The Anchorage Daily News asked candidates for Anchorage Assembly to answer a series of issue questions. Read all of them here.
Vanessa Stephens | District: 2 | Age: 61 | Occupation: Grandparent
What is a short summary of your background?
Born and raised in Chugiak. Started first job at 11 years old. Father was member of the first Chugiak-Eagle River Borough. Bachelor’s in Computer Science, Oregon State University in 1984. Worked four years as staff programmer. APD — 1985-1992. Responsible for all PC forensics and software maintenance and development. 1988-2001 — Started Computer Service business in garage, went to over 1 million annually. Developed MS, forced to sell. Moved back to Chugiak in 1994. Raised four children, all through the Chugiak system. Managed three different businesses. Forced to sell home when partner died. Promoted and supported the Chugiak-Eagle River community. Offered jobs with DOT and FedEx. North Slope PC tech for three years; revamped the Slope PC maintenance system. Managed Eagle River Chevron 2 years. Widowed in 2007 after 25 years with best friend and partner.
Why are you running?
I really want to see this area and community fully served and retain its friendly, supportive, neighborly attitude. Stop it now from just becoming a subsidiary of Anchorage. And, a member of the Assembly convinced me I was too young with my way of thinking to just sit around, get old and be dominated by Anchorage
What makes you qualified to serve on the Anchorage Assembly?
I have experience with the municipality and funding and lack thereof. I have experience starting and building a successful business. I have experience managing the most productive gas station ever in the state. I have a degree in computers which promotes logical thinking. And I have patience, having raised two boys and two girls to adults.
What is the most important problem facing Anchorage? How would you address it?
Transparency in government. Finding out where and why the money the municipality receives seems to be funneled into black holes. Municipality voters are not stupid and want to know what’s being done with THEIR money. The Assembly works for the people, not vice-versa. Start following the money.
What is the most important problem facing your district? How would you address it?
Community planning for one. Road maintenance. Safer schools. Infrastructure management. But the most important is probably recovering our economy from the devastating effects of COVID and our rebuilding efforts by supporting our friends and neighbors.
What is your vision of the role of local government in Anchorage?
Do direct local and federal funds to the most beneficial targets and projects for their constituents. They make decisions based on the needs and desires of citizens while minimizing government expenses and exorbitant spending to accomplish and provide the best solutions environmentally, while providing opportunities for all citizens and children.
Rate Dave Bronson’s performance as mayor. Explain, with specific examples.
I’d probably give him a B-. Squabbles and fights, any childish disagreements with the Assembly, only bring public focus to bear on all facets of the administration. And another big reason prompting me to run for the Assembly. The mayor’s uninformed shutting off of the fluoride additive to our public water supply seemed an odd thing to do. And I have yet to hear an explanation.
Rate the performance of the current Assembly. Explain, with specific examples.
A B, and I give that for some leeway on things I don’t know. They spent several days over one issue hearing testimony on a mask mandate? Back in October as COVID was peaking they again voted to mask everyone indoors up. Less than two months later it was reversed. It seemed like a mayor/Assembly dispute that could have been avoided. A “squabble” between the two also broke out over who controls Assembly space. Why can’t they resolve differences without the public drama?
What’s your vision for improving and diversifying Anchorage’s economy?
Diversifying will take time and hard work. Oil and tourism are what visitors and businesses want more of. We have a beautiful state and, in all honesty, Anchorage seems like a big metropolis dropped in the middle if it. When the Port eventually gets upgraded and finished there will be more options. Expanding the airport may help too. But my feeling, for now, is to maximize and promote our highlights. Even fishing and hunting should resurge now that COVID is receding.
What do you see as the most effective strategies to address homelessness in Anchorage going forward?
The simple answer is to provide shelter and basic services. The longer term solution is to develop or find affordable housing and living space and generate opportunity for those who seek to get off the street. Let’s examine some other cities who have been successful in eliminating or minimizing the problem.
What’s your assessment of Anchorage’s transportation infrastructure? How would you improve it?
Living in Chugiak, I can honestly say I’ve never used the Anchorage transportation system. I’m also handicapped and paralyzed from the waist down. So I frankly know very little about it. I would need to educate myself, and handicap service would be a top priority for me.
Does the city do a good job of running municipal elections? Would you push for changes? Explain.
I don’t see any need to change. I read my handbook.
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?
COVID put people out of jobs, caused businesses to fail, and forced costs for goods and services to rise. Our police force is also severely undermanned. If we take care of APD and we begin a full recovery from COVID I feel things will settle down a lot and crime will go down as our economy recovers.
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?
I was not there Jan. 6, 2021 so I do not know exactly what happened. But it seems to be taking them a long time to figure out. Of course I support the results. To my knowledge there is no proof of an election conspiracy. If even one state found proof I might rethink it. But none has been found so the results stand. That the system for a democratic republic.
What’s one thing that makes you hopeful about Anchorage’s future?
Its people and our beautiful state. The oil will run out, the streams may dry up but we will always have the most beautiful State in the union. We have amazing sights and so much wondrous nature. My father was a pilot and I wish you all could experience and see all the forests, lakes, rivers, streams, hills and mountains I have only glimpsed and the majestic wonder of this amazing state would open up to you too. Keep it safe and we will never want.
What other important issue would you like to discuss?
Maximizing our resources. Maintaining a solid infrastructure. Expanding livable areas responsibly. Helping our friends and neighbors to build stronger communities. Show our immense respect for nature. Maintain our freedom to live how we want and where we want. Consider separating Anchorage and Chugiak-Eagle River to maintain the unique lifestyle of each.