Anchorage Assemblyman Forrest Dunbar has let the public get under his skin. So much so, that he spent much of his resignation letter criticizing the people he represents.
While most of his letter was a review of his perceived accomplishments, Dunbar could not pass up the chance to have the last word in disparaging those who have called him to task over spending and Assembly priorities. As the Anchorage Assembly grew more radical in recent years, the taxpaying public pushed back, with more and more people attending meetings to voice their disagreement with how their elected representatives were governing.
“In this earlier period, we worked with prior Administrations to sell ML&P and invest the funds in the Municipal Trust, where it will provide sustainable revenue for generations. We rebuilt the Anchorage Police Department through academies, investment in nonsworn staff, and the purchase of a new headquarters. We passed several landmark labor policies to grow our next generation of skilled tradespeople. Personally, I was honored to sponsor Anchorage’s first ever Indigenous Naming Ordinance, to partner with Ms. Quinn-Davidson to declare Anchorage a Purple Heart City, and to work with Mr. Petersen to see that East Anchorage received the investments it deserved. To this day I keep a piece of the ribbon we cut at the Chanshtnu Muldoon Park hanging from my rearview mirror, a reminder of the power of our neighbors working together,” Dunbar wrote of his accomplishments.
He also blew up the Anchorage budget from $481 million in 2016 to over $587 million in the most recent operating budget passed, the largest in Anchorage history. But he did not mention that in his resignation.
Not everyone appreciated the increasingly radical Assembly. Anchorage conservatives criticized the Assembly’s Covid policies, and to try to rein in the hard tack to the left. The people voted for Mayor Dave Bronson, not Dunbar, in the 2021 election. Anchorage business owners showed up to point out to the Assembly the corruption in former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s Covid shutdowns, which favored establishments he had financial ties with.
Dunbar, elected first in 2016 and again in 2019, and 2022, ran and lost for mayor in 2021. He ran and won a state Senate seat in 2022.
In his resignation letter, he said that starting in 2020, the public presence at the Assembly became an unwelcome disruption:
“Unfortunately, starting in 2020, we saw the heightened presence of national politics infect our local government, driven in large part by the COVID pandemic and those who saw it as an opportunity to divide our community for personal and political gain, with the Assembly as the primary target. Those same forces politicized our homelessness crisis to a degree never seen before and brought frequent disruption, chaos, conspiracy theories, and election denialism into our Chambers. Their shameful actions literally cost the lives of some of our fellow residents, and the fallout from their behavior continues to be felt to this day,” Dunbar wrote.
This fall, the Anchorage Assembly severely curtailed the public’s ability to express its opinions by eliminating the first half hour of public comment.
Meanwhile, over the past few years, Dunbar has been caught on record saying that the U.S. Constitution is shot-through with racism — “all of it,” he said.
Earlier this year, he had the Assembly kill an ordinance so that the public could not testify on its dissatisfaction with the way Anchorage elections are run.
“It has been the case in the last year or so that when we start to testify on items regarding elections, we tend to give a platform for people spewing misinformation on our elections…” Dunbar said, arguing that tabling the ordinance was necessary so there would not be public comments, as required by law.
Dunbar’s last meeting this month was marked by a party thrown for him by a few of his liberal colleagues, including a cake decorated with cucumbers, baked by Assembly staffer Clare Ross. Assemblyman Pete Petersen played the guitar during the Assembly’s dinner break. The Assembly gave him a hand-painted portrait of him and his cat. And he posted a video of his last meeting on Twitter. His resignation becomes official on Jan. 3, and the Assembly liberal majority will appoint someone to hold his spot until the April regular municipal election.
Dunbar goes to Juneau in mid-January, where he will be far from the opinions of the public in Southcentral Alaska, and will only hear the sound of the echo chamber of the state capital.