There’s a lot. I could continue, but I won’t at this time. I just want to say that I am grateful Mr. Mayor that you are now engaging with the media and we are here and ready to work. And when the need arises, I will correct the record as necessary. But it’s not the best way. The best way is what is happening now with the Administration staff who have demonstrated a clear and compelling desire to work with the Assembly. The tide is changing, let’s move forward.
I would also like to express that all three members of the Congressional delegation, Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan and Representative Peltola, this week sent a joint letter to U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Marcia Fudge. I again want to thank the senators and our congress member for taking a strong stand in helping us right the inequity that is happening with the funding streams that are coming into Alaska. We are so sorely under resourced compared to other jurisdictions with that same problem.
I will also say that we are very much looking forward to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Buttigieg coming to town. This is a conversation that has been happening between the Assembly and the Secretary’s Office since 2021 when he was confirmed into the position.
Return to School
The last thing I will speak to is the return of Anchorage School District back to school. Teachers and students across the municipality will be filing in and education will once again be happening in our amazing school district. I want everyone to think about that when they are driving – slow down and make sure our neighborhoods are safe where kids are walking to school. And to all of the teachers and students who are coming back to school, we wish you the very best of years and hope you are able to get the most out of your education and educational experience.
July 25, 2023
Good evening everybody and welcome. I hope you all got outside and enjoyed the that amazing summer weather over the past week.
Port of Alaska
First, I would like to speak about the Port of Alaska. You will see several items on the agenda tonight concerning the Port. After many years of work, we are nearing a major milestone in the modernization. Over the past few months, the Assembly has been meeting with Port officials and users to identify the best path forward for the design for Phase 2 and the funding structure to pay for it. We had an especially productive worksession last Friday and I believe we are very close to taking the next step in the solution. Whether we get there tonight, of if it takes a few more meetings, I am confident that we are on a good track. I thank everyone involved for the work you have put in to moving us forward on this once-in-a-generation project that will be a legacy that we give to the future of Anchorage and all of Alaska.
Residential Zoning Updates
Another big item on the agenda tonight, that has been the subject of much community conversation, is a discussion about residential zoning updates. This is a proposal to create a process to update Anchorage’s residential zoning code. We’ve had some very informative worksessions on the topic and I look forward to the debate on the matter. Whether you agree with the proposal or not, it has been a valuable exercise to bring this topic up for public discussion. Anchorage is in the midst of a housing crisis and we need to act to ensure that people can afford to live here. Housing costs have soared and if you haven’t had to find a new place in the past two years, you will be shocked to see the prices. Anchorage’s median home listing price jumped from $311,000 in January 2020 to $446,000 in May 2023 – that’s almost a 50% increase in three years, and the rental market is following a similar path.
The Assembly is taking this matter very seriously and we are working on a number of initiatives to encourage affordable housing development. We will be hosting a public Housing summit this fall where we will share our work and gather feedback from the community. Details will be announced soon and I look forward to seeing you there.
Another item that has been the subject of much discussion is the Scofflaw Law. The sponsor has informed me that this item will likely be continued to another night, so I want folks to know that when we get to the public hearing, it might be continued.
Also before us, we have two items relating to the opening of the Golden Lion. This is an open conversation that has been before us for several years and it looks like we are getting close to a decision.
On a more somber note, the Assembly held a worksession last week to understand the circumstances surrounding an election complaint filed during the 2023 Regular Municipal Election. Nationwide there has been interference, misinformation, and disinformation surrounding elections that threaten the integrity of our elections. Now locally, the circumstances surrounding the complaint have raised concerns of partisan election interference by current and former appointees of the Municipality.
The Office of the Ombudsman is currently investigating the incident, and the Assembly is doing our due diligence as well. I would like to thank the Administration, in particular, Municipal Manager Kent Kohlhase and Chief of Staff Mario Bird for your cooperation and assistance in getting to the bottom of this matter. I know that the public is very concerned about this incident and I am committed to following this issue through so the public can be assured of the integrity of our local election system.
July 11, 2023
View recording of remarks.
Good evening everybody and welcome. I hope you all enjoyed a brief break from Assembly meetings and had a great 4th of July.
Meeting with Secretary Fudge
After our last regular assembly meeting, I had the opportunity to participate in a call with U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan and U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Marcia Fudge. It was a great opportunity for the Senator and I to make the case to Secretary Fudge that Anchorage is in the midst of a severe homelessness crisis and we need increased federal funding and resources to be able to get out of it. I'm pleased to report that Secretary Fudge heard us loud and clear and committed to doing whatever is within her power to get much needed support to Anchorage.
As you may recall from a resolution that was unanimously approved by the Assembly and the Mayor back in May, Anchorage is missing out on considerable federal funding to address homelessness issue due to the outdated HUD Continuum of Care funding formula. Serving very similar numbers of people experiencing homelessness, Anchorage received $4 million through the formula in 2022, while Fort Worth received $16 million and Baltimore received $26 million.
If Anchorage were to receive its fair share of federal funding, we could enact real solutions to get people housed and we wouldn't have to fight each other over scraps. I personally want to thank Senator Sullivan for taking this up as a personal cause on this issue, and I look forward to sharing further updates on this topic in the coming weeks.
A Note about the Golden Lion
I would note that the conversation about the Golden Lion is very welcome. This Assembly, at least some members, have been ready for this moment since August 2020. That said, it may take us a little longer to get to where we have the code and law requirements lined up to get to yes. I look forward to the conversation tonight. I know we're close, and that is edifying.
Clean Slate Strategy Update
Also I'd like to address the Clean Slate Strategy conversation we will take up tonight. I'd like to applaud our community and my colleagues, especially Member Rivera, for maintaining a laser focus on local solutions to solve homelessness in Anchorage. Despite our limited funding, we now have a mayor, an Assembly, nonprofits and a majority of the community who want to solve this problem.
Tonight's agenda covers a number of items related to this shared goal:
- First, the Allowed Camps Community Task Force has submitted their final report to the body for acceptance into the record. The report details recommendations by roughly 60 community members that shape a community-driven vision for the implementation of allowed camps as an emergency sheltering solution.
The report is item 10.F.4 on tonight's agenda. I want to remind the public that the Assembly's acceptance of the report should not be confused with an endorsement. Rather, these recommendations will be an important part of the Assembly's future work to provide emergency shelter on the road to housing.
- We will be considering AO 2023-70(S), an ordinance to define allowed camps with required site and operational standards. We held a worksession about this proposal on June 29, and I look forward to tonight's conversation on the item, which is 11.C. on our agenda. There are a number of substitute versions in play.
- And, finally, the Administration has submitted several items to the Assembly related to opening the Golden Lion as low-income supportive housing. It's taken us a long time to get to this point, and—credit where credit is due—I appreciate the Administration working to get these proposals before us tonight.
That said, I want to remind my colleagues that our role is to be responsible stewards of public resources, and the devil is in the details. We need to take the time to understand the Administration's plan so we get this right.
All this to say, thanks in large part to Member Rivera's leadership, Anchorage is making good progress. Members of the public are invited to learn about this work and join in the conversation by visiting the Assembly website at muni.org/assembly and clicking “Homelessness."
Port of Alaska
Looking forward, the modernization of the Port of Alaska is a once-in-a-generation project, and if done properly, will be a legacy that we gift to future generations. We are nearing some major decision points and I urge the community to pay close attention to this issue over the next month. Two ordinances are on the July 25th agenda for public hearing – AO 2023-60 to approve the Basis-of-Design Concept that will govern the Phase 2 concept for the cargo terminals, and AO 2023-34 to adopt Port of Alaska Terminal Tariff No. 10.0, which will help fund the renovations. The Assembly held worksessions on these topics on May 12 and June 9 and will have another round of worksessions on July 21. You can go to muni.org/worksessions to review the meeting documents and I look forward to delving into this topic further on July 25.