Polls are open Tuesday in Anchorage's local election, and voters will be deciding contests for the Anchorage Assembly, the Anchorage School Board and one controversial initiative clarifying how to calculate the city's tax cap.
Other initiatives, on taxing retail marijuana sales and, for Girdwood voters, paying for police, are also on the ballot.
Voters are also being asked to consider five municipal bond propositions, totaling $47.9 million, for Anchorage's roads, parks and police and fire service areas. They will vote on a sixth bond proposition, totaling nearly $49.3 million, for projects within the Anchorage School District.
Polls opened at 7 a.m. and will close at 8 p.m. on Election Day. To find your polling place, visit the state Division of Elections website or the city's website, muni.org.
Absentee in-person voting will be available on Election Day at the University of Alaska Anchorage Student Union, Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and the Loussac Library. Voters can pick up ballots for any part of town at those locations, but their votes won't be counted until other absentee ballots are tallied.
Early voting started March 21 in Anchorage. By early Monday afternoon, nearly 2,900 people had voted early at the Loussac Library, and nearly 1,000 people had voted early at City Hall, said deputy city clerk Amanda Moser. Another 367 people had cast ballots at the Chugiak Senior Center, where early voting started March 28.
Of the 3,000 vote-by-mail ballots sent out by elections officials, about 1,800 had been returned, Moser said. Voters can put mail ballots into a drop box behind the Fairview Recreation Center until 8 p.m. on Tuesday.
The early voting numbers exceeded the 2014 city election numbers, and were even slightly ahead of the first round of the 2015 mayoral race.
Five of the Assembly's 11 seats are being contested. A total of 13 candidates have filed for office.
There are three open seats, in South Anchorage, East Anchorage and West Anchorage.
The West Anchorage candidates are Eric Croft, an attorney and member of the Anchorage School Board who served in the Alaska Legislature; Dustin Darden, a city fleet maintenance worker; Ira Perman, director of the Atwood Foundation and Assembly aide to Ernie Hall; and Adam Trombley, an account manager for an oil field chemical company and former East Anchorage Assembly member who lost a re-election bid in 2013 and moved to the Kincaid Park area.
The East Anchorage candidates are Forrest Dunbar, an officer and attorney in the Alaska National Guard who was the Democratic nominee against U.S. Rep. Don Young in 2014; and Terre Gales, an Air Force veteran and city safety officer who ran in the Republican primary against Young in 2012.
The South Anchorage candidates are Mark Schimscheimer, a real estate investor and chair of a South Anchorage rural road service area board; Treg Taylor, an attorney for ASRC Energy Services, a subsidiary of Arctic Slope Regional Corp; and John Weddleton, owner of Bosco's Comics in Spenard and a longtime neighborhood activist.
In Chugiak-Eagle River and Midtown, two incumbents, Amy Demboski and Dick Traini, are hoping to keep their seats. Demboski, who just finished her first term, is being challenged by Nicholas Begich III, an entrepreneur who owns a software development company. Traini, a veteran Assemblyman, is being challenged by Ron Alleva, owner of an Anchorage auction business.
Around town on Monday, Assembly candidates and their supporters could be spotted standing on street corners and waving campaign signs. Newly elected Assembly members will take office on April 19.
Read in-depth profiles of the Anchorage Assembly races:
West Anchorage: Familiar faces square off in West Anchorage
Chugiak-Eagle River: In Chugiak-Eagle River Assembly race, big names compete for recognition
Anchorage School Board
Five candidates will vie for two open seats on the seven-member Anchorage School Board. Board members serve three-year terms. They are elected citywide, not by district.
For School Board Seat A, incumbent Bettye Davis, a former state legislator, will face off against Brent Hughes, who authored a book in 1990s to help students learn their multiplication tables.
Three candidates are running for Seat B: Starr Marsett, a real estate agent who sits on several school district committees; David Nees, a former Anchorage math teacher; and Kay Schuster, a special education department chair. Marsett and Nees have run unsuccessful campaigns for school board in the past.
Eric Croft is the current School Board member in Seat B, but he did not seek re-election and launched a campaign for Assembly.
Proposition 2: Marijuana tax proposal
This initiative would place a 5 percent tax on retail marijuana sales. The structure of the proposal allows the Assembly to adjust the tax once every two years, by up to 2 percent each time up to a limit of 12 percent. Until 2019, the revenues from the tax will be outside the city's tax cap.
The Assembly would be allowed to pass exemptions to the tax through local ordinances.
Proposition 8: Tax cap
This initiative targets the calculation of Anchorage's tax cap, which limits how much the city's total property tax can increase from year to year and can rise with inflation, population and new construction.
Supporters are seeking a yes vote and a return to the calculation method used during Mayor Dan Sullivan's administration: starting the current tax cap calculation at the amount of taxes authorized by the Assembly the previous year.
Opponents want a no vote that would give the Assembly more flexibility to set taxes based on the amount the city could have collected the previous year.
Proposition 9 (Girdwood only): Girdwood public safety
This initiative allows Girdwood voters to decide whether to tax themselves to pay for police from the Whittier Police Department. In the Girdwood Valley Service Area, taxes are estimated to increase $118 annually for every $100,000 of valuation. The measure only appears on ballots for Girdwood voters, and the tax does not apply to any other part of the municipality.
Five municipal bond propositions are appearing on the Anchorage ballot. They include:
- $36.6 million for roads and drainage. That includes $13.8 million for the second phase of Spenard Road reconstruction, from Hillcrest Drive to Benson Boulevard.
- $3.4 million for parks, trails and recreational facilities.
- $2.1 million to replace the roof at Anchorage police headquarters.
- $900,000 for a new Anchorage fire engine.
- $900,000 for four new ambulances.
Anchorage voters will also decide on a school bond proposition totaling nearly $49.3 million. It would pay for projects at more than 30 public schools, from the replacement of roofs to the replacement of security cameras. The bond would also pay for 27 new school buses, for the design of building improvements at Whaley School and for the design to move Mount Iliamna Elementary School off Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and into an existing elementary school.
To view a sample ballot online, read a ballot guide and find other voting and election information, visit the municipality's elections website at muni.org/elections.