
19. Name a program dealing with homelessness in Anchorage that you believe is working.
Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission.
20. Please discuss your commitment to transparency and openness in Anchorage municipal government. Do you have suggestions for improving either?
I am completely committed to transparency and openness in our government. Without either of those, it’s impossible to get the necessary buy-in from our fellow citizens, as we consider significant changes. I am committed to communicating with all citizens through MainStream Media and Social Media. I will consider expanding upon those techniques developed during the COVID shutdowns, such as using Zoom to encourage input and connections.
21. What’s your assessment of Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure? Do you have a plan to improve it? How?
The current transportation plan is adequate for our immediate future. Beyond that, we must focus on cost savings as we balance our transportation needs with our ability to pay for them.
22. Are there specific transportation projects you would initiate in the municipality if elected? Explain.
While I support many of the transportation projects that are being worked, I have no new projects in mind. I will focus on maintaining those roads and trails we now have with a focus on cost savings.
23. The past year has been marked by increasing civic discord in Anchorage. What would you do to reduce frustration, distrust and anger that increasingly has characterized civic conversation?
We simply must communicate better. The previous administration closed our businesses, our churches, and our schools, causing acute social and economic devastation. Then they closed our Assembly as we tried to appeal those onerous decisions, eliminating our ability to communicate with our government. We should have expected nothing less than the discord we experienced. As mayor, I will not shut down our Assembly, our churches, or our businesses. I will communicate much better with multiple different media.
24. What other important issue would you like to discuss?
We, as citizens of Anchorage, must decide what we want our government to do for us. Everything comes with a cost. I believe in a right-sizing government for those essential services we demand.