The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage Assembly to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
Randy Sulte | District: 6 | Age: 52 | Occupation: COO | sulteforanchorage.com
What is a short summary of your background?
Randy is a fiscal conservative, husband, father of four and a regular citizen who believes Anchorage is not better off than it was six years ago. Randy has a Bachelor of Science from the Colorado School of Mines and an MBA from Seattle University. He is COO of Kakivik and CCI Industrial. H serves on the board of Hilltop Ski Area, Alaska Safety Alliance, and the Budget Advisory Committee. He is past president of Rilke Schule Incorporated and member of Bayshore Klatt Community Patrol. Randy will focus on Anchorage’s homeless, supporting Mayor Bronson’s plan for a navigation center, small business revitalization, fiscal responsibility and accountability for your property tax dollars, improving safety and security, and returning Anchorage to the vibrant city it once was.
Why are you running?
I am running because I believe that Anchorage has been in steady decline over the last several years and I feel my leadership skills can help bring balance and direction.
What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage Assembly?
The simple answer is I am a resident of Anchorage and live in District 6. I have an engineering degree from the Colorado School of Mines, and MBA from Seattle University. I worked for Nalco Chemical Company, leaving as the Alaska Manager, then spent nearly 10 years at BP as the Integrity and Execution Manager, and now I currently serve as COO of Kakivik and CCI Industrial. I was past president of Rilke Schule Incorporated and have served on the board of Hilltop Ski Area since 2006. I have a history of successfully leading large teams and navigating difficult issues.
What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?
Addressing homelessness will solve several challenges. A multifaceted issue requires a multifaceted approach from housing, counseling, skill development, medical treatment and more. A blend of a public and private partnership is needed that adopts ideas and programs with proven track records from successful cities. I agree with the mayor’s plan for a navigation center to triage and sort the needs of homeless, navigating them to resources that best match their needs. We will create focused solutions to reduce the influx of homeless and stop the ever-increasing numbers, treat those that require minimal resources, tackle the tougher, more difficult cases that are resource intensive, and lastly protect ourselves and those who view this as a way of life. I would return the Sullivan, among the longest-running COVID-19 shelters in the U.S., to the people. Finally, I would seek to reduce panhandling and illegal camping preventing the homeless from using established resources.
What is the most important problem facing your district? How would you address it?
District 6 faces land development issues that conflict with a community supported district development plan and the desire to retain the community characteristics. We will need to balance Anchorage’s need for affordable and low-income housing while respecting the community residents’ wishes. This will require Title 21 changes to alter or remove code that is in conflict. It will also require the Assembly to offer logical solutions acting on behalf of the citizens and Anchorage’s needs.
What is your vision of the role of local government in Anchorage?
Local government exists to efficiently support the needs of the citizens where a collective system is required, such as police, fire, road maintenance and education. It is to establish code and laws that allow for the city to function and maintain peace, safety, health, and prosperity as well as the execution and enforcement of that code. It has a role in supporting business development and promoting economic prosperity.
Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.
I would rate the current administration an 8 or 9 based on the fact that Anchorage has a defined and broadly supported solution to improve homelessness and his efforts to petition the state to rebuild the Port of Alaska and a specific section of the port to ensure security of supply for Alaska while the remainder of the port is rebuilt. I would also cite recent adopted changes to Title 21 proposed by his administration. I was also very pleased to see him hold an unruly citizen (who was actually in support of him) accountable for their behavior at a recent Assembly meeting.
Rate the performance of the current Assembly. Explain, with specific examples.
I would give the current Assembly a generous 2. I am appalled by the lack of respect, childish behavior and failure to respect citizens’ opinions and time during testimony. The 9-2 veto overrides of Anchorage’s duly elected Mayor demonstrate a lack of balance representing the majority’s wishes. I have watched appointment hearings that can be likened to public persecution as well as inconsistent and nonsensical COVID mandates that have harmed student development, destroyed small business and deeply divided our city. I would also cite the current reapportionment process that is being pushed through despite several community councils asking for more time.
What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?
I would start with changes to Title 21 and the Building Safety Office to encourage and streamline development in Anchorage, thereby reducing development cost, and the loss of housing and business to the Valley. I would work to clean up our downtown by improving public safety and promoting the tourism industry. Current leadership had created a loss of our talented workforce that no longer wishes to call Anchorage their home. I would look to capitalize on Anchorage International Airport’s global draw in freight and passengers air travel, as well as look to the future of a potential northwest passage through the Arctic where Anchorage could play a significant role.
What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?
Homelessness is a multifaceted issue, and all strategies should be considered to address this diverse population. I support public-private partnerships, such as the proposed navigation center, and facilities such as the Hope Center. I support reduction in panhandling and illegal camping to push homeless people toward the established resources designed for them. I support looking across the U.S. to copy successful strategies from proven programs in other cities.
What’s your assessment of Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure? How would you improve it?
I would say that Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure is generally in good condition except for the Port of Alaska. I would support a bridge across the Knik Arm to provide access to more outdoor space, rural farming land as well as affordable land for future affordable housing. I do feel our public transit could be made more efficient and accessible, especially for the citizens of Girdwood and Turnagain Arm.
Does the city do a good job of running municipal elections? Would you push for changes? Explain.
Running an election is a very difficult job that I would not wish on anyone. I would support a move back to in-person voting, potentially over several days, while maintaining a requested mail-in option as we have for absentee ballots in the past. It is my understanding that an election can cost up to $600,000 and I would support moving April elections to a single November timeframe to be more efficient. I believe we need to better control our voter rolls to ensure ballots are mailed to the right recipient, avoiding the potential for missed deliveries and fraudulent votes. I would also like to see more stability in our election rules as we have seen donation changes occur twice in the current election thereby changing the rules within weeks of ballots being mailed out (this creates further voter skepticism from in an already distrustful atmosphere).
The past two years have been marked by increased civic discord in Anchorage. How would you improve the quality of civic discourse in the city?
Leadership starts at the top with leading by example. I would start the healing process by removing five Assembly members from office this April and put all members on notice that they are elected community leaders and are here to represent the population at large and not their own private interests. As stewards of Anchorage, those elected are accountable for the health and well being of our city and their actions are of tremendous importance. Lead by example, hold each other accountable, and maintain the highest standard.
Do you acknowledge the results of the 2020 presidential election? Also, what are your thoughts on what took place on Jan. 6, 2021 in the U.S. Capitol?
Yes, I acknowledge the results of the 2020 election but believe trust in election integrity is damaged and should be addressed. I think it is a tragedy that a young, unarmed female lost her life during the protest and I am very thankful it did not result in the violent protest and further loss of life we have seen in Portland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Chicago and other cities over the past two years. I believe in peaceful protest abiding by the laws of the land and not violating the rights of other citizens.
What’s one thing that makes you hopeful about Anchorage’s future?
I am hopeful that the coming April election will bring balance back to the city, signifying a start to rebuilding and healing after a very difficult two years. I envision a fiscally responsible municipal government that engages in reasonable debate and executes the will of Anchorage voters.
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
None at this time.